Check out this simple video tutorial for seven different techniques for enhancing drone shots in post-production — including a free project file.

When it comes to achieving your vision for a drone shot, a lot can be done in post-production. In this tutorial, I want to share with you seven ways you can enhance your drone shots in post. I often think of these methods as “plusing the shot,” adding an extra bit of flair to it. These tips will help your drone work stand out from the crowd — and to your clients.

Ready to check out these techniques? Let’s get started!

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Zooms in Post

Seven Ways to Enhance Drone Shots in Post-Production — Zooms in Post

If your drone footage is in 4K, you can scale in on it with a 1080p timeline and not lose quality. Keyframe the Scale on your footage and smooth out the keyframes. Highlight the keyframes and press F9 to make them easy-ease keyframes. It also helps to turn on motion blur for your footage layer. For an extra effect, apply Optics Compensation to an Adjustment layer above your footage. Check on Reverse Lens Distortion and keyframe the Field of View to change, along with the Scale keyframes. This can add more depth to your zoom.


Alpha Channel Elements

Seven Ways to Enhance Drone Shots in Post-Production — Alpha Channel Elements

The next way you can enhance your drone shots is by adding in alpha channel footage elements. These are footage elements with a transparent alpha channel that can be dragged-and-dropped on your drone footage. The most popular of these tend to be birds flying. Shutterstock has a large assortment of these types of clips.


3D Tracked Fog

Seven Ways to Enhance Drone Shots in Post-Production — 3D Tracked Fog

Adding in fog to your drone shot is a lot easier than you might think. First, camera track your footage in After Effects. Next, just drop in some footage of smoke or fog. Create a random mask shape on the fog footage and feather it. Set it to  a Screen blending mode. Duplicate the fog footage a few times, and offset those copies in 3D space by making them 3D layers. This helps create parallax during the camera movement. (Make sure to check out these 21 Free 4K Fog Overlays from PremiumBeat!)


Change Location Lighting

Seven Ways to Enhance Drone Shots in Post-Production — Change Location Lighting

This is an easy trick with nighttime drone shots and it can add a lot to a scene’s production value. First, create an Adjustment layer and create a broad mask around some lights in your nighttime scene. Keyframe the mask movement so that it tracks to the lights. Then, simply add the Hue & Saturation effect and offset the Hue colors. Since the dark areas are desaturated, they will stay dark, but the lights will change.


Motion Blur

Seven Ways to Enhance Drone Shots in Post-Production — Motion Blur

Adding motion blur is great if your drone footage was shot at a high-shutter speed, or if you decide to speed up your footage in post. There are a few native effects in After Effects you can use to achieve this. The first is Pixel Motion Blur, which creates motion blur based on the pixel motion in the footage.

The second is CC Force Motion Blur, which blends intermediate frames of the footage over itself to create blur. You can adjust the number, or motion blur samples, and shutter angle on both effects. Reel Smart Motion Blur is a popular 3rd-party plugin for motion blur you may want to check out, as well.


Speed Ramps

Seven Ways to Enhance Drone Shots in Post-Production — Speed Ramps

You’ll often see these types of shots used in travel videos or for location establishing shots on TV shows. To achieve this effect, you will need to Enable Time Remapping on your footage. This will add a keyframe at the beginning and end of your footage. Next, add a keyframe where you want the speed ramp portion to start and another one where it should stop. Then, move the third and fourth keyframes forward on your footage. This will effectively speed up the middle section of your footage. You can add motion blur to the sped up portion for an added effect.


Racking Focus

Seven Ways to Enhance Drone Shots in Post-Production — Racking Focus

This is also great for location establishing shots, and can help pace out a shot. For this, you will need to apply the Camera Lens Blur effect on your footage (this effect does take a lot longer to render). Keyframe the blur radius from 40 to 0, over a few seconds. You can accent this look even more by pairing it with the Optics Compensation effect. Keyframe the field of view to change a little bit with the blur keyframes. I also recommend adding a little bit of Noise, set at around 4%, to emulate some film grain on top of the bokeh. For an alternative to the Camera Lens Blur effect, check out the 3rd-party plugin Crossphere Bokeh.


Interested in the tracks we used to make this video?

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