Creating Cinematic Shots with the DJI Mavic Pro
The DJI Mavic Pro is truly an amazing drone – and can capture some seriously impressive cinematic footage.
But with so many settings, it can be difficult to know exactly how get the best shots from your drone.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a handy little guide on how to achieve cinematic film footage and the best camera settings for the DJI Mavic Pro.
First up, when looking at your phone or tablet, you’ll see a grey bar that displays some of the most valuable information. It shows you the value of the ISO, the shutter speed, the EV, the White Balance, the leftover capacity and then you’ll find the auto focus/manual focus switch.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of that quite yet – it will all become clear!
You’ll now have to toggle to mode switch on the display – which can be found just above the shutter button – from photography mode to filming mode.
After the aspect ratio has changed, tap the icon just below the recording button to open the camera settings menu and then click the camera icon.
Once you are in the settings, you will have several different sub menus to choose from.
Here you will find several video formats, ranging from 720p HD all the way to 4k. When trying to get cinematic pictures, you should always choose the highest video quality – and you should do this for several reasons.
By working with the highest possible resolution, your shots will look a lot sharper than in 1080p – 4k images even come up sharper on a non-4K screen, while the extra pixels also offer a lossless zoom, allowing you to crop in without losing quality when creating a full HD film.
If deciding to use 4K – the highest quality, which one should you choose?
Well, the top option of 4096×2160 is Cinema 4k format. Unfortunately, Cinema 4k may create black bars on most screens as it is simply too wide for 1609 monitors.
A highly recommended setting that allows you to achieve the best cinematic images would be the Ultra HD 3840 by 2160 as it not only fits 1609 screens perfectly, but also offers more options later down the line when it comes to deciding the framerate.
When deciding the framerate, you have two options on this setting, 24 frames per second – the cinema standard – or 30 frames per second (25 if you are in PAL).
If you know how to move your drone smoothly and effectively then we suggest using the 24 frames per second option to get the best cinematic footage.
30 frames per second does look a little different to film, but if you are a beginner we recommend choosing 30 frames per second. This is mainly as ‘the higher the framerate the easier the handling’ of the camera and because with 24 frames per second enabled, fast movements can cause a stuttery look.
When you choose this sub menu you will get the option to decide between MP4 OR MOV – but which format should you choose?
Well, don’t worry too much as both formats are only containers for the actual film data and there will be no immediate change in quality when choosing one or the other.
One of the main points when choosing either MP4 or MOV is the software you use. MOV files seem to work better with Apple products and MAC computers as their format was designed by apple, whereas MP4 is the more stable software for video editing on Microsoft computers.
PAL is the European standard, so when filming in the UK – or throughout Europe – this should be chosen. If filming in America, then NTSC might be a better choice.
This will also help when filming indoor with electrical light or night-time filming with street lights in frame, then choosing the regional encoding system that fits your location (PAL in Europe). Otherwise a heavily visible flicker will appear and ruin the look of the look of your shots.
Contrary to what you might believe, this is a technical tool for creating true colours, so white needs to look white, black needs to look black and so on.
By setting a correct whitebalance, you reduce the amount of work you need to do in post-production.
You can use the auto whitebalance, but it may not always be perfect, so there are several options for you to choose.
Firstly, you can always enter a value manually. The higher the value, the warmer the picture, the lower the value, the cooler. While it can be extremely effective to enter the whitebalance manually, it can be tough as the precision does get lost when using a small phone.
The easiest option however is to choose a whitebalance from the approved list. Sunny for sunny days, cloudy for cloudy etc.
Make sure to check your whitebalance before each flight as the circumstances may have changed and if you do not have the correct whitebalance then you will have a lot more work to do in post-production because they won’t have the same neutral tint.
When you open the style submenu, you will see three icons; sharpness, contrast and saturation.
To create the most cinematic look you’ll want to bring all the values down.
Try the sharpness down at -2 – don’t worry, you are not lowering the quality of your footage. You are only reducing the amount of digital sharpness, which doesn’t look very cinematic.
With the contrast, you’ll want to lower the value for a more precise workflow in post-production.
If you bring the contrast up too high, you can lose all details in under-and-over exposed areas – with grey tones turning black and highlight tones look like a white, flat surface.
The value you want to choose for the contrast completely depends on your location. In more urban spaces, a value of -2 seems to work better due to all the differently lit and coloured areas that the camera must illustrate, but in wide and open-plan areas, a value of -1 may suffice.
Finally, the saturation. This will also work the best on -2, however this can be down to personal preference.
Following the completion of all the sub-menus, flick over to the setting gear and then you will see a long list of options. For the best cinematic footage, you should have the Luminosity Histogram and the front LEDs Auto turn-off enabled.
With all these features enabled, you’ll be able to capture some fantastic footage and all to cinema standard.