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Mavic Air 2 - Disappointing Video Quality During Panning

BeeSevenThree

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Dear Forum Members,

I've been using my Mavic Air 2 for about a year now, and while I find the still image quality that it produces fantastic, the video quality seems to be very unstable in pan shots, dolly shots or anything involving lateral (I mean left/right) movement of the camera across a scene.

From day one I have been disappointed by the "juddery" (or perhaps "stuttery" would be the word) quality of the video when the drone is rotated in yaw, whereas movement in any other axis (i.e. roll or pitch) seems absolutely fine.

Thinking that I must be doing something wrong, I have spent many months researching other people's experiences with this quality of drone.

To cut a long story short, nothing I have discovered in terms of frame rate, shutter speed, gimbal settings, panning speed, SD card selection, etc, etc, has solved the problem for me.

Since I don't know where to turn next, I'd appreciate forum members views on the linked two clips on Dropbox - one a simple pan left across rooftops, the other a pan right.

I find the "judderiness" (if that's even a word) of these clips quite objectionable, but I would very much value your opinion.

Bottom line: would you expect to achieve a more stable video during panning on the Mavic Air 2, or am I expecting too much from what is, of course, a consumer-quality product?

Thank you in advance for your opinion on these clips, and any hints you may have on how to achieve smooth, professional pan shots.

Best Regards,

Jon

Pan Left HD 1080p 25fps 1/50th sec

Pan Right HD 1080p 25fps 1/50th sec

For reference, the parameters relating to these two clips, shot in pro mode (full manual), using Tripod gimbal settings, are as follows:

HD 1080p, 25fps, 1/50th sec, 5700K, H.264, MOV, ND16 Filter used to achieve desired shutter speed and achieving approx -0.7 EV.

Mavic Air 2
Firmware 01.01.0920

RC231
Firmware 04.11.0034

DJI Fly App
1.6.9

iPhone 12
iOS 15.5

Micro SD Card
128GB SanDisk Extreme Pro

Files transferred to Dropbox direct from SD Card removed from drone and mounted on an iMac.
 
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Dear Forum Members,

I've been using my Mavic Air 2 for about a year now, and while I find the still image quality that it produces fantastic, the video quality seems to be very unstable in pan shots, dolly shots or anything involving lateral (I mean left/right) movement of the camera across a scene.

From day one I have been disappointed by the "juddery" (or perhaps "stuttery" would be the word) quality of the video when the drone is rotated in yaw, whereas movement in any other axis (i.e. roll or pitch) seems absolutely fine.

Thinking that I must be doing something wrong, I have spent many months researching other people's experiences with this quality of drone.

To cut a long story short, nothing I have discovered in terms of frame rate, shutter speed, gimbal settings, panning speed, SD card selection, etc, etc, has solved the problem for me.

Since I don't know where to turn next, I'd appreciate forum members views on the linked two clips on Dropbox - one a simple pan left across rooftops, the other a pan right.

I find the "judderiness" (if that's even a word) of these clips quite objectionable, but I would very much value your opinion.

Bottom line: would you expect to achieve a more stable video during panning on the Mavic Air 2, or am I expecting too much from what is, of course, a consumer-quality product?

Thank you in advance for your opinion on these clips, and any hints you may have on how to achieve smooth, professional pan shots.

Best Regards,

Jon

Pan Left HD 1080p 25fps 1/50th sec

Pan Right HD 1080p 25fps 1/50th sec

For reference, the parameters relating to these two clips, shot in pro mode (full manual), using Tripod gimbal settings, are as follows:

HD 1080p, 25fps, 1/50th sec, 5700K, H.264, MOV, ND16 Filter used to achieve desired shutter speed and achieving approx -0.7 EV.

Mavic Air 2
Firmware 01.01.0920

RC231
Firmware 04.11.0034

DJI Fly App
1.6.9

iPhone 12
iOS 15.5

Micro SD Card
128GB SanDisk Extreme Pro

Files transferred to Dropbox direct from SD Card removed from drone and mounted on an iMac.
I will be watching this one. My Mini 2 is similar. Phantom 3A no problem at all.
 
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Panning is always problematic for cameras, some more than others, especially with objects in the foreground. @slup sent this link to me a while back that explains a lot of it. FWIW, I didn't think it juddered too bad, I've definitely seen much worse. I've even seen it occur in professionally shot video, I think the key is to keep those shots to a short duration.
 
Thanks, Crash, for the comparison notes on the Mini 2 and the Phantom 3A - interesting.

And thanks, Marc, for the thoughts on the clip and the very helpful link to the Red website - I'm taking a look at this. I guess you're right - trying to make a convincing 30 second pan with this level of equipment is always going to be problematic.

Great input - appreciate it.
 
I didn't see a problem with either. Is the online file exactly the one you uploaded or was some compression done. You could try panning/rotation at 1 degree per second and increase until you find out it is too fast. On the other hand it may be that the drone can't manage smooth micro rotation seed an positional stability.
 
Conventional wisdom with 24 fps film cameras was to allow at least five seconds for a object to cross the frame when panning if you want to avoid strobing. With faster frame rates, you can pan faster.

Strobing is accentuated by short shutter speeds, hence all the chatter about the necessity of ND filters.
 
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Thanks very much for the responses, FLDave and Lister.

Yes, the online file was uploaded direct to Dropbox, with no compression applied. The ND filter was used on this occasion in order to stop down the exposure enough to use a shutter speed of 1/50th sec, which I understand is the optimum shutter speed for a frame rate of 25fps.

I hear what you say...I've read a lot about panning speed. The pan duration of these clips is about 10 seconds across the field of view by my reckoning, but I'll try some tests rotating even more slowly.

Appreciate your time and thoughts.
 
Optimum shutter speed are only an opinion and what works for you may be different. A slow shutter speed will create blur but do you want blur or sharp images. Do what works for your own pictures. If shutter speed is to slow for nice steady pictures you could increase shutter speed and/or frame rate. Just experiment and do what works for you, not someone else. 25 fps is quite slow, in my opinion. What is the best frame rate for your eyes with movement?
 
25 is a PAL standard for Europe and some other parts of the world. 24/25 fps is considered Cinematic for natural motion blur much as our eyes see. 30fps gives that "video" quality that tends to strobe some faster motion. the higher frame rates like 50/60 can be used on a 24/25 fps timeline to help smooth that strobing effect somewhat but is mostly used for slow motion. Bigger sensors with bigger pixel size always look better in these scenarios especially with a higher dynamic range and less in camera sharpening. Just my 2 cents worth...
 
I realize 25 fps is standard, but that doesn't mean it's right for every video. I believe motion blur is added to low frame rates to compensate for the slow frame rate, not that blurring images is really good for image quality; it's just a work-around for low frame rate.
 
I've noticed something similar with my MA2 but to be honest, I try to avoid panning in my drone videos. Personally, when you pan with a drone it feels less cinematic and more like security camera footage to me. This was feedback I got on one of my first drone videos and it always stuck with me.
 
Thanks for all the thoughts. I've generally stuck with 25fps recording matched to a 25fps editing timeline for PAL delivery in Europe, but over the months I've tried other frame rates up to and including 4K 60fps - this didn't seem to make much difference in terms of perceived stutter during yaw manoeuvres. I'll give it another go using a range of different shutter speeds and report back. Perhaps there's a magic combination that I haven't yet tried - but I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that you get what you pay for with the Mavic Air 2's combination of sensor and video processing. So maybe RedHawk's advice above is spot on!

However, I'd love to know if the Mavic Air 2S with its larger 1" sensor is significantly better in this regard. Anyone ever owned both or done a subjective comparison?
 
So after a lot more testing, and in case it may help someone, sometime...

I recorded around 30 passes of the same scene using different frame rates and shutter speeds; frame rates from 24fps to 60fps, and shutter speeds from 1 x frame rate to 4 x frame rate.

To cut a very long story short, I have found a sweet spot at 50fps and 1/50th second.

To my eyes, this looks a lot smoother when played back on an iMac using QT Player or IINA and on a 4K PAL television.

This does rather fly in the face of conventional wisdom though, since every article I have ever read on the subject suggests using a shutter speed of twice the frame rate (which would be 1/100th sec in this instance). So I guess this leads me right back to FLDave's comments on 29 July i.e. use the settings that look right to you!

It's subjective, I know, but the link below is the smoothest pan I have been able to achieve using the MA2 so far.

Pan Left 1080p 50fps 1/50th sec
 
Good approach to analysis. I suppose the slow to a little faster panning was intentional to see if there were differences. Going to a higher yet panning speed would likely increases differences in the other variables to help show the real differences to frame rates and shutter speed. It's is complex and variable subject. In the end it's what works best for you, your viewing devices, your audience, and what devices your audience is using.
Your video is less than 1080p so it doesn't show much for resolution on my 1080p display.
I prefer 4K to view on my 4K TV. Using the highest resolution possible will show the most differences in test parameters
 
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Looks much better, amazing how something that looks fine to one, can be so bad to another!
 
Dear Forum Members,

I've been using my Mavic Air 2 for about a year now, and while I find the still image quality that it produces fantastic, the video quality seems to be very unstable in pan shots, dolly shots or anything involving lateral (I mean left/right) movement of the camera across a scene.

From day one I have been disappointed by the "juddery" (or perhaps "stuttery" would be the word) quality of the video when the drone is rotated in yaw, whereas movement in any other axis (i.e. roll or pitch) seems absolutely fine.

Thinking that I must be doing something wrong, I have spent many months researching other people's experiences with this quality of drone.

To cut a long story short, nothing I have discovered in terms of frame rate, shutter speed, gimbal settings, panning speed, SD card selection, etc, etc, has solved the problem for me.

Since I don't know where to turn next, I'd appreciate forum members views on the linked two clips on Dropbox - one a simple pan left across rooftops, the other a pan right.

I find the "judderiness" (if that's even a word) of these clips quite objectionable, but I would very much value your opinion.

Bottom line: would you expect to achieve a more stable video during panning on the Mavic Air 2, or am I expecting too much from what is, of course, a consumer-quality product?

Thank you in advance for your opinion on these clips, and any hints you may have on how to achieve smooth, professional pan shots.

Best Regards,

Jon

Pan Left HD 1080p 25fps 1/50th sec

Pan Right HD 1080p 25fps 1/50th sec

For reference, the parameters relating to these two clips, shot in pro mode (full manual), using Tripod gimbal settings, are as follows:

HD 1080p, 25fps, 1/50th sec, 5700K, H.264, MOV, ND16 Filter used to achieve desired shutter speed and achieving approx -0.7 EV.

Mavic Air 2
Firmware 01.01.0920

RC231
Firmware 04.11.0034

DJI Fly App
1.6.9

iPhone 12
iOS 15.5

Micro SD Card
128GB SanDisk Extreme Pro

Files transferred to Dropbox direct from SD Card removed from drone and mounted on an iMac.
 
I have flown my MA2 for about a year and a half. Journey and I have captured some absolutely phenomenal images and have been able to share some magnificent video of this planet.... from high above all the ********.


As of the past month or two I have started to experience terrible gimbal Shake. Especially at high speeds or in high winds...... and I got the very first "gimbal motor overload" warning yesterday.


Never crashed. Never dropped.

What gives?!


Oh yeah....

Let's see some screenshots! How many miles have you guys logged so far?!?!
 

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There is no Judder.

Wait WUT?


When playing these files on the web browser, yes they do indeed Judder.

And in fact Judder a bit using QuickTime Player on macOS... At least until it's fully cashed, which is a first clue. The material is encoded at high profile 4.1, if it's taking to long for software to properly decode a frame, it will cause a jump or skip.

But...
So when playing them on professional editng apps like Davinci I'm not seeing Judder. Also, VLC seems OK to play them back without Judder.

I've got questions about the computer that you're playing these back on, what app you're playing them back with and so forth.

What's going on?
These are slow continuous speed moves, as a result when you're watching it you'll become adapted to the speed and any dropped frame at all will become very noticeable, as well your computer playing it back at slightly the wrong rate and not being quite aligned with your screen refresh rate.

Whereas you may not notice the occasional dropped frame on video that does not have a slow continuous speed that would really exacerbate this.

And in fact even the contrast on your monitor plays a factor here.

HD, High contrast vertical lines, & pan speed
ALSO, the imagery has a lot of high contrast vertical lines, and everything's in focus from close to far.

So then a second largely psychophysical aspect of perception of judder is how far each high contrast vertical line moves from one frame to the next.

One of the things that can cause gutter or less than purely smooth playback is essentially motion aliasing where a sharp vertical line is right on a pixel in one frame but between pixels in the next frame.

The air 2 has a 4K camera, but you shot in regular HD. I'm not sure how DJI is doing that down convert, but best practice is usually to shoot at 4K and down-convert later in post. In post you can then filter certain specific spatial frequencies so that you don't have a regular pulse effect happening due to aliasing across pixels.


....To cut a very long story short, I have found a sweet spot at 50fps and 1/50th second. This does rather fly in the face of conventional wisdom though.....

Not that much in the face of conventional wisdom, but there's more to the story that doesn't get told very often.

I work in Hollywood, and I've been working in Hollywood since before computers could display an image.

Traditional film camera have what's known as a 180° shutter. So if filming at 24 frames per second, shutters open for 1/48 of a second and then closed for 1/48 the second while the pulldown claw pulls the film into position for the next frame. Some film cameras from Panavision had shutters that could be increase a bit to 200°, but there was a limit because the physical film had to be moved into position while the shut it was closed.

Traditional video, as in before HD, did not have mechanical shutters, and were essentially always 360° shutters, since they were interlaced they were effectively 360° shutters at 60 for NTSC or 50 for PAL.

Digital HD allowed for the development of progressive frame cameras, and that allowed for effective shutter angles up to very close to 360°.

Shutter angles greater than 180° can be useful in some situations, but really long shutters can also lead to kind of a weird smeary video look, particularly with fast motion. Michael Mann used 360° shutters in some of the digital films and he shot such as Collateral and Miami Vice.

Going the other direction, the Normandy landing scene in Saving Private Ryan was shot with a 45° shutter to give it that very "strobed" look.
 
25 is a PAL standard for Europe and some other parts of the world. 24/25 fps is considered Cinematic for natural motion blur much as our eyes see. 30fps gives that "video" quality that tends to strobe some faster motion. the higher frame rates like 50/60 can be used on a 24/25 fps timeline to help smooth that strobing effect somewhat but is mostly used for slow motion.

HISTORY

Video

PAL
/SECAM/NTSC were all analogue formats that were interlaced such that the temporal (motion) frame rate was twice that of the resolution frame rate. This was done to illuminate the flicker that would have occured if a progressive scan frame rate of 25 or 30 was used.

PAL/SECAM was 25i, interlaced, so when shooting in PAL video, it was "effectively" 50 frames per second because each interlaced field (i.e. subframe) was temporally displaced. Similarly for NTSC, 30i is interlaced, so it was effectively 60 frames per second, where each of the 60 frames was at half the vertical resolution as the previous frame, with the scanlines interlaced.

But when shooting on video for either PAL or NTSC, each field was later in time and therefore later with motion, which means that there were 60 unique motions per second.

Video as shot on either PAL and NTSC has that "video-y look", because of a number of factors including the high frame rate, the nature of decay on different types of camera tubes or (later) solid state devices which affectively meant that the brighter something was the greater amount of motion blur would be seen, the fact that video has a different exposure curve to film negative, not to mention limited dynamic range.

HD
Digital HD brought with it the ability to use a progressive frame that was not interlaced, allowing frame rates 24, 25, 30, 50, 60 and the other variants like 29.97

Film
Since the advent of sound in movies, feature films for theatrical presentation have been shot at 24 frames per second with very rare exceptions. When viewing in the theater most projectors have a three bladed shutter so that one frame is flashed onto the screen two or three times. During one of the shut periods the film is pulled down to the next frame.

Therefore, in a theater, film strobes at 48 or 72 flashes per second, but motion and resolution are at 24fps. The strobing at 72 Hz reduces the flicker that would happen otherwise.

FilmLook
The "look of film" is attributable to a frame rate which is high enough to show relatively smooth motion but low enough that it's not "real" looking. Research by Douglas Trumbull when he was developing Showscan in the 1980s, he hooked people up to EEG's and showed them samples of film shot and projected at different frame rates. The discovery was that different parts of the brain become active based on the frame rate.

Showscan was a 70 mm film that was shot and projected at 60 frames per second. And it looks so real it could be indistinguishable from people standing on the stage as an example, and almost 3-D look without having to wear 3-D glasses. But in fact it is so real looking that it didn't work well for film purposes, because it made it difficult for the audience members to suspend disbelief.

The things that look "cinematic" have a cinematic feel because they are not hyper-real, they're a step in-between imagination and reality.
 
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Thanks, NightFlightAlright, appreciate the great information and background from a professional cinematographer/videographer.

As for myself, I'm a professional pilot with 30 years in the airlines, so I like to think I'm competent with the flying; but I'm definitely a rank amateur when it comes to the videography...so it's great to get a more knowledgeable opinion!

To answer your questions: the computer I am running is an iMac Retina 5K, Late 2015, 3.2Ghz Quad Core i5, 1TB SSD, 24GB of RAM, macOS Catalina 10.15.7. The only professional editing app that I am familiar with is Avid Media Composer, for which I have a subscription, and I am currently running version 2022.12.

I have problems running clips like these, in other words anything involving panning movement, within Media Composer, even after transcoding to various MXF formats, and it was this very fact that made me doubt what I am doing with the drone. I get similar results viewing the clips in QuickTime Viewer and IINA on the Mac, and also viewing the clips directly on a 4K Sony Bravia TV.

So if I may try to consolidate your suggestions:

1. I will revisit some more tests in native 4K on the Mavic Air 2 and see if this makes any difference. Early trials make me doubtful that this will make any difference, but I'll give it another go.

2. I will try the clips in VLC.

3. I will have a good think about avoiding strong contrast vertical lines in the shot. But I'm not sure how to avoid this when many of my subjects will be architectural.

For the time being, thanks a million for all the input.
 
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