Mavic 2 Pro Video Settings – Demystified (Part 2)

This is part two of a three-part blog about video settings on the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, with the integrated Hasselblad camera. A quick look back at part one will refresh your memory. In that blog, we discussed the options for video formats, codecs, and containers; things often overlooked or misunderstood by amateur videographers. The conclusion was this: you do not have to use the highest resolution, the fastest frame rate, or the new H.265 (HVEC) codec. In fact, unless you are experienced, these are settings that are likely to slow down your learning process and dampen your overall drone user experience. Keep video settings simple and consistent so that you are able to breeze through your editing.

Call me a wuss for using such simple settings, but like many of you; I want to set myself up for a smooth and simple editing process. These are my go-to settings, unless a specific project requires something different:

Video Size: 2.7K –  2688 × 1512p 

Frame rate: 24 fps (my base rate)

Video Format: MP4

Camera Video Coding: H.264

Style: None

Color: Normal

Moving forward… Here in part two of this blog we will now discuss video camera frame rates, shutter speeds, color, filters, gimbal settings, proper SD cards, and a few flight tips for basic videography using the Mavic 2 Pro.

Proper SD cards for Video:

Basics first – when capturing video, you must insert a micro SD card into the drone. This is the card on which the original high-quality video data will be recorded. A micro SD card is a removable miniaturized secure digital (SD) flash memory card that is approximately the size of your pinky fingernail. The rating system(s) of such SD cards has become incredibly confusing.

Micro SD cards with a capacity between 32 gigabytes (GB) and 128GB are recommended by DJI for video. For 4K or 2K video, your Micro SD card should have a  read/write speeds up to UHS-I Speed Grade 3 (30 megabytes per second). Actually, by simply looking into the recommended specs on the DJI website, you will read that the top recommended card is the Sandisk Extreme V30 Prowhich will cost about $24 for the 64BG size with an adapter so that you can slide directly into your laptop to download your files. If you want to learn more about the hows and whys of SD cards, here is a good source of info.

Video camera frame rates, project rates & shutter speeds: 

When thinking about video, be sure that you never confuse frame rate with shutter speedFrame rate refers to the number of individual frames, (photos) that comprise each second of video you record, also known as FPS (frames per second.) Shutter speed refers to the length of time the camera shutter remains open to properly expose each one of those individual frames. The two are vastly different, and often confused.

The most common frame rates in video are 24, 25 and 30 frames per second. Here in North America, let’s just ignore using 25 frames per second, as this frame rate is more compatible with countries on the other side of the globe. This leaves us with 24 or 30 FPS. Twenty four gives us a much more cinematic look – like how you might view a movie in a theater. Thirty frames per second can feel a bit plastic-y, like an 80’s soap-opera on the tube.

I prefer 24 FPS. Once decided, this becomes my “project rate”, or “base rate”. From 24 FPS, it will be easy to jump to 48 FPS to achieve slow motion. Doing some basic math is important – the 24 FPS of my project rate divides evenly into the 48 FPS frame rate which is a wonderful thing to prevent video “stutter”.  If your plan to change frame rates throughout a project here is a great video by Brandon Li explaining how and why.

One great advantage of a lower frame rate is that this allow your camera to produce the highest quality video. Why? Because you are able to use a lower ISO (less digital noise) and slower shutter speed.

As follow-up rule of thumb, you want the denominator of your shutter speed to be approximately double the number of frames per second that you are recording. In other words, if you are recording at 24 frames per second, you want your shutter speed to be 1/50th of a second, or close to that, for the smoothest video. One caveat is that you cannot use a shutter speed slower than the frame rate. In fact, your Mavic 2 Pro camera will not allow this to happen.

Using lens filters when recording video:

There is a lot of talk about lens filters out there in the social media groups. Much of the chatter is misinformation.  In the DJI Aerial Photo Academy, we advise people to not put any filter over there lens unless you understand your own specific reason for using that particular filter. Common drone filters include:

  • Ultraviolet (UV/Haze)
  • Polarization
  • Neutral Density

Allow me to be obnoxious and suggest you not waste money on an ultraviolet filter for your DJI drone. Photographers often want to protect the front glass element of their lens and so they use a UV filter for this purpose. DJI drones already arrive at your doorstep with a piece of glass protecting the lens. End of subject.

How about a polarization filter? A polarizer will filter the messy light waves which are bouncing around in your environment and eliminate reflections from elements in your camera’s field of view. While a polarizer may help pop the colors in your still images, there are several peculiarities which make a polarizer difficult to use while creating a drone video. I firmly believe that the inconveniences of using a polarizing filter outweigh the benefits (with regards to video production), except in a very rare circumstance.

Generally, all videographers are on-board with using neutral density filters. You may have heard that a neutral density filter is like sunglasses for your camera. This analogy is over-simplified but at least gets the point across. Neutral refers to neutral in color. Density refers to the amount of light permitted through the filter. Neutral density filters are available in many strengths or densities. Take a look at the chart below.

So in a real-world situation, what do these neutral density filter numbers do for the videographer? Imagine you are shooting a project frame rate of 24 FPS and you want to create a silky smooth video with rich color saturation. Your goal is to capture your video clip at 100 ISO at 1/50th of a second at ƒ7.1. Your subject is a person in a red bathing suit walking down the golden sand beach on a sunny afternoon – yikes, too bright! You set the camera at 100 ISO for best quality. You set your aperture to ƒ7.1 because you believe this is the sweet spot for the lens. Unfortunately, your camera shutter speed must be set at 1/1600th of a second because the light meter says so – way too fast for that smooth video you desire. The solution here is a neutral density filter.

So you grab your set of neutral density filters and you select the ND 32, which will allow you to knock down the shutter speed by five exposure values (1/1600th > 1/800th > 1/400th > 1/200th > 1/100th > 1/50th of a second). Goal achieved! 100 ISO, ƒ7.1, 1/50th second using ND 32.

Color Settings:

Always remember that shooting a video is essentially the same as shooting a bunch of JPEG images; if you are rolling video at 24 FPS, you are capturing and playing back 24 JPEG still photos per second in sequential order. Therefore, whatever camera settings apply to your JPEG still images (as opposed to DNG RAW images) will also apply to your videos. The DJI Mavic 2 Pro offers several color settings for video/JPEGs within the advanced camera menu in the DJIGo4 app. These are:

  • White balance
  • Style
  • Color

When capturing video, your white balance should be locked into a setting appropriate for the situation; any setting except Auto. Auto White Balance is a dynamic mode that will continue to balance itself to different color temperatures as the camera is recording a scene. You should avoid Auto because harsh color shifts will be noticeable in your video clips and this will be difficult to fix in post-processing. Consider SunnyCloudy, or Custom settings for White Balance.

The Style options allow you to record your video with personal preferences. You are able to adjust sharpnesscontrast, and saturation within the dialogue box. It is common for videographers to set their own video style to  -1, -1, -1. This will give the un-processed video a slightly bland look straight out of the camera, allowing more flexibility for post-processing adjustments.

Finally, there is the Color menu, which is somewhat limited for video. In fact, if you have opted to use the H.264 codec, you are only given one option for color, called Normal. (If you are a relative newbie to videography, I suggest that you use H.264 codec. See our previous blog for an explanation.) Normal color mode is a comfortable and convenient place to begin.

If you are using H.265 (HVEC) codec, then you will have more advanced color options for video, including HLG and  DLog-M. Be cautious while treading into this new territory unless you have some solid video editing experience.

Gimbal and Flight Settings for Better Video: 

Many Mavic 2 Pro owners have never read the operating manual (shocking, right?), or taken time to explore the entire DJIGo4 app. Often these are the same folks who wonder how to make their video shots less jerky. There are several adjustments to in the DJIGo4 app make your video look smoother and more professionally produced.

Let’s begin with the gimbal menu settings. The gimbal is the three-axis swivel that holds the tiny Hasselblad camera and connects it to your Mavic 2 Pro drone. By default, the camera movements are quite fast and herky-jerky. To adjust this, you should slow down the camera movement to suit your personal preferences. Dive into the General Settings > Gimble Menu > Advanced settings. It is there you will find the adjustment sliders. When shooting video, I really slow the gimble pitch speed and smoothness down significantly (to approx #10 & #20).

Many videographers will alter these settings with every single scene they shoot. In that same dialogue box, be certain that you have the third option toggled on so that your gimbal can aim upward 30º.

Another setting to smooth out your video clips is to use Cinematic ModeCinematic Mode changes two characteristics during your flight. First, it will increase the braking distance. In other words, the Mavic will very gradually slow down to a stop when you re-center the sticks. While this feature works wonderfully, use it with caution and practice in open space first. Secondly, the Cinematic Mode will slow down your yaw (aircraft rotation).

Tripod Mode has progressed nicely with the Mavic 2 series. It is time to try it again. Tripod Mode is no longer located within the Intelligent Flight Modes. It is now a switch on the right-hand side of your remote controller. The S-P-T switch stands for Sports ModePosition ModeTripod Mode. Once you flip your switch into Tripod Mode, your app will reveal a slider bar where you will customize your Tripod Mode speeds for horizontal, vertical, and yaw actions. This is a fantastic new feature for videography!

A couple of additional notes:

A couple of other tips for better Mavic 2 Pro videography include the following.

1) Toggle on Head LEDs Auto Turn Off. This feature will pay off in any low-light or dark scenario by preventing the red lights on the front legs of the Mavic from causing a red-orange cast on your video or still photos. Each time you record, the lights will automatically turn off and then come back on after you stop recording.

2) Toggle off the Auto Focus Continuous (AFC) Mode when recording video. The M2P Hasselblad camera is a heavy breather. Each time the camera tries to re-focus, you see the image breathe in and out, or at least that is the effect it gives. This effect can certainly ruin a video clip. Toggle this off and simply use tap-focus on your subject before you begin recording. The heavy focus breathing will go away. You might also consider using manual focus if you are pretty sure that the entire clip will require the lens to be focused to infinity ∞.

That is all for part two of this three-part blog about video settings on your Mavic 2 Pro. Aerial video is not a simple beast to learn, but the fact that you have read and studied this post will further your progress by weeks or months.

DJI drones are casting an interesting spell on all of us; half want to become more serious still photographers, and the other half wants to learn more about videography. This is all due to a newfound addiction to flying. A decade ago, GoPro made us all feel like a hero by allowing us to point a camera at our own face to prove to the world how marvelous we indeed are. Times change. Today DJI fulfills for us the long-sought-after dream of having wings to fly so that we can explore the exotic and unknown, and can make our work more productive, efficient, and safe.

Part three of this blog is coming soon. So far we have learned about video formats, codecs, and containers, project frame rates, shutter speeds, color, filters, gimbal settings, proper SD cards, and a few flight tips for video. In part three, we will dive into post-processing using a new Adobe software (and app) called Adobe Rush, which is a guaranteed can of worms. Stay tuned!

Authors Randy Jay Braun and Stacy Garlington are co-founders of the DJI Aerial Photo Academy, providing live city-to-city workshops helping attendees to create better aerial drone photographs for work or for play. A current workshop schedule can be found at www.djiphotoacademy.com and on their facebook page.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face classes are currently very limited to small groups. They hope to resume full-sized classes in Q2 of 2021.

A book about Aerial Drone Photography? Yep. These two have energy! Randy and Stacy have just laid down the outline. There will be a nicely discounted price for every person on the MailChimp list. Chaaa-ching $$$$$. 

Until then, HECK YEAH, Randy & Stacy are teaching the same course (and more) to you as you sit in your LazyBoy chair at home. This is a bargain because you get a full six hours of bite-sized lessons that you can digest whenever you want. Take a look at our online Premium Masterclass.

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