A hyperlapse sequence was captured using the DJI Air 2S in Course Lock mode (discussed below).
Video by Kara Murphy

One of the many valuable features of the DJI Air 2S is its ability to capture 4K hyperlapse videos. For those unfamiliar with the term, a hyperlapse is essentially a time-lapse sequence with the added element of motion – which is achieved by moving the camera slightly between each frame.

The Air 2S has some features that make it particularly useful for shooting a hyperlapse: it can capture photos with exposure times up to eight seconds, which is ideal for low-light conditions, and the interval between shots can be as low as two seconds, allowing for smooth hyperlapse sequences.

However, shooting a hyperlapse clip requires more effort than simply taking off and hitting the record button. In this article, we'll walk you through the process of planning your first hyperlapse sequence, as well as the four different modes DJI provides for shooting hyperlapses with the Air 2S.

It's all about the timing

The first thing you'll need to consider is how long you want your hyperlapse sequence to last. Each photo in the sequence represents one frame of video. Depending on the mode you select, the number of waypoints you designate, and the interval between shots, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a half-hour to record one hyperlapse. For example, if you want to record a ten-second sequence, and you plan to play the clip back at 30p, your drone will need to capture a total of 300 photos in the sequence.

Next, consider the time interval between each photo. A short interval, such as two seconds between shots, will generally result in a smoother sequence than a longer interval, such as six seconds. So, our hypothetical ten-second hyperlapse would take ten minutes to capture using a two-second interval but 30 minutes using a six-second interval.

Keep in mind that it's always easier to speed up your hyperlapse after it's been shot than to slow it down

So why wouldn't you initially select the shorter interval? It depends on what you're shooting. If your goal is to move the drone slowly down a beach while capturing a sunset over the course of 20 or 30 minutes, a longer interval might make sense. If you're not sure, keep in mind that it's always easier to speed up your hyperlapse after it's been shot than to slow it down.

It's important to consider battery life in your planning as well. The Air 2S has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes. By using a short interval between photos, you may be able to shoot two or three hyperlapse sequences on a single battery. If you choose a longer interval, it may limit you to a single hyperlapse sequence before it's time to land.

Planning your shot

Location

It's helpful to pre-visualize what the final sequence will look like. Moving elements can make a hyperlapse video clip more dynamic. Boats, cars, waves, clouds and people moving about will add depth to an otherwise ordinary scene. Mountains and city skylines make for an interesting backdrop.

Wherever you shoot, always remember to abide by your country's respective drone laws. For example, in the United States, flying in restricted airspace or directly above moving vehicles or people is prohibited unless you have acquired the proper waiver beforehand.

Fifth Third Ballpark, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the perfect location to shoot a Circle hyperlapse. The field is an interesting subject to track; numerous cars are driving along the freeway behind it, there's a bit of city skyline in the upper-left-hand corner, and, on this particular day, there were clouds for dramatic effect.

Weather and timing

One challenge you may encounter when shooting hyperlapse videos is that weather factors, such as wind, can impact the quality of the results. Because hundreds of images are combined to make one video, the drone's exact position is crucial. If a gust of wind knocks your drone slightly off its course, you'll end up with choppy footage. When testing hyperlapse on the Air 2S, it captured higher-quality hyperlapse clips only when there was a moderate breeze at best.

Keep in mind that winds are often much lighter around dawn and dusk. Most photographers refer to these times of day as the golden hour(s) due to warm, dramatic light. They're often the ideal time to shoot a hyperlapse. The changing conditions and colors of the sky as the sun rises or sets are also fascinating to watch on a hyperlapse clip.

When shooting a hyperlapse with the Air 2S, ensure you have both 4K video and Raw photos selected. If you decide to post-process the hyperlapse yourself, you'll have a lot more flexibility with the Raw files. Areas that are completely blown out cannot be recovered in post-processing. 'Overexposure Warning' in the DJI Fly app allows you to identify these areas, so make sure you activate that as well.

Camera settings

When the Air 2S was introduced, DJI emphasized that it didn't want users to think too much about camera settings and encouraged the use of Auto mode. However, we recommend shooting in Manual mode to yield the best results.

While shooting in Auto mode may seem convenient, it's too easy for areas of your image, especially during sunrise and sunset, to get overexposed. In contrast, shooting in Manual mode provides control over ISO and shutter speed. It also helps prevent any unexpected exposure changes.

To ensure that you're shooting hyperlapse clips in 4K, you'll need to take several steps. Above the shutter button in the DJI Fly app, select 'Video', then scroll down to 'Hyperlapse', where the settings will automatically default to 1080p. To change the resolution, click on the 'RES&FPS' icon on the lower right-hand side of the screen, then select '4K' for your resolution.

It's also a good idea to activate the Histogram and Overexposure warning so you can identify any areas that might be blown out when you're initially adjusting your settings.

Hyperlapse captured using Waypoint mode, which allows you to set up to 45 waypoints that define the exact path the drone will travel and where the camera is pointed.
Video by Kara Murphy

Most importantly, you can create nice motion blur with objects in your video by throwing out the 180-degree shutter speed rule and slowing the speed down to anywhere between 1/8 second to 2 seconds. This is where ND filters come in handy by allowing you to use slow shutter speeds even in daylight.

We recommend purchasing the Air 2S Fly More Combo if you plan to shoot a lot of hyperlapses. In addition to two extra batteries, it includes a pack of four filters – ND4, ND8, ND16, and ND32.

The aperture on the Air 2S is fixed at F2.8, so you may need stronger ND filters to achieve slower shutter speeds in the brightest conditions. DJI offers another four-pack of ND filters, sold separately, including ND64, ND128, ND256, and ND512 filters. You'll probably want to invest in these filters for smooth motion blur shots, especially when it's bright and sunny.

While the Air 2S Fly More Combo comes with a set of four ND filters, ranging from ND4 to ND32, we recommend DJI's stronger set, which goes up to ND512. The latter allows you to slow the shutter speed to the point where you can capture smoother footage, even in bright daylight.

The DJI Fly app, which powers the Air 2S, provides a scroll bar for dialing in the correct white balance. The closer you set it to 2000 K, the cooler the image. Shifting up toward 10000 K will make everything warmer. A range of 5000 K to 6600 K is ideal for most daylight conditions. Set the white balance so that it's correct for your scene.

File format

Although the Air2 S can capture 5.4K/30p video, the hyperlapse clips it generates are limited to 4K resolution. However, if you're willing to post-process the hyperlapse sequence yourself, you can take advantage of the drone's larger 1"-type sensor by also saving copies of each photo it takes in DNG Raw format.

Make sure to select Raw as your photo format and MOV as your video format. When you access the video clips created by the drone on the memory card or internal storage, you'll also find a folder containing all the Raw images. These files provide a lot more flexibility for making exposure adjustments and white balance corrections than out-of-camera JPEG images.

Raw images are helpful if you want to edit or color grade using Lightroom or After Effects. Always make sure you're shooting in Raw for maximum flexibility if you plan to edit your images. Drone Supremacy created an excellent tutorial covering post-processing techniques in Adobe Lightroom and After Effects.

Four hyperlapse modes to choose

Now that we've covered the steps for setting things up let's look at the four hyperlapse modes available on the Air 2S. Hyperlapse mode can be accessed by clicking on the button above the shutter, selecting the video icon, and scrolling down the menu to the hyperlapse option.

In each of the hyperlapse modes below, you have the option to set interval speed, total clip length, and the overall speed that the drone will travel while recording. The exception is Waypoint mode, which won't let you select the drone's speed since that will be determined by the plotted course and the duration of the sequence. DJI's latest update allows you to set up to 45 points in Waypoint mode.

Once you've dialed in your settings, the Air 2S will automatically calculate the time needed, go about its mission, and stitch the photos together once they're captured.

Free mode

This mode gives you the flexibility to fly your drone in any direction, altering altitude, location, and speed, while tilting the camera at an angle you prefer whenever you choose. Let's say you want to follow a boat in motion. Having this level of flexibility makes sense.

While having complete control of the drone's movement at all times sounds appealing, it's much more difficult to capture smooth, cinematic footage as you have to be extremely precise and deliberate in every movement of the drone or camera.

This hyperlapse was captured in Free mode. Although Free mode sounds appealing, it's challenging to make extremely deliberate and precise motions that look smooth. In this example, the camera remains stationary.
Video by Kara Murphy

Course lock

This mode is helpful for capturing cityscapes or scenery in a straight line. It is also useful for flying through tight spaces, like in between buildings. It's an automated mode: the drone flies in a straight line toward your target, or facing in another direction when unlocked, and doesn't deviate from that course.

Once you've determined your main parameters (intervals, clip length, and speed), designate your target by drawing a box around it with your finger, hit the record button, and let the drone fly. You can adjust the altitude while in flight, but you cannot alter the direction or camera angle while recording the hyperlapse. You also can't preselect distance, so it may require some trial-and-error with intervals and total clip time.

Course Lock and Circle modes allow you to select a target for the drone to focus on while recording the hyperlapse. Simply use your index finger to draw a frame around your desired object.

You can find an example of a Course Lock hyperlapse at the top of this article.

Circle

If you want to focus your hyperlapse on one subject in particular, like a cathedral, as illustrated above, Circle is an ideal mode. This is another automated mode that programs your Air 2S to fly in a circular path around your designated target. You can choose either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. Once you hit record, the drone will fly for a few seconds, calculate how far away the subject is, and then begin its course.

Circle mode flies a circular path around your subject. As you can see from this example, you may need a long hyperlapse to orbit a large area.
Video by Kara Murphy

After you've set the direction of rotation, you can't alter it once the hyperlapse is recording. You also can't change the altitude during flight. Depending on how far the drone is from the subject or how large that subject is, you may need to select a clip longer than 10 seconds if you wish to make a full rotation around it.

Waypoint

We saved the best mode for last. This one is especially useful for smooth, slow reveal shots, like when you want to surprise your viewers. What's wonderful about Waypoint is that, unlike Course Lock and Circle, you can determine the exact path you want the drone to fly, along with the camera orientation and angle at each waypoint. It will automatically fly the course once you hit record.

When viewing the Waypoint hyperlapse earlier in the article you can see this in action; both the drone and camera shift position during the hyperlapse.

When selecting waypoints, the drone will tell you if the angle and direction are too wide. This will ensure the footage doesn't look jerky as the drone changes its orientation.

In Waypoint mode, you won't be able to set your next target if you position the drone at too large of an angle. This will prevent jerky footage.

To get started, manually fly to each waypoint and tap the plus sign in the waypoints box at the bottom of the menu. As mentioned above, you can select up to 45 different waypoints. Once you hit record, the drone will fly back to the starting point and fly the course you plotted out. If you're running low on battery, or want to start at the final point in the course, simply select 'Reverse' for a reverse sequence, and the drone will automatically start from that last location.

Final thoughts

Always make sure you have the latest firmware installed on your Air 2S. This will help prevent errors while using the DJI Fly app. One final tip: flying at a longer distance from your subject, in any mode, generally gives you more interesting footage. A Circle hyperlapse focusing on a subject close up, for example, isn't very interesting to watch. Make sure to include more skyline and other surrounding elements for the best possible outcome.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments. If you've created any hyperlapse sequences with the Air 2S, share a link with us!