I made the leap into the drone world with the purchase of the new 3D Robotics Solo drone. While I’m not expecting something like DJI’s Inspire from it, for the cost it was about the same as the Phantom but I feel a lot more feature packed. I was impressed with its programming functions which allow you to do complex moves as a single operator. I also liked the idea of keeping the camera with a dedicated camera manufacturer like GoPro, versus relying on the drone company to make the camera, like DJI.
I ordered this a few months ago. The body itself arrived pretty quick. The gimbal system, however, was on backorder.
But you can still fly the drone with a GoPro. It comes with a simple mount. You just can’t pan and tilt or expect any kind of stabilization.
After updating the firmware and setting up the drone at home, I would sometimes get a video signal from the GoPro. Sometimes not. I was getting GPS signal connection errors, so I figured it could just be interference from being inside. 3DR does not support flying the Solo indoors. They say they may release an indoor laser attachment in the future.
So I took it outside for an inaugural flight. Well, it ended up being two inaugural flights. The first time the controller would not connected to the drone. At all. I was getting an error light combo on the drone. No idea why.
I ended up having to reset and repair the controller to the drone to make a new connection and set everything up again.
Few days later, take it out again for a flight. System pairs successfully. But now no video signal from the GoPro. I kept messing with the connections and rebooting but nothing. So I just hit record and flew the drone around without video.
When I reviewed the footage it had the usual jello lines you’d see from early DJI Phantom footage that you get when the shutter is crazy high to control exposure on a bright day. I’m hoping the gimbal will give me some sort of exposure control over the GoPro. Or I’ll have to buy some ND filters.
Drone gets shelved for a little bit, I’m away traveling on a shoot for a while. Get back a few weeks ago and the gimbal has finally arrived. I’m hoping this will have better control of the camera and solve the communication issues.
I hook up the gimbal, which was really straight forward. No soldering required. Just plug and play.
I connect the GoPro. Update all the firmware. Power up. The system connects. Searching for GoPro signal. Then…
This lovely image. That’s the best I could get. I saw the flicker of a clean image once, but it went away. Other times I would just get a black ‘Searching for Video Signal’ screen.
So I’ve been stuck with no video signal on this drone, which is hard when you’re trying to get drone shots. Now I haven’t taken it outside again to see if that does anything. I also have a HERO 3+, which 3DR says they fully support, but I’m sure they have more focus on the HERO 4.
I contacted their support with a screenshot over a week ago but haven’t heard anything, which is dismaying. Hopefully with some future updates I can actually get some air time with this and see what it can do.
Start with a palette first. When planning their shoot, the GoPro team starts with color first, to make sure there’s enough visual variety to ‘cleanse the palette,’ then they pick the locations from there.
Efficient shooting. There’s some good production tips, but my favorite is their use of the 80/20 rule. The example Ryan gives is a 10 pitch rock climb in Zion. They had three days to shoot the climbers. Rather than start at the bottom and hope they have great light and weather at the dramatic top, they started at the top first then got whatever extra shots they had time for.
Using portals. Portals are the signature GoPro transition or wipe where the lens gets obscured from dirt or water and cuts to another scene. Ryan has some great breakdowns and uses of the specific transition, along with how to edit eight storylines into a cohesive video.
Be sure to read the whole article for a lot more insight into GoPro’s production.
Drones are in the news again, this time for the nuisance they caused during the wildfire blazing across the highway in San Bernardino County. Five hobby drones were spotted circling the area, forcing firefighting copters to dump their fire retardants and land early.
While the drone pilots are trying to be located and some are calling for criminal prosecution, I think what this really highlights is the void in clear rules, processes, and education about what you can and can’t do with a drone.
If I try to picture myself at the scene of the fire with a drone, the sky might be clear so I’d think it’s ok to send up a drone to get some footage. Little do I know the sky is clear because firefighting copters aren’t coming to the area due to the hazard of the drone. I’m sure the majority of drone pilots are not out to impede firefighting abilities. They just don’t know that they are.
Now apparently two of the drones did chase or fly near helicopters. They are morons that should be held criminally liable.
But I feel the vast majority of drone operators don’t want to get in the way. They just don’t know.
Some groups are trying to educate pilots with programs like Know Before you Fly. While it does a good job presenting the information out there for different types of shooters, it can only do so much because the governing bodies like the FAA have no clear processes, training, or forms for staying in compliance.
I’m about to get more into drone shooting and I’d love to keep everything legit. But when I look into getting my company approved by the FAA for film production, I find I have to petition for exemption under Section 333. I don’t think you could make up a more bureaucratic sounding title. If you follow the instructions, there isn’t even a form you fill out. You file your petition via a comment on a post at regulations.gov. Yes, a comment, which they reiterate in their PDF instructions. Then you wait 120 days. It’s not even clear what you’re supposed to put in this comment, so if you mess up time to wait another four months.
So is your average drone hobbiest that spends a few hundred bucks for a drone going to go through this hassle? No. I’m a professional and I don’t even fully understand what I’m supposed to do or what I am and am not allowed to do with a drone.
But if clear guidelines were established with what you can and can’t do with a drone and provided as a pamphlet with the drone, I’m sure most users would stay in compliance.
The forest service has started a campaign to educate drone users to stay away from forest fires so they can do there job. It’s still the wild west of drone flying and there’s a lot to be sorted out.
This year was my second time at NAB, covering new gear for Filmmaker Magazine. I can’t say there was anything that completely blew me away, but there was some new gear and tools that definitely piqued my interest and looked quite useful for the future.
One thing there was no shortage of at NAB was drones. But 3DR caused a big splash with their new Solo drone. Unlike DJI, 3DR is sticking with GoPros as the camera instead of making their own, and the Solo offers full control over all GoPro settings while flying. But what really stands out with Solo is the amount of automation their apps have when flying. You can easily program moves as a single operator that would normally require two people with two controllers. Really excited to get my hands on this.
This really handy device for single camera operators adds focus control for Canon lenses via a grip handle. You can get smooth focus control when run and gun shooting while keeping your hand firmly on your rig.
All the GoPro rigs I saw from PolarPro seemed to address a problem or wish for GoPro mounting that I’ve personally encountered. The Strap Mount and ProGrip are my favorite, as pictured above. It features a quick release system to attach to your backpack strap or BCD when diving for easy access to your camera.
I’m a stickler for clean, high quality sound but I’m no sound professional and sometimes wireless systems get so finicky I just want to smash them into a wall. Plus they become a giant tangle mess of cables that eventually get frayed. Sennheiser is trying to streamline the process with their new AVX system. The receiver is small and designed to clip right into the XLR port. The transmitter doesn’t have any dangling antennas and both will automatically find and connect to free frequencies.
Not gear but I’ve already been putting Wipster to use. I’m sure most of you have gone through some sort of system of password protected Vimeo sharing or Dropbox links when sending cuts of a film in various stages. Wipster is a streamlined process to not only easily share cuts and manage versions, but also for easy frame accurate commenting by simply clicking on the video. Freemium model – definitely worth a look.
Loop Recording function is added, with which the camera keeps on recording video while deleting the old footage automatically.
After some research and talking to a Panasonic engineer, it is indeed like a pre-recording feature, though a little clunkier. If you turn the mode on and hit record, the camera will roll. Then once the clip hits the 10 minute mark, it will go delete the first 2 minutes of the clip while still recording.
So say you’re filming Planet Earth, trying to get a shark breaching the water. You’d start the camera and just let it record while you wait for the action. It will keep deleting the beginning of the clip while it records, adding the new footage to the end and just cycling through. Then when you get the action, you stop recording. So now you’ve got a 10 minute clip, of which the part you’re interested in is in the last minute or so.
Not as streamlined as a simple 30 second pre-roll buffer, but it can get the job done if you’re waiting for a quick action shot. Apparently there’s no plans right now to add an actual pre-roll mode.
GoPro announced their anticipated HERO4 camera that now shoots 4K (did they plan their model numbering system years ago to coincide with the rise of 4K?).
4K for $500, not bad. How good is the quality? The release trailer with action shots from the camera says pretty frickin good. I’d say the improvement in quality is not just the resolution but the new Protune feature, letting you manually control the camera’s color, sharpness, ISO limit, and exposure.
The Silver edition is $100 less. While it doesn’t shoot 4K it does have a built in touch screen monitor. Hopefully it has a decent battery system to keep the camera going on a charge.
What I found just as cool as the HERO4 is the new price for the base HERO model – $129. Not that anyone wants to lose a camera, but this is a great price for a crash cam or some precarious angles. Also for the price of one HERO4 you could get 3 HEROs and stock up on different angles.