Eric Cheng is the Director of Aerial Imaging for DJI, so you could safely say he knows a thing or two about flying for aerial photography (AP).
We met up with Eric during our San Francisco adventure. He brought along this pretty cool toy box and we got some pro advice about camera settings and shooting with another pilot.
The functionality of your crafts camera is very similar to a DSLR camera or many other "land" cameras.
The image is manipulated based on three principals:
- ISO - light sensitivity
- Shutter Speed - amount of time the shutter is open, in seconds
- Aperture - measure of how open or closed you'd like the iris
- ISO - 100
- Shutter Speed - 1/60
- Aperture - 2.5
- Frame Rate - 30 fps
An ND is designed to affect the amount of light the sensor sees without affecting the color of the picture. If you are stopped down all the way and find the picture is still too bright, this will fix the problem.
Shutter speed (or f-stop) is measured in fractions of a second. A setting of 60 (if your display doesn't show the integer) means 1/60th of a second.
If you're wondering, why 180, the simple answer is it's a rule of thumb that came from the world of mechanical film cameras.
The much easer way to remember is Shutter Speed = double Frame Rate.
- 1/48th shutter = 23.976 fps (smooth motion blurs, film look)
- 1/120th shutter = 60 fps (crisp fast action, sports look)
Fame rate settings are based on the overall look you want as the photographer. This applies more to video.
The general settings listed above are the standards for television in there respective markets.
FPS stands for frames per second. This is just as easy as it sounds. 30 fps means the camera takes 30 pictures every second, then when you watch them back at that rate the human eye perceives it as motion.
The more fames per second, the smoother the video will look. That doesn't mean that 60 fps is better than 30 or 24, it's just a different style.
A common thing in the world of professional aerial videography is dual camera operation.
One pilot is responsible for flying the craft while a camera operator controls the settings of the camera and composition of the frame.
Operating the camera on an AP platform separate from flying has it own set of challenges. It's a learning curve for anyone who is used to flying solo, but allows for greater overall control.
Communication is the best tool for dual operation.
Burn a few batteries and get used to flying together. Constantly make your partner aware of what you plan to do or if you'd like to try something.
Don't be afraid to try a maneuver as many times as you need to get it right, because when you do, the shot is always worth it.