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Old September 21st, 2011, 03:52 PM   #16
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

Great points Robert. I'd be interested to know if the multi-fixed-prop platforms are any easier to fly than a traditional helicopter design?

I'm clueless about all this in general---just trying to learn enough to make a good decision on whether it's worth pursuing or not. As I said above, the alternative is to fork out $10K to rent a real chopper with a stabilized camera...but that's one day of shooting---all your eggs in one basket, as it were. If what you get isn't perfect, you've blown you're $10K. (Which makes the RC option---at least---seem no worse.)

We're also looking into more "grounded" options to get those great shots...such as using zipline-mounted cameras. That can be complex to set up but I've seen some amazing results using a system like this.

Heck, I'd even consider just getting a smaller RC helicopter and putting a GoPro on it just to learn with.

Scott
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Old September 21st, 2011, 05:08 PM   #17
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

Another low tech approach would be to tow a balloon with the camera attached.

Re the 400 foot reference, I still think that is referring to hobbyist RC platforms (i.e. non-commercial), but you could call your nearest FSDO and find out for sure. There would all of a sudden be a lot of jobs created if they came up with a ruling that made the commercial usage OK, but they'd be pretty skittish about people putting untraceable flying things in the air over populated areas.
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Old September 21st, 2011, 05:13 PM   #18
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

Seems to me like the big debate is over what kind of flying vehicle do you call a "hobby" device, and what do you call "a drone?"

I think the FAA is wary of stepping into the hornet's nest of deciding to regulate all radio-controlled model planes and helicopters...I suspect that would anger a LOT of hobbyists around the country...

...and where do radio-controlled gliders fit into this? (e.g. silent, nonpowered unmanned aircraft)

This whole issue is beginning to look to me very much like when the record industry started screaming about digital music and MP3s and streaming music. It was basically a juggernaut they couldn't control. This could well be the same...(the FAA---like all federal agencies---is strapped for cash and doesn't exactly have the personnel to enforce RC regulations in every village, town, and city across the country).

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Old September 21st, 2011, 06:08 PM   #19
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

I'd assume in legal terms you'd be using a commercial device rather than a "hobby" device. It's one of things you'd have to clear together with any insurance requirements.

Regarding any shots from the full size helicopter you'd need to fit within FAA regulations regarding being close to objects and people plus get special clearance to fly closer. In the end it really depends on the type of shots you want as to type of kit you use, there can be an element of crossover between the R/C and the helicopter,but many respects they're different.

You could be expecting the R/C to do material that the full sized helicopter can do better, they are different tools and selection should be based.on the shots you need to do.
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Old September 21st, 2011, 07:49 PM   #20
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

RC helicopters fill a gap between "too low or confined for a full-scale helicopter" and "too high or extensive for a jib".

Here's footage from someone who used a multi-rotor helicopter to fly around -- and through -- his house!


Over the past couple of years I've been following the technology and it's become very advanced. For example, I have a little electronic gadget on mine which allows me to use a rotorhead without a "flybar". The flybar was designed to help stabilize the rotor head and make it easier to fly.

The "digital flybar" now performs the same function. Except now it can be programmed to actually keep the helicopter level, too. So if I let go of the cyclic control, the helicopter simply levels itself. There are other systems that can use GPS to lock the helicopter into a fixed point in space. You can even pre-program it to fly a specific course.

The multi-rotor helicopters have become very easy to fly due to this motion-sensor technology, and so have some of the conventional designs. You still have to practice to become proficient, but much of the difficulties of flying RC helicopters have been reduced.

But there is the need to be meticulous about mechanical and electronic issues. Just getting rid of vibrations is a major challenge. I found myself using a scale to weigh the main rotor blades to within 1/100 of a gram.

Making sure it's airworthy and reliable will always be a serious issue. I feel it has to be approached with the same attention to detail as a full-scale helicopter because of the dependence upon intricate moving parts and the risk of damage or injury.

Understanding aerodynamics is important, too. I noticed that during a rapid vertical descent the helicopter tends to lose a lot of stability. I was guessing it was dropping into its own downwash and that guess was right: It's something known as "vortex ring effect" or also referred to as "descent with power". It's avoided by descending with forward motion. If the helicopter should start to descend too fast, you apply cyclic to move forward and take advantage of translational lift, instead of only applying collective in hopes of making it climb.

If the main rotor blade rotates clockwise, the helicopter will tend to drift to the left: the tail rotor's anti-torque thrust keeps the helicopter from yawing counter-clockwise, but it also pushes the entire helicopter to the left. The end result is that the helicopter's rotor disc looks like it's oddly tilted to the right (to compensate for the drift to the left) if it's in a steady hover.

Lots of tricky things like that.

With all that in mind, the pilot (plus camera operator) has to maneuver the helicopter with the smooth precision of a Steadicam operator. There are RC fliers out there who are no doubt skilled but can they put the camera where it has to be? I've experienced that with full-scale helicopter pilots. Some are just great.

This combination demanding technical expertise, flying skills and creative judgement can either overwhelm someone with frustration, or prove itself as a tremendously satisfying challenge.
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Old September 22nd, 2011, 08:53 AM   #21
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

Scott... go and get yourself a Xaircraft x650 V8, fit it with the options of electrical compass, GPS module and the GoPro camera gimble... get the best Radio you can afford (more channels the better) also get PhoenixRC flight simulator (to practice flying)

A warning, you're going to get hooked... thats why I'm suggesting you get a very advanced Radio because after you start working with the X650 V8 you're going to understand that you can purchase every single component and build your own heavy lift platform for around $4000 to $5000...

As to Frames, the Droidworx and CineStar are top of the line... but you can also go a little cheaper if you want... RC-carbon makes some very nice frames that are classified as heavy lift at a good price.

Probably the most expensive item on a heavy lift platform is going to be a top notch camera gimble... but the higher cost seems to be worth the price...

DJI just released a new flight controller setup thats plug and play... $1200... but it is very nice.

I think your going to see a few folks moving from the GoPro over to the Sony NEX-5n... its just that much better video quality... here's an example
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Old September 22nd, 2011, 09:07 AM   #22
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

And just to get you a little more excited :-)

A new craze thats up and coming with the RC guys is to fit cameras on airframes, either multirotator heli's or fixed wing, and fit onboard a video transmitter... they use video goggles because they get 50 mile ranges, so they can't see the aircraft, but they sure get to see from the pilots view point... here's an example of a fixed wing
platfom using electrical motor, two batteries (50 minute flight time ), flying around 85mph... and the pilot is wearing video goggles with OSD (on screen display) giving him full telemetry feedback of the equipment ...
just like a real fighter jet pilot... :-)

enjoy the video...

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Old September 22nd, 2011, 02:03 PM   #23
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Bell View Post
I think your going to see a few folks moving from the GoPro over to the Sony NEX-5n... its just that much better video quality...
The Canon Vixia also gets a nice picture when in the cine mode.

But both the Sony and the Canon are more than some helicopters can lift. That's the reason some use the GoPro. At least it is for me.

The helicopter I have wasn't intended to carry any payload. But it can lift a GoPro, and that's what I had. So I literally "stuck" it onto the helicopter to try it out. Worked OK. But I don't care all that much for the picture quality.

I'm hoping to test a Contour camera. I saw some side-by-side comparisons, and the Contour doesn't exhibit the contrasty, over-saturated qualities of the GoPro.
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Old September 22nd, 2011, 03:10 PM   #24
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

Dean, I saw a post on another sight today where this guy replaced the esc's on the X650 V8 and claims he can lift 7.5 pounds payload... thats great... at least for that small of a quad heli...
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Old September 22nd, 2011, 03:59 PM   #25
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

Ray... I'm planning to put a different ESC on this helicopter. Some have reported about a 25% increase in flight times when it's flown with a Castle Creations Ice Lite 50, rather than the stock Align ESC. It'll still lift the same payload, just longer flight times.

It certainly beats putting a larger battery because of the basic laws of diminishing returns: more weight. More power required. Net duration increase: zero?

Also, the Ice Lite can be programmed via computer instead of listening to beeps and moving the throttle stick to determine settings. And the built-in battery eliminator circuit means I don't have to have a separate BEC as I do now.
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Old September 22nd, 2011, 07:59 PM   #26
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

Oh man Ray---video goggles??? 50-mile range??? 50-minute flight time? HOLY COW! I want this, LOL. Talk about some serious virtual reality---sorry 3-D animators, but this blows anything you can do out of the water. :-)

Those flying wings look almost identical to the Zagi (a popular slope-soaring RC glider). I've flown Zagis for years and always have a blast (there's something magical about flying unpowered for 2 hours on nothing but the wind...)

Dean, your comments about the technological improvements tend to support what I said earlier: that while flying these copter-style aircraft can be challenging, it's not impossible. And I'm certain it'll only get easier with time.

Scott
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Old September 28th, 2011, 05:59 AM   #27
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

The Black Sheep gang does some amazing things. I purchased the FPV camera they sell (TBS-69) and installed it on my T-Rex 450. I haven't done much FPV flying with it. Instead I often look through the monitor to check out what the camera's seeing, with the intention of being able to fly via video monitor.

It's harder than I thought. I flew airplanes (real ones) and am totally comfortable with the concept of doing the same with a video feed. But helicopters don't handle at all like airplanes, and it's a big challenge just to get it to go where I want it.

As for tiny HD cameras, the Contour proved to be a big disappointment. Lots of hype on their website with a lot of user complaints. So I have a Replay 1080 XD on order and will see how that works out. Meanwhile I have to reconfigure the T-Rex. The lighter camera changes the weight and balance, so that means moving the battery forward, the FPV camera to a different spot, and figuring out a different mount for the Replay.
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Old September 30th, 2011, 10:07 PM   #28
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

I watched a vid of a guy using the replay camera yesterday... it looked better than the GoPro.. not a wide but it didn't look like you are shooting through a bubble either... good price too for that camera...
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Old September 30th, 2011, 10:26 PM   #29
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

I'm going to post a review of the Replay 1080XD, along with a test clip comparing the GoPro to the Replay.
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Old January 9th, 2012, 11:01 AM   #30
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Re: Any experience with R/C aerial shooting?

I resurrected this thread because I'm about to purchase an AR.Drone 2. For those not familiar with it, check out this vid on Vimeo:

The newest version of the AR.Drone shoots stills and 720p video from 2 on-board cameras. It's controlled via iPhone or iPad. It might seem like a toy...but it's a pretty impressive toy.

My reason for getting one is because I believe---at only $299---this represents a great proof-of-concept test platform for anyone considering doing more advanced videography from a remote-controlled aerial platform. My goal is to get one, practice a lot with it to the point where I can get some half-decent aerial video footage flying between and over campus buildings, etc...then use this "offline" footage as justification for us to spend some serious money on a bigger platform capable of carrying better cameras.

The AR.Drone 2 even has an "indoor" mode with foam bumpers around the props, making it safe for indoor use.

Arguments made earlier in this thread were that these platforms are extraordinarily difficult to fly well. While I'm sure that's true, technology has come a long way---the AR.Drone has built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes that make it self-stabilizing---you can simply press a "hover" button and it sits dead-still (not counting, of course, any outdoor wind conditions, which you'd obviously have to be careful about).

The literature says you can even program a preset flight route into this thing and just press "Go." I doubt it's highly accurate...but even if it's sort of accurate, that's huge!

Don't know if anyone else has played with one of these...if so, post your impressions! (I'm particularly curious, for example, how smooth moving aerial video is.) I'll post my impressions after getting one.

Scott

PS - What's clearly lacking in the promo video above are examples of the 720p video footage shot from the drone. I haven't had time to search for any yet...but if anyone can find some examples online, post up!
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