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Panning and Tracking: Mastering Smooth Motion in Drone Footage

by Anshika Malik 22 Jan 2024


In the fast-evolving realm of videography, drone footage has become a game-changer, offering stunning perspectives and captivating visuals. However, capturing breathtaking aerial shots isn't just about soaring into the sky; it's about mastering the art of smooth motion. In this guide, we'll delve into the world of panning and tracking, two indispensable techniques for achieving cinematic excellence in your drone footage.

I. Understanding the Basics of Drone Panning:

Panning is a fundamental cinematographic technique that involves horizontally moving the camera to capture a sweeping view. When it comes to drone footage, mastering the art of panning can elevate your videos to a whole new level.

A. Choosing the Right Settings:

To achieve smooth panning shots, start by selecting the appropriate settings on your drone. Ensure your frame rate is set to a standard cinematic value, like 24 or 30 frames per second (fps), and opt for a slow shutter speed to create a more natural motion blur.

B. Practise Smooth Joystick Movements:

The key to seamless panning lies in your control over the drone's movements. Practise smooth and controlled joystick movements to avoid jerky motions. Gradual, steady adjustments to the yaw axis will result in a polished and professional look.

C. Utilise Intelligent Flight Modes:

Many drones come equipped with intelligent flight modes designed to assist with specific manoeuvres. Explore options like "Cinematic Mode" or "Tripod Mode," which are tailor-made for smooth and slow movements, enhancing your panning capabilities.

II. Mastering Tracking for Dynamic Footage:

Tracking involves following a subject's movement, ensuring it stays centred within the frame. This technique adds dynamism to your footage and is particularly useful when capturing moving objects or creating dynamic scenes.

A. Enable Active Track Features:

Most modern drones feature advanced technologies like Active Track, allowing the drone to autonomously follow and track a subject. Utilise this feature to effortlessly capture moving objects while maintaining a smooth and consistent distance.

B. Set Waypoints for Precision:

For controlled and precise tracking shots, consider setting waypoints using your drone's GPS capabilities. This enables the drone to follow a predetermined path, freeing you to focus on framing and creativity.

C. Perfect Your Gimbal Control:

The gimbal is a critical component in achieving stable and steady footage. Practice controlling the gimbal's pitch to keep your subject in the centre of the frame. Experiment with different angles to add depth and creativity to your shots.

III. Tips for Combining Panning and Tracking:

To truly master smooth motion in drone footage, it's essential to seamlessly integrate panning and tracking techniques. Here are some tips to help you achieve a harmonious blend of both:

A. Plan Your Shots:

Before taking flight, plan your shots and envision how panning and tracking can work together to tell a compelling visual story. Knowing your intended movements in advance allows for smoother execution during the actual shoot.

B. Utilize LUTs in Post-Production:

Color grading plays a significant role in enhancing the overall cinematic appeal of your footage. Experiment with Look-Up Tables (LUTs) in post-production to achieve a polished and cohesive look that complements the smooth motions captured during the shoot.

C. Invest in Quality ND Filters:

Neutral Density (ND) filters are essential accessories for drone videography. These filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera, allowing you to maintain a slower shutter speed in bright conditions. This not only enhances motion blur but also contributes to smoother footage.


Mastering smooth motion in drone footage through panning and tracking is an art that requires practice, patience, and a keen eye for creativity. Whether you're capturing vast landscapes or dynamic action sequences, these techniques can transform your aerial videography into a cinematic masterpiece. Embrace the power of controlled movements, leverage intelligent flight modes, and experiment with post-production enhancements to elevate your drone footage to new heights. With dedication and skill, you'll be well on your way to creating captivating visuals that leave a lasting impression on your audience.

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