How to use DJI Mavic Air Filters to improve your video
The DJI Mavic Air features a powerful 4K camera that records up to 100Mbps for stunning videos and photos. Although the image quality is outstanding, controlling the shutter speed is limited to adjusting ISO. So why does everyone talk about using filters on with their DJI Mavic Air? To better understand the answer to “Why do I need filters with my DJI Mavic Air?” let’s start with a background in cinematography.
The 180 degree shutter rule is a universal standard when shooting feature films or television shows. This principle states that the camera’s shutter speed should be double the frame rate for smooth cinematic video. An example: If you are shooting at 4K / 30 (frames per second) your shutter speed should be 1/60th. When shutter speed is double frame rate, each frame in the video blends together smoothly, yielding that cinema quality look.
So where do the DJI Mavic Air Filters come in?
In the scenario above, shutter speed needed to be 1/60th to match the 30 frames per second. When shooting indoors, your shutter speed will sometimes be as low as 1/60th which is great, no filter needed. The second you take your drone outdoors, shutter speed will shoot way up (up to 1/2000th) on a very bright day. In this case, the only way to reduce shutter speed is to place a Neutral Density Filter in front of the camera lens. This will reduce the amount of light and allow the camera to shoot at a lower shutter speed (preferably around 1/60th).
Why are there different ND filters for the DJI Mavic Air?
Each DJI Mavic Air filter has a different rating, from ND4, all the way up to ND64. The rating is measured by how much light a filter will reduce. A ND4 reduces 2 stops of light (lightest), and a ND64 reduces 6 stops of light (darkest). When it is very bright out, you will need a stronger ND filter, like a ND32 or ND64 to reduce shutter speed to 1/60th. When shooting at say golden hour (sunrise / sunset) you will not need to reduce as much light to get to 1/60th so in most cases a ND4 or ND8 would be used.
How do I know which filter to use?
In order to properly determine which DJI Mavic Air Filter to use, you will need to understand exposure (there are plenty of great in-depth articles on the exposure triangle and understanding exposure so we will not get into it here). In general, if your shutter speed is 1/120th you will need to reduce 1 stop of light to get shutter to 1/60th. If shutter is 1/240th you will need to reduce 2 stops of light (ND4) to get shutter to 1/60th. If shutter is 1/500th you will need to reduce 3-stops (ND8) of light to get to 1/60th.
If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, you are not alone. We built an app to help you calculate which filter to use each time you shoot.
What is the difference between the Vivid and Shutter Collections?
Vivid Collection – Includes what we call ND/PL filters. These are Neutral Density and Polarizer hybrid filters. ND/PL’s will reduce shutter speed to cinematic levels, and the polarizing aspect will also reduce glare and increase color saturation. These filters are popular with pilots who want to make their colors pop, without doing much post production.
Shutter Collection – Includes straight ND filters. These ND filters will reduce your shutter speed to cinematic levels, without altering the color profile. These filters will give your content a more natural color profile.
Most of our users purchase the Cinema Series 6-Pack which offers a choice between both looks for scene specific compositions.
What is the difference between the Standard and Cinema Series?
Pilots have two options for their DJI Mavic Air Filters, the Standard Series and the Cinema Series.
Cinema Series: Features production-grade glass with a very low refractive index and 8-layers of AR (anti-reflective)/anti-scratch coatings on each side that reduce flaring and ghosting.
Standard Series: Uses PolarPro’s standard HD glass for great optical clarity and value.
A common question we get is “How do I align the polarizer filter?”
This video explains how to align the polarizer on the Mavic Pro. Luckily the Mavic Air has a thread on lens so it is much easier to set the polarization angle by simply rotating the bezel after the filter is installed.
While using neutral density filters with your Mavic Air can take some getting used to, these filters are an indispensable tool that will help you capture correctly exposed cinematic content. To shorten the learning curve, use PolarPro’s Filter Calculator app to help choose the right ND filter that suits the light conditions you’re flying in. PolarPro’s Standard and Cinema Series filters reduce shutter speed while improving contrast and color saturation for beautiful cinema-style content. To make your colors pop or to standardize the frame rate/shutter speed ratio for your video project, PolarPro has the perfect Mavic Air filter set designed with you in mind.