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Aerial Time Lapse Basics with DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone specific examples

The post Aerial Time Lapse Basics with DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone Specific Examples first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Peter West Carey.

Drones can capture images and images that you may have only dreamed of in the past. Now that possibility is easily extended to time-lapse photography.

I prefer to refer to my drone as a flying camera. Although there is certainly some pleasure to be experienced in the simple joy of flying around and viewing things from above, I mainly use my drone to make images and images with a view to cinematic appeal. Time frames can convey a sense of place that is still missing in images and videos.

The base

This message was written on the basis of experience with the latest model DJI Mavic 2 Pro. Although manufacturers differ in the way they handle time-lapse creation, the tips below are intended to introduce you to what's available. Some tips will be specific to this model, but I will also give more tips for making time-lapse in the air in general.

Some drone manufacturers will compile the time-lapse video for you while others simply record each individual photo so that you can compile the video yourself.

It is important to note that all experiments and exercises must be done in an open space, away from people, buildings, pets and in accordance with all laws and regulations for your location. I practiced the country many times before I was confident that I would lose time on the water with the automatic modes.

Tips before you start

Check the exposure and anticipate

Changing the exposure during a timelapse shoot, both on land and in the air, is often a difficult undertaking. I suggest anticipating your lighting situation at startup and not trying to change the exposure during a timelapse recording if your drone allows it.

It can be difficult to make exposure adjustments depending on your brand of drone (and some do not allow it at all) – it is hard enough to safely fly a drone while shooting. Try not to add too much complexity to that.

Try different interval times and drone speed, 2 seconds is very different from 10 seconds

The speed of your drone, the distance to objects and the length of your interval have a major impact on your time lapse. There is a reason why DJI limits the speed of the drone in certain modes (explained below) to 4.5 MPH. Everything faster than that and the video shows way too much exercise to be tasty.

But if you are flying slowly, an interval of 10 seconds may be ideal to show the movement of slow moving clouds or shadows.

Let me show you the difference between an interval of 2 seconds (at 1.6MPH) and an interval of 5 seconds (at 4.5MPH) while a drone circles me.

It's going to experiment a bit to get it right.

Look at your total time to create

DPS writer, Ryan Chylinski, explains the importance of shoot-length in this useful post. When flying with a drone, it is even more important to ensure that you no longer have empty card space and that you assess the movement of your drone compared to the total time required to shoot your time lapse.

Will you cover too much ground? Is your drone still standing in line (what most countries need as part of the drone flight regulations)? What obstacles can your drone encounter when flying for so long?

Plan ahead to avoid simple mistakes.

Point one way, film another

If you face one direction as you fly, another can offer a dynamic look at your video instead of just flying straight on. You can use a rear-facing drone to get a typical recall shot or deviate slightly from perpendicular to a dolly shot, such as the sunrise below.

Allow yourself time to go home

Do you have enough battery to shoot and return?

This is one of the most important questions you must ask. Some drones will warn you, but some will not.

I had a terrifying experience when I misjudged the distance and the return during a time lapse over water and almost lost my drone (and the environment was polluted). Halfway through the flight, I interrupted the recording and returned the battery with a safe margin, but I lost the recording.

Working height shifts to your scene

Height shifts are similar to a typical slider, but on steroids. You are not limited to the four or ten feet of a ground-based slider, so the changes can be made over a much greater distance. You also don't have to keep moving parallel to the ground all the time.

Here is a simple example of a pullback that drove about 1000ft over land / water while steadily climbing 140 feet in height.

Fly smoothly

The use of a pre-built, computer-controlled mode, such as the ones below, helps to ensure smooth flight and operation. If you control your drone manually while recording a time-lapse, make sure your movements are slow and stable so that your camera can take enough photos for a smooth video.

Here is an example of what happens if I swing down while shooting and then up too quickly.

Result: ruined video. To my taste the pan left and right is too fast.

DJI ' s different methods – What do they mean?

DJI fits all of their time-lapse modes in a section called Hyperlapse. Hyperlapse is just a cool sounding expression, which means that there is a time lapse. The Hyperlapse modes will all record and compile the video for you, usually in 1080p and 25 frames per second. You can also choose to save the individual RAW files if you want to use your own time-lapse software.

Safety note: While the drone uses its side, front, rear, top and bottom sensors to detect objects, it always needs your attention. If it finds an object in its path, it stops photographing. It is very important to retain control of the drone and be ready to intervene. In Course Blocking and Waypoints modes, if you make adjustments to the controls of the drone, it will leave those modes and stop shooting.

Price lock

Course blocking is the mode that I use most often and it is the one I want to start with. This allows you to aim the drone in one direction before the flight and then point the camera in any desired way or choose a subject to follow.

You start by setting the course and then the interval, the video length and the speed. Each item is set by first tapping and then moving the slider accordingly.

Setting the course is as simple as aiming the drone in the direction you want to go and tapping the lock icon next to interval, video length and speed. In this case I pointed the drone directly at the sun. The small picture of a lock means that my corridor is blocked.

Then you want to point the camera of the drone in the direction that you want to film. Then adjust the recording settings.

In this example I left the interval at 2 seconds but set the video length to 15 seconds.

With that change in video length and interval, the app shows me how many pictures are taken and how long the recording takes.

Then I set the speed to 3.4 MPH.

The only thing left is to hit GO and see the scene unfold! (Note, the course block section still shows the intended direction from the drone to the sun.)

Free / Manual

Free mode is uncomplicated and gives you the most control. After you have set the recording interval and video length as you would in Course Blocking mode, you are free to fly in any way. Up, down, backward, forward, left and right.

But be warned: fast course changes or high speeds will ensure that your video is anything but smooth.

You can press the C1 button (at the bottom of the controller) at any time to lock the course and speed.

Since the Free mode can be used while the drone is on the ground, you can even use it as a time-lapse photo camera.


As you saw in the video ' s at the top, choosing your speed and interval is important for the circle mode.

Start by setting the distance to your subject for your drone. Make sure that the circle that your drone in the sky will endorse does not encounter any obstacles. If necessary, adjust the height or distance of your drone to your subject to achieve the desired framing.

Then select Circle mode from the Hyperlapse options.

Now set your interval, video length and speed as described in the course block. Then select the direction that your drone will fly; clockwise or counterclockwise.

Above these settings, the program will tell you how long the recording will take and how many frames are taken. In the example, that is 5 minutes and 48 seconds to create 175 frames.

The most important thing is that you choose your subject! You do this by drawing a box on the screen by pressing and dragging until it highlights your subject.

Press GO and your drone will start clicking and moving. When it's done, you'll see a screen like the drone makes the video (synthesizes in DJI speak).

In the example above you see the path the drone took, which is a very beautiful circle (with my initial flight path to get the drone in place). All Hyperlapse modes require this video to be synthesized and the duration depends on the number of shots. You cannot take photos or videos until the video is complete, but you can fly the drone as usual.


The Waypoints mode is somewhat harder to work than the others, but offers a lot of control and unique results.

After selecting the Waypoints mode, set your interval and video length as the other modes. You then set the waypoints that your drone will fly. You can set a maximum of five route points and a minimum of two.

To do this, scroll to the first waypoint, orient your view as desired, and press the + symbol in the Hyperlapse drawer at the bottom of the screen to lock that waypoint. Continue with this method, fly to each waypoint and press +.

In this example I have set two of my five waypoints and keep adding them until all five have been set. The map on the left shows each waypoint with a number and the direction in which the camera will be.

When you have finished plotting each waypoint, you have the option to fly the waypoints in the specified order or vice versa. If you choose "In Order", the drone will fly itself to the first waypoint and begin. Otherwise, the drone starts at the last selected waypoint and flies backwards (but note the selected camera direction for each waypoint).

While the drone is flying, you see the waypoints on the map, along with a timer that shows how long the drone has flown and the total time it has been flying. In addition, the number of pictures taken is followed by the total pictures to be taken.

More examples

Course lock while perpendicular to the flight path

Lock the course while flying backwards

Course lock while flying backwards with an upward pan in front of clouds



Time Lapse videos ' s of a drone offer a unique and sometimes challenging option. They take the planning not only to look at the subject and the lighting, but also for the safe operation of your drone when taking photos.

Each mode offers different options and it is best to play with them in a safe environment to get the hang of what you can achieve.

Have fun and post some examples while you try this technique. I would like to see them!

The post Aerial Time Lapse Basics with DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone Specific Examples first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Peter West Carey.

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