How to video fireworks with your DJI Drone
How to video fireworks with your DJI Drone this holiday. Use this guide to help you nail amazing cinematic aerial images in the dark with the versatile DJI Mavic Pro.
1. Location, location, location.
Do your homework. If you want to film an organised firework display, and why wouldn’t you, that’s where the big fireworks are going to be. Get in touch first, ask if you can film, they may do a deal, allowing you to film in return for some aerial footage they can use for future events.
You’ll need to show your insurance and pre-flight assessments, prove that you can operate safely, recce the site for the best launch site & identify any hazards that will invisible on the night of the display. Always follow the dronecode.
Seems obvious, but watch the weather. If rain is forecast, the wind is blowing or the fog is moving in, probably not the best time to be launching the drone. There is nothing worse, making great efforts, executing complicated plans for the heavens to open. A great APP to use is the updated PolarPro drone APP.
3. What are you going to film?
Have a plan. How are you going to frame the fireworks? How high will they climb? It’s important to know that some garden & small display rockets will hit 100 to 500 ft on a still night. Big organised displays could top an altitude of 1000ft, this could cause framing issues when drone code & good practice restricts drones to 400ft.
A shot list will save the stress of missing the action. Are you planning a fly through? Slow-motion action? Where and when to capture that wide establishing shot? All things to plan ahead.
4. You DJI drone settings.
As intuitive & autonomous as the DJI drone range is, they can equally be your Achilles heal when trying to shoot video in the dark. Make sure you check the follow before you fly your drone:
- Switch OFF you avoidance technology. I know, sounds counter-intuitive, however it doesn’t work in low light situations and could suddenly kick in when a firework goes off. A real tracking shot killer.
- Turn the front LED’s OFF. It stops that weird red glow that catches on the front propellers when shooting in the dark. Down-side, it makes it harder to spot the drone in the sky. Get a spotter to work with you.
- Switch OFF continuous auto-focus. Its rubbish in the dark, and by the time it has tried to focus on the fireworks, it will have missed the action. Know your location and have a point of focal reference to help focus. Better still, go manual.
- Make sure you have a micro SD card loaded and you have re-formatted it. Nothing worse than launching, hitting record and….
5. Camera Settings.
Now the important stuff, the drone camera settings! Filming in the dark is never easy, and being 300ft in air never improves the situation. Nailing these points will help steady the ship.
- Slow the shutter. the fireworks are going to come thick and fast. You want as much light to hit the sensor without it being too blurry, you also don’t want a series of photographs. You want the shutter to be no quicker than 1/50th of a second.
- Frame rate is your friend…or maybe your foe. If you want slow-motion, you need to film in a high frame rate 50 to 96 fps, then edit back to 24fps for a buttery flow. If you shoot 24fps in camera, then try and slow in post edit, you just get stilted garbage. Make sure you think ahead.
- Aperture. If you’ve got it, use it. Not available on the DJI Mavic Pro, but if using the Phantom 4 Pro or Inspire 1 Pro, et it as wide open as possible. More light in, the better.
- Exposure needs to be controlled via your ISO. I know, you don’t want the noise, but options are limited when shooting at night. With the DJI Mavic Pro you will want to set the ISO at 1600. Keep checking the screen, don’t be afraid to move it higher if needed.
- White Balance is the last thing you want moving around while shoot fireworks. Move it off auto and set to “Daylight” or equivalent kelvin value you are happy with.
- Colour setting is down to person choice and how competent you are with colour correcting. If you have the time and skill, shoot in D-Log and you can play all day long in premiere pro popping the colours. If you want a quick turn around, using the vivid option in the DJI Mavic Pro colour set could be an option.
6. Mix it Up
Bare-in-mind that it will come down to what you can manage on the day. How to video fireworks with your DJI Drone, the main advice is know your craft, know your settings and be realistic. 70-80% of what you shoot with be un-usable garbage, fact. On the other hand, believe in the 10% of the footage which could be mind-blowing.
Above, fly-safe and enjoy!