Workflow

Once the video has been captured, our experience has been as follows: to produce 1 minute of output video, it takes about 5 hours to analyse, trim and edit the video, then synchronise it with relevant music, and upload it to YouTube with a relevant description and excellent thumbnail.

Drones

The drones we are using are:

  • DJI Mavic Pro – excellent drone, albeit its camera isn't as protected as the Mavic Air's.
  • DJI Mavic Air – extremely light and foldable, its main weakness is the WiFi signal that tends to disconnect easily and often, unlike the Mavic Pro's radio signal.

Tips

Here are some of the insights we have gathered in using those DJI drones for getting interesting, cinematic footage:

  • Going forward with the drone, shooting straight ahead. Editing those shots would for instance display a rapid succession of those videos, creating a tunnel effect.
  • Shooting going backwards to have a smooth revealing effect.
  • Flying over rooftops, camera straight down.
  • Circling around a landmark, manually if necessary or using the Circle quick shot option on the Mavic Air (not reliable for large buildings) or using the POI mode (which still allows extensive control with the joystick).
  • Lifting upwards revealing the monument and the scenery behind..
  • Using sports mode for scenery that is far away, and cinematic mode (which slows down movements) for something very close.
  • Using cinematic mode for manual 360-degree shots.
  • For photos: taking multiple photos vertically and horizontally, stitching them all together in Photoshop.
  • Moving the drone parallel to the subject, remaining careful as there's no side sensor.
  • Shooting manually similarly to a dronie quick shot.
  • Changing the video recording settings to 60 fps for things like crashing waves or people playing sports, so that we can do slow-motion in post-processing.
  • Using tripod mode, making the drone/camera move very slowly.
  • Changing the settings for gimbal speed to a very low value: around 10 or below.
  • Carrying the drone at low height in one's hand to take advantage of the gimbal's stabilisation while recording video.

A few more things we hadn't initially realised while using the drones:

  • Pause button on the remote controller: useful to stop a special flight mode such as Active track. It will exit almost any flight mode or automated action. One exception though, is auto-landing. Use throttle up to cancel an auto-landing. When used during normal flight (including Sports mode), it will bring the Mavic to a stand-still very quickly.
  • On the DJI app, the symbol next to the wifi signal is the vision system: when it's red, the sensors are not active.

TRIMMING VIDEOS

Before editing any video, we trim the videos to remove all the video segments which are completely useless without a doubt e.g. the thirty seconds it sometimes takes to get the drone to take off, circular movements which are way too fast, etc. To do a lossless trimming, we use FFmpeg, which is a free complete, cross-platform solution to record, convert and stream audio and video.

Here is the typical command line to trim a video which filename would be input.mp4 to keep the segment between 1 hour 10 minutes 27 seconds and 2 hours 18 minutes 51 seconds and produce a resulting video called output.mp4:

ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -ss 01:10:27 -to 02:18:51 -c:v copy -c:a copy output.mp4

Video editing

We use Final Cut Pro X for video editing.

Tips

Here are some tips we found useful when it comes to post-processing in Final Cut Pro:

  • When creating a new project, make sure to select 4K and 29.97 fps i.e. the frame rate of the raw footage (otherwise it won't be smooth, especially 360-degree shots). An easy way to check the frame rate of any video is using VLC > Window > Media information.
  • Fading to black when switching to a new song in the video (for long videos for instance), just like film chapters.
  • Also fading to back at the end of the video.
  • Accelerating the video within the same clip: start at normal speed then accelerate, then go back to normal speed.
  • Using white flashes to sync with the audio without necessarily changing the video; or right after the flash, display the video filmed a few moments later.
  • Starting with a black screen which fades into the drone footage.
  • Disabling background rendering to save significant amounts of space on the laptop (and deleting all rendered files/folders).
  • Working with proxy media.
  • Transitioning from black and white to colours, for instance at the beginning of the video, or when changing the chapter – instead of the black screen.
  • Using the red pin from Google Maps to show a location (in the lower left corner of the video).
  • For any copy of the Title, also copy the font, transformation and duration
  • For any text highlights in typewriting mode: font 36, speed 24, duration 3:20, outline in black with opacity 50%.
  • Using Ken Burns (a zooming technique) when missing a few seconds a content or when video segments may be unusable (moving awkwardly). This allows to falsely zoom in the video and to avoid to use any digital stabilisation (which usually does not do a good job). See the Meteora video for two examples of using Ken Burns.
  • Zooming in & out with whoosh sound effects: see this tutorial video. Install downloaded transitions into the Movies > Motions Templates folder, then create the corresponding Transitions folder (or Effects if they are effects and not transitions, etc.). Click on the Transitions folder, Get Info and add ".localized" in the Name & Extension field (see this page for an explanation).
  • When synchronsing the video with the audio and when hesitating around a frame, it's better to have the video switch before the audio.
  • For creating a full event backup:
    • File > Copy (or move) event to new library, do not include optimised/proxy files
    • Click on the library: File > Consolidate library media, likewise do not include optimised/proxy files
    • Zip the library in the folder (because it contains package contents ) and upload to a backup drive

YouTube

You can find all our published videos on our YouTube channel.

Tips

Here are some tips we found useful when it comes to working with a YouTube channel:

  • Adding titles to all videos according to the template: "Place, City, Country: aerial views from a drone"
  • Adding descriptions to video according to the template:
    • Shot with DJI Mavic Air
    • Music: Band name – Song name (YouTube Audio Library, link, license)
  • Adding YouTube end screens to video (except for videos ending with a dronie shot).
  • Adding tags to each video.
  • Adding the video to the corresponding playlist.
  • Removing any deleted videos from playlists to which they had been added.
  • Manually rearranging the order of videos in playlists, as the first video also appears as the playlist cover.
  • Creating a good thumbnail using Photoshop e.g. good background photo, large title with drop-shadow effects, alignment of the title on the left, 70%-opacity-layer black & white gradient.