How to get butter-smooth cinematic footage with a FPV drone

For the last years I’ve been experimenting on how to get the best possible footage with FPV drones. Footage that is so smooth it looks cinematic.

The biggest problem with FPV drones have always been vibrations that turn into jello in the video. Another problem have been quad-copters that is hard to tune and “jump around” in the air.

Here are my five cents on how to get a greatly tuned quadcopter that will give you tons of great footage. See my videos under.

Step 1: Building the quadcopter

Building a great quadcopter that is tuned and well balanced is the first step you need to do. See my build guides below for all my filming rigs (coming soon).

Step 2: Choosing the right settings in the Gopro camera

Here are the settings I use in my GoPro camera.

In PAL

  • Shutter: 1/100 in 50 FPS
  • Shutter: 1/50 in 25 FPS
  • White balance: 4500K on sunny days
  • White balance: 5500K on overcast days
  • ISO MIN: 100
  • ISO MAX: 100
  • Sharp: Low
  • Color: Flat

In NTSC

  • Shutter: 1/120 in 60 FPS
  • Shutter: 1/60 in 30 FPS
  • White balance: 4500K on sunny days
  • White balance: 5500K on overcast days
  • ISO MIN: 100
  • ISO MAX: 100
  • Sharp: Low
  • Color: Flat

It’s really important that you always record in a 4:3 ratio. This is because Reelsteady (which we will talk about later) morph 4:3 into 16:9 after stabilization is done.

GPS

Turn off GPS in the camera’s preferences. This is really important. If you forget that Reelsteady can’t use the gyro data to stabilize the footage and your footage will basically be useless.

Shutterspeed

The first reason you should always use as low shutter speed as possible is because of motion blow. Low shutter will create a natural motion blur.

The second reason is because of jello. Low shutterspeed will reduce whatever jello is left in the frame of the quadcopter. It’s important to have as little jello as possible in the video. Jello is high frequency vibrations that Reelsteady have a hard time dealing with.

At 1/50 and 1/60 you will have a lot of motion blur. Sometimes too much of the good. At 1/100 and 1/120 I think the amount of motion blur is perfect.

At 1/200 and 1/240 motion blur is almost non-existent and jello start to be visible in the image.

All shutter speeds above 1/200 and 1/240 is useless with FPV drones in my opinion.

ND Filters

What you will notice when you have your shutter at 1/120 and 1/100 is that the image will be overexposed. This is solved with ND filters. This is basically just sunglasses for your camera so less light hits the sensor.

ND filters come in different strengths. These values are:

  • ND-4
  • ND-8
  • ND-16
  • ND-32

What strength you need depend on how bright it is outside. In my experience:

  • ND-4: This one I rarely use as it’s not very strong.
  • ND-8 and ND-16: Good for cloudy days.
  • ND-16 and ND-32: Good for days with sun.

Cheap ND filter vs expensive ND filters

You can get ND filters from 10 buck all the way up to 200 bucks. I’ve owned glas in both price ranges. Honestly, I don’t see any difference.

Buy the cheap ones you can get online. These ND filters break really easy. Breaking a ND filter to 200 buck suck, breaking a ND filter for 10 bucks is at best an annoyance.

In-camera stabilization

This needs to be turned off. That is very important. If this is on you can not use the footage for the post-stabilization program we will talk about now.

My favorite ND filters for GoPro Hero6:

Step 3: Stabilization – Reelsteady Go

After you have imported all the footage from the camera to your computer you will notice that the footage looks horrible.

That’s because you need to run the footage through something called Reelsteady.

If you have been living under a rock for the last few years. Reelsteady is best described with on word – magic. It turns shaky footage into footage that looks like its hovering on clouds.

It does this by using the camera’s gyro data instead of a traditional image analysis. This works flawlessly. Stabilizing five minutes of footage takes around 10 minutes for me in Reelsteady. If I did the same with a traditional image analysis it would take several hours.

If you want 5% off on Reelsteady Go follow this link. At checkout use the coupon code “FureFPV” for 5% off.

Gopro Firmware

If you are using a GoPro Hero 6 you need version 1.6 of the firmware. If you have a newer firmware than 1.6 you need to do a downgrade.

How to downgrade your GoPro Hero6

If you are using any other firmware version than 1.6 you might get a bad stabilization. You will also get a ton of sync points all over the time line that you’ll have to delete.

The video below is filmed with a Hero6, but with a newer firmware than 1.6. As you can see this video have slightly more vibrations than the video further up in this post.

How I use Reelsteady Go

As soon as I have loaded a video into Reelsteady the program will start working on the footage. It will will say “running the numbers” for a few seconds.

As soon as Reelsteady is done running the numbers the video will show up in the preview window. There should be two green sync points on the timeline (assuming that you use firmware 1.6 with your GoPro Hero6).

Delete these sync points.

Then you find a point in the beginning of the video you are flying straight head with a little turning and throttle changes as possible. Make a new sync point in this point of time in the video. Do the same at the end of the video.

Two sync points. One in the beginning, one in the end. Should be inserted somewhere where you fly straight and with steady throttle.

Pro tip: When you fly your quad. Always fly straight for 2-3 seconds with a steady throttle in the beginning and end of your flight, so you can use this as sync points in Reelsteady in post.

When you have done this click the bottom in the bottom right corner with the gear symbol. This is where you will find the advanced settings (not really advanced at all).

Set:

  • Smoothness all the way to the left to low
  • Cropping speed all the way to the right to slow
These settings work 99% of the time.

Setting the smoothness to low should be plenty stabilization on a well tuned quad with undamaged motors and propellers.

Cropping speed at slow just make the zooming in and out of the footage as slow as possible so you don’t notice it.

When you click “okay” the program will run the numbers on more time.

When the program is done running the numbers for a second time have a look at the video and see if everything looks good.

If the video is shaky at certain places in the video delete the sync points and try to make new points on slightly different points.

Reelsteady is really an amazing stabilization software. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to take their FPV drone footage to the next level.

If you want to purchase this software today remember that you’ll get 5% off with the coupon code “FureFPV”. This saves you 5% while I get a small commission too. Everybody wins!

If you have any further questions please feel free to ask in the comment section below.

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