June 23, 2017

7 Tips for Shooting More Cinematic Drone Footage

Is your drone footage not up to snuff? Here's how to take it to the next level.

How do you make your film look cinematic? Well, there are a lot of factors that play a vital roll, like lighting and camera movement, and if getting those things right during a normal film shoot is hard, imagine how much harder it is to get them right in the sky while operating a drone. Flying drones can be tricky, but perhaps the most challenging thing about flying them is knowing how to operate it cinematically. In this video, Matti Haapoja offers up a bunch of tips that will get you get you shooting more cinematic aerial footage in no time.

Like I said, there are many different factors that play a role in making footage look cinematic, and Haapoja touches on a lot of the important ones. His list isn't comprehensive, but it will definitely help you start off on the right foot.

  • Shoot at the right time of day: Drone cameras don't have the best dynamic range. Try to shoot at sunrise and sunset (Golden Hour).
  • Use an ND filter: Using one of these babies will help you correctly expose your shot without having to mess with shutter speed or other camera settings too much.
  • Use slow movements: In the wise words of Gus Gus from Cinderella, "Riker reasy." Try to get buttery smooth camera moves by slowing down.
  • Color grade: If the color in your footage needs a little tweaking, have at it. Just remember, less tends to be more when it comes to grading.
  • Make sure the grade on all your footage matches: Otherwise it looks like crap.
  • Add a zoom: Subtle zooms can help draw your viewer in.
  • Cinema crop: Choose a "cinematic aspect ratio," like 1.85:1 and 2.39:1. You can download free templates here.

What are some other things that can help make drone footage more cinematic? Let us know in the comments below.     

Your Comment


Solid advice for sure, and short and sweet. Great vid.

Also here some good advice for settings which can make all the difference: https://cineclast.com/2015/01/04/best-settings-for-perfect-drone-footage...

June 30, 2017 at 4:28PM

Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor

My only partial disagreement is with the last point, "Cinema crop: Choose a "cinematic aspect ratio," like 1.85:1 and 2.39:1."

If the camera can shoot full 4K, I'd go with the full frame and then crop down as needed to your final aspect ratio, especially if you need to do any stabilizing in post. I know that's a big "duh" kind of a thing to say, but it wasn't mentioned and "it needed sayin', pardner."

June 30, 2017 at 6:41PM