Here are 7 ways to make your drone footage more cinematic

One of the best ways to make drone footage look more cinematic is to edit it in post-production.

Drone Film Guide has 7 editing tips that will transform your drone footage into cinematic gold. And, not only will the drone footage look more cinematic, it’ll be much more engaging to watch. The YouTube channel has designed the video to work across all editing software. So, while Drone Film guide uses Final Cut Pro X you should be able to implement all these techniques on your editing software regardless. You just might have to find out the difference in mechanics.

So without further ado, let’s start the video and run you through the video’s tips:

1. Add in the classic cinematic black bars for a widescreen aspect ratio

The widescreen aspect ratio and cinematic film have a long history. Viewers just instinctively feel the video they’re watching is more cinematic if it includes the widescreen black bars. There are numerous templates that you can use online to drop in the black bars.

Plus, black bars not only make your drone more cinematic. They can also help crop out any unwanted parts in your video. Just make sure to use them throughout the video. Otherwise, things become inconsistent.

2. Reverse the footage

Drone footage always looks more cinematic when you move towards things. So, here is a rule of thumb that you can shoot your drone footage by: flying a drone up is a lot smoother than flying it down [and] flying it backward can be smoother than flying it forward. That’s according to Drone Film Guide host and author Stuart Carroll, and it makes sense. If you are going to try and shoot a shot going up to someone’s face, it’s going to be hard.

It would be much easier to shoot the shot backward, moving away from the person’s face and then reverse it in post. I’m sure your model would be very thankful you’re not flying a drone towards their face, as well.

3. Speed up your drone footage

This tip may seem fairly self-explanatory, but it can make drone shots very dynamic. Speed is a very powerful tool that you can use to your advantage. You can add movement and action when speeding shots up. Furthermore, when you slow down footage, it becomes more calming and very focused on its subject.
You can even use them together. You can have a particular clip begin at a slower speed, then at the middle section speed it up, then end it with going back to the original slower speed.

4. Post-production crop

While in post, you may notice things that you need to crop out. For instance, you may not notice that you shot your equipment. In post, you can remove it by cropping the equipment out. Be sure though to not to crop out too much. Cropping can be an amazing tool, but not a crutch. We will lose video quality if you crop too much. Be sure to not make these goofs when shooting and to shoot in 4K for times you accidentally do make mistakes. It’s alright. We’re human. These things happen. Just never choose cropping over reshooting on scene if you can avoid it.

Drone footage of woman on a clip
Cropping out the drone operator would fix this situation

5. Post-production zoom

Most video editing software have the ability to zoom in and out of the video. So if you aren’t able to do this on set or you decide that a zoom would make the scene more cinematic, you can add that effect in post. It’s best to do this with the highest resolution clips you have. If you don’t have a high enough resolution, this will start to look bad when zoomed in.

6. Color correction and grading

Color correction and color grading are one of the most important aspects of post-production. If you want your drone footage to look cinematic, you have to color correct and grade.

Footage being edited
You need to color correct and color grade to make footage cinematic

When it comes to color grading, a lot of it boils down to the style that you want to go for. There’s no one way to color grade footage to make it look cinematic. Just look at the movies coming out today. Their colors vary depending on the style and tone the film wants to go for. A popular color grade that many Hollywood movies use has an emphasis on teals and oranges.

There are some basic concepts that you should know about color correcting and grading, like how to adjust the contrast, saturation and colors. You can learn about color grading in a previous article.

7.Engaging Editing

The video says that one of greatest ways to keep people watching is to match clips with some decent sounds and music and then edit the drone footage to move with the audio accordingly. Essentially, you tailor your footage to the audio. Say you have a fast, energetic music, you edit your cuts likewise. If there is a sudden slowed break in the song, you’d complement it by slowing down your cuts.

These are a few tips that you can implement the next time you have some drone footage you need to edit. You’d be amazed by how effective these tips will be in making your drone footage feel more cinematic.

Sean Berry
Sean Berry
Sean Berry is Videomaker's Managing Editor.

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