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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.

3. Title and Graphic Overlays

Sure, drone visuals can be majestic and should often be the center of attention, but the wide shots that many drone cameras produce are perfect images to use for copy, logos, titles, or overlays (Figure 4, below).

Figure 4. A title overlay on drone footage

The movement of the drone footage as a background can serve as an excellent choice to complement a title or textual graphic. It adds some dynamic movement to your video and will really help these areas pop when done right.

I suggest using overlays with some of your slower-moving tracking drone shots, such as flyovers. Try darkening the image during postproduction or using contrasting colors with your titles to add dimension. Figure 5 (below) shows an example from filmmaker Sebastian Wöber.

Figure 5. A title overlay on drone footage by filmmaker Sebastian Wöber

4. Transitions

The possibilities are limitless when it comes to the variety of shots you can capture with drones. There are takeoffs, drops, flyovers, pans, tilts, 360s, pushes, reveals, and more.

While a straight cut can work in many situations to bridge these shots, you’ll face challenges in making some drone shots look smooth. Transitions between the different types of drone shots can sometimes look jarring or out of place.

To combat that issue, I use a simple cross-dissolve; it looks amazing when cutting between a flyover and a crane-type takeoff or landing. This technique is also useful when transitioning between a drone shot and a standard ground camera tilt or pan movement. Rather than looking jarring, the transition adds an elegant touch that complements the motion between different shots (Figure 6, below).

Figure 6. A cross-dissolve transition between dramatic, high-motion drone shots

5. Making Things Look Right

Here’s the last tip that I’ll share: Make things look natural in the shot. Don’t forget to double-check key elements of the shot such as the horizon and shadows.

There are times when the gimbal on the drone will be off or lopsided, resulting in a crooked horizon. A quick fix is to adjust the rotation value in your editing application to make your horizon straight. This may require some scaling adjustments as well, but going back to the first tip, you’ll recall that editing in smaller-sequence settings and using 4K footage will give you plenty of room to adjust and straighten the composition.

Finally, keep an eye out for the actual drone shadow that may appear in your footage when shooting during the golden hour. Most times, we’re using the drone in combination with ground cameras and therefore we’re trying to make everything blend. Nothing is worse than getting the drone shadow in the shot when you don’t want it to be there. This is a simple reminder that you can pass along to your drone operator.

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