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Old May 5th, 2014, 10:05 AM   #1
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UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

I know, these reports are probably getting old. :-) But I'm still not completely convinced by any one system for aerial videography.

Most recently, I'd been almost convinced by the Phantom 2 Vision Plus. Initial reviews were good, and I've been swayed by the all-in-one convenience. But (as with ALL systems) I've started reading about issues. And as always, I'm never quite sure whether the issues are...
a) total BS (posted by someone with an axe to grind)
b) represent just 1% or less of all similar platforms
c) due to user error/inattention

In the case of the Phantom 2 Vision Plus, I've read that...
• the DJI camera, while decent, isn't as good as the latest GoPro (and GoPro is rumored to be getting closer to releasing the Hero 4)
• people are having issues with video streaming to their smartphones

So while researching these issues more, I'm back to thinking maybe assembling a custom kit is better.

In-flight video monitoring is critical for me---if I can't reliably see what I'm shooting, the whole exercise is pointless. I've got to have a Tx/Rx solution that is bombproof---and won't cut in/out, be subject to interference, etc.

I'm also wondering more what the potential for RF inerference (or other problems) could be when flying around a university campus soaked in wifi networks and cellphone use?

I'm hearing more people talk about problems due to flying in urban areas...well that's what I'm getting one for! I don't really have much need or use for getting aerial footage of fields and forests (nothing against fields and forests---I love 'em!).

So...frustrating as it is...I continue to wait...and continue to keep reading forums, watching demo vids, etc.

NOTE: I've still never gotten a good response to the "Phantom vs. F550" question. No question the Phantoms are more popular...but I still keep thinking a hexcopter may have advantages. (But maybe not?) Someone at Aerial Media Pros told me something that was new to me: that you cannot attach a Zenmuse 3D gimbal to an F550. This sounded odd, because I'm pretty sure I've seen many mods to the F550's undercarriage that let you attach pretty much anything under the sun...so another thing to look into.

Scott
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Old May 5th, 2014, 03:16 PM   #2
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

What I see is two camps

Guys who were already into RC , trying to fim with Helis and planes tend to run away from the Phantom.
Its probably pride mostly. We think we can build something better for less

Guys who come from a film/photography background tend to lean towards a phantom. I believe this is being familiar with it because of advertising on places like B and H photo and that most photo/video trade articles about aerial filming almost always shows a phantom

If I were you I would get me a multirotor without a camera first to start flying ( maybe you have already. best first step)
Then I would build a multi designed around my payload.

I wish I could find a second person. Someone serious about doing this for MONEY. flying and running the gimbal is tough

I can tell you this from 7 years work- Go hexa or octo.
Your background will always leave you wanting more untill you are carrying a DSLR or Video camera.

Dont get me wrong, I love my GoPro and I do own a Flamewheel 550......and I have a zenmuse Hero 2D gimbal and I love it. But if I want to show a pro I refer them to the work I have shot with my GH3 in the air.


My dream set up right now ?
I would love to have a DJI S-1000 octocopter, DJI A2 controller and DJI zenmuse Z-15 gimbal for the GH3.

I just want it. What I have now flies the GH3 fine

Tarot 960 Naza V2 controller RCtimer legacy gimbal/alexmos controller


You could go ahead and buy the phantom , just look at it as a stepping stone to your next project, a larger Hexa.
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Old May 5th, 2014, 03:23 PM   #3
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

You don't just wake up and decide to be a medical doctor one day. It takes time, study and lots of practice. The Phantom are a great way to start. My first quad was a Phantom I. The new Phantom II is even batter and will fly longer. Yes they do fly away sometimes but not because of any defect in design. Flyaways are caused by lack of experience with flying and lack of understanding of how the aircraft responds to certain situations.

A F550 is not for you until you learn to fly and fly well. Get a Phantom II and go far away from people and buildings. Buy 2 or 3 extra batteries. Charge all the batteries and fly every day till you can fly it both pointed away from you and pointed toward you. Lear to fly figure 8's quickly. Fly it till it is second nature like riding a bike.

After you put 20+ hours of flight time in, you are ready to start thinking about adding camera and gimbal. Spend another 5 hours with that setup in the air and then you can start thinking about using a video transmitter and monitor to control the camera position.

Learn how to fly well in all modes, GPS, manual, ATTI. Learn to how the return to home functions work. Learn the IOC system.

Build up time with flying and if you don't loose it to crashes or fly-away by the time you reach 100 hours you will be ready to build your own.
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Old May 5th, 2014, 04:46 PM   #4
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

I just built an F550 after owning the Phantom for about a year. The flight characteristics are almost exactly the same, the F550 is just a lot more stable. I personally think if you can fly a Phantom, you can fly the F550 just as easily. But as Chris said, if you've never flown a Phantom it may be a bad idea to go for the F550 initially.

For me, there are a few advantages to the F550:
- Increased payload means you can carry a bigger battery, more FPV gear, bigger gimbal and camera, etc
- More stable in the wind
- If you use the Wookong controller, you get a bit of redundancy (if one of the motors dies you can still land)
- More modular design; a heavy crash is likely just going to break a few arms so repair is easy and cheap
- This may not matter for some, but it looks a lot more professional than the Phantom. I've had strange looks turning up to a pro shoot with a Phantom before. The Phantom has just had too much media coverage.

Of course there are downsides too. It takes a bit of effort to build, and a lot of research. Setting up the flight controller and transmitter took me a couple of days. But the information is readily available online.

As for attaching a gimbal to the F550, you need a set of landing legs like this:
200mm clearance landing legs | QUADframe.us
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Old May 5th, 2014, 06:03 PM   #5
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

If you are not flying something you are running behind. Go out and get a cheap quad with no camera. I just picked up a hubsan 4x for 50 dollars. I realized I could practice getting the shots that I
Need practice on without putting my rigs into harms way
They all fly the same pretty much and these little rigs will improve your flying skills while you decide
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Old May 6th, 2014, 12:20 PM   #6
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

Good thoughts. I should have mentioned in my post (I may have mentioned it elsewhere): I'm an experienced RC slope soaring glider pilot (with hundreds of hours flying high-speed gliders very close to the ground and engaged in aerial combat with other gliders).

While I'm sure flying a multicopter is different, I'm pretty sure that when flown carefully, the speeds are nothing compared to slope soaring, where you can get flying so fast (40-60mph) that the smallest error can end in a spectacular crash. I'm also accustomed to flying in reverse orientation (with the aircraft coming right at you). So I'm reasonably sure I'll be able to fly a multicopter.

As an aside, I did most of my RC flying in the days before exponential stick control on transmitters. In other words, I became very accustomed to flying with microscopically small stick movements---if you watched me fly one of my gliders, you'd swear I never move the stick at all! :-)

The other difference in my/our case is that I'm not looking to do aerial videography as a professional business. I'm just looking to be able to get some nice aerial shots and pedestal moves (up/down) around our campus to fold into other video footage we have.

It's fair to ask "Why not hire someone to come in and do it?" We could…but we'd have a lot less flexibility than we will if we have (say) a Phantom we can just pull out whenever the weather is perfect or when there is something in particular we need to shoot.

In many respects what is happening with multicopters now is analogous to what happened with the advent of desktop video production---when people first started using Video Toasters on Amiga computers, all the "broadcast heavies" scoffed and said "That's low-quality amateur stuff." Flash forward to today and serious films are being cut in people's bedrooms on Macs. It's the same with multicopters: yes, you'll get better results with a $15K platform carrying a big camera and flown by a full-time RC pilot…but not everyone needs that.

Anyway, for what it's worth, I'm leaning back toward the Vision Plus. While I completely agree that it's important to put in hours flying these things, it's also very obvious from videos like this that these things are NOT difficult to fly, especially if you have some RC experience:

RC Groups - View Single Post - DJI Phantom Quadcopter

Scott
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Old May 6th, 2014, 12:46 PM   #7
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

Well one thing is for sure, You won't know till you buy something and get to flying.

My advice is buy one of anything and see if its good enough. If its not sell it and buy another one.

At the low end where you are looking with the phantom they are dirt cheap. Pull the trigger and get to flying.

I've had a blast playing with mine.
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Old May 6th, 2014, 03:37 PM   #8
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

I'm done. Just paid for a Phantom 2 Pro Pack from Aerial Media Pros.

I went with this over the Phantom 2 Vision Plus because...

a) I'm familiar with the GoPro Hero 3, think it's probably a touch better than the DJI camera, there are many aftermarket filter kits available for it, and (if the form factor doesn't change) I can upgrade to a Hero 4 when it's released.

b) I wanted the larger 7" field monitor (with hood) as I'm certain it'll make in-flight monitoring easier than doing it on an iPhone, as well as the greater range of the dedicated monitoring system.

c) I wanted the greater range of the Futaba 14SG transmitter.

d) I like the increased flight information available via the IOSD over the bare bones info with the Vision Plus.

e) I wanted an easier path to monitoring with wireless video goggles in the future---it's a bit of a hassle to use these with the Vision Plus.

Cost of this setup, plus
- 2 extra batteries (total of 4)
- prop guards
- extra battery charger
was $3,410, plus the cost of the GoPro Hero 3.

It'll be a couple weeks before I get the system. Aerial Media Pros were very helpful on the phone and answered several questions. They claim to assemble, configure, tweak, and flight test the whole system before shipping---so it should be good to go when I receive it.

I'll post initial impressions when it comes and I get into the air!
Scott
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Old May 6th, 2014, 08:45 PM   #9
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

Good to hear, Scott!

You won't be disappointed with the Phantom. Like you, I had many years of experience flying RC planes before I got into multi-rotors. The Phantom was the first quadcopter I flew, and I was comfortable with it within minutes. It is a very easy machine to fly if you already have RC experience.

My only other recommendation is to thoroughly read the manual. The LED sequences are crucial to know, as is the compass calibration process. And making sure the GPS has a solid lock before takeoff is the best way to avoid anything going wrong when it's airborne.

Have fun!
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Old May 20th, 2014, 07:25 AM   #10
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

UPDATE: We got our Phantom 2 Pro Package from Aerial Media Pros yesterday---much faster than I expected! (They said two weeks, but it was one.)

Everything came beautifully slotted into the nice Pelican-style travel case---no infuriating de-shrink-wrapping required. :-)

I'll be charging up all the batteries today for a first flight. Aerial Media Pros ships the Phantom (or maybe DJI does?) with only GPS flying mode enabled. You have to use the Phantom software to enable Attitude and Manual modes, which I plan to do today. I'll only use GPS and Attitude modes at first, of course---but I plan to master manual mode flying as I've heard repeatedly this provides the smoothest aerial footage. (But if GPS/Atti mode video looks fine then I may have no need to use Manual.)

My only minor gripe with Aerial Media Pros is that they seem to encourage a very limited/ultra-basic understanding of all the systems. The quad shipped with a variety of miscellaneous parts---some screws, extra rubber vibration dampeners with cryptic degree markings on them (what are those???), and nothing anywhere to tell you what any of that stuff is.

They also include the Phantom Quick Start Guide...but there is no "Full Manual" (maybe a PDf online?). And the "manuals" for the wireless video monitor and IOSD are tiny slips of paper (half in Chinese) with instructions that are cryptic at best.

I'm not too worried about any of this, because I know the whole system is probably mostly plug-and-fly. But I'm the kind of operator who actually reads the manual---so it would be nice to HAVE good manuals for everything. :-)

Stay tuned. A report on the first flight coming soon!
Scott
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Old May 20th, 2014, 07:49 AM   #11
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

Happy flying Scott, and there are full manuals for phantom and gimbal online, don't think there's one for the iosd mini.

John.
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Old May 20th, 2014, 08:03 AM   #12
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post

I'll be charging up all the batteries today for a first flight. Aerial Media Pros ships the Phantom (or maybe DJI does?) with only GPS flying mode enabled. You have to use the Phantom software to enable Attitude and Manual modes, which I plan to do today. I'll only use GPS and Attitude modes at first, of course---but I plan to master manual mode flying as I've heard repeatedly this provides the smoothest aerial footage. (But if GPS/Atti mode video looks fine then I may have no need to use Manual.)
I flew with my Phantom for about a year and I never saw a need to try manual mode. I'm not sure what you read, but attitude mode is extremely smooth. It's only in GPS mode that the quad is constantly making little micro adjustments that can show up in your video footage.

In attitude mode, you have complete control over the quad, you just can't bank it past a certain angle. So I can't see what added benefit manual mode would have. I'd personally never use it, and I've been flying RC aircraft for about 10 years. The chance of crashing is just too high. I can do it with my little E-Flite Nano QX quadcopter, but it's extremely difficult. Give it a little too much stick in any direction, and upside down it goes.

Just my 2 cents :)

Oh and as for manuals, the in-depth versions are all on the DJI website.
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Old May 20th, 2014, 11:13 AM   #13
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

Thanks for the suggestions---I did find and download the full manuals online.

And Jody---that's great to hear. I'm certainly not hell-bent on using Manual mode, and if you've gotten smooth results in ATTI mode then that's fine with me! :-) (But I guess I'll still have to use the software to unlock ATTI mode---which makes Manual just an accidental bump of a switch away---yikes!)

I'm hoping to get out and fly late this afternoon. I'm tempted to go the full monty and shoot video and use the wireless monitor...but common sense tells me I should make my first flight with the GoPro (and monitor) off---so I'm only focusing on flying...

Scott
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Old May 20th, 2014, 01:44 PM   #14
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

Go ahead and film your first flight. You wont have an issue with flying and playing with the gopro.

When you build a big multi and want to put a gimbal/camera on it then the common steps would be to build the multi, get it flying good and then add the camera/gimbal.
But with the Phantom you have the gimbal is already there and it will need the camera for the correct balance. Might as well turn it on.

But, you do want to fly in manual. The reeason being if you ever think you may be in the middle of a "DJI Flyaway" the only way to recover is switch to manual. So, learn manual as soon as possible. Just in case.

I film with GPS. what a lot of people dont realize is you can set your gains in atti/gps mode so that the flight is just as smooth in GPS as it is in atti mode. In fact, if you set you gains correctly you should go between the three modes without much difference in how the multi handles. Except of coures GPS is the only mode that will allow you to enjoy a sandwich and fly.
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Old May 21st, 2014, 05:21 AM   #15
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Re: UPDATE: Still researching, still undecided.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Cash View Post
Go ahead and film your first flight. You wont have an issue with flying and playing with the gopro.
That makes sense.

Quote:
But, you do want to fly in manual. The reeason being if you ever think you may be in the middle of a "DJI Flyaway" the only way to recover is switch to manual. So, learn manual as soon as possible. Just in case.
This, and I admit to also feeling a bit like an "RC purist" in that I've been flying RC gliders for years in "manual" mode (since that's all there is!), so I keep thinking I should be able to fly one of these the same way. :-)

Quote:
I film with GPS. what a lot of people dont realize is you can set your gains in atti/gps mode so that the flight is just as smooth in GPS as it is in atti mode. In fact, if you set you gains correctly you should go between the three modes without much difference in how the multi handles. Except of coures GPS is the only mode that will allow you to enjoy a sandwich and fly.
Ha! Good. Any recommendations for good sources of info (online) for setting the gains the way you describe? (I'll do some googling around too...)

Scott
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