• 09/08/2020

Top Tips for Video Sunrise & Sets with A Drone

Top Tips for Video Sunrise & Sets with A Drone

Top Tips for Video Sunrise & Sets with A Drone. One of the most asked questions posted on the ikopta channel.

The perfect sunrise or sunset can make for arguably the most cinematic footage you can capture with a drone camera. You only have to watch a Michael Bay film to see that.

Top Tips for Video Sunrise & Sets with A Drone

But how to get that perfectly shot drone video? Most of the time its down to luck..and having you ducks in row. Here are some top tips that will help increase you chances of nailing cinematic greatness.

Golden hour

First step, what the fridge is Golden Hour?

Many talk of golden hour, blue hour, magic time and other descriptive superlatives. In short its the time that light transitions from one level of darkness through to daylight.

When this happens depends on the time of the year, where in the world you are and what altitude you’re flying at. There is not real set time, many environmental factors can effect it and it doesn’t last an hour.

For the unprepared, golden hour can end up being “missed opportunity ” hour, so know your onions. You need to know approximately when the sunrise/sunset is going to happen.

Weather apps help, they publish sunrise/sunset time in the forecast. Sad day when PolarPro decided to discontinue their very useful filter app. A good replacement though is an app called Golden Hour.

Top Tips for Video Sunrise & Sets with A Drone

The Golden hour app is simple to use, giving the light movement for the location you want to shoot. You can switch between map and satellite view. There is a light spectrum break down giving time start, finish and duration of stages.

With this app you can plan a head to any specific time, and a great visual swing-o-meter shows you exactly where the sun will be coming up or setting down.

Don’t Waste Time

Scout your location like a military exercise. Know the exact times you will be able to shoot, check your gear, batteries, and sd cards formatted before you leave. Always good practice to kit check and pack and load the night before.

The more legwork and preplanning you do up front, the more time you have to actually shoot the sunrise. Every second counts during golden hour and if you spend five minutes formatting a card, or working out which direction to shoot you lose the moment.

Get there early

Early bird catches the worm! Get to your chosen location early.

Get your drone set up, ready to go. Don’t wait for the exact time to launch, be airborne. You never know what you will catch.

The light quality at this time of day can vary significantly based on cloud coverage and other environmental variables. A sunrise one morning might light up the clouds in the sky with pink and purple, and the very next day there may be no clouds in the sky at all.

Weather will play a big part in what you capture. Sometimes the most dramatic sunrises are followed by the dullest, overcast days.

Camera Settings

With a normal ground camera, under controlled lighting conditions you have the luxury of setting your exposure in camera and that could be last time you need to adjust. With aerial drone footage, not so easy as camera is moving, light is changing.

When shooting sunrise or sunset, exposure gets trickier as time is condensed during golden hour. Light and colour can change dramatically by the second. keep an eye and make small changes ever two minutes during the flight.

However, too many adjustment will ruin the shot.

Top Tips for Video Sunrise & Sets with A Drone

What are the best camera settings? Simple answer is they will be different every time. For good results, use a combination fo the following.

  • Keep iSO as low as possible. Early stages of the shoot will look dark, and the temptation is to bump up the iSO. This looks good on your monitor but you could have noise issues when it comes to editing. Start at 200 iSO, that way you have somewhere to go when it gets brighter.
  • White balance. Setting this can be a taste choice. But there is a benefit of going warmer or colder than you would normally depending on sun rise or sun set. Either way make sure you mark the k value. It will help when colour matching later.
  • Aperture settings. If your drone has Aperture control, you can control the exposure depending on the Depth of field you want to achieve. With aerial Landscapes, not so much of an issue, and a mid-range on your lens will be better than the extremes. Better option than using iSO to adjust exposure to avoid noise.
  • Shutter Speed. Set to the frame rate of the video. For that cinematic look, shoot at 24fps, and set the shutter to 1/50th pf a second. Too bright on a test flight? Consider adding ND Filter to the mix.. carefully.
  • ND Filters. To use or not to use? As always depends on your location and light readings. To keep to the 180 degree rule of 24fps shutter speed at 1/50th/s but finding it over exposed, then ND Filter will be the way to go..BUT careful with what you go with. the Light changes, and by the time you’ve landed, changed your ND and taken off again.. you’ve lost the moment.
  • Auto? Yep, sometimes, and there is no shame in this, the best setting you have on your drone is auto. Manufactures want us all to be drone flying cinematic gods, so they make load the camera software to help us produce amazing images, with little to zero camera knowledge. Let exposure lock be your friend.. its saved me on many a commercial shoot.

Post Production- Dirty Little Secret

What most filmmakers & photographers don’t tell you when they post amazing sunsets and awe-inspiring sunrises is how much time it took to pop in edit.

Once you you’ve captured your image, you need to sprinkle magic in your editing software. increase the saturation, drop the shadows, even correct or replace the colours to get that burning sky.

Some filmmakers will be tempted to push more orange and yellow into the mid-tones and crank up the saturation significantly to make the golden hour effect even more obvious.

Be careful, for every amazing beach tracking shot of the setting sun, there are hundreds of over saturated parodies. Give it a little tickle here and there, but less is alway more.

A Final Word

Some of the best images out there have been captured by luck, so don’t beat yourself up if you keeping missing. With every attempt you will learn and increase your chances of nailing it.

And that the thing, it’s about the journey you make, the practice, the passion that will make you a better film maker.

So when you can, set the alarm, get out in the country-side and shoot magic.

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