Titling and Motion Tracking Drone Footage with Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects

This video I recently shot in Zilker Park in Austin, Texas was my first attempt at motion tracking and adding titles to aerial footage.  I used my DJI Phantom 2 with a gimbal-mounted GoPro Hero 4 to capture all the footage.  It was a fun project to work on but not without its challenges! I will attempt to break down the process a bit (oh and this is my first blog post so please bear with me). 🙂

First you’ll want to import your footage into your preferred non-linear editing platform – I happen to usePremiere Pro as part of the Adobe CC 2014 Suite. The footage I shot for this piece was at 2.7K and 48fps – I chose not to shoot at 4K because I don’t really feel it’s necessary for my audience as it’s mostly for the web and my machine is ‘pre-4K’ configured and about 4 years old (I’m working on a new build).

My master sequence is set to 1080p and 24fps. When I first drop my clips to the timeline a dialog box appears asking to conform the clip to the timeline (ie resizing and changing the frame rate) but I do not. I like the flexibility of 2.7k footage and being able to position, crop and scale it in a 1080p frame. I also like the cinematic feel of dropping 48fps footage onto a 24fps timeline…it just seems like it’s the perfect speed for aerial footage.

Once you’ve identified the clip you want to add titles to, you’ll right click and select ‘Replace with After Effects Composition’ and see that After Effects drops the clip into a new comp. At this point I grab the Text tool and type a title onto the footage. I then go to Animation>Track Motion and it brings up a diaglog box with a bunch of options. I select ‘Track Motion’ and my source and the checkboxes for position and scale (may or may not need rotation).  As you look at the comp you’ll see two boxes, one for position and one for scale (there will only be one box if you just select position). Position the first box by clicking and dragging to an area of the footage where there is good contrast and in the approximate location of where you want your title to be. You’ll want to spread the second box horizontally along the same plane as this helps to determine the scale as the camera moves through Z space. Once you’ve done this you can select your text layer in the ‘Edit Target’ menu as this applies all the position, scale and rotation keyframe values to your text layer. Hit the Play button and AE will start to analyze the footage and create the relevant keyframes. You may need to do this a couple of times depending on how accurate the motion tracking was done. I find that by enlarging the tracking boxes by about 25-50% I get a better analysis of the motion. Once you’ve done that it’s as simple as clicking the ‘Apply’ button and you should have a motion-tracked title! Since the keyframes generated from the motion track of the footage are applied directly to the text layer, if you find that the text is off center you can simply adjust the anchor point to place it where it sits better on the footage. If you’re happy with your result, save the AE file and go back to Premiere for some cool titles.

I really enjoyed this project and have been inspired to incorporate some Cinema 4D 3D titles next. I’m glad that AE and C4D work well together…it should be fairly easy! Stay tuned for that post.

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