When editing drone footage, everyone has their own methods and ideas about what will work best. While we aren’t saying that our way is the best, we wanted to share it so that you have another option to consider. We have found that it works quite well for our needs, and it may offer something for others. 

To begin with, there are a couple of different things that will be on the editing agenda: color correction, color grading, barrel distortion and other edits you may want to make, such as adding cinema bars to crop the video for a more professional finish. If you want to learn more about the best way to shoot drone footage, check out our blog here: [link blog] 

Below, you’ll find our best practices and most useful tips for editing your drone footage. 

1. Color Correction

Before we start, we have to note the big difference between color correction and color grading. Color correction is all about getting the footage to appear as natural as possible, while grading is done for dramatic effect. We always choose to shoot in the log profile for a wider dynamic and tonal range, which also gives us more latitude when it comes to applying color and style choices. We’d recommend that you do the same, and you can with the Dlog-M profile available in DJI drones. 

First, you must go into the color workspace and ensure that Waveform RGB is turned on. The scale here ranges from 0 to 100, with 100 representing the highlights and 0 representing the shadows. Ideally, you want to keep this between 10 and 90. 

One way to play with your colors is to open Curves in Lumetri color. Use the white straight line to make an s-curve, pulling the shadows down while raising the highlights. Play around with this until you get the result that you like. Also, keep an eye on the Lumteri scopes to ensure that the highlights and shadows are going above 100 and below zero. 

ungraded color correct drone footage
Color correcting a video

Next, it’s time to look at the footage and see how the temperature is set. You can open the Lumteri Scopes tab and right-click, where you’ll find Parade (RBG). This will bring up the red, blue, and green channels separately. You can see if your white balance is off by checking to see if one color is set much higher than the rest. If the white balance is good, the colors should be pretty well on the same level. The color corrections at the top right will allow you to adjust temperature and tint, but make sure that you don’t overdo it. 

We’re still dealing with basic color correction, but it’s going from white balance to tone. Also, bear in mind that you should only adjust exposure if the image is under- or over-exposed. 

Contrast is all about taste, but you never want to add too much. We usually keep it between –5 and 30, depending on the footage and the ambiance we have in mind. 

It’s up to you whether you want to raise highlights and shadows to create more contrast. If your ISO was raised during shooting, you should raise the highlights and lower the shadows, because the grain is in the dark spaces and the clearer parts are in the highlights. 

Also, keep blacks and whites to a minimum and don’t overcorrect here. Finally, LOG files don’t include saturation, so you’ll have to adjust that manually based on your personal preferences for each image or video. 

2. Color Grading

Our color grading isn’t all that advanced and essentially comes down to applying a Look Up Table or LUT. Once you’ve done the hard work of color-correcting, this is the easiest way to balance and grade your colors. Bear in mind, of course, if your footage is mismatched, not properly corrected or under-exposed, applying the LUT is not going to work like it should. 

If you’re shooting for stock footage, skip color grading and stick to natural images as much as possible. 

We made our own LUTs so that you can easily create your own cinematic pictures. Click here to check out the LUTs that we have created. 

To apply these tables, go to the Lumteri color panel and click “Creative”. Then, you can click on the different looks, and then upload the LUT that you want to use. 

Once you apply the LUT that you like, consider adjusting the intensity anywhere from 10-50%, depending on the table you use and the image. You can even toggle it on and off to see what it does to the image. You’ll also be able to play around with the vibrance of your colors, but again make sure that you don’t go too far and keep it around 25% maximum for best results. 

ungraded color correct drone footage

3. Fix the Barrel Distortion

Although they have plenty of great features, some DJI drones actually have a significant enough distortion that it results in a curved horizon. This isn’t something that you can see when you’re filming in normal color mode or Dlog-M or hyperlog/gamma mode, but it will show up on the recorded footage when you are reviewing it in editing.

4. Adding Cinema Crop Bars

This final editing technique is much simpler than color correction and grading and can create a great finished product. Plus, since you’re not actually cropping the image, you can adjust its positioning and scale to get the perfect frame every single time. There are three main ways to add cinema crop bars to your drone footage:

  1. You can download PNG files available online to place over your footage
  2. You can add an adjustment layer in editing and apply the crop effect, making the bars manually. Just keep them around 10% at the top and bottom for the best results. 
  3. Change the sequence settings so that it’s an anamorphic crop, or so that the image is actually cropped rather than just putting bars over it.