This is my first post in 2017 and also first shot from my 52 Timelapse Project. Basically, I’ll do one timelapse related shot every week through the whole 2017 😉 Check out project details here >> 52 Timelapse Project info.
You can find looped version of the shot at the end of the article
So, for the very first time I chose a technique, that could be called DroneLapse, Aerial Timelapse or Aerial Hyperlapse (I consider that more as hyperlapse). It’s not that simple to do 😉 I’ll give you a list of things I discovered trying this technique.
But first – some information. I haven’t done much dronelapses before. In fact, it’s my 5th try (you can watch below my first try). So, it won’t be detailed tutorial, but I know a few things, that could help you achieve that effect 😉
I use DJI Phantom 3 Advanced. I’ve heard that newer models are more stable in the air, so the results should be better. But as you see you can do that with cheaper Phantom 3 😉
The main thing – it’s not a real timelapse. It’s a video speeded up 4 times (so it’s equivalent to 6fps video). Phantom 3 has a built-in intervalometer, but the shortest interval for RAW is 10 sec and for JPG only 5 sec. I tried that and it was too long – the result was impossible to stabilize (it would depend on your shots, but it’s a risky thing). Also here, Phantom 4 has better settings. I believe it has at least 2 sec interval, which would be better than five.
Of course, speeded up video has to be stabilized in post (that’s why I think it’s more like a hyperlapse). I tried a few things here and one seems to work best (of course it would depend on your footage). My first try is always Warp Stabilizer, but the result was bad… I though I would try a ReelSteady, which I have a Demo of for testing purposes. It turns out that I would have to render the speeded up footage to stabilize it – you can’t stabilize a Pre Comp with that plugin and stabilizer skips the speed change on the original footage. It’s a little bit disappointing to me, since I’m used to the Warp Stabilizer functionality. To skip the extra rendering I tried the Stabilize Motion feature inside After Effects and it works best (one point stabilization) 🙂
I couldn’t use the ReelSteady stabilizer in the final shot, because I’ve got only a watermarked demo. But for testing purposes I rendered the footage later and run the stabilizer at default settings. And the result was a very good, really stable footage (even with the part I’ve got to cut off after one point stabilization). It’s quite pricey since most situation could be handled with Warp Stabilizer, but this situation shows that it could handle some situations, where Warp fails 😉
When I had the stabilized shot, I added Pixel Motion Blur effect to create the fake motion blur. Without that, this shot is much worse. It’s hard to set longer exposure time in air (however, it’s possible), so this solution would be good for most of the shots to blur every motion in the frame. You can read about the importance of motion blur in timelapse in my tutorial: Should you use ND filters? Motion blur in timelapse.
It’s hard to do this manually (of course, if you’re a great pilot, you can do that ;)). I’ve found out that it’s best to use Waypoint autonomic mode. For those who doesn’t know that – in this mode you set the points, which the drone has to fly through and the speed. The computer calculates smooth curve between those points and flies itself as smooth as possible.
For this shot I flew 208 meters at the height of 118m with a speed around 11,5km/h (~7mph & ~3.2m/s). The actual shot route is marked blue in the screen below. Of course, I tried to flew slower and then speed up the footage even more, but the slower the drone flies, the less smooth the result is. I mean the video is quite good, but if you want to speed it up for example 8x, it has to be very, very smooth and stable.
Definitely, I wouldn’t try this technique on shots that can’t be repeated. In a classic hyperlapse, I’ve got full control on the camera position. Here – I almost can’t predict the result. Even this week, that was my second try. The first one was unusable and I discovered that while editing that shot, not in the field. But for my shots, it was quite windy. I’ve got only one week to make this shot – I didn’t have time to wait for better weather 😉 For sure the wind was partly responsible for the fails, but again – you’ll never know how the drone would behave in the air. My shot was about 2 sec (after increasing the speed) longer, but I had to cut it because some kind of the drone turbulence made the result not perfectly stable.
Now, something about static drone timelapse. I tried that a few months ago and I think it’s easier to stabilize an ‘aerial hyperlapse’. I would compare that to a classic timelapse. The drone isn’t fixed in one place like a tripod, it shifts a little bit in the air. So it’s like a handheld timelapse – I wouldn’t ever try a handheld timelapse 😉 But I did handheld hyperlapses and it’s possible to achieve great results with that. Also, static shots aren’t that interesting 😛
So, finally, here are my DroneLapse tips for you:
- If possible, frame the subject without horizon in the shot – it would be easier to stabilize
- Use some kind of autonomic fly mode – Waypoint or even Point of Interest
- Don’t fly too slow – the flight would be more stable, my shot was done at 11,5km/h (~7mph & ~3.2m/s)
- Shoot video or the shortest interval possible in your device
- Use manual exposure settings
- Try different ways to stabilize the footage to get the best result
- Add motion blur in post to better sell the effect
Now, when you’ve got your video done, check out my case study article about different video hosting services: Where should I upload my video?
This turns out to be quite a long post for that project. That’s because it’s a technique, that I didn’t describe before on this blog. I hope you like my shot and you’ve learned something new 🙂 Please, like my Facebook page to be sure you won’t skip anything or subscribe to my newsletter. See you next week 😉