Join Jim Heid for an in-depth discussion in this video Tips for better aerial video, part of DJI Mavic Pro: Tips, Tricks, & Techniques.
- We've looked at a lot of the fundamentals behind getting properly exposed video. Now let's talk about a couple of the things you can do to make your aerial video clips more interesting. Now that millions of people have these flying cameras, the whole novelty of seeing video from the air isn't as much of a novelty anymore. So what can you do to make your shots stand out? Of course, things like Active Track and point of interest orbits are great, but there's more. One thing I try to do is set up shots that have a strong foreground and background relationship. This is an important composition concept in any kind of photography or filmmaking, but it takes on a special dimension in the air.
In a shot like this one, you get a lot of interesting perspective shift between the foreground, those trees were just clearing, and the background, that distant valley. There's a real sense of depth to the scene. Another thing I like to do is flybys, through things or just pass them like these palm trees in Hawaii or like this beautiful old trestle bridge in rural Northern California. Again, shots like these convey a stronger sense of perspective and depth than a flat aerial view where everything is more or less the same distance away.
Now, these kinds of shots can be risky. Take that Hawaii palm tree shot for example. I wasn't able to get that shot with my Mavic's collision avoidance system on. The trees were too close together and the drone slammed on the brakes no matter how many times I tried. The solution was to take a deep breath, turn off collision avoidance, and fly very carefully. I had to yaw a little bit at the end and that bugs me, but I got the shot. Another way to add dimension to your shots is to combine two or more kinds of movement in a shot.
Don't just move forward. Move forward while also yawing or also tilting the gimbal and consider shooting while flying sideways instead of forward. A cinematographer on the ground would call this a slider move and you don't see it as often in aerial footage. Combining a slider move with a subtle yaw can also be beautiful. Shooting while flying backgrounds also adds an interesting dimension to your footage. You can use that to create a reveal where you start up with a big picture scene then pull back to reveal the subject of your video.
You can also do a reveal by changing altitude. Start a shot low then climb to show your company headquarters of the town you visited on vacation. Sometimes you can get a great backwards move by just reversing a clip in your video editing software. That's actually exactly what we did with those last two clips. Just watch out for things that could expose your trickery. Moving cars, people walking, waves crashing, that stuff in reverse, not so natural. A couple other features that we looked at earlier in this course, course lock and tap to fly, can make it a lot easier to get shots like these because they automate at least one direction of flight.
Just remember to fly extra carefully since the Mavic Pro is only on the lookout for objects that are in front of it or below it. One last tip and it's actually one you can try when you're on the ground, because the Mavic's gimbal does such a great job of smoothing out motion and vibration, it makes the Mavic a pretty nice steady cam. That is, you can walk around with it while shooting video and get some great results. There are even a couple of companies selling 3D printed handles that hold the Mavic and let you mount your phone, giving you a portable, walk around, 4K video camera that also happens to fly.
When using the Mavic in this way, you might want to remove the propellers. I've also noticed that the Mavic tends to generate compass error messages when you use it like this 'cause you're moving it and holding it at angles that it doesn't usually reach when flying. There's actually some controversy on various Mavic forms as to whether this can cause compass errors when you're in flight. So you'll need to decide for yourself whether this is something you want to try. I don't do it that often and after I do, I'll do a gentle low altitude test flight afterwards just to make sure everything is okay.
- Safety checks
- App settings
- Startup, takeoff, and landing
- In-flight data displays
- DJI GO tips
- Flight modes
- Streaming live
- Adjusting focus
- Exposure and white balance
- Still photography and panoramas
- Shutter speed
- Aerial video
- Using the gimbal
- Using the remote controller