At NASA’s Moffett Field, about four miles from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., the agency has been developing a drone traffic management program that would in effect be a separate air traffic control system for things that fly low to the ground — around 400 to 500 feet for most drones.
Much like the air traffic control system for conventional aircraft, the program would monitor the skies for weather and traffic. Wind is a particular hazard, because drones weigh so little compared with regular planes.
The system would also make sure the drones do not run into buildings, news helicopters or other lower-flying objects — a more challenging task than for an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. There would also be no-fly zones, such as anywhere near a major airport…
Unlike the typical image of an air traffic control center — a dark room full of people wearing headphones and staring at radar screens — NASA’s system, like the drones themselves, would dispense with the people and use computers and algorithms to figure out where they can and cannot fly.
NY Times reporting today on more drone announcements from Google and what’s being done to manage the influx of drones – both the commercial potential and current open skies for hobbyists.
There definitely needs to be some sort of air traffic system in place but what isn’t clear from this bit about NASA is how does Joe Consumer who bought a DJI Phantom drone to get some cool GoPro shots know where the lanes are? Are manufacturers going to be required to install chips that block the drones from entering certain areas?
As drones become more and more prevalent (especially ones with cameras) I’d expect to see more challenges with rights to privacy and what is and isn’t considered public space. Sidewalks are public property and fair game for taking pictures from. Does that extend 400 feet into the sky?
GH4 arrived on Friday. I took it out to Big Cypress National Preserve to give it a spin and play with the Panasonic 100-300mm 4-5.6 lens I rented.
This isn’t a camera review post but overall the camera was great. I shot a lot of stills and some 4K video. Below you can see an owl chowing down on a fish. The stabilization is amazing – this was all handheld at 100mm or 300mm (that’d be 200mm to 600mm in 35mm).
Out in the field I connected the SD card to the iPad to see what would happen. The pictures popped up along with the 4K video, which surprised me. I imported a clip and it would play fine if I kept the playback controls up. But if I touched the screen to clear them out of the way the video went black. Instagram didn’t know what to do with the video file, even if I trimmed it and had the iPad export a new clip.
So when I get home I pull up the card, click import in Lightroom, and then…nothing. The only stuff that would import was the 4K video files. Lightroom or Photoshop wouldn’t read the RAW files and neither would Preview. This isn’t unusual with new cameras – they each have their own flavor of RAW and updates catch up the software. So it’s just an annoying waiting game.
But then I remembered the iPad. The images appeared but I never imported them to see if they would load. So I bring them back up, import a few, and they totally showed up and imported fine. Lightroom Mobile wouldn’t read them, but iPhoto had no problem. And I was only shooting RAW, not RAW + JPEG, so these weren’t the JPEGs loading.
I went ahead and processed this image of a White Ibis. No idea why the iPad is totally fine handling these files while nothing on the Mac is (except for Panasonic’s software, where you could convert the RAW files to another format), but good to know.
I was fortunate enough to be covering new gear at NAB for Filmmaker Magazine. It was my first time there and overall a great experience. There was a lot of cool updates and little gear solutions like clever light stands or inflatable softboxes, but no one item that totally blew me away. Here are some of my overall observations of the festival as a whole: 4 Observations from a First Time NAB Experience.
In no particular order, here’s a rundown of what I wrote about.
Lowel is coming out with a small LED fresnel light. It’s adapted from a handheld rig they have which really only has a use for event videographers. But now it’ll be stand mountable with a battery accessory. Decent option on the low end of LED glass lights.
At the beginning of last month Apple came out with another great commercial featuring day in the life activities of people around the world using Apple products seamlessly in their life. The kicker at the end of the video is that the commercial itself was all shot on an iPhone.
Everything in the video was shot on the same day (January 24, their 30th anniversary) and they released this BTS video showing how it was made with this futuristic video control center with FaceTime feeds of camera crews around the globe.
While the filmmaking mission control center of the future was cool, what struck me was the amount of rigs and gear used in the production. I knew there would be some extra behind the scenes magic used, especially with the disclaimer at the end “Additional apps and equipment used.” But I didn’t realize it was this heavy duty.
Swap out the iPhone with an Alexa or RED camera and it would look like the production of any other Apple commercial. While that does say a lot about the iPhone 5s’ image sensor, I think it says even more for the importance of camera rigs and professional crew and operators to get fantastic images.
Last week Panasonic announced their long rumored 4K successor to the GH3, the aptly named GH4. The high resolution in a body that’s expected to be under $2000 drew lots of attention and comparisons to the only other comparably priced 4K camera, the Blackmagic Production Camera, which has since gone down to just under $3000.
But Panasonic also announced a new accessory specifically for the GH4 that adds pro-level video features you’re not going to find in anything under $10,000, the YAGH Interface Unit (not the sexiest of names). If you’re looking at this camera for video work (and why else would you care about 4K if you weren’t shooting video?) you’ve got to look at it as a whole package.
The YAGH adds 2 XLR inputs with audio level controls and monitoring, uncompressed 4K SDI out, timecode sync, DC power in, and some sort of rail system for lens support and accessories. The XLR inputs are what really sold me. No more relying on fragile 3.5 mm inputs or dealing with sync sound later. Plus if you need to run-and-gun you can take it off and go with the very capable Panasonic MS2 shotgun mic, built specifically to work with these cameras. If we assume the unit will be under $1000, that’s $3000 (probably less) for a 4K camera with pro-level features. That’s crazy.
I’d say that’s comparable to the Canon C500, a $20,000 camera, except unlike that camera the GH4 can actually record 4K without the need of an external recorder. Of course they’re not equal – the C500 has a Super 35 sensor and RAW 4K, but that’s up to you if it’s worth an extra $17,000 (plus an external recorder if you actually want to record 4K). Of course if you’re interested in RAW 4K, there’s the Blackmagic for $3000, but you’re not going to be running-and-gunning with that camera. It’ll be interesting to see the Zacuto 4K shootout once all these camera’s are officially out.
Here’s some 4K sample footage. You can find more videos of the camera in action at No Film School (nothing on the YAGH).
We finally got most of the gear up and running and kicked it up a notch to start filming the machete fighters in slow motion on a steadicam.
To break down the setup, we’ve got the Sony FS700 (left) owned by DP Richard Patterson. This camera was released with a future 4K upgrade in the pipeline which just came out. The 4K requires two additional devices, the HXR-IFR5 interface (center) and the AXS-R5 recorder (right). The IFR5 interface connects to the camera through the SDI port and the recorder holds the SSD media for recording. AbelCine rented the R5 recorder to the production at a discount and the IFR5 was purchased from Sony.
To me, more appealing than the 4K from this setup is the ability to shoot unlimited slow-motion at 2K at 120 fps. Normally when shooting slow-motion on the FS700 you only have an 8 second window to record the action, then you have to wait for the camera to buffer the recording before you can shoot again. It’s a lot of down time and not ideal for recording machete fights with subjects not used to the technicalities of film production. This setup lets us record slow-motion at 2K (or 4K with buffering) for as much memory as we have, which is 20 minutes of action on a 512 GB SSD card.
I’m writing a full hands-on review of the experience when we’re done with production for Filmmaker Magazine, so there will be lots more information about the camera and some of the issues we ran into. There will also be a lot of insight from Richard, who will have worked with the setup firsthand for two weeks.