Archive for the ‘ TRICKS & TIPS ’ Category

10 things that could save your drone

10 things that could save your drone

Click here for a German translation of this post.

If you’re interested in drones you will have no doubt seen all the spectacular crashes on YouTube and heard about drones flying away by themselves. Drones like the DJI Inspire 1 or Phantom 3 are highly complex devices that rely on various systems to perform properly. While there’s no way to guarantee against a hardware or software problem there are a few things you can do to minimise the chances of crashing. Here are my top tips that could save your DJI drone.

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1. Know when and when NOT to calibrate the compass

A lot of people recommend calibrating the drones compass each time it’s flown at a different location. While this seems to work for some I think it introduces unnecessary risk. Let me explain why…

When you perform a compass calibration you’re letting your drone test its surroundings for magnetic force and once the calibration is complete it stores that data and assumes that those forces are normal for the current location and will be consistent throughout the flight. But what if there’s a large electrical cable or metal pipework buried below the paving you’re standing on? If that were the case then the calibration you’ve just performed will have taken those effects into account and the moment the drone takes off it will be flying with incorrect compass data.

Unless you’ve travelled a long way (hundreds of miles) since your last flight there’s no real need to re-calibrate the compass if you already have a good calibration locked in. If you find yourself in a nice open undeveloped area then it’s a good time to grab a clean compass calibration, otherwise why replace a clean calibration with one from an area where you have no idea what unknown forces are at play.

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Inspiring Panorama’s – Shooting panoramas with a drone

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The great thing about shooting pano’s with the Inspire 1 is that due to it’s ability to lock position using GPS it pretty much works like a tripod in the sky allowing you to rotate through horizontal pans at various pitches without the camera slipping position too much. The Inspire is especially good at this job because it’s props lift out of view enough to get a 30 degree up angle on the camera and still not see the props or the landing gear in the shots.

After some experimentation I settled on shooting 4:3 Raw stills and in order to provide plenty of overlap for stitching them together I shot around 16 images per 360 degree rotation. I found I could cover from 30 degrees up to 90 degrees straight down using four rotations so ended up with around 70 stills per pano location.

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Click here to view the interactive Panorama I created.

In order to stitch the images together I used an application called AutoPano Pro from Kolor Software. AutoPano does an amazing job of taking all the individual images and then combining them together in to one seamless pano file. AutoPano handled the Inspires Raw DNG files perfectly although it is quite a CPU intensive process.

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Once the images have been stitched together there are multiple tools allowing you to tweak various aspects of the pano. I found the only tools I really had to use were the crop tool to remove some black space at the top of the pano and the automatic horizon tool to straighten the horizon. Both tools worked perfectly.

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I wanted to create an interactive pano so I opened the exported file using another application from Kolor called Panotour which magically turns the pano file in to an interactive html experience allowing the pano to be controlled and viewed on both the web and on mobile devices.

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One of the great things about Panotour is that you can also link multiple pano’s together creating a virtual tour for the viewer. In my example I simply linked together two pano’s allowing the viewer to jump between them.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

 


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Using markers as visual sync guides in FCPX

here’s a quick tutorial showing how I use markers in FCPX to give me a visual indicator in case any audio syncing issues crop up due to a mistake using the magnetic timeline.

Although the magnetic timeline offers many advantages when editing, I find that it’s very easy to inadvertently trim a clip without realising you’ve done it and as a result have all of the clips later in the timeline jump out of sync with a music track that is attached near the beginning of the project.

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As each section of my projects start to become tuned to the beats in the music I drop in pairs of markers so that any future changes in sync are more obvious. The markers are dropped in place by selecting the target clip, moving the pointer to the desired location and then pressing the ‘m’ key if using the standard keyboard commands.

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Quite often I notice these markers have moved out of alignment even before I notice any sync issues so it provides a good alert system as well as giving a visual clue as to where any unwanted changes have been made in the edit.

My FCPX Location Workflow

It’s been a while since I’ve shared my location workflow and since the release of FCPX 10.1 it’s now a useful tool for ingesting in the field so I thought I’d take a bit of time to detail exactly how I go about managing data when working overseas.

Firstly i’ll list the equipment that I take with me for handling footage. This setup is designed to be as portable and light as possible mainly due to baggage restrictions at airports where every KG counts, especially when you fly using Europe’s budget airlines.

 

Keeping the kit small

My current kit consists of the following:

11″ Macbook Air
Lacie Rugged Thunderbolt / USB 3 Drive
Toshiba USB Portable drive
Nexto NVS2500
Lexar USB 3 Card Reader

 

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Dual Slot Recording = Dual Benefits

One of the great features on both the Canon C300 and C100 is the ability to record to both card slots simultaneously. I use this feature for all of my shooting, it not only offers protection against loss of footage in case of a card failure but it also allows me to process and backup my data more efficiently.

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Connecting everything up

The centre of my setup is the most basic model 11″ Macbook Air. I purchased this little mac just for handling footage but I’ve actually edited in the field with it a few times and it’s been perfectly capable. I normally connect my Lacie Rugged Thunderbolt / USB 3 Drive to the MacBook Air via thunderbolt just because it leaves both USB ports available. If you don’t have Thunderbolt as an option however USB obviously works just as well for the task.

I plug the Lexar USB 3 Card Reader in to one of the USB slots and the other one is used to power my Nexto NVS2500. The Nexto does have a built in rechargeable battery but I prefer to keep it powered via USB during the backup process rather than worrying about how much charge is remaining. Having it powered via the macBook also means one less power brick to worry about.

 

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Ingest & backup

So here’s where shooting to both cards comes in really useful. For each pair of cards I have one goes in to the Nexto which creates a copy of the exact card structure and then verifies it. At the same time the other card goes in to the card reader and I use Final Cut Pro X to import the data from the card into a Library on the Lacie drive. It’s obviously important to make sure both cards contain the same data but if there’s any kind of error or difference between the two at least this way you have the data from both cards.

 

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The great thing about working this way is that FCPX can be left to create it’s optimised media and do any processing required on the footage. I don’t like to have any rendering done by the macBook so I disable rendering but that’s a personal choice, if you like to work with render files then you could also have that process done for you as well. If required I’ll apply a basic set of keywords to the imported clips while they are fresh in my memory from that days shooting.

One big advantage to working within FCPX on location is if i find I have time I can begin making selects within FCPX and save myself some time during the edit stage.

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The copy of the cards on the Nexto is really just an emergency backup, If for any reason the data within FCPX is incomplete or damaged then I can revert to the Nexto and perform a fresh import in to FCPX.

 

FCPX & Time Machine

As more and more data is imported in to the FCPX Library on the Lacie drive and I spend time adding meta data to it I like to also make a backup of that drive to a second drive using Time Machine. The beauty of Time Machine is that it’s able to look within the FCPX Library and only add items that have been added or changed since the last backup.

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Moving to the Mac Pro

Once I get back to base the real advantage to using FCPX on location becomes apparent. I simply copy the library file from the Lacie over to the RAID on my Mac Pro, open it up in Final Cut and I can continue making selects or start editing straight away. I don’t have to worry about importing cards and waiting for data to be processed, it’s all there ready to go and because I’ve handled the key wording and meta data on location while it was fresh in my memory I can filter my searches and create smart collections easily.

 

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Keeping the Card Data

Whether I keep the original card media as well as the FCPX libraries varies from project to project, if I do want to keep a copy of the original cards I’ll copy the data from the Nexto. I find that I’m much less inclined to do that these days however, I tend to keep the original media on the Nexto until the project has been completed and signed of by the client, at that point I’m happy to just archive the the FCPX Library and not worry about the original card data.

Once the project has been signed off and delivered I export a Master Pro Res file from each project (timeline) that has been signed off by the client and store those along with the Library File and any other external assets that were used in the project.

I hope that proves useful, if you have any questions just leave a comment.

C-Cup: Improving the C100 Viewfinder

Any C100 user is all too aware how frustrating the EVF is to use on the camera, mostly because it feels as though Canon purposefully designed the eye cup surround to be uncomfortable as well as impractical. I’ve posted before that I’ve resorted to various attachments to make using the EVF a better experience but none of the solutions have really been designed to do the job properly, that is until now!

I was recently contacted by Andrew Miller who asked me if I’d like to try out a prototype C100 eye cup he’s been working on. The prototype works very well indeed and transforms using the C100’s EVF in to a much more useful and pleasant experience. As well s being very comfortable the C-cup also fits the face nicely and blocks out surrounding light sources.

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If you’re interested in using a C-Cup on your own C100 then you need to head over to Andrews C-Cup  Kickstarter page and back the project. If a minimum of $8,500 is pledged within the next 29 days then the C-Cup will be available to all. It would be a real shame if this product doesn’t come to market as it really works well.

Visit the C-Cup Kickstarter page

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