Do you need a Mavic Pro ND filter? The answer is YES if you plan to shoot video outside in the sun and want to obtain cinematic results you see in movies.
Welcome to the series of basic tips to get smoother video with your Mavic Pro. This tutorial will cover basics around ND filters for your Mavic pro. It will help you to select the right ND filter for a specific lighting. A rule of thumb says that your shutter speed should double the frame rate, meaning shooting at 30fps your shutter speed should be 1/60. If you use a higher shutter speed like 1/200 the footage will look harsh and very sharp and your brain will tell you this looks wrong. Using 1/60 you will get motion blur, that will smooth out the footage and make look a lot more cinematic.
Normal camera, you have both ISO, shutter speed and aperture to play around with. With Mavic, we can not control the aperture or the amount of light that goes through the lens. With a fixed shutter speed of 1/60, ISO is the only handle left to adjust the scene. Cranking the ISO up will only make the image brighter, so the only option is to leave it at the lowest setting at 100.
So what do we do, we add a pair of sunglasses. Like me I can’t see anything in the sun without sunglasses, this is the same for Mavic with the lack of aperture control. The solution is ND or Neutral Density filters, that like the sunglasses reduces the light intake. The ND filters are labels 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 etc. where a higher number equals less light to the sensor. In this tutorial, I will be using the kit from RC Taco. This kit came with a UV filter, and ND 4, 8, 16 and 32. The UV filter does not do much to your footage but it can be used as protection against scratches on your lens.
I found the best results is obtained by recording in 2.7K in NTSC 30 fps with the color profile set to d-Cinelike or d-Log. The camera switched to manual with the shutter set to 1/60 and ISO to 100. Remember to set the white balance to match the scene. You want to keep it away from auto as this can lead to variations in white balance. In the following example, you can see how it looks with the Taco filters mounted out of the box. This is a nice early spring morning where the sun is not on its full potential.
How do you select the right Mavic Pro ND filter for a given scene?
If you remember we need to have a shutter speed of 1/60, and ISO 100, and we want the picture to be exposed correctly or slightly underexposed. Mount the filter that you think will do the job like 8 or 16 as a starting point. Point the Mavic in the direction of the scene you want to record, then fire up the system. Once you see the picture you will see the on exposure compensation value if the picture is exposed correctly. You can enhance this value by the dial on the right side of the remote until it’s zero. Look at these examples for ND8 and 16
If the scene is too dark, the camera will adjust the shutter speed to a lower value. You should switch to a filter with a lower ND value. If the scene is too bright, like if you have not filter on, you can adjust the exposure value within the range you need to mount a darker ND filter with a higher number. In case you exactly can’t hit zero, you should select a filter that will get you within +/-0.7, but rather darker than lighter to preserve as much details in the picture as possible for your post production.
Then you are ready to go and make some great footage.
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