Optimizing the video settings on the DJI Phantom 3 and Inspire 1
There are two ways to get really good video out of an Inspire 1 or Phantom 2. The “easy” way is to simply use some of the presets such as Vivid or Film. The downside to using the presets is that you are letting someone else decide what your video should look like. The other way is to optimize the video settings so that the video is ready to be edited for contrast, saturation, and color adjustments (in the biz, this is referred to as color grading). What we are going to cover here is the latter as we believe in having as much control over our finished product as possible.
Dialing in your settings
From the Camera section of the DJI Pilot App tap of the Fn icon to get into the settings. This is where we will be making all of the necessary changes.
Under the Color icon you will find the different available presets. The setting we are going to select is LOG. The LOG setting is somewhat of an industry standard for editing that is the closest equivalent to shooting in RAW for stills. The effect is fairly subtle but it will work to try to preserve as much dynamic range as possible. For higher end editing tools like Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, or AVID, this is going to be our starting point. There are a few more settings we are going to tweak as well.
There is a little debate about this next set of settings as different people believe they have the secret sauce to video magic. I won’t claim to be an expert here but instead I turned to one of our customers who I would certainly classify as an expert (see some of Brent’s work on Instagram). To change the settings we start in the Style menu and then select Custom. The settings Brent likes are Sharpness -1, Contrast -3, and Saturation -2. While your video is going to look very flat, washed out, and dull, this is much better for editing purposes and provides the most latitude to get the exact look that you want.
Getting your shutter under control
Now that we are capturing the video that is optimized for video, the next piece is a little trickier, and that is to get a more cinematic look to your footage. For the best looking results, you want to adhere to the 180 Rule which basically says that your want your shutter speed to be the opposite of your frame rate. If you are shooting at 24fps, you want your shutter speed to be as close to 1/48th second as possible. With the Inspire/P3 camera, this would be 1/50th second. The difficulty in achieving this perfect shutter speed is that the camera on the Inspire/P3 does not have an adjustable aperture. With the lowest ISO setting being 100, on bright days we may have to push closer to 1/500th of second or faster just to get the exposure right.
My solution to this conundrum is to use a neutral density filter. My filter of choice is the Snake River Prototyping ND16/CP filter. While this filter costs $60, it is very well worth it in order to get the results that I want. On the brightest days (which are very, very bright in Colorado), I have been able to get 1/50th of a second shutter speed at ISO 100 and have been within .07 of a neutral exposure. This works out almost perfectly by enabling me to have some amount of exposure adjustment left by adjusting my ISO up.
As you can see, there is a bit more to getting great video than just pushing the record button. For the best possible results, its a combination of the right settings, getting the exposure and shutter speed right, and then understanding how to edit the footage (which will be discussed in other articles).