How To Better Use
Mavic 3 Zoom Camera
So yes, it is cool that a 7x zoom lens lets you get close to things, but from a filmmaking perspective, the real value is being able to take advantage of the compression that takes place between the foreground, the midground, and your background. Throwing in a little bit of rotation so we can see those layers moving at different speeds and really take advantage of that parallax.
So tip number one - create depth in your shots: foreground, midground, and background elements. Because you’re flying a drone, you might be up high, pointing your 7x zoom at the ground. In all likelihood, that’s not going to create any layers in your image. Get the drone down a bit and see if you can get those foreground, midground, and background elements in your frame.
The second tip concerns camera movement. Because we’re zoomed all the way in, we don’t have the wide-angle field of view that gives us the sense of motion we are accustomed to when flying a drone. As a consequence, we need to find a new way of creating motion in our shot and building on this idea of layers, if we do rotational movements around a subject we get a tremendous sense of parallax, much like those Hollywood aerial shots.
You can still get good results flying forward and backward, but because of the compression that takes place when using a zoom lens, our motion is compressed, so you’re really going to need those foreground elements to give the camera a sense of movement as it travels through space.
Now that you understand how to create depth in your frame and the kind of camera movement that compliments this zoom lens cinematography, you can use your drone much like you use a handheld gimbal. You can get close to your subject and do nice rotations around your subject for those nice cinematic moves.
Telephoto focal lengths introduce a phenomenon that we’re not super familiar with as aerial cinematographers and that is shallow depth of field. If your subject is filling the frame somewhat close to the camera, there is a possibility that your background will be out of focus. As a consequence, it’s absolutely essential that you remember to focus the camera. On the Mavic 3 we have two focusing options - autofocus and manual focus.
If you have the camera set to autofocus, when you press record it will set focus automatically but that autofocus is continuous. The occasional issue with this is that it will continuously hunt for focus throughout a shot.
Now that’s fine when you’ve got a wide angle and everything is in focus, but now that you have the possibility of shallow depth of field and certain elements of the frame being in focus and certain elements not, you can’t afford to have the computer in there hunting for focus during a shot. It needs to find a focus point, stick with it, and stay with it.
Because of this, when shooting shallow depth of field shots, it’s recommended to use manual focus. Also, go into your camera settings and select Focus Peaking so when you are focusing manually you’ll have a better sense of where that focus point should be. Now that you have a fixed (and hopefully accurate) focus point, you don’t have to worry about the camera hunting during the shot.
The longer the focal length of the camera on the drone, the harder it is to control the movement of that drone. Longer focal lengths enhance vibrations, jitters, and jerky stick movements. So, switch the controller on to Cine and make sure you’re moving those sticks as smoothly as possible.
Assuming you’re looking for nice image quality then stick with the 7x telephoto lens. That gives tons of lens compression for those rotational, parallax movements. If you go to the digital zooms of 14x or 28x it’s going to be very hard to control the camera and you’re deteriorating the picture quality significantly at zooms that high.
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