Thoughts on Shooting with the 4K DJI Phantom 3 & Grading the Footage to Look Awesome
In early April, DJI announced massive updates to their popular Phantom lineup of consumer drones. Two months later, the verdict is in. The Phantom 3 Professional is an excellent piece of equipment, that is, if you can work within its limitations.
I was contacted recently by Eric Thayne, a filmmaker and musician based out of Provo, Utah. On a recent trip to Kauai, and armed with DJI's Phantom 3 Professional, Eric took to the skies above Hawaii's "Garden Island" and came back with some lovely 4K aerial footage. He was kind enough to share his thoughts on both shooting with the stock DJI camera and how to grade the footage.
First up, check out Eric's awesome footage of Kauai:
Here are Eric's thoughts on shooting with the stock camera built into the Phantom 3 Professional. While it's obviously capable of producing some lovely, highly-detailed 4K footage, it does not come without a set of quirks. Like most modern cameras, however, those quirks have some basic solutions and workarounds:
For best image results, shoot in manual mode. Shooting in auto exposure tends to overexpose the picture, creating artifacts that you can't get rid of and highlights that you can't recover. Plus, if you're panning or tilting, the exposure will change in the middle of the shot. You have to use the ISO and shutter controls to get the exposure you want.
Personally I prefer to underexpose slightly. Without an ND filter, it's near impossible to get a perfect 180 degree shutter angle in bright daylight, so you just have to get as close as you can without overexposing. Of course, you'll want to turn your in-camera saturation, contrast, and sharpness all the way down so you have as much control over the image in post production as possible.
Eric also shared some stills from the ungraded footage to give us an idea of his starting point in the grading process:
As well as some quick thoughts about how he graded the footage:
In post, I used all stock Adobe Premiere plugins—mostly RGB curves. And lots of masks to section off areas of the image to treat separately, especially the sky. I even used masks to create fake shadows in some shots, in order to help the composition and direct the viewer's eye to the focus point.
Have any of you had the chance to fly and shoot with the new Phantom 3 drones yet? If so, share your shooting and grading processes with us down in the comments. Also, feel free to leave any questions for Eric down in the comments as well.