The DJI Mavic mini is tiny, but it can get some awesome footage, and I’m going to go through some tactics on how you can get better-looking B roll out of this drone. There’s been a ton of requests on doing a review about this drone, and I’m working on it. So it shoots 2.7 K, which is more than enough resolution for most of us. However, this drone is hindered by the fact that it has auto exposure. You can’t dial in your settings. But what you can do is you can lock your exposure.
So over Thanksgiving, I was out in Joshua Tree with my family, and I was able to shoot some pretty awesome footage using this drone. And it just goes to show that it doesn’t matter the camera that you shoot on, it’s how you shoot it. You could make any camera look good if you come at with a specific mindset.
Let’s go through some techniques to get better-looking footage out of this tiny little drone. Now the first thing is when it comes to the DJI Mavic Mini, there are no manual controls for exposure. There are two ways that you can go about changing your exposure with the Mavic Mini. You can use your exposure compensation, and you can lock your exposure. And so what you need to do is put your exposure compensation at like a -0.7.
I found that when you shoot with this drone at zero, it’s a little bit too bright. When you need better-looking footage, drop it down a little bit, and then use the exposure lock.
Make a Plan
So what you need to do is look at what you’re about to shoot, plan it out, and point your drone in the direction of what you want to shoot. Now, if it is too bright or too dark, aim it to a different part of the screen or use your exposure compensation and then lock in the exposure. And this is super important because you don’t want your exposure bouncing around, so you want to lock it in.
Choose a Specific time for shooting
Now a huge tip is to plan out your shoot at a specific time of day, so you don’t need to have the sun directly overhead. When I was out shooting this footage, it was early in the morning. So use time of day to your advantage, so shoot early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun’s lower in the sky because that’s going to give you prettier looking footage.
Now with this, you also need to shoot away from the sun. So you don’t wish to your DJI Mavic Mini pointed towards the sun because what’s going to happen is you’re going to get this crazy contrast. Look what happens when I point the drone in that direction, I have black and white all around the image.
So what you need to do is find different shot perspectives that aren’t including the sun in the shot, and that’s a huge tip, is avoid the sun, have it behind you, have it off to the side, but don’t include it in the frame cause you want to fill your frame with exposures that you can see within the camera’s sensors, so you don’t want to have significant parts of your frame over-exposing and the same, you don’t want to have substantial portions of your frame under-exposing.
So you need to find the angles that are going to best suit the scene that you’re shooting so that you have a decent dynamic range because you’re not shooting log out of this thing you’re just shooting a baked in profile, so you need to get the best possible image when you’re out shooting.
You’re not going to be doing a ton of color grading in the post with this footage. You can push it a little bit, however, just right out of the camera, this is what it looks like, so you can get good looking footage straight from the camera.
Take advantage of the SUN
Now you also want to think about using the sun to your advantage, so if you have a flat image, say it’s just gray clouds, and it’s only a very flat looking image, that’s just as bad as a super over-contrasted image.
The idea is to find enough contrast where you can see a range in your shot and use it to your advantage.
So, this shot was taken with the sun peeking through the clouds, and what I was focused on was finding the moments where you see this band of light coming through the houses, and it makes it a much more exciting shot then if it was all flat lighting. Think about the weather, think about using the sun to your advantage, and find a way to create contrast in your frame, but you don’t need to push it to the extreme, like I said, where it’s super over-exposed or super under-exposed.
Choose appropriate Height
Now you don’t want to fly your drone super high in the air like you don’t need to take off and be looking down. But at the same time, you don’t need to be so low that all your shots are looking like you just used a gimbal, and you’re walking with it. So the idea is to create shot variety. So to create cinematic sequences, you need to have a variety of shots. So grab some close-ups, grab some wides, grab some extreme wides, and use them to build out a series of shots that cut together so that you can create more of this sequencing of footage rather than just all shots from the same perspective.
So use perspective to your advantage and vary your shot size. Now also with flying, you need to do cinematic movements, so slow dolly in, slow dolly out, to the side, like, you want to vary up how you’re moving the drone. But you also don’t need your drone spinning and jerking around, so avoid all jerky shots that don’t look good, so what you want to do is do longer takes and have a beginning to end of your shots, so you’re starting here, and you’re moving forward in a single direction, you’re going to stop over there, so think through what it is that you’re going to shoot and plan out shots that have a beginning and an end.
Use Automation Moves
Now you can use some of the features that come with the Mavic Mini. They have some pretty impressive automated moves that will get you some excellent looking footage. But outside of those automation moves, you want to think about how you would move a cinema camera, so how would you run a movie camera. It wouldn’t be like spinning all over the place and like jerky shots.
Make a story
But the last tip I want to give you has a story to everything you’re shooting. And this is important. It doesn’t matter if you’re just out flying for the day. Try to create some story, some sequencing, because when you have a story behind everything you’re shooting and create a narrative with the shots, you’ll start coming up with a sequence. You’re like, I need to get a close up of the Jeep. I need to find a medium shot where I see the Jeep in the frame, some Joshua trees, and then I need to show the wide shot of the rainbow in the distance and the Jeep driving, or I need to get a shot without the Jeep and just the rainbow with the Joshua trees.
And so you start thinking of, okay, so how do I tell this story of the Jeep driving through the desert with the rainbow, it’s not just putting the drone up in the air, flying it around, and then having pretty footage. When there’s more thought put into the story, and the narrative of everything that you’re shooting, even if it’s just sexy B roll shots, it’s going to make everything look that much better because there is some intent behind everything that you’re creating. And even with this little Mavic Mini, you can get some awesome shots.
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