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Part of being an aerial photographer is being able to create stunning photos and videos. To create videos, one must often learn to use a video editor.
There are many paid and unpaid options to choose from when selecting your video editor of choice, and some are better than others.
In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of different video editors, some paid and some unpaid, and determine the best for a drone pilot making videos.
Adobe Premiere: Best for advanced pilots and creators #
The most common video editor used by professionals on the market is Adobe Premiere. While Adobe stands tall amongst its competitors, there are certain limitations placed on the software.
First, it is paid software and not cheap by any means. Adobe Premiere can cost a new pilot substantial start-up money.
Adobe Premiere is also software that takes up a good bit of RAM and memory on your computer, so you’ll need to have a desktop or laptop that can handle the software.
Admittedly, Adobe Premiere is also not the most user-friendly, with so many tools and icons to choose from that one may get lost in the inventory of options. However, Adobe Premiere’s tools put it ahead of the game. This is largely what Adobe Premiere is known for.
Used by production companies, real estate companies, and other media producers alike, Adobe Premiere allows you to customize your video the exact way you want.
From color grading to slow motion, playing in reverse, and even changing or replacing the sky and inserting stationary objects in a moving video, this software can do it all.
To start off, color grading is a must for professional drone pilots. Oftentimes, entry-level drone pilots may not have a drone capable of shooting raw video, but many drones these days can shoot D-Cine, which is an attempt to replicate the effects of raw video.
What raw video and design have in common is that there is no color being added by the camera to the video, and more data from the photo is taken in.
The camera knows what color it is seeing and is recording, but when you shoot in regular MOV mode or MP4 mode, the camera adds a saturating color to your video and discards the extra data.
While this is not an issue for quick shoots where it is only necessary to have the subject of the video scene, when shooting a high-budget property or large project with different environments, a good choice is to shoot in raw or D-Cine.
In post, when using Adobe Premiere, you can then increase or decrease colors to the extent that you’d like them to be.
Slow motion is an effect that is underutilized by drone pilots and video editors. Not only does it add to the video by making some scenes more dramatic, but it also allows the viewer to take in information from the video for a longer period of time.
Another underutilized option is fast motion, where the video is played at an increased speed so that it can skip over parts that it may not wish to show or those that are boring to the viewer.
This is one of Adobe Premiere’s largest strengths because mini video editors, as we’ll discuss later, have a hard time rendering slow or fast-motion video without making it look choppy.
Another excellent feature of Adobe Premiere is the option to insert or replace a sky. This needs to be done in cases where a client may wish for a sunny day but the day that you shoot the property or subject matter is cloudy.
It will take some work, but in post, you will be able to replace the sky with whatever weather condition you wish.
Another feature similar to sky replacement is inserting objects into your video that will track and stay still as the video moves.
This is useful when creating a real estate video, especially when you need to show a property line but don’t wish to have the property line move as the video moves.
For instance, you may be panning across the property from left to right, and you need to show where the boundaries are in the video. With Adobe, you’ll be able to select a feature such as a tree or a patch of grass, and anchor the property line to that.
This AI feature is a great way to show your professionalism.
There are other benefits to Adobe Premiere, but many of them are also present in other softwares and video editors.
VSDC – Best for Adobe Premiere: Best for medium – Advanced pilots and creators #
Another useful and cost-effective solution to video editing is VSDC.
VSDC is a free video editor but gives the option to unlock certain features for a $20 fee. VSDC is not only a video editor but has other tools such as screen recording and a video capture tool.
Similar to Adobe, VSDC is a premium video editor used by companies such as Unmanned Aerial Operations. Not only is it user-friendly, but there are also a great number of features and options to edit your video within the software.
The software also possesses sky replacement tools, but they are not quite as refined as Adobe’s. The process to replace the sky, however, is quicker and easier.
With some experience, the sky replacement will look just as good as Adobe, but you’ll need to be familiar with the software to do so.
A large drawback of VSDC is its ability to create a fluid fast and slow-motion video. If a video is only slowed by a small percentage, the video will turn out looking fluid and natural.
However, if you decide to slow the video by 50 percent, even with a video shot at 60 frames per second, you may find that your video looks choppy. The same goes for speeding up a video.
Another extremely useful feature of VSDC is the video stabilization mode feature. Drones usually come with a gimbal to stabilize video during flight.
Oftentimes, there’s no need for any video stabilization, but there are cases such as when the wind is blowing heavily or you have a larger drone with a gimbal attached to it where video shakiness is evident.
In this case, you would want to use the VSDC video stabilization feature. With this feature, you have a range of options and ways to stabilize the video.
One option is to statically zoom in on the frameset and even out the video so that it plays as though there was no shakiness at all.
Another option is to use Dynamic Zone Zoom, which zooms in on the video as a place.
Zooming in it alleviates any shaking but the subject in the frame doesn’t get smaller. You can use his tool creatively because sometimes having a zoom is actually a useful tool to shake up the normal wide shots that drones tend to produce.
VDSC offers a large preview box so that while editing your video you can view your final product. It should be noted that for the video to run smoothly, you need a computer that has high enough RAM and memory so that it can play the video preview before it’s done processing.
This is because, like all video editors, you have multiple video clips running at once, and it’s going to put strain on your computer’s capabilities to render a preview.
A good way to get around any choppiness in the preview is to download the videos from your drone onto your computer.
VDSC has color grading options, contrast tools, brightness tools, RGB scales, and more. However, a drawback of VSDC is that the color grading potential is slightly less.
To color grade a video in VSDC, there is a sphere icon at the bottom of the video editing screen, and you’ll be able to pull the circle overlapping the sphere and different directions in order to exaggerate colors and diminish others.
Most of the time, this will be enough to edit your video and add a professional look to it.
DaVinci Resolve #
One video editor that can be paired with either Adobe or VDSC is DaVinci Resolve.
As discussed previously, some video editors may fall behind in the color-grading game. DaVinci Resolve is the premier color grading software and can make up for color shortcomings in other programs.
While DaVinci Resolve isn’t necessarily the best for producing a final video, using its color grading software to first grade your videos and then export them into either Adobe or VDSC can help someone trying to produce a video with necessary color exaggeration such as in a desert or the mountains during the fall.
DaVinci Resolve is another free program, which is great!
Once again, this program is memory and RAM-heavy and will put strain on your computer to run it. If your computer does not have the correct amount of RAM or memory, the program may not run at all.
Lesser editors: Best for beginner drone pilots #
Some completely free options are useful as well, especially for drone pilots just getting into the industry.
Both Windows and Mac come with their own respective video editing software options. While the tools are not as expansive as the video editors mentioned above, these free options are a great way to get familiar with editing drone videos.
As for the Windows video editor, which is known as Windows Movie Maker, it’s extremely straightforward to use. You simply select all the videos you would like to edit and then place them in the video editing box at the top left of the screen.
Once they are loaded in, you will be able to drag each clip into the timeline. This timeline will determine in what order the video clips play.
For instance, if you wish to have an opening drone shot of a valley in the mountains, with the next clip being a cabin orbiting, you would drag the mountain shot into the second box.
If there is excess in the shots, you’ll be able to trim them so that the video has no filler or boring parts.
The color grading option is extremely limited, with almost none in the Windows video editor. The only form of color grading you may place on your video is using a saturation tool or a filter.
Another huge drawback of Windows Movie Maker is that you can’t have a video fade into another video. VDSC and Adobe Premiere both let you fade one clip into another.
Just like all the other video editors, you are able to add music to your video when using Windows Movie Maker. Windows even has a selection of copyright-free tracks to use as your background audio.
This might actually be a part where Windows Movie Maker overtakes VDSC and Adobe. With those video editors, there is no catalog of music to choose from.
Final thoughts #
Overall, the video editor that you choose will determine how many ways you can edit your drone videos. While this is an extremely important part of creating quality drone footage, the most important part is getting quality footage in the first place.
In the end, an expert pilot could edit a better video in Windows Movie Maker than an unskilled pilot in Adobe Premiere. Most of these options listed above come with free trials, so you can figure out which one works best for you.