The easy way to fake a ground level FPV drone shot with a handheld 360° action camera

May 25, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

The easy way to fake a ground level FPV drone shot with a handheld 360° action camera

May 25, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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With drones becoming more difficult or impossible to fly in a lot of locations around the world without expensive permits and hassle, finding ways to create drone-like shots without the use of an actual drone can be a fun challenge. We’ve seen the basic fake drone shots using a small camera and gimbal on the end of a long pole plenty of times by now, but this technique from Luke Edwin looks pretty cool.

In the video, Luke walks us through how he uses the Insta360 ONE X2 – although, the principle should work with pretty much any 360° action camera – to film and create a sequence that looks like it was shot by a nimble FPV drone. It’s a very cool effect and at first glance, very convincing!

While Luke uses the ONE X2 for this, you could potentially use any 360° camera or any regular action camera with a wide enough angle of view. You could possibly even do this with a mirrorless camera and a 180° fisheye. In Luke’s case, he puts the Insta360 ONE X2 on the end of the invisible selfie stick and then walks it, fairly slowly, through the field. Then, the process in post involves creating some motion keyframes on the footage and rotating the view angle to simulate that wobbly off-angle drone motion we typically see from an FPV drone.  He then renders the footage out twice.

The first rendered copy of the footage uses an extremely wide angle of view, 173°, to make the foreground appear as though it’s moving extremely rapidly past the camera. The only problem with it, is that it makes everything appear to be moving much faster, even trees that are far far away. So, the second rendered copy is rendered out at a more normal 130°. This is still pretty wide, but it’s a more normal level of wide that doesn’t distort the rest of the environment anywhere near as much.

Finally, Luke brings the two clips into Final Cut Pro – this would work in Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve and many other video editing applications, too – and with the two clips laid on top of each other, he masks one out so that we only see the super-wide 173° version on the ground and the 130° version above the horizon line. You will have to animate the mask over the course of the animation and probably blur the edge a tad, but ultimately, it should look pretty good, especially if it’s just a short clip in a longer overall sequence.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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