AI News, The Insider’s Guide to Drone Videography
- On Monday, February 19, 2018
- By Read More
The Insider’s Guide to Drone Videography
The camera swoops in on the face of a cliff rising more than 100 meters from the surrounding scrublands.
You might indeed be wondering that if the title of this YouTube video hadn’t given the answer away: “Rock Climbing with the DJI Phantom 2.” The Phantom 2 is a tiny electric helicopter you can buy for about US $700.
The ability to capture footage of this sort is not exactly new: For many years the film industry has taken advantage of radio-controlled (RC) helicopters to carry movie cameras to places that cranes and dollies couldn’t go.
But now small multiple-motor helicopters, or multicopters, have largely supplanted the more mechanically complex single-engine model helicopters used in the past for this task.
These camera-equipped electric drones have been getting cheaper and easier to use, in large part because of the proliferation of smartphones, which led to the development of inexpensive gyroscopes and accelerometers and made it possible to mass-produce very capable yet inexpensive autopilots.
Indeed, the cost of camera-equipped multicopters is now well within the means of the countless people who want to take aerial videos for a variety of purposes: journalism, wildlife observation, search-and-rescue operations, real-estate photography—or perhaps just plain fun.
Already in Europe, green-power producers fly drones to inspect the blades of wind turbines, farmers use them to survey crops, and oil companies inspect their installations with them.
company has even used a drone of this kind for close inspection of a tower used to burn off combustible gases—even as the flames rose just meters away.
Multicopters are a type of drone with at least three independent motors and propellers, although the number of motors generally ranges between four and eight, depending on the load to be carried and how much redundancy is sought.
You can also rotate the drone about a vertical axis (yaw) by boosting power to half the props—the ones that rotate one direction—and diminishing power to those rotating in the opposite direction, always adjusting the power so that the redistribution doesn’t cause unwanted pitch or roll.
Indeed, the electronics found in most systems include an inertial-measurement unit (IMU) that can stabilize the drone even in the face of changing winds, which are what makes flying a traditional RC helicopter so challenging.
And with the help of onboard GPS receivers, barometric-pressure sensors, and flight-control systems, a multicopter can hover in the same area of the sky with ease, a capability that makes it straightforward to capture video using a camera mounted on the airframe.
For serious cinematography, you’ll need a multicopter that can carry the considerable weight of a pro-level camera, which probably means a multicopter with long frame arms, up to 12 motors and props, and larger batteries.
There are many such gimbals on the market, most nowadays incorporating an IMU and brushless motors, which can rotate the camera smoothly, either to point it at the subject or to compensate for motions of the multicopter.
That’s because a two-axis system will not stabilize the pan axis during flight, and the resulting motions will show up in your videos as a disturbing “yaw wag.” The most popular “prosumer” systems used today include the DJI Zenmuse and Freefly MoVi gimbal systems.
Another good option that should give similar if not better performance is the newly released Phantom 3, which comes with a gimbal and video camera and, given DJI’s reputation, ought to fly pretty well straight away.
In particular, the feedback-gain settings of the copter’s flight-control system must be tuned so that the craft reacts promptly enough to counter gusts of wind and other outside influences without becoming too twitchy.
Drone videographers call this all-too-common effect “jello.” Of course, getting the perfect shot will also hinge on your ability as a drone pilot to fly smoothly, accurately, and safely around your subject.
Ideally, a second operator will use video telemetry sent from the camera to keep the subject properly framed, panning and tilting the camera as needed by remote control while you concentrate on flying.
If you’re teaching yourself, pay considerable attention to the dangers involved in lofting something high into the air that can weigh several kilograms and has a bunch of rather sharp blades whirling around.
Whether or not you end up buying and flying one of these new camera platforms, expect to see more and more stunning aerial sequences in the movies and on television as professional videographers embrace all the things that multicopters can do.
“I just connected the dots,” says Diaz, who immediately went to work mounting such cameras on his helicopters and soon added gyro-stabilized gimbals to dampen their motions in the air.
- On Sunday, February 23, 2020
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