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Tutorial: Colour Grading Drone Footage Like a Pro

I’ve put together a tutorial on colour grading drone footage from your DJI Phantom 3 and Inspire X3. This tutorial isn’t limited to those drones as you can carry this knowledge across most drones with similar HD cameras. You would see some great results when using the Zenmuse X5 and X5R cameras here. The tutorial covers the basics within the ’Lumetri Colour System’ now built into Adobe Premiere CC. Similar colour grade systems are also available for Final Cut Pro and Davinci Resolve 12, so you can apply similar logic from this tutorial to those applications.

This follows on from my previous video, how to set your video settings for professional results.

Editors Note : Will, the man behind ‘ManAndDrone‘ has created some great guides for flying and filming with drones. We feel they have some invaluable lessons on how to get the most out of your kit. He has kindly let us reproduce versions of them on our blog, this is part two of a series.

Colour Grading Drone Footage : Key points

  • What’s this project for? Is it going to be a marketing video for a business? Or a cinematic masterpiece for YouTube? Vimeo?
  • Correcting any overexposure issues as best we can should be a high priority
  • Correcting any underexposure issues (darker footage)
  • Creating consistent colour grade across our entire sequence
  • To try to keep RGB values as even as we can
  • Subtle adjustments here and there and to not over-complicate things
  • Keeping our filters to a minimum (saves massively on render times)

Colour grading drone footage - getting started

Gradient masks

As stated within the tutorial we can add things like gradient masks to certain parts of our images i.e. the sky. For this we need to allow for more time. It will also help if you have a fast computer. (See Computer Spec Sheet Below). Adding an adjustment layer or rectangle mask to create a warm highlight effect is a good compromise though.

Reducing Noise

For the extra professional and polished look, we can also reduce the amount of video noise we see with Plug-Ins such as “De Noiser II” or “Neat Video” both of which are supported for Premiere and Final Cut. I did not cover this as my system isn’t fast enough and it falls under the intermediate to advanced category so I’d rather have beginners focusing more on getting colours right before thinking about heavy plug-ins. I’ve mentioned the options here for those fortunate enough to have powerful computers to try this out. Both good options with “Neat Video” being the faster of the two.

Colour Correction

Proper colour correction done by professionals can be an art-form. It’s a subjective area for the most part but there are industry standards we should use as our basic guideline. Do try to create your own look if you’re creating something cinematic. Hollywood loves to go through trends such as the “Teal & Blue” look. Jumping on those sort of bandwagons is unoriginal in my opinion.

using presets for Colour Grading Drone Footage

Be creative, Be original. If your look is for something more video like, then I would recommend you just do the basic colour correction and not add anything like the ‘Creative Film Looks’ or LUTS. Keep it simple but effective.

Colour Grading Drone Footage - Final graded image

Editing Software

A number of software companies offer trials of their editing softwares. Below are a few links to some of the most popular packages.

Recommended computer systems for colour grading drone footage in HD / 4K

Below is a recommended Computer System sheet, it shows 3 different levels and what is achievable. I have listed portable solutions too for those that need the best solution whilst working away from home.

Recommended computer systems for Colour Grading Drone Footage HD / 4K

RC Geeks & ManAndDrone

To see more ManAndDrone videos, checkout the ManAndDrone YouTube channel. If you do not currently own a Phantom 3 of Inspire 1 and need some advice on which model would suit your needs, please get in touch with RC Geeks at or by phone at 01737 457404.

Question or comment?