Nome Culture Guide Download

posted Aug 14, 2016, 12:03 PM by Shayne L. van Vlerken   [ updated Aug 14, 2016, 12:08 PM ]

Free Guide.
See download link below.

Drone Camera Shots Nome-Culture

posted Aug 14, 2016, 10:48 AM by Shayne L. van Vlerken   [ updated Aug 14, 2016, 11:27 AM ]

This is our current Nome-culture for the different types of camera shots. Please let us know your own versions and many that I'm sure I have missed. We consider there are two descriptive factors. The UAV platform and the camera.

I will build on this with more Drone Nome culture including take-off, landing, safety etc. I am also going to be a little vain here and call this "The Vlerken Drone Guide"  - Why not. I am putting a lot of work into this for the free benefit of others.

Drone Platform
  1. Hover | Drone is stationary in-air-space. No movement
  2. Fly Through | Drone flies between two obstacles (Valley, Buildings, Portal etc)
  3. Altitude Stable | Drone stays at a consistent altitude with no lateral or rotational movement
  4. Altitude Rising | Drone slowly rises from a low altitude to a high altitude maintaining forward POV.
  5. Altitude Falling | Drone slowly drops from high altitude to low altitude maintaining forward POV.
  6. Orbit 90° | Orbit an subject by flying the drone around the subject covering 1/4 of the subject profile
  7. Orbit 180° | Orbit an subject by flying the drone around the subject covering 1/2 of the object profile
  8. Orbit 360° | Orbit an subject by flying the drone around the subject covering the full subject profile
  9. Orbit High | Same as Orbit by degrees, but the drone is above the subject by about 45°
  10. Orbit Medium |Same as Orbit by degrees, but the drone is 1/2 way up the vertical plane of subject
  11. Orbit Low |Same as Orbit by degrees, but the drone is near the base of the subject
  12. Orbit Near | Orbit the subject by degrees with the subject clearly being the focus of the shot
  13. Orbit Background | Orbit the subject by degrees with the subject & some background being in-field
  14. Orbit Horizon |Orbit the subject by degrees with the subject & wide-horizon being in field 
  15. Follow | Follow a moving subject at a set distance maintaining the same speed as the subject
  16. Lead | Positioned in front of subject maintaining same distance and speed as subject
  17. Overtake | When following an subject, speed up & overtake the subject
  18. Fallback | When filming in front of moving subject, reduce speed and let subject overtake Drone
  19. Track In | Move forward at same altitude (Like a Dolly & Track)
  20. Track Out | Move backwards at same altitude
  21. Truck Left | (Slide, Crab) Move left like on a track in front of a subject
  22. Truck Right | Move right like on a track in front of a subject
  23. Reveal | Starting behind a foreground subject, slowly revel the background subject through drone movement
  24. Parallax | Move the drone sidewasy one way while keeping the camera focused on the subject
  25. Back Parallax | Move the drone as above, but pan camera to capture wide background in opposite direction
Camera Position
  1. Pan | Move the camera lens along the same pane to the left or right
  2. Tilt | Move the camera lens either up or down along the same vertical axis.
  3. Zoom | Zoom either in or out keeping the subject in focus
  4. Rack Focus | With a subject in field moving from either out of focus to in focus or visaversa 
  5. Camera Angle Up High | Increasing tilt of the camera as high as you can go without propeller in field of view. 
  6. Camera Angle Up 45° | Camera angle maintianing a 45 degree upwards angle 
  7. Camera Angle Horizon | Camera angle is flat, neither up nor down.
  8. Camera Angle Down 45° | Camera angle is downwards at 45 degrees angle
  9. Camera Angle Down 90° | Camera is pointing directly towards the ground under the drone
  10. Dutch | Film an object at an agle not consistant with the horizon
  11. Parallax | Move the drone sidewasy one way while keeping the camera focused on the subject.
  12. Back Parallax | Move the drone as above, but pan camera to capture wide background in opposite direction

11 Essential Camera Techniques in Filmmaking

posted Aug 14, 2016, 5:10 AM by Shayne L. van Vlerken

Following my filmmaking tips and my post on how to direct, this post will look at some nitty-gritty film techniques that every filmmaker needs to have in his or her toolbox. Some of these techniques are very basic and others are more advanced, but you should always bear in mind that, as James Cameron once said, “there is no such thing as an easy shot.” The more you shoot, the more you realize just how right he is. Even a simple tilt shot requires good technique and coordination between the camera operator, director and actors to bring it up to the next level!

1. Over-the-shoulder shots

Film Techniques: example of an over-the-shoulder shot

(Over-the-shoulder shot example taken from a TV spot I directed.)

Over-the-shoulder shots are just what the name says: a shot with an actor’s shoulder in the foreground, out of focus. I will tell you right away that good over-the-shoulder shots are some of the most time-consuming to shoot correctly, because you need to make sure that there is neither too much nor too little shoulder in the frame. However, in my opinion no serious filmmaker can afford not to learn this technique because it is narratively essential in many cases. Some directors openly say that they never shoot over-the-shoulder shots precisely because it takes ages to get the look they want and frequently can’t do it at all, but in my opinion they are missing out.

From a narrative point of view, over-the-shoulder shots draw the viewer in by creating a sense of intimacy, depending on how much of the screen area the shoulder in the foreground occupies. As I wrote above, the key to making the shot work is to get exactly the right amount of shoulder in the shot. The way to do this is to work with the actor over whose shoulder you are shooting to make sure that he/she is leaning into the shot by exactly the right amount. It takes practice, and is one of those uncelebrated but essential film techniques that even the most experienced directors don’t always have. I always take my time to frame the perfect over-the-shoulder shot in my work and it is worth the effort, and the actors appreciate the final results. Read my detailed guide on how to frame over-the-shoulder shots.

2. Tilt shots

Film Techniques: example of a tilt shot

(Tilt Shot example taken from a music video I directed.)

Tilting up or down is one of the simplest camera techniques there are. Due to its simplicity it tends to be overused and/or poorly executed. The truth is that well-executed tilting, combined with some interesting action and with perfect coordination between the camera operator and the action, can be incredibly elegant in their simplicity. If you want to see further examples of tilt shots and the circumstances that make them appropriate, check out pretty much any film by Steven Spielberg, especially “Schindler’s list.”

Recommended best practices for the execution of good tilt shots:

– Set up the shot in such a way that you can tilt straight up or down, without mixing it with panning. If you can set up the shot in this way, you can lock off the panning axis of your fluid head so that it can only tilt and not pan. This will make the tilt shot very pure and elegant. Obviously there are certain circumstances in which tilting combined with panning — a diagonal movement — is the best option. What I’m saying here is that you should not mix tilting with panning just because you failed to set up the shot properly. If you are tilting up or down to move from one subject to another along the vertical axis, set up the shot in such a way that you can execute it with the panning axis completely locked off.

– Tilt shots (and panning shots) should be executed smoothly and confidently, without overshooting the final frame and then backtracking clumsily to re-establish framing, unless of course you actually want that look. It is perfectly possible to do a whip-tilt — a very fast tilt from one framing to another — with an instant lock-off and very precise framing, but you will need a highly competent and experienced camera operator. For ambitious film work, experienced camera operators are worth every penny and essential to realizing the director’s vision.

3. Panning shots

Film techniques: example of a panning shot

(Panning Shot example taken from my first film.)

Panning the shot is the horizontal equivalent of tilt shots. Like tilt shots, panning shots are conceptually simple and therefore usually overused and/or poorly executed. Exactly the same best-practice considerations made for the tilt shots apply to panning shots: try and design them in such a way that you can lock off the tilt axis in order to keep the panning pure, and hire a competent camera operator, especially if your shots require precise timing and framing accuracy. Once again I will refer you to any of Steven Spielberg’s filmsas an excellent source of well-executed panning shots, that are so well-motivated and well-executed as to be almost unnoticeable (because they draw you into the story as opposed to distracting you from it).

4. Zoom shots

Film techniques: example of a zoom shot

(Zoom Shot example taken from my first film.)

Zoom shots are extremely cool if you get them right and successfully blend them into your directorial style. Zooming was massively out of favor in the 1990s, and enjoyed a revival when Ridley Scott’s career really took off in the early noughties with “Gladiator” and “Hannibal,” both of which have outstanding examples of Ridley-Scott-style zoom shots. The way to make zoom shots truly effective and “creepy” is to make them absolutely smooth and not too fast. If you’re wondering how Ridley Scott achieves his distinctive zoom shots, that is how it’s done. If the zoom is jerky, you will get the cheesy 1970s look.

Ridley-Scott-style zoom shots are incredibly cool, and you should never let a film school professor or anyone like that dissuade you from experimenting with them. Remember that you cannot become a truly competent filmmaker without making some cheesy mistakes in your early efforts!

5. Tracking shots: sideways camera movement

Film techniques: example of a tracking shot

(Tracking Shot example taken from a music video I directed.)

Setting up tracking shots is more complicated than setting up tilt or panning shots, but ultimately anyone can mount the camera on a dolly and moved the dolly along tracks. Moving the camera on the dolly does not a great tracking shot make — it takes a little more directorial flair than that! Here are some recommended best practices based on my own experience and on the many films I have watched:

– For a truly visually dynamic tracking shot, foreground objects located between the camera and the main subject are essential. Foreground objects will enhance parallax, which is the visual effect in which objects closer to the frame appear to be moving faster in the field of view than those that are more distant. Check out any sideways tracking shot in a Steven Spielberg movie and you will notice this effect.

– Due to the parallax effect, anything behind the subject in the distance will be moving across the frame more slowly and therefore contribute less to the feeling of motion. A notable exception is very fast sideways tracking shots in which the camera is mounted on a process vehicle following another car or someone on horseback, for example. Due to the very fast tracking, a very nice effect is achieved whereby the various planes in the background move at different velocities across the screen due to their varying distance from the camera. The perfect example of this is the shot in Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” in which he was galloping at full speed across barren Italian countryside on his way back to Rome. There are no foreground objects in the shot, but the feeling of motion is enhanced by the background of the shot. Pay attention the next time you watch the scene and you’ll never see it in the same way again!

– For truly professional results, there is simply no substitute for using a real dolly (such as the PeeWee dolly) operated by a professional dolly grip. I have used both lightweight “prosumer” dollies like the Doorway dolly and heavy professional dollies like the PeeWee, and I’m telling you that there is simply no comparison, especially in the hands of a talented dolly grip!

– Again, there is more to shooting good tracking shots than simply moving the dolly with the camera on it. By all means experiment with lightweight dollies on your early films, but sooner or later you will have to move on to a PeeWee-like dolly if you really want the results you hope for.

– The choice of focal length is very important in tracking shots. There is a misconception that only the widest lenses should be used in tracking shots, but this is quite simply untrue. Even Steven Spielberg, who is undoubtedly the master of wide lenses, frequently uses long lenses in his tracking shots. If you do not understand the effect of focal length on the look of the shot, you really need to read my post on how to learn camerawork and develop your own visual sense.

6. Crane shots

Film techniques: example of a Crane Shot

(Crane Shot example taken from my first film.)

Cranes are used to achieve vertical translational motion. Whenever you see the camera moving up or down by more than a few feet in a film, it was done with a jib or crane. The bad news is that cranes are expensive and require specialized operators; the good news is that they are rarely needed and almost never indispensable. Nevertheless, well-executed, well-motivated crane shots can add production value to a production and can definitely improve your reel if they were used to enhance the storytelling rather than to show off random skills. For camcorders and cameras up to 25 pounds, the Cobra Crane II is very affordable and produces amazing results (I shot the example above with a Cobra Crane II). If you’re interested, you should check out my Cobra Crane II review.

My personal opinion is that you should focus your budget and your energy on shooting really good tracking shots, as they are needed much more frequently than crane shots and don’t cost as much to execute.

7. Track-in shots

Film Techniques: example of a track-in shot

(Track-in Shot example taken from a music video I directed.)

In a track-in shot the camera moves in on the subject. For best results a Dolly should be used: a Steadicam is really not suited to this kind of shot, unless the ground is uneven and there is no other viable option. The example above was filmed using a dolly.

8. Track-in shots with secondary foreground object

Film technique: Example of a track-in shot with a foreground object

A variant of the clean track-in shot involves a foreground object.  The significance of this foreground object is that, since it is closer to the camera than the main subject, it increases in size faster than the main subject as the camera moves in.  This gives the shot an enhanced three-dimensional illusion.  As with all foreground objects, this shot works best when the foreground object is out of focus.  The example shown above is taken from a TV spot I directed, and the foreground object in this case is a computer screen.

9. Over-the-shoulder track-in shot

Example of the over-the-shoulder track-in shot film technique

This combines tracking in on the main subject with an over-the-shoulder framing.  The example shown above is taken from a TV commercial I directed.

Over-the-shoulder track-in shots work best with medium focal lengths — the example above was filmed with an 85mm Zeiss Ultra Prime lens mounted on a RED One camera.

If the focal lens length is much shorter than 85mm, the foreground shoulder will dominate over the main subject; if the focal length is significantly longer than 85mm, the feeling of motion towards the subject is mostly lost.  In my experience the sweet spot is a focal length between 85mm and 100mm.

10. Dutch angles

A Dutch angle is a shot that is rotated about the camera axis, resulting in tilted verticals. The image below, taken from a music video I directed, is an example of a Dutch angle:

Dutch angle film technique

Dutch angles are used to elicit a sense of unease and disorientation in the viewer. In music videos anything goes, but in narrative filmmaking, Dutch angles should be used sparingly, reserving them for the rare occasions in which they are narratively appropriate.

11. Mixing focal lengths in a scene to make one character dominate over the other

When covering a scene with shots and reverse shots, it is good practice to use exactly the same lens for the two complementary shots. If you use a 25mm lens to frame an over-the-shoulder shot, the reverse shot should also use a 25mm lens.

There is one important exception to the rule of using the same focal length for complementary shots. If two characters are talking and you cover the scene with complementary over-the-shoulder shots and you want to make one character look a lot more dominant than the other, you can use a wide lens (short focal length) when shooting over the shoulder of the dominant character, and a significantly longer lens when shooting over the shoulder of the other character. As a result of the short focal length, when you film over the shoulder of the dominant character, he will dominate the frame because he will look much larger than the other character.

Conversely, when you use the long lens with the reverse over-the-shoulder shot, the character in the foreground will not dominate the other character, because their relative sizes will be similar (this is because the camera will be further away from them to achieve the same framing, thereby reducing the difference in their relative sizes in the frame).

So far I have only seen this technique used in Steven Spielberg’s films. The technique is illustrated below:

The film technique of mixing focal lengths in a scene.

The film technique of mixing focal lengths in a scene.This technique only works if the two lenses have very different focal lengths: for example, 25mm for the wide lens and at least 100mm for the longer lens. If the difference is slight, there will be enough difference to make it look messy, but not enough to make one of the characters look dominant, so you lose on both counts.

15 Tips for More Cinematic Drone Video

posted Aug 14, 2016, 4:45 AM by Shayne L. van Vlerken

14th August 2016

Shot Techniques and Maneuvers

1. Go Slow

My first recommendation to anyone filming with a drone is to go slow. Slow is more cinematic, and it gives the viewer the impression you are shooting from a larger platform, such as a helicopter. This subconsciously increases the production value and makes the shot appear more controlled and crafted.

Make sure you also go easy on the RC control sticks on the remote. Use gradual movements and remember to accelerate and decelerate slowly; otherwise you will shake the camera around with the quicker movements, increasing your odds of having distortions or ‘jello effects’ on your footage.

Pre-plan and visualize as many of your aerial shots as you can. I recommend scouting your filming location before your shoot so you can factor in limitations of the area. Knowing what you’ll need ahead of time will also help you optimize your drone’s battery life, so you don’t run into a situation where you miss the shot you truly need because your batteries are out of power.

2. Use Two Axes of Movement

Imitate big-budget shots you see in movies, which are typically going to have two axes of movement at the same time. An example would be flying backwards and downwards at the same time, at a smooth, steady rate.

3. Strafe

Strafing or sideways movements also work quite well for showing landscapes from a different perspective. Since most landscapes are shown on aerial videos with the drone moving only forwards or backwards, a strafing shot can stand out. It can also be an effective way to reveal cool features in the landscape.  

4. Orbit

Orbits can be achieved by having your drone strafe to the right or left, and also pulling the yaw stick in the opposing direction. (The yaw control is typically the control stick on the left side of the controller that controls the drone’s rotation.) It is crucial to go easy on the yaw control, or you’ll end up spinning too quickly and spoiling the effect.

5. Fly-Through Shots

Fly-through shots can be quite cinematic, but they are going to be the most risky since you’ll likely be relying only on your controller screen (FPV) in order to navigate your drone. I wouldn’t attempt these unless you are confident in your piloting skills. I’m personally not the biggest fan of these shots, because when I see them it is a tell-tale sign that the shot was filmed with a drone; this may distract your audience, making them think more about the risk of the shot, instead of noticing the cinematography. 

6. Gimbal Movements

You can also try gimbal movements combined with drone movements to add another dimension to your shots. Doing this can give you up to three axes of combined movement. One of my favorites is flying forward and tilting the gimbal upwards to reveal the landscape.

7. Parallax

Add depth to your aerial scenes by taking advantage of extreme parallax effects, often with trees or structures closer to the drone, which helps provide a visual aid to the viewer for how large the surrounding landscape actually is.

8. 360 Pan

I don’t recommend just rotating on the yaw axis, or basically a 360 pan. This is because drones typically have a hard time being precise with this movement, and it can give the footage a whip-pan effect if you’re not careful.

Weather and the Time of Day

When it comes to the weather, you are pretty much at the mercy of Mother Nature. You’ll typically just want to fly on clear or cloudy days, and you’ll want to avoid any rain, misting or heavy fog. This is particularly true on colder days, since condensation can develop on the drone and the props, which can freeze at higher altitudes. (I’ve seen this happen!)

9. Watch Out for Wind

The wind is the biggest enemy when it comes to the dreaded ‘jello’ effect on footage. Avoid trying to get any of your drone shots on a windy day; I typically don’t fly when the winds are over 20 mph or if there are frequent heavy gusts. Most drones are rated to fly in up to 25–35 mph winds, but the footage you record at these higher wind speeds will likely not be worth your time. 

I don’t recommend relying too heavily on programs like After Effects to remove the jello effect from your footage either. Although After Effects can do a good job at reducing these distortions, I’ve yet to see footage that has been completely restored using its Warp Stabilization setting. 

10. Sunrise and Sunset

Just like with ground-based cinematography, filming during the golden hours of the day—at sunrise and sunset—will really help your footage stand out. Shadows will be highly visible, which will help define terrain features that aren’t as visible during the afternoon. Fewer people film at these times, particularly sunrise, so by just doing this one step you are already differentiating yourself from the surplus of aerial footage out there. 

Camera Settings

11. Use a Flat Image Profile

Camera settings will also play a big role in how cinematic your shots appear. Make sure you film in the flattest camera profile possible, which should give you the most dynamic range from your aerial camera. Filming this way helps to prevent the sky and clouds from blowing out, while also retaining detail in the darkest points of the ground.

12. Set Your Shutter Speed

Lower shutter speed if possible, especially on shots close to the ground, to avoid the strobing effect. Anything under 100th to 250th of a second is my recommendation, and use an ND filter if needed to keep your shutter speed down. Shooting at 500th or 100th of a second, which is common among drone cameras, will give you sharper frames, but it can give the footage some heavy strobing. 


Let's go over some post-processing techniques I use in After Effects to get better-looking results from my aerial shots.

13. Correct Distortion

The first step is to remove any distortion from the footage, which is mainly going to be done if you filmed with a GoPro camera. You’ll get much better results if you shoot in 4K and are outputting the footage at 1080p; this gives you more pixel density in a 1080p composition and will help preserve image quality. 

I add my footage to a 1080p composition and then add the effect Optics Compensation. Check the box that says Reverse Lens Distortion, and for a GoPro I typically put the field of view between 70 and 80. 

If you want an even wider shot, you can check the box that says Optimize Pixels. This will widen up the shot back to the original width, but you’ll need to add black bars at the top and bottom, essentially converting this shot to a 2:35 aspect ratio.

14. Add Motion Blur

If you had to film at a higher shutter speed, or if you are using a GoPro camera and don’t have control over shutter speed, you’ll probably want to add a motion blur effect to your footage in After Effects to make it look more natural. 

Use an effect like Pixel Motion Blur or the third-party plug-in Reel Smart Motion Blur. This will help add natural motion blur to your shot and will counteract any heavy strobing (usually with trees, cars driving, etc.)

15. Color Grade Your Footage

Finally, the two best color grading plug-ins I recommend for aerial footage are Red Giant Colorista and Film Convert

Colorista is by far the best color corrector in After Effects and can also be used for color grading footage. It has a lot of options and versatility, especially in regards to tweaking the hue and saturation of specific colors in your scene. 

Film Convert is a film emulation plug-in that really can help differentiate your footage and give it a cinematic feel by adding a true film aesthetic. You can select from different film stocks and do some minor color correction. The film stocks help add cinematic value to your footage and help pull them away from the standard ‘drone video’ look. 

Mentioned in this Tutorial:

Types of Drone Shots

posted Aug 14, 2016, 4:37 AM by Shayne L. van Vlerken

14th August 2016.

1. The fly-by

The fly-by is a “Swiss Army knife”-type shot that works well for quick cuts or sprinkling in some fun to a B-roll sequence. The trick with the fly-by is to set your framing before your subject appears in the shot, and coordinating the movement of the gimbal in relation to the movement of the aircraft. And be sure to set your camera operator’s pan and tilt speeds in relation to the type of shot you are pulling off.

2. The reveal

The reveal is aptly named — it’s really just a good ol’ fashioned reveal, only this time, it’s from the sky. If your gimbal allows for it, be sure to adjust your ramping speeds to create a smooth finish to your reveal shots. You will want to slow those down and make sure to bench test with the camera you plan to use before you fly.

3. The chase

The chase works as a great closing shot — especially when combined with a long ascension — or as an action punch, which provides ample speed ramping options in post (check this useful primer on speed ramping in Adobe Premiere). The timing on these shots is the most difficult aspect to contend with, but a great place to start is setting up your shot about 20 feet or so away from your first target (where you want the shot to begin), which will give you plenty of time to get your direction and speed squared away.

4) The high-pan

The high-pan shot is primarily used to showcase landscapes and the proximity of a subject to its surroundings. Once you lock in your favorite portion of the view, be sure to run your shot left to right and right to left multiple times, so you can afford yourself a plethora of options in post.

5) The explorer

The explorer is all about making the most of what you see when your bird is in the sky and you’ve suddenly got vision for miles. Always be aware of just how much power your batteries have left so that you have enough juice to get your drone home.

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