Becoming a Better Drone Videographer- Reducing Jitter in Your Drone Footage
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Becoming a Better Drone Videographer: Reducing Jitter in Your Drone Footage

One of the challenges in recording video with a drone can be to create footage without jitter or flicker in it. The places where it shows up the most for me are when I am panning or flying-by stationary subjects especially those with a lot of texture in them.

A while back, when I was shooting a video in the Columbia River Gorge of Crown Point/Vista House and the massive cliffs below it, I was getting jitter/flicker in the cliff area, on the fly-by portion. At first, I thought it was a camera or gimbal problem and so I sent a clip to Travis Waibel, Co-founder of Advexure.com, where I purchased my DJI Inspire 2 because of the extraordinary support they provided me.

Watch the video below and you will see the cliffs jitter/flicker. I am flying about 30mph in this shot because I needed to cover a lot of distance quickly. I am also moving sideways with the camera pointed at the cliffs. I am using a 12mm lens and shooting at 24fps. Please note that I zoomed-in on the original footage so you could see the jitter/flicker more easily, so it isn’t as sharp as the original.

After Travis and his tech team reviewed the footage, they assured me that it was NOT the camera or gimbal. I was still a bit puzzled and so Travis showed the footage to a good friend, Brian Terwilliger, who is a professional drone videographer in Los Angeles. You can see his work here. Brian shared a number of things with me that I could do to help reduce or eliminate this problem.

This information and my own experimentation have helped me to identify the areas below. These are the areas you can experiment with when you run into this problem and use a starting point to solve them.

Subject

Anything with a lot of texture in it, like a brick building or stone cliffs, will have a greater tendency to have jitter/flicker in the video footage. The only solution will be in one of the areas listed below or a combination of them.

In my example, I was shooting something with a lot of texture so I would want to look at each of the areas that would affect jitter in my footage.

Panning rate

Panning rate is the simplest of the list. If you pan too fast, you are going to get jitter/flicker. What I find with panning rate is that there is a range in which I can pan left or right and not get jitter/flicker in my footage. The only thing that I found helped reduce this was to reduce my pan rate, increase my frame rate and sometimes shutter speed or a combination of the three.

There was no panning done in this footage, but pay attention to this when you are doing a panning shot.

Angle of the Camera to the Subject You are Recording

Best Camera Angle for reducing Jitter/Flicker  (diagram below)

Flying head-on to your subject will result in the least of amount jitter/flicker. If you still get jitter/flicker then look at the other areas mentioned in the article.

Camera is head-on to subject

Camera Angle most likely to introduce Jitter/Flicker into your Video  (diagram below)

When the camera is 90 degrees to the subject you are recording, this has the potential for producing the most jitter/flicker in your video footage. If you get jitter/flicker then consider reducing the speed of our drone, the frame rate you are shooting, and the distance your drone is from the subject.

In the video example at the beginning of the article, I am shooting at the worst camera angle for introducing jitter/flicker into my video. By changing the angle to cliffs from near 90 degrees to something less than that and leaving the other areas unchanged. I could have also reduced the speed of my fly-back or moved back from the cliffs.

Camera is 90 degrees to subject

Alternative Angle that will help reduce Jitter/Flicker in your Videos (diagram below)

By changing the angle of the camera to the subject you are recording to less than 90 degrees, you have potential to reduce jitter/flicker in your video footage. Again moving further back from the subject you are recording or increasing frame rate are other areas to consider.

Camera is 45 degrees to subject

Speed of the Drone

Another area that Brian and I discussed was the speed that the drone is traveling. If you are getting jitter/flicker then try slowing the drone down.

In the video example at the beginning of the article, I am flying at 30mph. By slowing down the fly-by speed to 10, 15 or 20mph and leaving all the other area unchanged, I might have been able to reduce the jitter/flicker in the video footage.

Distance from the Subject You are Recording

The next area to look at the distance from the subject that you recording. As you get closer, it can introduce jitter/flicker into the footage. If this happens, try moving further away from the subject.

In the video example at the beginning of the article, by moving further back from the cliffs, this may have reduced jitter/flicker in the video footage.

Frame Rate

Frame rate is another area to look at when you get jitter/flicker in your video footage. By increasing your frame rate, you are telling the camera to record information about what it sees faster.

In the video example at the beginning of the article, if I had shot it at 30fps or 60fps, this might have reduced jitter/flicker in the video footage.

Shutter Speed

Finally, you can explore changing the shutter speed to help reduce jitter/flicker in your video footage. While you typically want to have your shutter speed at twice your frame rate (24fps->1/50 sec or 30fps->1/60), try increasing it to see if that reduces the jitter/flicker. Be careful with shutter speed though. Too fast a shutter speed can make your videos look odd or unnatural.

In the video example at the beginning of the article, I could have increased the shutter speed to see the impact on jitter/flicker, but I wanted the 24fps look and so needed to adjust the other areas.

In Conclusion

There are a lot of variables to consider in this process. It will require you to experiment and explore on your own to find what works best for you. Change one thing at a time. Yes, it is tempting to change two or three things at once, but then you won’t really know what solved the problem.

So in my video example at the beginning of the article, what did I look at changing?

  • Frame rate would not change because I wanted 24fps.
  • Reduce my fly-by speed from 30mph to something lower
  • Moved further back from the cliffs
  • Changed the angle of the camera to the cliffs to something less than 90 degrees

I hope this article gives you a starting place to reduce jitter/flicker, in your own footage.

Fly safe and have fun!

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