Why Does Drone Footage Stutter?

I’ve been flying drones since I was 21 years old. Like many of you, there have been several instances where my drone clips got spoiled due to stuttering or choppiness.

But things have improved pretty much since I’ve identified why my drone footage stutters and how to fix it. 

Your drone footage may stutter due to frame rate mismatch, GPS signal interference, poor-quality SD card, and poor piloting. 

To fix this stuttering, set your drone & editor to the same frame rate and improve your piloting technique. Don’t forget to buy a fast-speed SD card and avoid GPS interference. 

Continue reading, as I explain these reasons for stuttering drone footage and how to fix it, in detail. Moreover, top preventive measures to avoid stuttering issues in drone footage during flight are also discussed. 

So, it’s time to say goodbye to poor-quality drone videos! 

Why Does My Drone Footage Stutter?

Why Does Drone Footage Stutter

From frame rate mismatch to poor SD card performance, poor flying skills, to environmental factors, let’s understand why your drone footage stutters. 

Frame Rate Mismatch

Frame rate mismatch is probably the most common reason behind stuttering in your drone clips. 

Let me explain in simple terms. 

When you set your drone and video editing software to different frame rates, then it results in a frame rate mismatch. 

Note: 24 FPS, 30 FPS, and 60 FPS are the best frame rates for drone footage. 

Suppose you shot a video at 30 FPS. However, your video editing software is set to 60 FPS. This frame rate mismatch between the two will cause a noticeable stutter in your footage.

As the best practice, make sure to use the same frame rate on both your drone and editor. 

Bitrate and Compression Issues

If you’re sure there’s no frame rate issue, I recommend checking your video’s bitrate and compression settings next. They might be at fault here! 

I still remember how negligible bitrate and compression issues resulted in stuttering drone footage of my friend. He set a low bitrate and applied aggressive compression while recording an aerial shot, thus losing out on crucial details. 

This is something you should avoid at all costs! 

Instead, increase the video bitrate for better data capture and balance the compression settings simultaneously. 

In addition, I also recommend investing in a playback device with the hardware capabilities to handle your drone video’s resolution. It should also cater to the encoding demands for smoother playback. 

SD Card Performance 

Are you using a poor-quality, slow SD card for your drone recordings? Well, it’s another culprit behind stuttering in your videos. 

A drone is known for its high-resolution video recordings. Right? Hence, it needs to write a large amount of data to the SD card, and that too quickly. 

Let’s say your current card has a low write speed. This will put immense pressure on the card, making it struggle to keep pace with the fast data flow. As a result, you’ll notice dropped frames or stuttering in your video clips. 

To avoid SD card-related problems, go for a high-quality card, like this Gigastone 64GB 2-Pack Micro SD Card. I’ve been using it for nearly two years, and there are no complaints. 

Poor Piloting

How you operate your drone is another factor that determines its footage quality. 

Lack of experience in piloting drones leads to shaky recordings, abrupt camera movements, and poor framing.

If this isn’t enough, a lack of understanding of your drone’s controls may worsen the quality of your videos with incorrect exposure, white balance, and focus. 

Thus, avoid taking out your drone without a proper warmup, and before that, familiarize yourself with its controls and their sensitivity. You can even tweak your drone’s controls and sensitivity settings to your liking for better results. 

Remember, practice makes a man perfect. 

Wind and Weather Conditions

It goes without saying that non-ideal weather conditions collectively contribute to inconsistent and jittery drone footage. 

Take the example of strong winds. No matter how well your expensive drone is designed to tackle windy situations, it’ll still face sudden movements or unstable flight.

The same is the case with rain, fog, and snow. They interfere with your drone’s sensors and obstruct the camera, impacting video quality. 

Note: Adverse weather conditions also impact GPS signal interference and drone footage quality. 

This emphasizes the importance of flying your drone in favorable weather conditions for a smooth experience. 

How to Fix Drone Footage Stutter Issues?

Now that you’ve discovered the various drone footage stutter causes, below are some easy and quick workarounds for fixing stutter in drone video. 

Gimbal Calibration 

Start with some gimbal calibration for stabilized drone video. Doing so will ensure enough stability and smoother movements through your drone flight.

To do so, place your drone on a flat surface or a landing pad and initiate the calibration process from its settings. 

Note: Refer to your user manual for the exact calibration steps. 

Use Neutral-Density (ND) Filters

If you don’t have neutral-density (ND) filters, get them today! It’s a colorless or gray filter that attaches to your drone’s camera lens. This is a perfect accessory for shooting on a super sunny day, with a fast shutter speed.

Here’s a brief idea of what a ND filter does: 

It reduces the light entering your drone’s camera lens, allowing you to strike the right balance between the aperture, exposure time, and sensor sensitivity. 

The result? 

You’ll be able to achieve pro-level effects such as a shallower depth of field or motion blur of any subject in all situations and atmospheric conditions.

Adjust Camera Settings

Next, adjusting camera settings for smooth drone footage is another cool workaround requiring little effort or skill. But you’ll need to be patient and check what changing each setting will do to your drone footage. 

Turn Off Video Caching

Video caching is turned ON by default in your drone’s control app. Turning it OFF is highly recommended to smooth out the live feed of your footage since it’ll give you sufficient RAM for real-time videography. 

Improve Your Piloting Skills

Lastly, you can’t expect top-notch drone footage without improving your piloting skills. Below are some tips that can help you here: 

  • Take a training course. For example, you can enroll in Pilot Institute’s Drone Training Program

  • Focus on piloting your drone instead of skipping straight to taking photos with it.
     
  • Watch as many training videos as you can along with the course.  

  • Join a drone club and take tips on mastering the art of flying a drone.
     
  • Master the skill of forming the number ‘8’ in the air while flying your drone, as it helps enhance your skills. 

What Post-Production Techniques Can Be Used to Fix Stuttering in Drone Video?

There are numerous post-production solutions for drone footage stutter. But you need to understand that the type of technique to be used depends upon:

  • Intensity of stuttering. 
  • Type of movement.  
  • Editing software’s capabilities. 
  • Desired output quality. 
  • Your skills. 

This is what I do to address stuttering in my drone clips: 

  • I use frame blending to smooth transitions between frames, minimizing the perception of stuttering. 

  • Optical flow stabilization is my go-to option for that unwanted jerkiness. 

  • Speed adjustment in specific sections is ideal for creating a smoother motion.  

  • Warping or morphing effects can also be used to interpolate between frames and create a smoother visual flow. But doing this requires great skills! 

Lastly, I also use different plugins/tools exclusively designed for stuttering in drone videos, like Warp Stabilizer (for Adobe After Effects/Premiere Pro), Boris FX (for all video editing software), and my favorite, ReelSteady (for Adobe After Effects). 

Are There Preventive Measures to Avoid Stuttering Issues in Drone Footage During Flight?

It’s rightly said that prevention is better than cure. This quote stands true here as well. You can easily avoid stuttering issues in your drone footage during flight. To do so: 

  • Always use a high-quality, fast SD card. 

  • Properly calibrate your gimbal. Here, the Automatic Calibration feature works best! 

  • Refine your piloting skills and practice, practice, and practice. 

  • Avoid shooting in unfavorable weather conditions, like rainfall, strong winds, fog, etc. 

  • Ensure a robust and stable GPS strength.

  • Keep your drone’s firmware updated.
     
  • Avoid frame rate mismatch (MOST IMPORTANT.) 

Conclusion 

I know how bad it feels to see your drone footage develop stuttering issues. After all, it might push your efforts down the drain.

While average piloting skills are to be blamed in most cases, there are several other factors at play here—for example, slow SD card, adverse weather conditions, frame rate mismatch, and GPS interference. 

But you need not worry now! Take advantage of the top fixes discussed in this article and eliminate stuttering/choppiness from your drone clips forever. I’ve also shared some top-rated tips to avoid stuttering issues in your drone footage during flight. 

Do you’ve any more queries regarding these unmanned aerial vehicles? Make sure to drop them in the comments below. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How Does Frame Rate Mismatch Contribute to Stuttering in Drone Video?

A: Let me explain how frame rate mismatch in drone footage results in that stutter/choppiness through an example. 

Suppose you shot your drone video at 30 FPS, but the editing software you imported it into for post-processing is set to 60 FPS.

This frame rate mismatch will likely lead to gaps in the video playback, causing noticeable stuttering or choppiness. 

Q: Can Bitrate and Compression Affect the Smooth Playback of Drone Footage?

A: Yes, bitrate and compression affect the smooth playback of your drone footage. Any imbalance between the two will introduce stuttering issues in your videos.  

Q: What Role Does the SD Card Play in Preventing Stuttering in Drone Video?

A: The SD card plays a significant role in preventing stuttering in your drone videos.

A high-quality SD card like the Gigastone 64GB 2-Pack Micro SD Card can keep up with the high data rates of your aerial footage, cutting out jitteriness. 

Q: Are There Specific Weather Conditions That Can Cause Stuttering in Drone Footage?

A: Yes, there are specific weather conditions that can cause stuttering in drone footage.

These include strong winds, heavy downpours, fog, turbulence, and static electricity. All these are a major driving force of faltering in your videos. 

Q: What Steps Can I Take to Calibrate the Gimbal for a Smoother Drone Video?

A: Follow these steps to calibrate your gimbal for a smoother drone video: go to your drone’s control app, access the gimbal calibration settings, and select the “Automatic Calibration” option. 

By doing so, your drone will itself position the gimbal for the best results.

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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