Flying drones and recording video footage is a combination of two hobbies; RC aircraft flying and photography. So as a drone pilot who records footage while flying, you not only need to be good at controlling your drone, but you also need some basic knowledge of photography to troubleshoot footage issues when they arise. Stutter is one such regular problem with drone recorded footage. Why does drone footage stutter, and what can you do about it?
Your drone footage may stutter due to incompatible timeline speeds in the video editing software on your computer, your computer struggling to interpret the 4K video, or incorrect settings on the camera such as a high shutter speed in bright conditions, which can often be remedied with ND filters.
The causes for stutter in your drone footage could result from several conditions, which could relate to the piloting of the drone, or settings on the drone and camera, or even environmental conditions that could influence the outcome of the video footage. Once you have an understanding of these issues, you will be able to take the steps necessary to eliminate this issue from your drone footage to a large extent.
Causes For Drone Footage Stutter
It’s so exciting to get home after a fun time out flying your drone, as you look forward to seeing the footage that you recorded while flying the drone. There is nothing worse than reviewing this footage only to realize that it is not quite what you expected, and the video lags and stutters and is anything but a quality recording!
Owning and flying a drone not only requires you to hone your skills as a drone pilot but also to build a working knowledge of photography and videography. This knowledge, even just the basics, will help you to understand what is going wrong with the footage and photos you are shooting with your drone camera.
There are a few occasions where you may notice stuttering in your drone footage, and the cause for this will depend on the circumstances. Some occasions where you may notice stuttering in your drone video is in: 1) the live view of the footage while you are flying the drone and viewing it on your phone or tablet, 2) when you are editing the footage, or 3) in the final master of the exported video.
Some causes for video stutter could be an incorrect setting relating to shutter speed and aperture settings on the drone camera.
Drone Footage Stutters In Live View
Another occasion where the drone footage may stutter is in live view mode. This is where you are watching the footage on your smartphone or tablet as the drone is in flight and recording the video.
This type of video footage stutter is unlikely to affect any video footage that is recorded to the SD card on the drone but is only noticeable in the live view.
This stutter is caused by interruptions in the transmission of the video footage to your device. This could be caused by your distance from the drone or even by weather conditions in the area that affect the wifi transmission of the video. Weather conditions that can affect this are wind, static electricity, and low humidity.
This type of stutter is normally of no concern because it will not affect the final outcome of the footage when you download it from your drone to your computer at the end of your flight.
Stuttering Drone Video During Editing
If you notice stuttering after you have shot your footage and have imported the footage into your editing software, then there may be a framerate to timeline rate mismatch between the software and the footage.
If you shot your video with the drone camera set to 24fps (frames per second) and you import this footage into a timeline in the video editor that is set to 30fps, then the video will appear to stutter.
This is because of the mismatch between the fps speed setting on the drone camera and the editing software. You always need to match the timeline rate on the editor to the fps setting of the footage.
This applies not only to drone footage but also to footage shot on other devices such as DSLR cameras as well.
The Footage Stutters On Your Computer Screen
If you do not have a framerate and timeline rate mismatch in your editing software, and all goes well with your editing, but you still see stutter in the final project, then you may have a different problem.
If after finishing the editing and exporting of the video, there is a stutter when you view the finished video on your computer, then the problem may not be with the footage. Your computer may not be fast enough, or the screen refresh rate may not be quick enough to cope with 4K output.
You can tell if this is the case by uploading your footage to Youtube and then viewing it on your phone or a larger monitor such as a television. If the stutter has disappeared, then the problem is on your computer equipment rather than the footage itself.
You could fix this problem by upgrading your computer hardware or changing from the new H265 compression codec back down to H264, which older computer gear can cope with more easily.
Stutter in the Actual Drone Footage
If the stutter in your recorded video is not a result of the editing software or your computer screen, then it is most likely caused by incorrect camera settings on your drone and the light conditions you are flying in.
Flying in harsh light conditions with a fast shutter speed is a sure recipe for stutter in your drone video footage. Some high-end drones come with aperture settings where you can compensate for this by changing the aperture.
However, if your drone does not have manual aperture control, then this will not be an option for you. Most drone cameras can accept aftermarket accessories, and this problem is an example where the problem can be solved with accessories.
A set of ND filters for your drone camera will allow you to fit a filter to the lens of the camera that will compensate for the light conditions, which will make the shutter speed more appropriate and stop the stutter in the video footage.
The ND filters normally come in a pack, with different filters that are intended to compensate for different light levels. It is a 30-second process to switch out the filters on your drone camera, which makes this an effective method of controlling the light and eliminating this cause of stutter in your footage.
Drone Piloting Causing Video Stutter
When you have hit the record button to start recording the footage on the drone camera, you need to go easy on the controls of the drone.
Any fast changes in angle, direction, or height will have an impact on the quality of the video footage. As you can imagine, if you are recording at 24fps and you suddenly move the drone quickly as you are panning the camera, you are going to have stuttering video footage. This is because the camera cannot keep up with the fast movement of the drone.
You need to keep the movement of the drone smooth and steady while the camera is recording the footage to make sure it is not going to affect the final video outcome.
The Question Of SD Card Speed in Your Drone
The quality of the SD card and the sustained write speed capability of the card is sometimes blamed for stutter in the drone video footage.
While having a good quality SD card is a good idea to get the most out of your drone photography, a slow card will not give you video stutter. When there is an interruption of the sustained write to the SD card, the video will stop altogether rather than stutter, and you will have multiple files created on the card where one data stream stops and another starts.
So, while a slow SD card can cause you problems, stutter in the video footage is not one of the problems you would experience from this cause.
For a new drone pilot, the problem of video footage stutter can be very frustrating and seem like a daunting problem to solve. You may even believe that it is because you bought a lower model drone. However, the problem can most likely be rectified by identifying if it is the actual footage or an outside influence on the footage, such as computer gear or editing software.
The fix for these issues is normally not difficult and also not costly. If you do need to spend some money, it will most likely be to purchase a set of ND filters for your drone camera lens.
Try out the fixes we have suggested, and it may renew your confidence in the drone that you bought and give you the smooth, professional-quality drone footage that you were hoping for!