Aerial Image Video setting tips
I’ve created a tutorial for everyone that guides you through some of the best camera settings when using the DJI Phantom 3 video capture modes. I’ve also explained a little about the importance of ND filters and how you should aim for the correct exposure. This guide will talk you through the best settings for shutter speeds, ISO, colour profiles and ND filters for your aerial filming.
First stop is to set the video settings for either 2.7k or 4k at 24fps depending on your model type – as this will give the highest Mbps rate available ( 45Mbps on the Advance and 60Mbps on the Pro) and so the highest quality available, but only this is at 24fps.!
It’s important to understand the impact of shutter speed and how it effects the overall look and feel of what you shoot. Take a look at this post here over at Vimeo it’s aimed more for mechanical DSLR’s but the principal is the same for the drones : All about Shutter Speed
Aim for a shutter speed of double your FPS so let’s say you shoot at 1080 @ 60fps then your shutter speed setting should be fixed at 120 in conjunction with the use of an appropriate ND filter (If necessary, you won’t require an ND filter if the natural lighting is very dark). If you shoot at 4k @ 30fps for example, then a shutter speed of 60 would be the number you are looking for.. Follow?
For the “Cinematic Look” you can still shoot in 30 or 60fps. but we must change this to 24fps (23.976) later with our editing software. YouTube and Vimeo both support this frame rate. 30fps and above is just going to leave us with a smooth video like look, which is fine if that’s what your aiming for.
Circular Polarizer Filter (CP): The circular polarizing filter helps enhance aerial videos by reducing the amount of light reflecting off the ground, sky, or water. Removing this glare allows the camera to capture beautifully saturated colors and improves contrast.
2-Stop Neutral Density (ND4): This 2-stop neutral density is perfect for lowering shutter speed to 1/60th on cloudy to partly cloudy days. This filter helps reduce highlights as well as reduces lens flare when shooting into the sun.
3-Stop Neutral Density (ND8): The 3-stop ND is best used on partly cloudy to mildly sunny days. This filter helps prevent lens flare and reduces most rolling shutter. This filter also slows the shutter speed enough to blur the propellers when they are in the frame.
The following guideline is a good starting point for when to use each filter while filming with your Phantom 3, Inspire 1. The goal is to reduce the camera’s shutter speed to 1/60th to give aerial videos a smooth cinematic look, rather than a choppy high shutter speed look. A popular way of filming aerial video is to have your shutter speed at double the frame rate. So, if you are shooting 1080/60, then you want to try to achieve a 1/120th shutter speed. Or, if filming 4K/30 or 24, you will want to be near 1/60th shutter speed.
Try to avoid shooting in the afternoon on ultra bright sunny days. The best windows for shooting are generally found in the mornings during and after sunrise, early evenings and sunsets. I’m not saying to totally rule out any afternoon day that has blue sky and sun, obviously the right ND filter can produce some nice results here. You have to think and act like a professional if you want professional footage. As a semi-pro landscape photographer you’ll never see me shooting midday with a high sun for the “money shots”, we are always looking to shoot in those magical morning and evening windows. All these details will add up to your overall creation.
Light Sensitivity : ISO
ISO should be fixed at 100. The sensor on the Phantom and Inspire X3 drones are only so good, we want to keep noise at a minimum. If you want to shoot a cityscape at night then you could probably increase it here but I personally wouldn’t want to go higher than ISO 400. It’s not going to look professional. For night filming I would be looking at something like the Inspire X5 or X5 Raw and better.
D-Log or D-Cinelike – Why? It’s quite a flat profile which is good for post production. There are now a couple of plug-ins too from 3rd party companies that have written specific colour grading profiles for use with this D-Log mode. The ‘Standard Profile’ is also a good one for starting out so don’t worry about leaving it in that mode. For the Phantom 3 Standard it varies slightly, so I can recommend the ‘Video Mode’ profile here, seems to produce some nice results.
My settings – Color = LOG , Style = Custom (sharpness -1, contrast -3, saturation -2)
Color correction from D-log
Logarist is a color correction system for video editors. Logarist enables the same types of corrections available with raw images in Adobe Lightroom, but without the need to shoot in raw, and right inside your video editing application. Logarist uses look-up tables (LUTs) to transform your camera’s video into a color space optimized for exposure compensation, white balance correction, and contrast adjustment, and then renders it for display on a standard computer or HDTV monitor. Logarist makes basic color correction easy and accurate, and enables advanced corrections that are difficult or impossible in standard camera color spaces. Logarist is free, and you can download it from this web site.
Watch the Logarist introduction and demo/tutorial video on YouTube, below left and right is a video we used Logarist to adjust the colour:
Below is a quick 2-3 minute tweak of a rushed & poorly shot clip late on a grey day, had just about to rain into an usable clip just using Logarist- in Premier-Pro.
BT.709, suitable for DJI camera.
If your camera doesn’t record to one of the color spaces supported in Logarist, it probably records to something that is similar to, but not exactly BT.709. For these cameras you can use one of Logarist’s BT.709 input transforms. This will allow you to perform basic color correction, though it won’t be as accurate as if you were using a supported camera color space. The Logarist BT.709 input transform can’t undo the non-standard effects of your camera’s color processing. The larger the color corrections you make, the greater the color errors will be, as the differences between your camera’s output and BT.709 will be amplified.
If your camera has a knee setting, disable it if possible, or set the knee parameters as high as they will go.
In Windows, two different BT.709 input transforms are available:
- BT.709 video_levels to Logarist
- BT.709 full_range to Logarist
Which transform you should use depends on your camera and its recording format. You need to test to find out. Shoot a test video with the lens cap on. Bring that video recording into your video application, and apply the BT.709 full_range to Logarist LUT and then the Logarist to BT.709 LUT. Check your scopes. If the scopes show the camera’s black at 0%, your camera uses full_range encoding. If the scopes show black at 6%, your camera uses video_levels encoding.
- Cameras with video_levels encoding: virtually all cinema cameras and professional camcorders, AVCHD cameras, Sony cameras
- Cameras with full_range encoding: Canon EOS DSLRs, Apple devices
Logarist’s BT.709 input transforms support RGB values above 100% (superwhites). Values below 0% are supported also, consistent with xvYCC.