Best DJI Osmo Action 3 Settings for Cinematic MTB Footage
When filming with an action camera like the DJI Osmo Action 3, the expectation is footage that looks cinematic, intense, and true to life. But when you go out with your new action cam and you play back your footage, it looks nothing like the promo videos. The problem is the automatic video setting.
And that’s the case for even the best action cameras out right now. None is going to look very good out of the box with fully automatic factory settings. Like all action cams, the DJI Osmo Action 3 does have automatic video settings to compensate for all variables during a ride. But automatic settings always tend to be all over the place when left unchecked, creating inconsistent, amateur-looking films. This is why it’s recommended to use semi-manual settings.
After months of riding and recording hundreds of clips in various weather and lighting conditions, testing video settings and accessories with the DJI Action 2 (which has the same 1/1.7” CMOS sensor) I found the baseline settings that translate well for filming with the DJI Osmo Action 3.
Find my current camera setup here. In this resource, I list all gear I use to make quality MTB POV videos for the Suspension Traveler YouTube channel.
Recommended DJI Osmo Action 3 settings for cinematic footage:
- Resolution: 4K
- Framerate: 30 or 24 FPS
- Stabilization: Rocksteady 3.0
- Field of view (FOV): Wide or Ultrawide
- Pro Settings: On
- Exposure: Auto
- EV: -0.7
- Shutter speed: auto-adjusted
- ISO: range from 100 – 3200
- White Balance: 5600K
- Color: D-Cinelike (for color grading)
- Wind-noise reduction: On or Wind-Sock
- Stereo: On
- Directional Audio: Front
- 10-Bit Colors: Not available yet
These will work in difficult, changing lighting conditions like under tree cover and direct sunlight as well as overcast weather. The camera will only adjust the shutter speed and ISO automatically. Everything else is in your control and will repeatedly lead to amazing video quality!
In order to keep shutter speeds low (four times the frame rate is okay with stabilization still working), you could use ND filters like these on amazon to reduce exposure, but they are definitely optional and have limited usefulness, especially in changing light conditions.
Below I explain what each of these settings does in detail and why certain settings are preferable over others.
But first, here is some test footage using these exact settings. I only did color correction in an editing program, taking advantage of the flat color profile. The benefit of filming with a lower exposure value (EV) of -1.0 is that details can be brought forward by brightening shadows – which I did here:
How to unlock the DJI Osmo Action 3’s PRO settings:
In order to gain access to the full list of settings, you need to activate the PRO setting on the second page of the main menu. The detailed video settings are accessed through the menu on the right side. See the pictures below for reference.
So, there you have it. Those are the semi-automatic settings that record cinematic, well-balanced footage that looks more like what you experience through your own eyes. Read on further down for a deep dive into what each setting does.
Just by changing a couple of very simple settings on this camera it really does make a huge difference in how we capture the awesome things we do out there so that we can share them with our friends.
Automatic vs Manual video settings
You might have been disappointed by your action cam footage using auto settings. That’s to be expected and it happens because these cameras absolutely cannot tell what you’re trying to film and why you’re trying to film it. These cams can do almost anything outdoor-related. Mountain biking, snowboarding, and diving are completely different activities in terms of what the action cam is supposed to capture.
That’s why it’s not a good idea to unlock the complete array of options to the camera’s processors but rather to give it boundaries it can work within. A good principle to follow is to keep variability minimal for consistent image quality. And that’s what the recommended settings above do.
Video settings are the difference between amateur and professional-looking, cinematic action cam footage.
However, filming outdoor activities is tricky because of changing light conditions. It’s an important variable to videography you can’t control outdoors. Additionally, while mountain biking we often ride in and out of shaded woods, which creates even more contrasting lighting on sunny days.
This is also the reason why ND filters only have limited applicability in action cams for MTB as they require constant lighting conditions.
Fully manual settings are not possible most of the time. Especially in sunny weather. I did the test and rode the same track twice back to back using automatic exposure and manual exposure settings (details are in the video description). Here’s the resulting comparison:
Although the manual option looked phenomenal the couple of times the exposure was just on point, it’s rarely the case with a moving camera.
What the DJI Osmo Action 3 settings mean
Resolution: 2.7K or 4K
I’m sure you know this one: pixels count in relation to the aspect ratio. But there’s more to it in an action cam!
The way stabilization works is through software. The camera actually crops into the frame a little bit to be able to seemingly “remove” movement from the picture. That also means the real captured resolution of the final video is a little lower of the actual file. That’s why 1080p will look more blurry and a minimum of 2.7K is recommended.
I switch between 2.7K and 4K depending on the available memory storage. If you got a 4K monitor to enjoy all those pixels, the higher resolution is even nicer to look at. It’s incredible fidelity to experience!
Framerate: 30 fps
This is what produces the natural motion blur, similar to what you would see through your own eyes. Framerate of 24, 25, and 30 are a big part of what makes video footage cinematic. Bonus points for making you seem to ride faster, every other setting being the same.
Although I usually film in 25 FPS with every other camera, for fast POV shots I believe 30 FPS works best. Especially with quick direction changes like riding turns or head movement from left to right.
Often 60 fps are used for fast-twitch action footage that still looks crisp. 50 or 60 FPS give your footage a sharper look without motion blur so trail features are more pronounced if that’s the look you want to achieve.
Extremely high fps above 60 frames allow for slowing footage down for a slow-motion effect. At regular watch speeds, there is no tangible difference between 60 and 480 fps. Your SD card may disagree as it fills up much quicker.
Image stabilization: Rocksteady 3.0
On a bike, it’s critical to use any one stabilization option, preferably the new RockSteady 3.0
Horizon leveling is not recommended for biking, because the footage becomes unrelatable for viewers of a two-wheeled sport, where the lean angle is crucial. Ever seen MotoGP dashboard videos with horizon leveling? The entire excitement of the sport gets lost.
Above and beyond a stable image is the most important feature of any camera strapped to your helmet, chest or bike. I used to own the first generations of GoPros, but any mount beside the helmet mount was completely unusable because of the shaky footage. Now chest mounts are all the rage (GoPro’s Chesty 2.0 is still my favorite tho).
White Balance: 5600K
When left on auto, the camera will constantly color correct, while not knowing what it sees. If the screen is full of green grass, or brown dirt, it will choose a white balance that reduces green or brown from the image resulting in weird-looking color fluctuations. This is why auto settings will always look amateurish, no matter what you to in editing.
This is an outdoor camera. And sunlight has a color temperature of 5600 Kelvin. Easy as that. Set it once and never change it again. You wouldn’t want your white balance to change from clip to clip or even worse within a clip. In addition, white balance will destroy the warm natural hue during sunsets – a period also called the golden hour. On a cloudy day, 6000K may be okay too to avoid a blue hue.
Field of view (FOV): Wide or Ultrawide
A wider FOV can help with a couple of effects: the sense of speed and capturing reference points the viewer can identify with. Since on a bike both hands are occupied, the camera needs to be able to see a lot without moving the camera angle. The Osmo Action 3’s 155-degree FOV is arguably the widest right now (apart from 360° cams) and creates incredibly intense footage.
Generally, a wide FOV is able to capture the ground, ahead on the trail and the bike as reference for the viewer within the same shot. A view from on top of the helmet sometimes only has a view of the trail ahead and much of the feeling gets lost for the audience since there are no reference points. No arms, no bike frame, no handlebars.
Nothing is inherently wrong with the “Normal” color profile, which sports the popping colors you’d expect from an action cam. If this very saturated and high-contrast style is something you like, is completely subjective.
That being said, those saturated colors just limit the options for post-production color corrections and custom color profiles to really make the edit your own. If you like playing around creatively in an editing suite, D-Cinelike is perfect for you as it provides more freedom for creative exploration.
If editing is not in your future, leave the colors on “Normal”.
ISO: min. 100 – max. 3200
ISO is the maximum light sensitivity of the camera, and the Osmo Action 3 lets you define a range it can work with up to a staggering 12.800! Even with a wider range over the Action 2, you don’t want to give it more than it really needs as more ISO means a more grainy image.
This is why I normally set the ISO as low as possible. But light sensitivity (ISO) is what’s required for the stabilization to work well in low-light situations. So, it’s a compromise.
The choice is between jittery stabilization and a grainy image. Even with absurdly high max ISO, the camera won’t likely use those high values during daylight. During sunsets and low-light situations (in dense forests), you may even bump up the maximum ISO to 6400, which will lead to noisy (grainy) but stabilized footage.
I’d personally rather have a stable, grainy video than the other way around.
Video compression: HEVC
This is just the video codec, without any impact on the bitrate. Currently, there is no option to select a specific bitrate (maximum is 130mbit/s).
HEVC or High-Efficiency Video Codec H.265 can create smaller file sizes than the H.264 MP4 codec. So this will not actually increase the bit rate, but decrease the file size while keeping the same bit rate. The actual bit rate depends on the resolution, frame rate and video codec. Older computers may only be able to read H.264 files.
10-Bit Colors: On
The Action 3 finally got the functionality to record 10-bit colors with a firmware update in December 2022. It and the GoPro Hero 11 are currently the only action cams capable of this. In some filming modes it’s not available, like high FPS or certain HDR settings. But there’s certainly benefit on having it on the rest of the time.
Bonus tips and tricks
Don’t be sleeping on this one! This underrated overlay is perfect not only to align the adhesive mounts on a helmet but also to find the perfect camera angle that captures the trail not just your front wheel. Find the picture below for how this looks on-screen.
Ideally, the trail and horizon should meet somewhere near the center. With the handlebars in the lower third, it makes the footage enjoyable and inviting to watch as the viewer can look ahead on the trail and also get a feel of how the bike’s handling.
This helps with optimizing the parameters of your manual settings. Overexposed areas are marked by zebra stripes.
There is no way to save overexposed footage (as I showed you above), but slightly underexposed one by brightening it up in editing software. The white, detail-less overexposed areas will stay detail-less. Darker details can be brought forward.
Screen off when recording
This should be as soon as possible on a mountain bike. While riding you’ll never even see the screen. So there is no use in leaving the screen on and wasting battery charge. Turn this option on for increased battery life.
Orientation lock: off
This auto-detect works so well that there is no reason to turn it off. Also recommended for easy swapping between helmet and chest mount where the cam is upside down.
This has nothing to do with the recording format, only what’s displayed on the touch-screen finder. Both a 4:3 and 16:9 format will get cropped to fit “fullscreen” on the square screen.
Leave it off to be able to see the actual frame you’re actually recording including the peripheral space on either side, where you can look forward into corners or see the rider’s arms and handlebars. Those sections of the frame are crucial for MTB.
Snapshot: On for Video
Don’t let yourself get held back by waiting for the camera to record. One-press-record is extremely helpful for capturing snapshot moments.
It also helps for knowing if the camera is recording or not. It’s either on and recording, or off. Either way, Snapshot can be overruled by using the on/off button on the side like normal.
Best camera positions for MTB
Any sport where you can’t use the camera handheld relies on the quality of mounting options for interesting perspectives. In fact, the mounting is what I love most about the latest DJI Action cameras. Read about the first one with magnetic mounts, the DJI Action 2, in the full in-depth review here.
The magnets and hooks are what’s keeping the camera in place. It’s an extremely easy and comfortable way to mount, take off, and re-mount exactly the same way.
Helmet mounts: easy to use and set up, but can get unrelatable for the viewer
For helmet mounting, I went with the official DJI adhesive mounting kit, but after using it I honestly can’t recommend it due to the (IMO too wide) circular surface area of the flat adhesive and the overall height of this system. Just get the GoPro mounts for the same price as they are low enough to actually fit well below the visor without obstructing your view. The DJI mounts are still way easier to attach by twisting compared to pinching and sliding. So there’s that. With magnetic mounts, you won’t have to do that often anyway.
Helmet perspectives are also known for the “GoPro effect” that makes any steep rough trail seem harmless and flat. That’s because there are very few points of reference for the viewer who only has visual and acoustic cues. Depth perception and lean angle get lost. An ultra-wide-angle lens like the 155° field of view of the Osmo Action 3 helps with that issue.
Chest mount: immersive, relatable, but can be cumbersome to wear
In the past, chest-mounted cameras were pretty horrid to watch without image stabilization. With this camera’s Rocksteady 3.0, it’s become a joy to film and watch. With horizon leveling, even gimbals have become obsolete. It’s the only perspective that can capture hands, handlebar, front tire, lean angle and the trail ahead.
Personally, I have been using the GoPro “Chesty” chest mount since the first GoPro Hero HD for one of the most immersive views on a bike. The new V2.0 has some quality-of-life improvements and is comfortable to wear with the padding. It comes with one standard GoPro quick-release adapter. The DJI quick-release adapters won’t fit in GoPro’s slider system, but the magnetic mount adapter will.
In fact, with the Osmo Action 3, DJI also brought its own chest mount to market (check it out here). However, it’s not the best solution as it’s using the standard design used by third-party brands. Those differ in the way they have to be put on. Only the GoPro Chesty is built like a vest and can be worn while not closed. This is a relief since you need to tighten it pretty well to eliminate movement in the rig itself wherever you can. And not having buckles on your ribs helps with that too.
Generally, it’s hit-and-miss with third-party mounts. My personal take is that I don’t feel comfortable buying an expensive camera and relying on cheap mounting options for it to not fall off and wreck. So I tend to go with original parts from DJI or GoPro.
Also, accessories often outlast the camera itself and don’t get obsolete as quick – or never when you look at how action cams have been mounted for the last decade using the two famous GoPro “fingers” since the Hero 1.