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How to Accent Drone Videos with Alpha Channel Stock Footage

Read Time: 3 mins

If you are looking for ways to add that extra edge to drone videos for your clients, consider compositing in subtle stock footage elements with alpha channels. If composited correctly (and within reason) this technique can help accentuate your drone videos.

Which Stock Footage Works Best?

The footage needs to have an alpha channel, which means the background is transparent. Great examples are stock footage shots with birds flying, fog rolling across the scene, and so on. Typically, you will see a checkerboard type pattern on a preview behind the graphics. This indicates that your element has an "alpha" channel.

The next thing to check for is if the graphics ever go out of frame or get cut off at the edge. Ideally, they won’t, and because they don’t, we can scale the footage and place it anywhere in our shot. If a shot does get cut off at the edge, it will be much harder to composite into a shot, because it can’t be resized. 

How to Add Stock Footage to Drone Shots

There are two ways to add the footage to you drone shots. The easiest way is to just drag the clip in and place it on top of your footage. You can do this in Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects. You can then rescale and reposition the elements. This method works better when you are trying to give the illusion the elements, like birds, are far from the camera, and if the drone isn’t moving too fast.

Tracking Footage to a Drone Shot

The other method works best if you want to add more depth to your shot. In After Effects, you will need to track your drone footage using the camera tracker. Then drag in your stock footage element, set it to 3D and reposition it in 3D space. You can also turn on motion blur to enhance the composite even more.

Camera tracking in Adobe After EffectsCamera tracking in Adobe After EffectsCamera tracking in Adobe After Effects

Compositing Tips

Finally, you will want to color correct your stock footage elements to match your drone scene. I recommend utilizing the Lumetri Color effects in Premiere and After Effects for this. Make sure the contrast and color saturations match. I recommend a lower saturation, because a lot of stock elements may be overly saturated when first applied and real world elements typically have a lower saturation. I also recommend applying a subtle blur onto your stock footage elements. This will help blend the element into your drone shot and take away the sharp edges that are common on CGI elements.

Being Subtle is Key

This is a great trick for accenting client videos, and if you are subtle enough, your clients won’t even know the added elements aren’t real. Don’t be afraid to get creative with it though! You can create some really cool combinations by using underwater elements with cloudy aerial footage.

Where to Start Finding Footage?

Videohive has an awesome selection of stock footage with alpha channels and I wanted to list some of my favorite clips serve as a starting point. I also wanted to give a shout out to the Videohive author CGLight, who has an amazing portfolio of alpha channel elements.

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