We’ve gathered some of the best tips to help you take advantage of the features of your drone to get the best footage on the spot.

Ungraded Google Earth Studio
Google Earth Studio – A great way to plan your shot

1. Plan Your Shoot

It is important that you start with a plan, otherwise you’re going to miss out on a lot of great cinematic opportunities. It’s not just about knowing where you’re going, either. In your pre-shoot planning, you should:

  • Think about what kind of shots you want specifically and where to find them
  • Use Google Maps or other mapping software to find flight routes and see what would be most interesting (Google Earth Studio is one the best ways, because it is in 3D and you can already try out shots)
  • Consider timing of your travels to and from the location in regard to things like time of day (which we’ll discuss a little later)
A polarising filter

2. Use Polarising Filters

Polarizing filters are rotating filters that are designed to be placed in front of the lens to remove unwanted light orientations. Essentially, the light from the sun is going to reflect off of metallic surfaces and water, which can create a lot of glare and reflections in your footage if you aren’t careful. With polarizing filters oriented properly, you can get rid of the glare and create a more saturated image. 

Keep in mind that the polarizing effect only works when the sun is at your back. When you have a wide field of view, which is standard for many drones, you also have to keep in mind that polarization will only happen in certain parts of the image. A half-polarized image is worse than one with none at all. Before you fly, make sure that you’re aimed at where you want to shoot, hold the filter to your eye, and rotate it until you see the vibrant colors that you want. Then, mark the filter on the side to note the position for proper placement on the lens. 

What about ND filters?

The entire purpose of an ND filter is to create smoother-looking fast motion shots and lock the shutter speed. When you’re flying high, you aren’t getting a lot of speed in your footage, so you don’t really need this. However, when you’re flying low, you may notice a significant difference with an ND filter. We always use polarized ND filters, making sure that all the bases are covered. 

An example of slow movement

3. Use Slow Movements

When you’re lower to the ground, you are going to notice more movement in the picture, so you should try to do slower movements when flying your drone. You could film at a higher framerate, but you’d have to compensate by shooting in a lower frame size. The solution that we recommend is to record in real-time and fly slowly for the best quality and least disruption of movement. Remember that you can always speed up the footage in post as needed.

Sunset can create a cinematic atmosphere

4. Film at the Right Time of Day

Sunrise and sunset are popular for a reason—they look far more stunning than the average blue sky or overcast day. When you’re looking to create cinematic shots, consider time of day in your shooting so that you get the best possible images in the best possible lighting. Think, too, about the effect or emotion that you are trying to create because lighting can have an impact on that, as well. 

Setting LOG mode

5. Shoot in LOG Mode

LOG files are ungraded video files, which means they don’t have colors in them yet, allowing others to match their own footage to your drone footage. Although this doesn’t necessarily make the footage more cinematic in and of itself, it makes it more likely to be used by those who are looking to match stock footage to their existing videos. Why should you be shooting in LOG? Here are a couple big reasons:

  • High dynamic range
  • Flattens out images to allow for saturation and contrast decisions in post-production
  • Easy to match with other camera profiles

In Summary

Whether it’s about the shot itself or the way you shoot, these are the best tips to keep in mind when you’re looking for a more cinematic appeal from your drone footage. You can find plenty of inspiration on YouTube and other video sharing channels to see how other filmmakers are turning their stock footage into cinema-quality material just by changing a few of their shooting habits. In no time, these tips will practically turn you into a pro.