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Five Creative Techniques for Editing Drone Video

Here are five simple techniques we like to use when editing drone footage that can add fresh creativity to your videos.

Drone video is one of the most popular tools for videographers. The surge of high-quality and reasonably priced drone cameras and rigs over the last several years has opened up a new channel for video production.

The obvious appeal of drone video is that we get to show people some amazing perspectives through a bird’s-eye view. This results in very powerful images that add a ton of production value at a reasonable cost.

While the visuals captured with drones are amazing to watch by themselves, the real power of these images is how they’re used in combination with the stories we’re telling. Oftentimes, these stories come to life in post-production. Here are five simple techniques we like to use when editing drone footage that can add fresh creativity to your videos.

1. Stutter Cut

One of my favorite things about most popular industry drone cameras, such as the DJI Phantoms, is that they allow you to capture Ultra HD and 4K video.

When you take this footage and add it to a standard high-definition timeline with 1920x1080 settings, you’re left with a lot of image space to play with. Having this extra space allows you to apply what I like to call a stutter cut. Essentially, you’re mimicking a cut to make it appear as though you’re using multiple cameras.

This technique works really well when creating fast-paced edits for projects involving recreation, sports, or fitness. It adds a dynamic effect that pulls the viewer into the subject matter while also helping to match certain points in your background music.

The way to achieve this look is by bringing in the full-resolution drone footage and making sure not to modify it to match the sequence settings in your editing application.

When you find the location of where you want to apply the stutter cut, you can then make a physical cut to the drone footage. From there, you would change the portion of the footage you cut in order to match the smaller sequence settings. This will give you that stutter-cut look (Figure 1, below, and Figure 2, below Figure 1).

Figure 1. Before the stutter cut

Figure 2. After the stutter cut

2. Speed Ramps

Most drone operators know that once you’re in the air, it’s wise to capture as much footage as possible. However, longer flight times can result in some very lengthy video clips. Using speed and ramp effects works really well because it makes the best use of the footage and it keeps viewers engaged.

This technique is similar to the way you’d apply slow and fast motion to non-drone footage. Essentially, you can speed up the duration of long tracking shots and then slow the clip down when landing on something of interest. Overall, this makes aerial movement even more interesting and allows you to speed through some of the dull parts of your video. YouTube vlogger Casey Neistat does an excellent job of using this technique in many of his drone videos (Figure 3, below).

Figure 3. Speed ramps in YouTube vlogger Casey Neistat’s work

t it to be there. This is a simple reminder that you can pass along to your drone operator.

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