Ever since drone technology became available to everyone, perhaps no industry saw a greater impact than aerial photography. By controlling a high-definition, gimbal-stabilized camera in the air, people could now capture landscapes, cities, and subjects like never before. Among the technologies that have helped creators to shoot professionally, ActiveTrack may have proved the most useful and important.
If you have never heard of ActiveTrack before, haven’t tried it yet, or aren’t sure how best to use it when filming with your DJI drone, learn right now!
What is ActiveTrack?
The ActiveTrack function debuted with the Phantom 4 in March 2016, giving aerial photographers an easier, safer way to achieve a cinematic shot while flying. When enabled, ActiveTrack follows a chosen subject throughout the shot, whether they are walking along a trail, driving a car, or even swimming in the ocean! While intelligently tracking the subject, the drone will use its vision and sensing systems to maintain safe flight, letting users focus more on getting the right shot. With the power to fly and film like an experienced photographer, it’s no wonder that ActiveTrack has become a mainstay for every drone that came after the Phantom 4!
Enabling and Using ActiveTrack
Before we get into how to use this powerful function, let’s go over a quick review of which DJI products feature ActiveTrack. They are:
- Mavic 2
- Inspire 2
- Phantom 4
- Phantom 4 Advanced
- Phantom 4 Pro
- Mavic Pro
- Mavic Pro Platinum
- Mavic Pro Alpine White
In addition to these drones, ActiveTrack is also a useful tool available on the Osmo series handheld gimbals. Check out this article on the Osmo Mobile to see how ActiveTrack makes shooting smooth handheld footage a cinch.
How AcitveTrack works
Let’s take a look at how AcitveTrack works. Because this feature needs a strong GPS signal and use of the drone’s vision systems, it’s only available when you enable P-mode (Positioning mode). Make sure your drone is set to P-mode so you can use ActiveTrack.
Once you’re in ActiveTrack mode, go ahead and tap or draw a box around the subject onscreen while using DJI GO 4. A helpful tip for drawing a box: try your best to include the whole subject within the box, while keeping out as much of the background as possible. This will help maintain the most accurate tracking of your subject.
Three Options for using ActiveTrack
One your subject is selected and recognized, you can begin using the powerful feature for making creative, cinematic footage. Keep in mind that you have different options for using ActiveTrack.
The aircraft tracks the subject at a constant distance. You can use the Roll stick on your remote controller or onscreen slider in DJI GO 4 to fly around your subject in a circle.
The aircraft tracks the subject at constant angle and distance from the side. Like Trace, you can use the Roll stick on your remote controller to fly around your subject in a circle. Also, while the Phantom 4 series and Mavic Pro series can avoid obstacles while flying in Profile mode, Spark cannot.
The aircraft will not trace a subject automatically, but it keeps the camera pointing at the subject during flight. The remote controller can be used to maneuver the aircraft, but yaw will be disabled. Using the left stick and gimbal dial will adjust subject framing.
|Mavic Pro/Platinum/Alphine White||√||√||√|
|Phantom 4 Pro/Advanced||√||√||√|
▲ Availability of Products
Best Uses of Active Track
Now that we have the basics down, let’s start filming! The usefulness of ActiveTrack can’t be over-emphasized because users have been finding new ways to capture different kinds of footage in new ways. If you’re looking for some ideas, take a look at a few recommendations for using ActiveTrack on your next flight.
Of course, you can get going with filming your friends, but with a powerful drone, why not think bigger? In fact, get in a car and let your drone follow your car! This will give you perfect road trip footage to show that adventure isn’t just about the destination, but the journey as well.
Better yet, get out in the open water! Just like road vehicles, a drone can follow and fly around boats, yachts, and other types of watercraft, letting you get the perfect shot of your vacation at sea level. (Read the How to Fly Safely Over Water)
You can also make a moving shot of unmovable objects. If you encounter some amazing historical sites or breathtaking piece of architecture, why not get the perfect view of it? Using ActiveTrack will help you create smooth, consistent, pro-level footage while you fly around the building.
It’s time to get active! It’s amazing to think that a drone can keep a subject in the center of the frame without having to wear some kind of tracking device, and this lets you open the possibilities to whatever you can imagine. Take your next jog, hike, or even swim to a new level with ActiveTrack filming you every step of the way. Even if your subject is speeding through the open road on a bike or riding through a huge wave on a surfboard, ActiveTrack will recognize and keep up to give you an action shot all your friends and social media fans will love!
Tell Your Story
Of course, the real power in fantastic footage is capturing the moment and everything that goes into it. Doing so will tell a kind of story that needs no words. Find uncommon, secluded locations and fly around your subject to film them from an epic perspective.
Instead of going big, you can also keep the shot more up close and intimate, filming your subject in their natural element, doing what they love best.
Things to Keep in Mind
Before you step out and use ActiveTrack to make your next great video, it’s worth considering a few tips to make sure your flight not only goes smoothly but is also safe.
Remember, ActiveTrack only works in P-mode, which is considerably slower than Sport mode. For example, the Mavic Pro can reach 40 mph in S mode but is limited to 22 mph in P-mode. Make sure that the subject you want to keep up with is moving within the drone’s P-mode speed.
The way ActiveTrack is able to identify and follow its subject is by color contrast between the subject and background. This means that the greater the color difference, the better ActiveTrack performs. Make sure that your subject is wearing clothing that helps them stick out of the environment. For example, if your friend is snowboarding, a red outfit will do much better than a white one.
If your subject gets out of view during filming, such as enters a tunnel or group of trees, your drone will do its best to relocate the subject when they pop back into view. However, if the subject is out of site for too long, the drone could “lose” sight of it. If this happens, re-select the subject to resume tracking.
While there are always questions with any drone feature, people ask the following questions more often than others. To help, let’s clear these up!
“If my subject totally disappears, what will happen?”
Ahh, the ol’ vanishing friend trick! In some situations, a subject actually does “disappear,” at least to your drone. The most common instance of this is if your subject is in the water and suddenly dives down, out of view. If this happens, the drone will stop, hover, and try to relocate the subject. At some point, your swimmer is going to want to come up for air, and your drone will resume tracking. But what if the subject resurfaces out of frame? At this point, you can regain control of the drone to fly around and find the subject. Worst-case, the drone will hover until low-batter RTH is triggered.
“What if I lose connection with the drone during ActiveTrack?”
If your drone is following the subject and you suddenly get disconnected, a worry is that the drone will then just keep following, following, and following on its own, until it flies into an obstacle or its battery dies. Luckily for you, ActiveTrack was designed with situations like this in mind. The moment it loses connection, the drone will initiate RTH, flying along the outgoing flight path to ensure safety.
Take Off and Get Active
We hope that this article helped you to not only understand the magic behind ActiveTrack but also made you confident in using it yourself. So show us what you got and film the kind of footage you can create with this increased freedom!
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