Ditch Raw and save yourself the editing pain!

This blog is about the technicalities of drone video editing, well mainly. You’d think that droning on a beautiful autumn day, full of sunshine and bright light would be a piece of cake, well read about my dilemmas and decide for yourself.

Like I said, the weather was good. Our kit consisted of a DJI Inspire 1 Pro equipped with the Zenmuse X5 Camera. I have almost always decided to shoot raw, mainly because I had been advised so by all sorts of experts. I like the range it can offer and the amount of play room you have while editing. Sometimes it turns out really, really good. For example, we shot our Iona video with a lesser X3 camera in the raw mode, and I believe I truly managed to find the sweet spot of the unique Iona colour. So why did this video, shot with a much better camera turn out to be so difficult to edit?

Well, many pages of Googling made me draw a simple conclusion. The Zenmuse X5 simply does not capture a wide enough range to justify shooting in Raw. Save yourself the trouble and do what every other droner does- simply shoot in Normal or Cinematic or Vivid mode and you’ll spare yourself a lot of editing hours in Adobe Premier Pro.

I must have made about a 1000 edits of this video and to be honest, I am not totally satisfied with the end result. You can clearly see what I’m talking about if you look at the video we shot in Normal mode towards the end of the day. By that time the sun wasn’t as bright either, but look at the vividness of the colours vs. the one above. This version only required slight exposure and curve adjustments, versus the one above which pretty much involved frame by frame adjustments of absolutely everything. You can also see how DJI cameras tend to lean towards the magenta spectrum, and do what you like it is a proper pain to get rid of. In the end I resorted to overlaying the manual adjustment with a LUT to emphasise the yellow of the Moortown company branding. However, thanks to shooting in Raw, the sky does actually look pretty good and I don’t think it would have come out as subtly in the Normal mode.

Oh and have you ever arrived at a site and met another droning company at work already? Well, this is exactly what happened to us. It is a large construction site and obviously you have the main contractor with a number of sub-contractors at work there. We were employed by the sub-contractors, while the other drone company was employed by the main one. Well looks like we both had done our pre-site surveys well, honing down on the best- weather- forecasted day.  It is rather funny to see other droners suspiciously eyeing you up. I put it down to the fact that paid droning jobs are still pretty hard to come by and I guess that makes people protective of their patch. In the end we ended up co-operating really well. Obviously it helped that we automatically ended up playing the second fiddle having arrived on site after them.  We co-ordinated our take-offs and landings and kept to areas, which they weren’t droning at the time. Had we not been that busy it might have actually been good to do some “drone filming other drone at work shots”.