Join Jim Heid for an in-depth discussion in this video Tips for shooting video, part of DJI Mavic Pro: Tips, Tricks, & Techniques.
- You've probably heard the old saying, the best camera is the one you have with you. It's usually used when talking about smartphones versus real cameras and it translates as, "Hey, the quality might not be as good, "but the portability makes up for it," because it's with you all the time. The higher image quality of a big camera won't do you any good if that camera's in a closet at home. The same basic concept applies to the Mavic Pro. I'll say it right now. Its video quality is not as good as the Phantom 4 families, especially at certain settings, but the Mavic Pro wins at portability.
It's so much easier to take along with you that you're more likely to take it. So until my iPhone sprouts propellers, I'm going with the phrase, the best drone is the one you have with you. And more to the point, with the right settings, you can get pretty spectacular video out of the Mavic Pro. Let's start by circling back to some of the things we looked at earlier to see how they relate to shooting video and let's start with auto focus, auto exposure and auto white balance. All three are bad news for video. As we saw earlier, the Mavic Pro's auto focus kicks in now and then unless you disable it either using settings or by switching to manual focus mode.
Do one or the other when you're shooting video. You don't want a clip to be ruined by that pumping effect that the Mavic Pro exhibits as it's auto focusing. As for auto exposure, it's bad news for a similar reason. As the brightness in a scene changes, the drone's auto exposure feature will adjust accordingly and this can create some really nasty-looking results. Here are some clips that I shot in Hawaii right after I got my Mavic and before I learned to shoot in manual exposure mode. When we go from the dark lava to the brighter ocean, watch how the sky darkens.
That does not happen in nature. It's an auto exposure problem. Here's another example. As the clip starts, the drone is exposing for that bright sun reflection off the ocean. But watch what happens when we get over land. The exposure changes. The foliage looks downright weird for a second or two and the new exposure completely blows out the sky. Now for comparison's sake, look at this clip which I shot with auto exposure off. Watch as we approach this beautiful trestle bridge. The drone is flickering in and out of the shadows being cast by the bridge but the exposure remains the same.
That's because I went into manual mode and set the exposure at the start of the shot. Manual exposure is one way to lock the exposure for a clip, but it isn't the only way. The other way is to simply activate exposure lock by tapping the AE button in DJI Go. When you do, the drone locks its current exposure for the duration of the clip. Now that solves the problem for that one clip, but if you shoot subsequent clips in the same general location, you might find they don't match up as well with each other since the drone will readjust the exposure as soon as you finish shooting.
The bottom line, when you're shooting a bunch of clips in the same area and under the same lighting conditions, you'll get more consistent exposures from shot to shot if you switch into manual exposure mode. This same basic concept also applies to white balance. When you're shooting video, auto white balance is a bad thing. Choose a white balance that matches the lighting conditions and stick with it. Next, let's talk about ISO and low light. When you're shooting video as opposed to stills, you don't have the luxury of keeping the ISO down and hovering for long exposures.
Your drone's going to shoot at least 24 frames per second and that's that. So, you'll likely have to put up with some noise in low light conditions. For this clip, the ISO is at 3200. And as you can see, it's pretty grainy. Now let's talk about the video settings themselves. One of your biggest decisions will surround the resolution and frame rate of your clips. You can shoot at a relatively low 1080 high definition or all the way up to 4K and at frame rates ranging from 24 frames per second to 96.
Some Mavic pilots have spent hours testing and experimenting and writing about different resolution settings. There are comparisons on YouTube that show the results of different settings. I'm going to cut to the chase with some recommendations. Shoot at 4K. Mavic footage looks great at 4K. And even if you don't plan to post a 4K video on YouTube or watch it on your ultra HD television, the extra resolution gives you the flexibility to zoom in a little bit using a video editing program. That can be very handy for fixing problems like a slightly tilted horizon.
If you don't want to shoot at 4K because you're running low on memory card space or don't have a huge hard drive at home, use 2.7K. The results are still great and you'll save some space. Below 2.7K, that's where video quality problems can surface, particularly at higher frame rates. Some people like to shoot at higher rates like 60 or 96 frames per second and then slow that down in editing. It gives a nice slow motion effect. The problem is the Mavic Pro doesn't do that well at higher frame rates.
Because of the way the camera processes data from its sensor, you can often end up with weird artifacts which you can see here. Look at how the vertical lines, the telephone poles and fence posts are flickering. Compare that to a 4K 30 frame per second version of the same shot and the difference is really apparent. So for the highest quality video, you'll want to shoot at 2.7K or 4K and at one of the lower frame rates, 24, 25 or 30. Now, which frame rate you choose is up to you. Some people like the film look of 24 frames per second.
You might need to choose a different frame rate that matches other footage being shot with a digital SLR or video camera. We have a lot of details on frame rates elsewhere in the library. If you do a search on that term, it's elsewhere in the library.
- 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