How To: Create Drone Videos

Videography or Cinematography?

The distinction between the two is very difficult as both involve capturing moving (motion) pictures with the use of a camera and sensor. You may compare this to the home video (Videography) and professional staged cinema like Cinematography, but the distinction becomes more blurred as the cameras used to create either become closer together in quality and end result. The easiest way to I tend to differentiate is:


“Real life” or “social events” like video blogs, action cameras (GoPro’s), and mobile phone cameras where very little editing is done. The end result is a longer form video. As time goe on and further outputs are created videography also now tends to includes remote sensing and spatial imaging to create various outputs including 3D animations.


Think Hollywood, music, sound effects, scripts various compositional techniques. The motion picture tends to be directed rather than candid capture.

Ok so I know nothing about videography, video cameras what should I do?

I did completed an 8 week videography course with the Shaw Academy an online distance learning educator and one I can highly recommend they offer many different courses relating to videography, photography, graphic design online marketing the list goes on. Below I have attempted to collate my notes into something that reads well, I would just like to highlight I am no way an expert but what I did learn has given me a better understanding of the camera, I do really hope it can help you. I have collected and included my notes below, these were taken throughout the course and hope they can be useful for you.

I believe the information I collected throughout the Shaw Academy course can be applied to any video camera, the course was tailored to a film maker using a hand held camera but the benefit of drones and the footage they can capture make for some amazing new unique video shots and are being used in various TV programs, Movies & Documentaries the footage stands out and sets you above the rest (Pardon the Pun). Some of my notes may be irrelevant to aerial captured footage but in all I certainly gained a better understanding of the “bigger Picture”

At fist I was focused on the quality of video I produced and did not want to film in anything less than 4K but as I have discovered not one thing solely determines the quality of video you produce, it is actually a combination of various functions of the camera and techniques chosen by the camera operator or production director;

  • Frame Rates
  • Video resolution
  • Aspect Ratio
  • Shutter Speed
  • Aperture & Lens (Type, Filter & Hoods)
  • Lighting & White balance
  • Microphone(sound)
  • Techniques and composition.

Frame Rates:

An example that I can best understand is a child’s flip book as pages flip and the new slightly different image is displayed it gives the appearance of movement. (Moving pictures) motion cameras were originally hand cranked to allow the light to pass onto the film creating a moving picture, this was then advanced to motor driven cameras.

How many frames per second?:

12fps: the number of frames per second from which the brain can figure out each individual picture.

24fps: When sound was introduced the sound and movement had to be synchronised with the sound so 24 was the optimum decision.

30fps: A common new TV standard. 60fps: As time has progressed higher frame rates are achievable for slow motion captures.

Video Resolution:

With the high definition cameras available on the market today be it your phone or DSLR the options to choose can make things confusing, the available memory or processing power of your post production equipment might dictate what resolution you can edit in your final movie. Whatever you choose make sure the client is happy with this before you start recording! A breakdown of the resolutions available today is:

Common sizes used today are 720×1280 HD, 1080×1920 Full HD, 2160×3840 4K.

Video Resolution

4K is very memory dependant and the processing power required to post process or edit is high which in the end is more expensive. I aim to shoot most of my drone videos in 4K but before I perform any editing I compress them to 1080 Full HD as this helps speed up the process and most people do not require a 4k format.

More information regarding camera sensors can be found here: Drones and Camera sensors

Aspect ratio 

width and height of image or screen, 16:9 is now the most common.

By Tyhart87 – Own work, Public Domain,

Understanding the camera

Shutter Speed

How long the sensor is exposed to the light for: Shutter speed has an effect on Motion in your video, high shutter speeds are used for action shots while slower shutter speeds give a dreamy feel.
“A basic rule of thumb is the shutter speed should be double your frame rate.”

24fps = 1/50th, 48fps = 1/100th, 60fps 1/120th

exposure triangle
Attribute: By WClarke [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Apertures and lenses:

Aperture: function of the lens which controls the volume of light aloud in and controls depth of field displayed as iris or F-stop on cameras. Lower the f-stop number more light aloud in.

Lower the aperture number shallower the depth of field.

When you increase the aperture and depth of field the sharpness bubble will increase 1/ 3rd forward and 2/3rds behind this is great for directing the point of view to a subject, directing the viewers eyes to the subject..

Auto focus can be jittery manual focus tends to be smooth.

You tubers and bloggers make sure your eyes are in focus. Put something where your eyes will be and focus on this. Be sure to keep the focus in manual if you walk back into the picture on auto focus it will re-focus on you. Zoom in check focus and zoom out again.

Lens Types: Fisheye, super wide, wide, general 50mm, telephoto 70mm – 300mm, Macro these lenses may come as either a Prime (Fixed focal length) & or Zoom (variable focal length). Field of view decreases as the focal length increases so when we increase focal length we get closer to the subject but the field of vision decreases.

Focal length of a lens is where the image is most sharp

  • Prime lenses are less versatile also tending to be more expensive because they often provide a  better quality image.
  • Zoom lenses are more versatile, more affordable but the quality can be poorer than a prime lens. Keep in mind with a zoom lens the aperture changes when you zoom in therefore less light will get in, end result is a darker image.
  • Ultrawide or wide angle lenses – GoPro one of the most commonly used action cameras today and is fitted with a wide angle lens.
  • Telephoto – these tend to be used by sports or wildlife camera operators as you can be further away from the subject.
  • Macro – lenses are used for extreme close ups of very small objects.

Filters & Lens Hoods

Filters and lens hoods can help benefit your images in a few ways. They can help create effects (coloured lenses), ND filters are like sunglasses for your camera and these allow you to take longer exposures or use smaller apertures (Larger Hole) for a shallow depth of field without overexposing your shots through the day. The filters are often broken down to the following equivalents:

  • ND2 = 1Stop
  • ND4 = 2 stops
  • ND8 = 3 Stops
  • A Variable ND filters allows you to twist the filter for a different ND
  • A graduated filter allows you to darken out the sky while allowing you to keep the lower foreground lighter, therefore you have an image of equal exposure.

Unfortunately as with all filters and lenses the more expensive tends to mean the filters are made from better quality components it really is about finding which suit your budget. Combining lens filters and a lens hood helps keep the chance of sun reflections or lens flare to a minimum.

White balance and Lighting

Colour temperature red is hot/warm, blue cold Light is measured in kelvans. Controlling colour temperature by Setting your white balance, when you set the correct white balance all the rest of your colours will fall into the correct place. If you use a dslr you take a picture with a white piece of paper then select the option to use white balance from image. If white balance is not corrected before capturing your image post processing will become a huge task.  Colours used within your Captured footage are a visual aid and these can help enhance the point or feeling you are trying to display. Various scenes may have a slightly different colour pallet.

What does each colour make you feel? Colour pallets.

Lighting – 3 point lighting system:

  • The key light strongest/brightest in the scene just off to the left or right from your camera
  • The fill light less intensity of the key light positioned on the opposite side of the key light beside the camera.
  • The back light aim is to separate from the rear and give depth.( silhouette)

Hard Lighting one source of light very focused tends to be placed straight on facing upwards or downwards strong creating hard shadows. (Horror)

Soft Lighting- lighting that is very unfocused bouncing around (romantic comedies)

Drone Lighting: Above mentioned are all great for sets but to help when filming aerial footage nature is often the best or only light source you will have available, Early mornings, Nightime, sunrise sunset, red skies, heavy cloud can all have a great effect on you footage. Think hard about what you are filming and what you might want the feel of the scene to be.

Shooting in manual

Creating a checklist to follow will help you to remember vital points when shooting in manual mode like The exposure triangle: shutter speed, aperture and iso. (Iso is often referred to the last resort to help gain the correct exposure in photography but used a lot more often in videography.)

  1. Start = Shutter speed higher the shutter speed the smoother your slomotion options will be.
  2. Second = aperture depth of field smaller number bigger hole!
  3. Third = ISO controls the sensitivity of your sensor, 100, 200, 400, 800 ISO 100 is the beginning as you do not want noise of grain unless you want this to add effect. Black and white can sometimes suit this.
  • When changing your settings with a video it is a live feed on LCD.
  • Light meter assist when setting and adjusting exposure. -2 -1 0 1 2 a 2steps in either direction.18% of light is reflected from an objectso when the sensor has 18% Light your in built camera meter will be at 0. 1 stop = double the light.


Sound is half the picture 50/50, To complete your final video edits you will want to add music to your footage – important it suits, music can dictate the pace of the theme/edit,  make sure it is good quality, look for free music without royalties.

  • Keeping consistant audio is important, getting the mic close as possible with use of mic booms will assist when filming on the ground.
  • Using headphones allows you to focus and hear things you might not hear due to back ground noise.
  • Monitor camera sound – check sound levels within the camera
  • Check area for potential problems – air con, bumps and bangs, phones, squeaky chairs/doors etc.
  • Room tone – record the natural room tone/sounds 1 min is sufficient to make audio transitions when cutting/editing audio, Ambience can be used to fill gaps
  • Audio setup –
  • Single system – Mic connected to camera(rode), 3.5mm Jack = unbalanced cables pick up noise rather than a balanced XLR cable, screened/sheilded one out of phase so bothsignals passed along the two audio cables very good over long distances.
  • Double system Pre-amp = external recorder higher quality audio this will require sync in post process.
  • Sample rates: X axis = 11khz low quality, 44.1khz CD quality, 48khz digital video standard. Bit depth y axis height.
  • Omni directional picks up sound from all directions. Cardioid picks up audio from the front lttle back ground noise. Hyper/super cardioid narrow on the front little from the back. Shotgun boom type long thin most popular. Bidirectional front and back.
  • Fixed to camera (Rode Mic Go lightweight), Handheld, boom, pin, wireless lava leer (zoom H1 recorder wireless backup)
  • Levels – stay away from red zones -20db and -12db less chance of distortions. Between 0 and -6db is distortion which is almost impossible to fix. Clipping maximum the mic or recorder can handle and you will chop off peaks and it is lost.

Why create drone videos or do some V-logging

To start videos can help your business and or online marketing strategy as the likes of You Tube and “You Tubers” (as my kids call them) prove, these social media opportunities help build a personal interaction and allow you to talk to audiences, followers and potential clients.Your drone footage can be collected and combined to create a show reel, to display your work again broadcast across various social media channels to catch the eye of a potential client. Even with various new video based social media sites etc being created, YouTube still holds 70% market share in video advertising and the platform is accessed by over 1 billion users every month with 5 billion videos watched every month. Making it a great place to start. So get out and practice, you don’t have to be “Steven Spielberg”, if you come across positive and knowledgeable you are already surrounding your brand in a positive personal stigma.

Auto focus can cause issues.

5 to 10 mins, talk to camera help make it personal. Overlaid text helps reinforce a point. Very similar to blogging u want to make it truthful and honest. Reviews are a good way to get content.

Drone Video compositional techniques/styles/shots

Framing: full/wide, medium full, medium, medium close up, close up, extreme close up.

Don’t go too fast, take your time be smooth on the camera and drone sticks practice and if the controls are too sensitive remember you can adjust these in your drone settings.

Composition: Rule of thirds, symmetry complete contradiction to rule of thirds but can help with another creative idea.

Frame:  Headroom,

The various shots:

  • The reveal
  • The high pan
  • The explorer
  • The fly by
  • Two axis or movement (Backwards and Downwards),
  • Strafe new word on me but means moving sideways,
  • Orbit
  • Fly through shots
  • Gimble movements fly forward and operate the camera

Correct shutter speed (100th to 250th of a second), ND filters, remove lens distortion, add motion blur (colour correction red giant colorista, film convert)


The art of photography and camerawork in film making is a craft built on principles and knowledge, meanings, definitions and structures which anyone can learn and create.  Understanding the story and how you want it to be put across is important remember you will often be the writer, director and cinematographer.

  • The 5 C’s = Camera angle, continuity, cutting, close-ups, composition.
  • The story – Pitch tell the story in a sentence, beginning – middle – end, audience,clear and confident narrative(strong focus), strong close this is were people come back for more!
  • Location, equipment (does it fit the task required), storyboards(list of the variety of shots you need), transitions(more footage than you need so you can edit) , time/money
  • Intro shot – establishing shot lets you know the location, smooth pan wide angle view of scenes, with names of companies etc.
  • Master shot – Main shot body where you can cut back to, so the audience knows you are still in the same ocation.
  • Cutaways – close up with great detail about the subject, change of angle.
  • Jump cuts – helps to speed up time in a scene.
  • Closing shot – how do you want to leave them feeling with a clear ending
  • Tips- 1080p, 25fps shut speed, iso, aperture. White balance, manual focus. Aspect ratio cinematic widescreen letterboxes  35:1
  • turn on gridlines when shooting.
  • Adobe premier pro. Add new adjustment layer-Colour correct then. Window, workspace and colour grading choosing colour schemes for your movie putting your own stamp on the movies.
  • 3 step colour grade shadows mid tones and highlights. Blue orange yellow tricolour


Too much rather than too little footage start early and finish late gaining a little Extra at either side which will help with editing. Great video content is 50% great sound is the other 50%. Keep it steady with smooth and steady flights, using way points allows you to focus on smooth video camera movements. Always have a few memory cards to start with (Large capacity and fast write speed can help) especially don’t forget those extra CHARGED batteries.

My first Aerial Video

Here is one of the first ever videos i created with a go-pro and it is one of the reasons I looked into drones and aerial video. I loved the view/angle of my camera fixed to my kite it looked very different and not a lot of people were doing it, it was very different to what was out there already and I could see the potential for aerial imagery and also how easy drones were making it.


One of my favourite videos

Not created by me but one of my favourite all the same. It was created with the DJI Mavic a great little compact drone if you are looking for something for your travels.