The DJI Phantom makes it affordable to do aerial photography and videography. Your own personal "eye in the sky" or more accurately tripod in the sky.
As some of you already know, I have been bitten by the Remote Controlled Quadrocopter, aerial photography and videography bug. Some people may call it drone photography or UAV. I think drone is a word that has negative conentations, so we are calling it Quad-Copter photography. I recently taught a per-conference class at Photoshop World with Russell Brown (Principle Creative Director of Adobe). I blogged all about that here.
I have been flying a DJI Phantom Quad-copter with a GoPro 3 and a Zenmuse Gimbal for a little while and I plan on writing a lot more about it, so keep your eyes peeled on PhotoshopCAFE for more. In fact, here is a photo of a pelican that I shot using that rig.
I was very fortunate to receive a pre-shipping version of the Phantom 2 vision with the built in camera. I noticed a lot of improvements in the latest model, including connectivity through a free mobile app, that allows for first person view (FPV) so you can see what the camera sees. Watch my video here and see all the new features and improvements. I also take it out for a flight and see what it can do. (All of this is filmed through Google Glass for your "in my head" view.)
Colin Smith's review and flight of the Phantom 2 Vision
Examples of video shot by Colin on the Phantom
Overall, it's quite simple to fly a Phantom, but it takes some practice to get good at it. I would expect several months before you could say that you are becoming a skilled pilot. Expect frequent crashes into trees and things when you are starting out. (I lost my first one in the ocean).
It's a lot of fun to shoot photographs and video from the air. There are a lot of things to take into account to do this, but the biggest is practice. The better you get at flying, the better pictures you will get. Once you examine your first few, you'll see where you can improve. With photos, you can get some great frames or even panoramas by rotating your phantom with a 30-40% overlap. If you are using the GoPro, shoot in timelapse mode to get panoramas. Another option is to use the 4k video for stills. At 12fps it's too slow for video, but captures great stills for the video frames. Turn the spot meter off on the camera if it has one, we want the scene metered, not individual areas.
One question that I get a lot is the quality of the DJI camera compared to the GoPro. I still have some testing to do before I make a full-conclusion, and I will post the comparrision pictures here. For photographs the DJI camera seems to have more dynamic range and doesn't lose detail in the skies as quickly as the GoPro does. The camera is 14 Megapixel. F2.8 and 140 Degrees. The video supports 30fps at 1080p or 60fps at 1080i. So for serious video where you need extra resolution to crop our propellers etc, you will be better off wit the GoPro which can record up to 2.k and also supports higher frame rates. (The camera will support DNG RAW, coming in an update in December)
The big advantage of thePhantom Vision is the inclusion of the wifi and phone app. You can see a realtime preview of what the camera sees. This enables you to frame your shots before shooting. You can also use the tilt on your phone to change the angle of the camera through the single axis gimbal attached to the belly of the vision. This makes this a photographer's dream.
Some panoramas and photos that I have captured with the DJI Phantom and Vision.
Basic Video Editing in Photoshop CC
Lens Correction on Video in Photoshop CC, Getting rid of the Fisheye distortion
Stabilizing shaky video in Adobe After Effects CC
Don't treat it as a toy, always think SAFETY FIRST. Use common sense. Here are some suggestions for safety.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Read the instructions and be well aware of the features and operating procedures of your aircraft before flying. This includes the "come home" feature and how to regain control with the transmitter.
Never put your fingers anywhere near the props when there is a battery connected, treat it like a loaded gun. First remove the battery before touching the propellers.
Don't fly around people, especially children. You get a lot of attention when you fly these, and kids love to chase them. If that happens, make sure you lift the phantom to an altitude where it's well out of reach of children.
Always make sure that the propellers are tight and secure before inserting the battery.
Don't attempt to fly when it's too windy.
Don't fly around power lines
Get comfortable with the controls before trying anything too fancy or flying over water.
Respect the privacy of others and don't buzz peoples homes. There have been cases where people have shot down drones and they are in the process of passing laws in Colorado which make it legal for people to shoot down drones that are over their property.
There are some laws in place for regulating Drone flight. Check your local laws, as they may vary by State and Country, and obey the laws (you could get in big trouble and ruin it for everyone else). In the United states there are basic rules and the FAA is still working on regulations, so commercial use is banned at the moment. The only users who can fly UAVs are the government and hobbyists. The main points are...
Don't fly in close proximity of an airport.
Don't fly above 400 feet
Don't fly in built up areas
Always have a visual on your aerial vehicle at all times.
Note: Using LiPo (Lithium Polymer) batteries isn't to be taken lightly.
These batteries can explode and cause fires if not properly cared for. Avoid over charging, or undercharging them. Never puncture them and always supervise charging.
I just ordered a LiPo Sack for charging and storage of my batteries
Good resource for info about LiPo, also shows videos of explosions
I will be adding more content and tutorials soon! Stay tuned.
This is the most fun thing I've done in a long time (OK, I need to get out more).
Using a flying camera, gives you an entire new view on the world and the ability to shoot from angles that were impossible in the past. If you have the extra money, it's well worth it! The improvements of the Vision over the original phantom are huge. One thing to watch out for, if your are shooting video, the original Phantom with the Zenmuse Gimbal is still possibly the best option because the Gimbal gives smoother video as well as keeping it level. It will be interesting to see if DJI offers a Gimbal option on the Phantom 2?
4.5 Cups (5 if it wasn't for the lack of a Gimbal)