Part One of Three in this Series.
At first glance, this may be the most boring blog post ever. Or, it might be the most important if you are fumbling over your video settings.
Drone video settings and how they work is still the subject of much confusion in the DJI flying community. I have never been 100% comfortable with video so I decided to re-educate myself starting at ground zero, and share some discoveries with you. With our DJI drones, we use the same camera for both stills and video. While there is a cross-over between videography and still photography, it will pay dividends to understand the basic concepts and settings of both.
Some time ago, my business partner Stacy and I decided on the Mavic 2 Pro as our preferred go-to drone. Bundled with automatic dual-frequency switching, compact size, less in-flight noise, and the all-important one-inch sensor, this drone is solid and inviting to fly. With the Mavic 2 Pro also arrived a new can of worms in the video settings.
Before jumping in, it helps to understand that the drone industry did not evolve from either the photography or film/video industries. The invention of the self-hovering quadcopter (DJI Phantom 1) was loosely the result of an unlikely collision between the cellphone industry and remote control hobbyists. The photo/video terminology found in the DJIGo4 app is therefore sometimes inconsistent with that of traditional professional image-makers. That said, here we go!
Video formats, codecs, and containers; (lions and tigers, and bears, oh my!) scary stuff to try and grasp when all we want to do is make a nice drone video to share with family and friends, right? Why is this so scary? For starters, there are so many acronyms and set-up options to consider – even before dealing with proper camera exposure. Let’s start with a breakdown of terminology and definitions.
Frame Rate: Frame rate is the number of individual photos that your Hasselblad drone camera captures per second in the video capture mode. These photos are then sequenced together in animation to create a moving image or video.
Higher frame rates are not necessarily better frame rates. If you want your video to look more like a typical TV sitcom or The Weather Channel, shoot in 30fps (frames per second), but to appear more like a cinematic movie in a theater, use 24fps. Generally, 24fps is the more popular option.
Project Frame Rate: The frame rate you select is called the base frame rate or project film rate. If you are an experienced video editor, you can deviate from your 24 fps project frame by jumping up to 48fps, or 120fps to achieve certain effects, but it will require additional editing in post-production. While learning, make it easy for yourself and stick to 24fps as your project rate, and capture every scene at that same rate. In the DJIGo4 app, the frame rate set under “Video Size”.
Resolution: In the DJIGo4 app video resolution is also set under “Video Size”. The Mavic 2 Pro has several options for high-resolution videos:
- 4K HQ
- 4K Full FOV
- FHD (Full High Definition 1080p).
In your local movie theater, 4k means 4096 pixels x 2160 pixels. However, the new Ultra HD consumer format has a slightly lower resolution of 3840 x 2160, and this is the “4K” resolution captured by Mavic 2 Pro.
Why are there two options for 4K?
- 4K HQ (High Quality) has a slightly narrower field of view as if the camera had a moderately longer 40mm lens (35mm equivalent). Resolution: 3840 x 2160.
- 4K Full FOV (Field of View), using the standard 28mm wide lens view (35mm equivalent). Resolution: 3840 x 2160.
The first option is a hidden gem for videographers! It is perfect to help you get in for a tight shot. Honestly, I had to do some digging because I was skeptical and did not understand how this digital magnification could be made possible without imposing some crop-factor on the sensor thus decreasing the resolution. But low & behold, the answer was hidden in a paragraph on page 38 of the Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom User Manual! Yes, I said User Manual.
The Video Format: People often confuse the file extension (MP4 or MOV) as the video format. This is not entirely correct. A video format consists of multiple files, folders, and even playlists, all of which are necessary to make the video play properly.
- MOV (Quicktime Movie) – is a compression algorithm created by Apple and works more smoothly in a Mac environment. was created to save full-length movies. However, because it is proprietary, it is supported by slightly fewer devices and systems.
- MP4 – is an international standard format and more compatible than any other format currently out there. It was made popular when Apple began to use this container type for the iTunes store. It is supported by a broad range of devices, players, and other applications and is commonly used to stream videos online.
Both containers are very similar, yet some Apple-centric videographers prefer to use the MOV container for both video capture and editing. After editing they will convert the final project to MP4 for distribution to social channels like YouTube. If you want to convert your MOV to MP4 visit this page. https://www.appgeeker.com/how-to/convert-mp4-to-mov-mac.html
The Codec: The word codec is simply a goofy acronym derived from the words COmpress & DECompress. Consider your codec as your primary method to compress your videos, saving time and space on your computer, and ensuring smooth playback. The codec marketplace is currently all gummed up with confusion and uncertainty. Literally, hundreds of codecs have been developed during the past two decades. Your computer came with several codecs pre-installed, but by now, (with higher resolution videos being captured) those may be out-dated. In the DJIGo4 app, codec choices are called “Camera Video Coding”.
This is where things get heavy for the newbie. Our codec options are:
- H.264, also known as AVC = Advanced Video Codec. (the current standard)
- H.265, also known as HEVC = High-Efficiency Video Codec. (new & more efficient)
New and more efficient? This sounds like a no-brainer! It is not. Don’t be too quick to select H.265. This new codec is a trojan horse for the inexperienced video editor! If you follow all the latest hype about H.265 and select this as your codec, chances are you will be stuck in the editing room for many additional hours, and that is if your computer doesn’t explode first!
H.265 is a semi-proprietary codec, for which people recently paid a royalty fee. This fee has been relaxed quite recently to help expand its use. While the codec does compress your 4K video down to approximately half of the bitrate of an H.264 file, H.265 requires nearly three times the computing power in editing. That alone would stifle the bulk of us with our Costco/Best Buy laptops. The bottom line is, H.265 codec will give you plenty of opportunities to muck things up in editing if you are lacking solid editing experience.
H.264 is still the standard and works fantastically! At 4K resolution, you are maxing out this codec’s potential, so prepare for a change in the future. But is it perfect for you now!
At the moment, there is really no black & white answer as to which codec is for you. There is much chatter about the new AV1 codec. Maybe the mythical Mavic 3 series will offer that? Right now, I opt for H.264 because it offers simplicity and compatibility. Most of your audience will never see a difference regardless.
Color: Our options on the Mavic 2 Pro are:
- Normal (H.264 codec only with “normal” color.
DLog-M (Discrete Logarithmic Method) – Can only be used with H.265 codec, and requires processing. Experienced video editors prefer this super-flat (less sharpness, contrast, and saturation) color profile as a starting point because Dlog-M keeps more data in each frame, giving the editor more to work with.
HLG (Hybrid Logarithmic-Gamma) – which is something akin to shooting a video with (HDR) High Dynamic Range. It is not widely supported yet but can be played on YouTube. It can only be used with the H.265 codec and requires processing.
Normal – This can be used with H.264 and for the most part, it looks nice and can be shared without processing. BAAM!
If you are not a video editing powerhouse, consider using the H.264 codec in normal color mode. You will a happier person.
Style: Can be altered in either H.264 or H.265 codecs. In the style menu, you will see three icons on the top of the box. These icons are 1) Sharpness, 2) Contrast 3) Saturation. You are able to create a custom style of your own in the menu by adding a max of +-3 under each of the three icons. This custom style will apply to each frame of your video or any JPEG still photograph.
So there you have it, DJI Mavic 2 Pro video settings, simplified for a newbie. I have been hired to create a simple video of a local fishing boat today. My first step is to pre-set my DJIGo4 app to my comfort-zone settings before I arrive on the scene:
Video Size: 2.7K – 2688×1512, 24 fps
Video Format: MP4
Camera Video Coding: H.264
I hope this blog post helped you sift through the bells & whistles that are now offered to us. Part-Two of this blog will discuss video camera shutter speeds, color, filters, gimbal settings, proper SD cards, and a few flight tips for basic videography using the Mavic 2 Pro.