From flight to final cut

With greater versatility and improved shot angles, drones are fast becoming a popular option for camera operators, photographers and filmmakers wanting to take the next step in producing breath-taking images and videography. From the first flight to the final cut however, there is a long process involved in producing the magnificent airborne imagery that we have come to associate with drones.

First, a camera must be chosen. Unsurprisingly, the GoPro is very popular due to it being very light weight yet being able to capture high quality footage. Other popular HD cameras that are great for filming on drones include the Foxeer Legend range and RunCam whilst companies like DJI are producing the popular Phantom and Inspire range of drones with integrated 4K cameras. At the heavy end, professional movie cameras such as the RED Epic and the Alexa Mini are being used on large format octocopters to film feature films and high end television content. All options have different advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to know exactly the types of shot you want to achieve before purchasing any equipment.

Once decided, a camera must be set up correctly, according to the atmospheric conditions and the shot type required. Naturally, drones are mainly used outdoors which can bring with it significant challenges and considerations when capturing a shot. Constraints such as the limited flightg time that drones are capable of and the need for favourable weather means that each shot should be expertly planned before actually going out and filming.

After footage has been gathered, the raw data needs to be converted into the format that is readable by your post-processing software, ready to be imported into your editing software and backed up – after such lengthy planning of your drone filmed movie, the data you have captured is precious!

A quick review of the ‘rushes’, or the first look at the footage gathered can then allow you to have a quick overview of how effective your filming day was, before importing the successful footage into your chosen post processing software ready to edit. The camera integrated on the DJI’s Phantom 4 Drone has a wide range of colour profiles available to film in whichever colour grade you require, however it is more common to experiment with the colour grade and sharpen up each shot in the post production stages.

Finally, once the footage has been exported from the drone, imported into editing software and all the mistakes and unusable shots have been removed, the shots that remain can be set out to a timeline to be reviewed before exporting the final cut, ready for delivery on your chosen media outlets.

Creating the perfect cut is a challenging task, especially with the added constraints that using a drone adds to the process, however the footage that can be achieved at the end is always worth the lengthy procedure.