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Drone Videography Basics for Dummies

Drone Videography Basics for Dummies

Drone photography is quickly becoming a trend, a hobby, and a growing interest. Now that drones are becoming more accessible and affordable than ever, drone videography is also following suit. Whether you’re a filmmaker, vlogger, or just a plain enthusiast, here’s a guide made simple just for you.

Guide to Drone Videography

Guide to Drone Videography

1. Use the proper equipment.

Is the drone you have already fit for filming or recording videos? Do you need to buy a separate one for this purpose? What are you taking videos for? Note that there may be a lot of drones out there, but not all are good for filming. We suggest you look up reliable online sources for the best drones to use for videos, taking into consideration the specs, reviews, additional features, and price. Also, keep in mind that not all drones have cameras. Different drones are available to carry anything from a tiny, dedicated camera, GoPro action cameras, compact and mirrorless cameras, DSLR cameras through to high-end movie cameras.

If you’re a hobbyist, we recommend the Altair 818 Hornet, Altair Aerial AA108, MJX Bugs 2, and Holy Stone F181W. If you’re a professional, you may try checking this list of drones for filming out to get started with looking for the perfect drone for you.

2. Be familiar with federal, state, and local drone regulations.

While most small hobby drones are fine, many larger ones need to be registered. In the US, if you wish to fly a drone with a total weight exceeding 0.55 pounds, you’ll have to register the drone. It’s not difficult, and it only costs $5. On the other hand, if you’re caught flying an unregistered drone, you could be fined as much as $27,500! Flying in close proximity to an airport, for example, is typically prohibited. Read up on any of these restrictions and guidelines before even deciding to fly somewhere. Register here and familiarize the safety guidelines: https://www.faa.gov/uas/registration/.

3. Understand your drone’s controls and settings.

Before attempting to fly your drone for the first time, you’ll need to understand the controls and settings. Familiarize yourself with arming and disarming, transmitter modes, and flight modes. If you have time, read on the drone’s manual. The manual was put there for this reason.

4. Learn how to pilot before anything.

Imagine buying a good-quality drone and a separate high-end camera, only to crash it. Whoops! Most drone pilots started out with a “toy” drone—a cheap drone that they can learn the basics on without the risk of expensive damage. These smaller drones can even be used indoors so you can practice regardless of the weather or time of day. The skills you’ll learn on a “toy” drone will prepare you for larger, more professional drones once you get the hang of it.

Learn how to take off, hover, and land safely. Know how to move the drone from side to side and forward and backward. Next, try flying in squares and circles. Finally, master rotating the drone. Make sure you’re good at these basics before you actually attach your camera. Also, avoid flying on windy days.

5. Make use of a checklist.

Treat flying your drone seriously. Make pre-flight checks, and prepare for every eventuality. Here’s a useful suggestion:

  • Weather
  • Permissions from authorities or landowner
  • Drone
  • Controller
  • Batteries
  • Formatted SD card
  • First-aid kit

6. Plan your shots.

Remember that every drone’s flight time is largely limited. So instead of winging it and then taking up so much storage space from unusable footage, make it a point to plan ahead. But how do you know what will be a good scene to shoot unless you already see what’s up there? Here’s one trick pros use to do that: Google Maps or Google Earth.

7. Experiment with different filming techniques.

Learn the ropes, test the waters, and get the hang of shooting footage first. Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, you can start implementing some more advanced filming techniques. Killer drone shots are not that hard to achieve. Experimenting with angles and pans can help improve your videography skills and let you film more interesting and well put together videos.

Try combining different axis movements, orbiting around a subject, flying at low altitude, following the subject from different angles, moving sideways, and flying through gaps (this requires skill). Just like normal photography, videography requires creativity and an eye for artistry.

8. Always, always watch your battery.

A common mistake beginners make is forgetting about the battery percentage. While some drones land automatically when the battery gets too low, many won’t. Not paying attention to the current level is a good way to send your drone crashing down. Bear in mind that aside from moderate winds, low batteries are among the most common reasons of drone loss!

9. Edit.

If you’re a videographer, the job doesn’t end there. Take your footage to the next level through video editing. There are a large variety of both paid and free software that can help you edit and add effects to your drone videos. This could include transitions, animations, text overlays, among others. There are even drones that come with their own software that can help you edit them as well.

Happy shooting!

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