The equipment needed to work with your drone video can depend on what sort of video you shoot.
In another post, I explain the various factors that make up a digital video file and determine how easy or otherwise it is to work with. Some formats will be fully editable on a smartphone, whilst others will require a high-end computer. For the purposes of this post, I’ll call them Heavy or Light video files, where Light can work on a phone and Heavy requires serious grunt!
Here’s a brief table of commonly available video types, which might be encountered by drone users trying to edit video:
|Codec||Resolutions||Bit Depth||Typical Data Rate||Ideal type of device for editing||Drones which shoot a particular codec|
|H.265||4K, 2.7K, Full HD||10bit or 8bit||Up to 100Mbps||PC or Mac, with a lot of power for 4K especially. Not all editing applications can use this codec, so check the specifics of your chosen app! EG the free version of DaVinci can’t edit H.265, but the paid version can.||Mavic 2, Phantom 4, Inspire 2|
|H.264||4K, 2.7K, Full HD, HD720p||8bit||Up to 100Mbps||Almost anything can cope with the lower resolutions, but 4K may test anything other than a reasonably powered PC or Mac. Smartphones and tablets can usually edit HD H.264 easily.||All DJI, Autel and Parrot drones. Just about every consumer drone, other than the very cheap knock-offs on eBay.|
|Prores||8K, 4K, Full HD, HD720p, SD||14bit to 8bit||Up to nearly 4Gbps||Professional codec for use on a Mac or PC. Surprisingly light and easy in lower resolutions/datarates but extremely Heavy at the top end. The light versions of Prores are used on Macs to act as proxy files for high-end editing on underpowered computers.||Inspire 2|
|DNxHD||8K, 4K, Full HD, HD720p||12bit to 8bit||Up to nearly 4Gbps||Essentially the same as Prores, but used almost exclusively in the Avid professional editing environment. Requires a Mac or PC||Not natively available in any non-professional drones, but used across a number of editing and other post-production applications.|
NB – All of these video types may appear as .MOV files, though both H.265 and H.264 frequently appear as .MP4 files and DNxHD is most commonly in a .MXF file. All these video types can have very high datarates, but I have shown those most typically used for the H.265 and H.264 in drones. Prores and DNxHD, being professional codecs, are only found by consumer enthusiasts in a post-production setting, but are well worth knowing.
So, the kind of video you are intending to use will inform what equipment and software you need to edit and work with it.
For those using the most popular drones, eg DJI Spark, Mavic Air and others which use only H.264, the footage can usually be easily edited on iPads, iPhones and other popular smart devices. There are various apps available on both iOS and Android (including the DJI Go app) which provide a really good user experience and final output, without being very complex. I’ll look at the relative merits of different apps in another post, but the most popular apps for editing on smart devices are iMovie (iOS), Adobe Premiere Rush (iOS), LumaFusion (iOS), FilmoraGo (Android & iOS) Adobe Premiere Clip (Android & iOS). iOS is definitely better served for editing apps than Android!
However, if you want to do more than just very simple editing, you would be well advised to get a computer-based editing app (Non-Linear Editor – NLE). Both PC and Mac have a full array of options, ranging from the most basic (often similar to those found on mobile devices) to the most complex, professional apps.
To be sure you can do everything you want with your video, you will need a high-powered computer, running recent software, but there are workarounds if your hardware isn’t up to spec. In the early days of computer editing only the very top of the range machines could edit the best video (online editing), so a system of editing lower resolution proxy files was used by most editors (offline editing). For the past few years this hasn’t been necessary for most computers and video, as computers have become so much more powerful as standard, but the arrival of 4K has changed this and, especially with codecs like H.265, now proxies are essential again. Basically, what happens is that when you bring high quality 4K into your NLE, you set it to use proxy files and it automatically makes lightweight versions of the heavy files. When you output the final version it outputs as full quality. This slows things down at first and at output, but the editing is easy on system resources and as fast as you need. Other elements to your computer system can help here too, and I’ll talk about them in another post.
So, these are the basic things to think about with regards to your hardware and software, when you are about to start editing drone (or any other) video.
Do ask me specific questions and I’ll try to answer them in my follow-up posts.