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How to Edit Great Drone Video: A Tip Sheet

BY Alan Perlman
20 July 2015

Source: 3D Robotics
By: Roger

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Here are some pro video editing tips we’ve gathered over many years of developing and shooting on various drone platforms.

First, remember that the GoPro video editing process begins with the shot—so always try to shoot with your editing workflow in mind. If you want the absolute highest raw resolution with Solo, set your GoPro HERO4 Black to shoot in 4K at 30 frames per second. Keep in mind that this limits your shots to an ultra-wide view, but lens distortion can be removed in post if you really want or need to shoot at this resolution.

However, we’ve learned that shooting drone aerials at 60 frames per second actually makes your shots look butter smooth. Check out our footage from Cabo, shot with Solo on a GoPro HERO4 Black at 60 fps. The motion feels flawless, and required no stabilization in post.

To get this look, set your HERO4 Black to shoot in 2.7k at 60 fps (if you shoot in 4K the size is too large to effectively process; drop resolution to 2.7 and it processes). You’ll also want to set your GoPro field of view to “medium”—meaning you’ll need no barrel correction in post. As a bonus, note that YouTube now allows you to post videos at 60 fps, so when you share this video nothing will change—what you see in post is what your audience gets.

Again, if you just want to shoot the highest raw resolution, shoot in 4k at 30 fps and fix the view and lens distortion in post.

Additionally, you’ll want to set the GoPro’s ISO as low as you can—400—to minimize visual noise. You can crank the ISO for shooting in low light, but the image will be grainy. To dial down this noise, use the Neat Video plugin for Premiere and After Effects—it’s a great noise reduction plugin, and we use it all the time.

Now, tips for post-production:

EDITING DRONE VIDEO W/ GOPRO STUDIO

  1. Convert your file through GoPro Studio. The original GoPro file on your SD card is so compressed that it might not play back smoothly on your computer. Converting the file decompresses it and allows the computer to play it back more smoothly. (Note: The file size will be bigger after conversion.)
  2. “Trim the fat.” The “fat” of your shoot is the extra footage from takeoff and landing, which you’ll want to cut before adding the file to the conversion list. This will save you time as you convert the original file. If you’re flying a Solo, though, you won’t need this step, because you can start and stop recording on the fly so you get only the footage you want.
  3. Quality and frame rate. Under “advanced” settings, assign your footage the highest quality and set the frame rate to 23.98p. (You can check the “remember these settings” box so you don’t have to do this every time.)
  4. Fisheye removal. If you want, quickly and easily remove fisheye just by checking the “remove fisheye” box.
  5. Once you have your settings and you’ve trimmed the fat, add the file to the conversion list and click “convert”—this will convert all clips to the specified settings.

EDITING AERIAL VIDEO W/ ADOBE PREMIERE

We prefer to edit in Premiere because it works really well with the GoPro codec for post-production.

First, set your project settings to match the footage that you shot—if you shot at 60 fps, then put your Premiere settings that frame rate at 60 fps. You’ll also want to synch your file export settings—basically, your shooting, editing and exporting sizes and frame rates should all align.

Once you’ve got your settings, the editing process is largely just a matter of dragging and dropping and assembling your clips. However, there are some bumps you may hit along the way. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you edit.

  1. If you’ve set your sequence for 1080p, but your GoPro footage is 4k, then your frame will appear to be zoomed in. To rectify, set the scale of your clip to 50% and the clip will then fill the frame as shot.
  2. If you’ve converted footage originally shot in slow motion (120 fps) to 24 fps, when you bring it into Premiere it will play back in slow motion. If you want your footage to play at normal speed, you can speed it back up in Premiere. To change playback speed, right click on your footage and select “speed/duration.”
  3. To stabilize your footage, use Premiere’s “warp stabilizer” effect. Go to your “effects” menu, select “warp stabilizer” and simply drag it onto the clip you want to stabilize—it may take a few minutes to analyze the clip, but then it will stabilize automatically. (Note: There are a ton of advanced settings you can toy with in “warp stabilizer”; however, the defaults usually work best.)
  4. Correcting lens distortion—i.e., fisheye (if you didn’t already in GoPro Studio). Inside the “presets” folder, you’ll find “lens distortion removal” presets for a variety of GoPro cameras. You can drag and drop these onto your clips in the same way you would with warp stabilizer.
  5. Color correction—Color correcting your GoPro footage in Premiere is largely a matter of personal taste. We recommend using Premiere’s “fast color corrector,” available in the “video effects” menu. Just about the only element that’s not a matter of personal taste here is white balance, a setting that corrects for variations in the color of the lighting under your shooting conditions. The easiest way to set white balance is to use the eyedropper and click on a white area of your frame. You can also set white manually by using the color wheel. The fast color corrector also offers a lot of other options for changing the look and feel of your footage—have fun experimenting!
  6. Exporting—When it’s time to export your footage out of Premiere (say, for social sharing), select “export” and you’ll see a settings menu. First select your format; you’ll want to choose H.264, a format that all online video hosting sites and most devices use. Then you’ll need to select your preset. We use YouTube 1080p HD because it strikes a good balance between file size and video quality. Hit “export” and you’re done.

Alan Perlman

Founder & CEO

Alan is an FAA-certified drone pilot and founded UAV Coach in 2014 to help connect drone enthusiasts, to provide world-class sUAS industry training courses, and to help push the drone community forward with a focus on safety and commercial opportunities.

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