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How to Make Smooth Drone Video in Adobe After Effects

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It is common for drone video to be a little less than stable, especially as we track a subject in a shot. Lucky, we can fix this problem in post with scale and position techniques in Adobe After Effects. That's what you'll learn in this tutorial. Make sure to download the 4K example clip included in the project file so you can follow along!

1. Use the Stabilize Motion Effect

To start we are going to use the Stabilize Motion effect on our footage. (Stabilize Motion is located in the Tracker window in After Effects. If you do not see it, go to Window>Tracker to make it appear.) Next, position the Track Point on the subject you would like to track. (In our case it is the boat on the example clip.)

The bigger your tracking area is, the longer the track will take in After Effects. Under options for the Tracker Effect, make sure to select Luminance for the Channel. All of the other options you can leave at the default values. Now click the play button to begin the track.
Tracker plug in

After the track finishes, you can re-position the boat to the center of the shot

2. Resize the Footage Comp

Now you may notice some black areas on your footage where the footage is moving outside of the frame. Luckly for us we are using 4K footage, which is common for drones. What we can do now is resize the footage composition down to 1080p resolution. Right-click in the grey area next to your footage and select Composition Settings. Adjust the height and width of the comp to 1920 x 1080.

Composition settingsComposition settingsComposition settings

Now the black areas around your shot should be gone (because they were cropped out of the shot.) You can level the horizion line of your shot if you need to by selecting your footage and adjusting the rotation. (Press 'R' on the keyboard for this shortcut.)

3. Engage the Warp Stabilizer

Alternatively, if your shot you are trying to stabilize is moving forward (and may have 'jello warping' artifacts on the footage) you can use the Warp Stabilizer option in the Tracker window. You will need to tweak the settings to work with your specific shot, and this setting will take some time to analyze on your footage, but it can give you good results you wouldn't be able to achieve otherwise.

Bonus Tip

Obviously to follow along with this tutorial you are already using Adobe After Effects, and likely have quite a bit of drone footage to manage. I highly recommend staying organized using Layer Manager 3 from VideoHive. It is an easy to use After Effects script I use all of the time and allows you to manage your layers in the timeline and viewport. This will save you a lot of time over the course of a drone video project! Also check out the tutorial for Layer Manager 3 right here on Envato Tuts+!

Mentioned in this tutorial

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