This summer I bought a drone.

After roughly 200 flights, I have recorded around 500 gigs of footage (mostly shot in 4K) which makes finding a reliable (primarily fast) hard drive important, if you plan to keep your sanity while editing (how and why a proper external/internal hard drive setup is necessary for editing 4K footage is another topic entirely).

I decided to expeditiously produce and edit a piece that featured the best shots of the 200+ flights, but in this case, I define “expeditiously” as a couple weeks to painstakingly cleanup and edit footage.

In this post, I’ll cover what I’ve learned when it comes to editing as well as compare different ways to manage low-light footage with plugins to remove video noise.

dank_court_night_Lexington, KY: Court House

In the thick of editing the footage, I learned the following about DJI’s Phantom 4.

The Phantom 4 has a decent camera, for a drone.

The Phantom 4 camera has a sensor that can resolve 12 megapixel photos and decent 4K video that records in an 8 bit color space, at data rate of 60 mbs.

In camera-nerd speak, that means your image is really compressed, because of the limited 60 mbs data rate. An image in a 4:2:0 color space at a 4K resolution, with an 8-bit depth isn’t that flexible, so you really have to nail the exposure in camera (the best way is to optimize the settings and to use the right neutral density filters). Given these specs, that isn’t to say you can’t shoot professional footage.

If you do not properly expose your image, you will regret it in post. Flaws in exposure will manifest via banding, grainy shadows and noisy mid tones, if you “push” your image too much.

While editing, I thought that some of the two people that read this blog might find it helpful to understand my process of editing 4K footage from the Phantom 4, as the camera is a bit different than what some are used to.

Before jumping in, take a peak at what I shot early in the first few weeks of owning the drone, mainly at dawn, sunset and dusk:

In this run-down of editing 4K drone footage (mainly cleaning up video noise), I’ll be using Adobe Premiere Pro, because I’m an adult. Final Cut X is for children.

Here’s a look at how I treated some of the edits, from color grading, to removing noise.

As with GoPro and most action cameras, the Phantom 4 is no different in low-light performance as it resolves a grainy picture that requires a lot of cleanup in post.

The fastest way to clean up noisy/grainy footage is to take advantage of third-party plugins. Given the options, what is the best plugin to remove noise?

When thinking of the best “de-noise” plugins, three come to mind: Neat Video, Red Giant, and Borris Complete Continuum (BCC) DeNoise.


To the untrained eye, you won’t be able to tell the difference. But, if you look in the area of the river and pond, you’ll see the de-noised picture doesn’t have that grainy texture. If you really want to see results, use any of these de-noise plugins on shitty footage.

In my example, I chose footage that I plan on using in the final project and as a result, I did a decent job at setting the proper exposure. To really show the speed and capability of some of these plugins, it would be better to use footage that was improperly exposed.

Be warned that if you use this plugin with other effects, your computer will most likely come to a grinding halt.

In my tests, I have tried Neat Video, Red Giant DeNoiser II, and Borris FX BCC DeNoise.

The best is a close call between Neat Video and Borris FX. Since I could only get copy of Borris FX for After Effects (AE), I imported the Borris FX, de-noised After Effects composition into Premiere Pro, and it was beautiful. Borris FX DeNoise plugin was good, but I got mixed results when applying it to footage that was higher than 1080p (it was really slow).

The following link to FilmRiot’s video does an excellent job that demonstrates the Red Giant Denoiser II and Neat Video plugins.

Here’s a link to some Neat Video and Red Giant Denoiser II plugin comparisons:

Neat Video Website:

Red Giant DeNoise II:

Borris FX BCC DeNoise:

Some of these stills were treated with Neat Video’s DeNoise plugin. Since I couldn’t find a free version, I ended up paying the $100 and so far it is awesome. Important note: the paid version allows you to apply the plugin to resolutions higher than 1080p.  What influenced my decision to purchase Neat Video’s plugin was that most of my drone footage was shot in 4K, then scaled to 2K.

Here is a sneak peak of some of the stills from a project I’m cracking away on:

Boat House Row: Philadelphia

Overlooking Avenue Of The Arts, while the Made In America music festival is in action.