Drone Flights - 7 Stages of Post-Production

If you haven’t read the previous entries of this series, please check out Part 1 and Part 2 to learn about my pre-production and drone flight processes. This week, I’ll be finishing my drone flights blog series by going over my post-production process. These are principles that I’ve learned over the years from film school, companies I’ve worked for, and most importantly, lots of trial and error.


1. Transfer Footage Right Away

  • As soon as I get home, or if I have a computer on-site, I collect all of my Micro SD Cards and prepare to transfer the footage from the cards to an external hard drive. Usually for my drone flights I'll only fill one card, but that doesn't stop me from having an extra card on hand. I learned in film school that the longer you let a card sit in a camera, the greater the chance something will go wrong. I make sure that I have a Micro SD Card adapter both in my bag and at my desk at times for local and remote footage transfers.


2. Utilize a Consistent Filing System

  • The card is in and I’m ready to move the footage onto an external hard drive, but before I even think about copying and pasting the files over I implement my filing system. Lots of editors and filmmakers have different filing systems that work for them as individuals; I’m going to share my system, but it is by no means the textbook way to organize. What matters most is that when you need to find something, you can do so efficiently. The pathway to the file should make sense to you.

  • I have a folder specifically for my drone footage and photos called Drone Flights. Within that are subfolders labeled after specific locations and within those are folders of specific dates of flights. For example, I have a folder for Silver Tree Farms and within it are subfolders of the several flights I’ve conducted there over the past year. The next subfolders within this tree of organization are for photos and videos. The final part is within the photos folder: I create a folder titled Selects where I move my favorite photos from the flight.


3. Uploading to the Editing Software - Routing & Presets

  • I use Adobe Premiere Pro for my editing and will be using its system for the descriptions in this post. First, I create a new project and choose where the project file and scratch disks will be located. I always make sure to keep my project files in a folder located on my computer’s hard drive. This is extremely important because using a project file located on an external hard drive will not utilize the RAM capabilities of your computer and will make the next parts of this process miserably slow and tedious. Scratch disks are routed to a folder on one of my external hard drives specifically titled for the project I’m working on.
  • The next thing I do is set up a proxy system. The video files from my DJI Mavic Pro are typically 4K (which means they’re beefy),  so my computer will be working pretty hard to play them in real time. By creating proxies--lower resolution, smaller files--I’ll be able to edit quickly and not spend half my time playing three seconds of a clip, waiting for it to buffer for another five, then playing it for three seconds, waiting...it’s something that gets old fast, especially when you just want to edit!


4. Uploading to the Editing Software - Bins & Sequences

  • Once this is done and the project has been created, I create a couple different bins. The first bin is titled Footage and will be where I migrate all of the footage. The second bin is titled Audio and will be where any music or sound effects will be placed. The third bin is titled Sequences and will be where I keep all of my sequences for editing.
  • Next, I migrate the footage from the folders on my computer to the footage bin in Premiere Pro. Here’s where the proxy settings will kick in and why I love the Adobe Creative Suite: As soon as footage enters Premiere, Adobe Media Encoder will automatically open and will start creating proxy files of everything being imported.

  • Finally, I create a 4K sequence and label it, O, L, S, which stands for: Organization, Labeling, Selects. Then, I move all of the files from the footage folder to this sequence.


5. Organize, Label, Select

  • Before I move on to this next step I make sure that Media Encoder has finished creating all of the proxy files. For more info on this whole process, I’d recommend this YouTube video on utilizing proxy files in Premiere Pro. I press play and I watch through every clip and do the following: Any time I see a great shot I hit M on my keyboard to mark that point on my timeline; If the clip is one I’ve marked I right click on it to use Premiere Pro’s color labeling system and label it (I like to have a notepad and pencil handy for this part) and I write down a legend to keep track of what color means what.


6. Pulls

  • Once the O, L, S phase is complete I go over to the Project file window in Premiere and I duplicate the O, L, S sequence and name it Pulls. This sequence will be where I draw footage from for my edits and will have the markers and labels to help me determine where everything is. Why not just use the O, L, S sequence you may ask? Remember that bit in the beginning about trial and error? Let’s just say for the small amount of space on my computer it takes to duplicate a sequence will save the immeasurable headaches and frustration I might experience if I don’t.


7. Editing & Exporting

  • This is where I’ll leave things as far as a general post-production overview goes. The previous steps help me get to my editing space where I might do a wide variety of experimenting and exporting. The benefit I’ve found from the consistency of the previous steps is that the editing and exporting is a lot more fun and a whole lot less frustrating and time consuming.

Thank you for reading the final part of my Drone Flights blog series! If you found this helpful or insightful or if you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to reach out to me directly at trailmarkerproductions@gmail.com! Despite the fact that I’ve learned this much, I am always learning new techniques to help make my process even more efficient and my finished products higher quality.