The Luxli Viola Multi-Color LED Light is quite possibly the coolest thing I’ve seen in awhile. Bluetooth all the things!
Thanks to the rise and popularity of portable action camera gimbals, there’s a lot of options on the market. From DJI’s flagship Osmo gimbal to a plethora of overseas brands – some with awkward calibration and erratic stabilization motors. One of the most compelling options so far is Feiyutech’s G5, a 3-axis handheld gimbal compatible with just about every popular action camera out there. Here we’ll take a look at how some of the G5’s features stand out from the rest of the pack. Great stabilization, splash proof design and comfortable grip make this a great looking, complete package.
The G5’s rubberized, structural design is built splash-proof all over, so paired with the waterproof GoPro HERO5, shooting in the rain or by a body of water is no longer a problem. With it’s simple 3 button user interface, the G5 provides a convenient way to access various functions. With a simple tap of the function button you can access the different features. A single tap brings you to Panning Mode where tilting and rolling direction are fixed but the camera lens moves according to the hand movement of the user. A double tap enters Panning and Tilting Mode where rolling direction is fixed and the camera lens moves to the hand movement of the user. A triple tap makes the lens rotate 180 degrees while a quadruple tap resets the tilting axis of the gimbal to initial orientation.
This leaves us with the handle, which houses a battery that goes in from the bottom, a micro USB port for charging/firmware upgrades, a joystick for controlling pan and tilt and an LED indicator. Thanks to the soft grip, the G5 is one of the more comfortable hand-held gimbals to control with easy thumb access to the joystick. On the bottom of the handle is a 1/4-20” screw hole for accessories or to mount on a tripod.
I typically use my action gimbals mounted on a 10 foot painter’s pole while shooting high speed electric skateboarding shots with speeds of up to 30mph – no easy task for most small gimbals. But, given Feiyutech’s reputation for camera stabilization, it’s no surprise I was able to capture some amazing footage. Other gimbals often lose orientation during high maneuvers but the G5 handles even the most abrupt moves with ease. In terms of response speed, the gimbal managed to keep up with my street carving, which you can see in the video review.
Most people who are looking for an action gimbal are not starting from scratch and have at least one to several GoPro’s of various generations in their kit. By comparison, the DJI Osmo is more expensive but features it’s own camera which is hit or miss, depending on how much faith you have in their camera technology.
The Feiyutech G5, like my previous impression of their SPG Plus, is a very well designed, polished product. It is powerful yet intuitive with none of the annoying handheld gimbal glitches than often ruin a shot. I have to say that Feiyutech is really going hard at DJI’s gimbal market and it shows. Their product line impresses year after year and if they keep this up, everyone wins.
The new V3 Dual Direct Drive pulls the motor out of the hub and slides it next to the wheel
As Spring approaches, so does my infatuation with electric skateboarding. This year, one of the most anticipated complete boards birthed from the DIY ESK8 scene – the Carvon EVO and REVO 4WD is ready to launch on Kickstarter.
A test ride with the new Carvon EVO featuring the V3 Direct Drive motor system
As one of the earliest vendors in the game, Jerry Palacio, Carvon’s founder – has been in the hub motor business for quite some time and it shows. From his unparalleled customer service to his patience with even the most demanding users, Jerry’s passion for ESK8 is reflected in his constant hub motor innovations, birthed from his workshop in California.
The street configuration has 97mm rotatable wheels, an estimated top speed of 30 mph (48 km/h), hill climbing capability of 15 percent, and up to 14 miles (22.5 km) of range
The Carvon V2 and V2.5 hub motor kits have been a prominent mainstay in my local electric skateboard group for the simple fact that they can take a major and I mean MAJOR beating.
From single digit weather and truly harsh road conditions (gaping potholes, salt, gravel) in and around Michigan, our Carvon motors have never failed. As our experience grew, we began building our own VESCs (Vedder Electronic Speed Controllers) and battery packs but the one constant for drive train systems are Carvon hubs. They just never fail.
The arched “drop down” shape of the deck is meant to position the rider close to the ground for better feel and performance
With the V3 Dual Direct Drive – the motors are no longer sitting inside of the wheel.
With the Carvon EVO featuring the new V3 Dual Direct Drive – the motors are no longer sitting inside of the wheel. This direct drive layout eliminates the need to bore into the wheel which allows thicker urethane for smoother rides and also reduces stress on the motors. Best of all – and this is such a sleeper feature – the wheels can be replaced! From authentic ABEC11 Street Wheels to MBS All Terrain Wheels to Pneumatic Wheels, the range of options for a drive train system that isn’t a belt drive is incredible.
The Carvon EVO is truly a work of art
Carvon’s Kickstarter campaign is very close to its $49,000 goal, which means that cheaper pledge/reward options like the $999 EVO and $1,499 REVO 4WD have all been reserved. The $499 V3 motors are still available, as are the $1,099 EVO and $1,599 REVO 4WD. With our help, V3 shipments will start in May, EVO shipments in July and REVO 4WD shipments in October. Retail prices are estimated at $599 for the V3 motor kit, $1,499 for the EVO and $1,999 for the REVO 4WD.
With some unusually warm weather hitting Ann Arbor in the middle of February, I had some friends try the Populo Sport Electric Bike for the first time. Here, we take a look at some of their initial reactions and what you can expect if you’ve never rode an electric bike before.
Since my recent transition from a non-bike commuter to a full-time bike commuter the benefits have been great – I get daily exercise and I’m generally much happier. Studies show that lengthy commutes have been linked to poor mental and physical health while shorter commutes lead to higher life satisfaction. Although my commute on a standard bike is not too hard, it takes roughly 8-10 minutes with an average speed of 6 mph. With the Populo Sport, I was able to get to the office in about 3 minutes with an average speed of 13 mph and a top speed of 28 mph. Additionally, being able to adjust pedal assist power on the fly is one of my favorite parts of ebiking. I can choose how much power I want to exert depending on the situation. Overall, if riding a bike is relaxing then riding an ebike is exhilarating. The key thing about commuting by bike full time is not to set yourself up for failure by making it too hard. And with the Populo Sport, you’ll always reach your goal.
Check out this comparison test between the Brooklyn Bicycle Co. Wythe Single Speed Bike, the Boosted Board Dual+ and the Populo Sport Electric Bike. The test was done to study some of the riding characteristics between each vehicle and to showcase some of the benefits of ebikes. Overall, the Populo Sport felt safer and more comfortable to ride on the trail during somewhat inclement weather. If you have any questions or comments on what it’s like to ride an ebike, hit me up in the comments below.
Last year I built my own DIY electric skateboard which introduced me to the excitement and benefits of personal electric vehicles. I’ve met so many great people in the DIY electric skateboarding scene, inspired a few builds and even brought more safety awareness to ESK8. Since then, my interests have expanded into electric bikes, which have a longer history and a larger well of information.
I’ve never been a huge cyclist, but ever since moving to downtown Ann Arbor, I realized having an ebike would make a lot of sense. Ann Arbor is a very bike friendly city and cyclists have many of the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers. A number of new bike lanes have been designated recently, bike parking areas have expanded and buses are equipped with bike racks for mixed-mode commutes.
However, searching for the perfect electric bike can be intimidating. The first reaction many have when you say “ebike” is that they are ugly or are made for lazy people. Also, the average cost for a complete ebike can hit a price range of $2,000. For my needs and personal aesthetics, I wanted an inexpensive, sleek, urban city commuter bike and that’s how I discovered the Populo Sport.
An urban commuter bike fills a very specific role in a city rider’s personal taste. It must look good since you’re riding it daily but also lightweight, reliable, and strong to roll across city streets. But most importantly, it must be inexpensive, especially if it spends most of it’s time locked outside.
Fortunately for style conscious city cyclists and tech enthusiasts, the Populo Sport hits all the right notes. More than any other ebike out right now, the Populo Sport embodies a very modern, single speed aesthetic. It’s light and nimble with clean lines and a low profile. It features a forged alloy frame, internally routed cables, CST 700c tires with reflective strips, Tektro front and rear brakes and smooth welds all around. Right out of the box, this is a very good looking ride and super lightweight at 36lbs.
Performance wise, it features a 250W brushless rear hub motor, a 36v Panasonic Lithium-ion battery, and a Smart LED screen with a USB charging port. With this combination, the Populo Sport reaches speeds of up to 20 MPH and a range of 30+ miles.
The bike is equipped with electric pedal assistance which means the motor activates only when pedaling. While some prefer having a thumb throttle option, pedal assist only offers a more natural way to deliver power and is way more stealthier when commuting across town. The Smart LED screen features three riding modes: Eco, Normal and Power. Eco offers extra high range but with less motorpower, Normal has average range and motorpower and Power feature extra motorpower but lower range. There are also 8 levels of pedal assistance for each mode so you can really fine tune it to your riding style.
Cosmetically, there are a few minor improvements that could be made. The plastic pedals feel kind of generic and don’t quite have the same grip as aluminum pedals and the saddle could use a little more padding unless you’re riding exclusively on smooth roads. Additionally, I’ve added an aftermarket rear fender to prevent road spray when reaching high speeds with the rear hub motor. In the future, it would be nice to have these optional upgrades available directly from Populo.
For anyone who wants to get into ebikes without breaking the bank or sacrificing style, the Populo Sport is a great choice especially for a retail price of $999. It’s not the most powerful ebike on the market but similar to my experience with electric skateboards, more power is not always practical. Light weight and controllable power are the two things that matter most when commuting through a dense city. I have to admit that I’m the perfect target for the Populo Sport. I’m not a hardcore cyclist or ebike enthusiast by any means but I do believe in finding alternate modes of commuting necessary. It’s nice to not arrive at the office totally out of breath and contrary to some, I don’t mind the attention of an ebike – as long it has style, which the Populo Sport has in spades.
Emm from Cheesycam was gracious enough to let me fly his brand new DJI Mavic Pro drone around the beaches of San Francisco. Because of the small size, I was not expecting the level of detail in the footage as well as the quality of the stabilization through high winds. While it doesn’t quite have the super high resolution punch of the DJI Phantom 4, the Mavic Pro more than holds it’s own in the ultra portable prosumer drone scene.
Ryan Staake’s super meta “Wyclef Jean” music video for Young Thug
Young Thug’s viral video for “Wyclef Jean” is the pinnacle of meta music videos and a primer for what to expect when embarking on a music video directing career. Ryan Staake beautifully illustrates the frustrations and pressures involved with juggling the expectations of a popular rapper and well, everyone else who isn’t one. Props to Mr. Staake and his crew for surviving such a shitty ordeal and being able to flip it into something truly entertaining. From my experience, every video director has some kind of crazy anecdote or war story. Here’s a few of mine…
Making Action Bronson’s “The Symbol” was a balancing act of ego and practicality
In my case, perhaps it was the time Action Bronson smoked so much THC wax my DP got sick and had to leave or when Joey Bada$$ flew us out to London for a video, only to miss his flight because of a headache and not show up. Or maybe it was the time Common arrived to shoot a beer commercial but A) doesn’t drink beer and B) never read the treatment or how about when Busta Rhymes had me take over a video that a previous director abandoned, only to yell at me at 3:00am on Christmas Eve because he wanted to see a roughcut. All of these situations got resolved behind the scenes but it did take its toll on my quality of life. What began as pure passion for contributing something to the culture of hip hop eventually turned into a gaping hole of frustration. Occasionally I’ll receive a text from a former colleague asking “What you retired or something?” or “You don’t like hip hop no more?” and the answer is “sort of”, “well no”, and finally “it’s complicated.” My journey through music videos has helped me transition into video production within the tech industry – a world that celebrates rubbing elbows with rappers as much as sharing emojis on Slack – but it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was kind of depressing, until I put things in perspective.
My “style” back in the day was once described by Wired Magazine as “Grime Noir”, uhm sure why not?
I grew up in the 90’s when music videos were big, major events. I thought of them as short films and I didn’t even have to like the actual song to experience the artistry on display. I always wanted to tell stories through video and my passion for directing was birthed through many years of dabbling in other art forms, none of which I was particularly good at but somehow I was able to graduate with a fine arts degree. After working in motion graphics upon graduation, my first attempt at a serious project was an indie feature in 2005 and like many others, it was my “film school”. I made a ton of mistakes that somehow morphed into competent “skills”. I didn’t get into music video directing until 2006 and it was completely by accident. Here I was, a wannabe indie filmmaker who suddenly got some buzz because I directed a video “trailer” for Jay-Z. I didn’t get paid by the label, I wasn’t commissioned to do it. I had an idea and I executed it with my heavy Panasonic HVX because Jay’s name was attached to it. I wasn’t even really sure what I was shooting because it was so top secret. That day was the beginning of my addiction to music videos.
Quavo almost left the set and fought with my AD when I asked him to please not use his loaded gun as a prop for the robbery scene at 3:17
The 90’s were over and my reality of the modern music video industry in 2007 was that there were absolutely no rules. Music videos gave me a quick fix and media driven exposure for any artist who was buzzing. If the budgets were low or nothing at all, I still wanted to shoot. It was about building my reel by any means necessary, regardless of cost. Getting press for standing next to these artists and putting photos on MySpace and my fledgling Twitter account was exciting but also depressing because I didn’t actually hang out with these guys. Sometimes I felt like a director stepchild, getting hand me downs from the iconic directors I looked up to in the 90’s.
Pre-DSLR revolution meant big bulky cameras, media cards and chin strap beards
Back then and maybe even the early 00’s if my research is correct, the music video industry was not yet in its wild west situation. It was general industry practice to put 10% of the budget into director’s fees no matter what. Remember those videos I grew up on? Those ended up landing on the reels of young and exciting directors like David Fincher, Mark Romanek, Chris Robinson and Spike Jonze. They were able to gain some practical experience while at the same time earn a living through their production companies. Most of them were not mainstream famous yet, but they managed to pay the bills through music video directing and shooting commercials.
Explaining the vast amount of special effects work I planned on doing in post (without having the proper budget) to Busta Rhymes
Fast forward to 2007 and those directors from the 90’s had moved into television, features and commercials garnering critical acclaim and bigger budgets. This mass exodus was caused directly by the crash of the music industry. They no longer made real money from music videos. MTV refused to pay for content so there was no desire to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce music videos. I knew that coming into the industry but I didn’t care. If these guys didn’t want to shoot the artists I worshipped like Nas, Snoop Dogg, The Roots, Busta Rhymes, etc. because of budget constraints then I sure as hell would. I made a lot of music videos from 2007 until 2015, mostly for the internet and usually at a loss or barely breaking even. It was never a problem getting artists to appear in my videos, most of them love getting in front of a camera. The problem was that some of them were used to the old model which included all the creature comforts of a 90’s music video set. It was frustrating to be treated less than professional because I didn’t have a crew of 20+ people.
That time I had to tell Pusha T that Cam’ron wouldn’t get out of his car to film his scene in a barbershop so we had to follow him to Lodi, NJ and pick it up at a Popeye’s
The music industry didn’t stop producing valuable products, but the internet blew a fuse in their business model and wiped out profits that would be allocated to music videos. While money is still spent on music videos, almost every director I know has had to take a hit on either their creative vision or their fees. But we still love doing it, it’s addicting because it does feel like a real job when we’re on set. Some directors even like using the #setlife hashtag just to show how much fun they’re having!
I lost money making this video
I’ve come to the conclusion that the music industry doesn’t really respect directors as true filmmakers, partly because directing music videos isn’t really about our art, it’s more about narcissist babysitting. Hell, some artists even like to slap their directing credits right on the front of the video because really how hard is it?
You know you’re running behind when the entourage outnumbers the amount of people who are actually working
The current reality of music videos is that everyone, from label commissioners to managers and even artists themselves expect directors to work for free indefinitely. Well maybe not free but I’ll sometimes overhear recommendations like “Yeah Rik can make that budget look like it’s double!”. Okay so that puts me into a weird position: either I make the video look double it’s worth or I look like a selfish, greedy asshole.
I was commissioned by Pepsi to make this video, only to have the artists launch their own version because they didn’t like their angles
We are required to put the entire budget on screen, regardless of actual costs. The intangibles of music video directing are not a concern for anyone in the music industry except for the directors. Most music video directors I know that started around ’05 edit all of their own work, which means we have to live with a video long after the shoot is done. Sometimes this work is allocated into the line budget, but most of the time, it isn’t. If you give a damn about the song or the artist you’ll take a hit to make the overall vision come to life and stay up until the wee hours of the morning to get it done. Young music video directors are shamelessly exploited and told to keep taking financial hits for the big “win”. Here’s what they aren’t telling you: you are exceedingly unlikely to ever see any real money from music videos. And on the rare occasion you do get a “decent” budget, you better make sure all of that is spent on production value.
The Roots gave me a lot of support and trust early in my career to the point that they didn’t even have to be in the video at all
The philosophical argument against music videos is that they are strongly anti-filmmaker. I’ve done videos that I’ve poured my heart and soul into, mostly involving some kind of narrative filmmaking or storyline. Some unique work gets noticed but the most popular views come from meaningless performance setups. It’s the same materialism/exploitation stuff from the 1990’s but with the DSLR age and YouTube, you don’t really have to pay people to do ignorant things on camera. It’s as easy as learning how to turn the camera on. I am guilty as charged.
Joey Bada$$’s “No. 99” was a logistical nightmare yet a true collaboration between artist and director
Will I ever stop making music videos? Probably not, there are a few artists who I personally care about and love collaborating with because their independence allows them to experiment visually. My beef isn’t really about wanting more dollars or fish from the dead sea, it’s about clearing up any misconceptions about what music video directing really is – “A cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” – Hunter S. Thompson
This Jonathan Simkhai x Carbon38 branded content video for Harper’s Bazaar was a dream because well, professionalism
If you’re serious about making a living off video production, my advice to you is not to do what I did. Focus on other industries like branded content for media publications or in house content for tech companies. You will more than likely get addicted to shooting music videos because of the quick fix but none of that has any real bearing on the world of commercial advertising and narrative filmmaking where most of us actually want to belong to. Maybe in the 1990’s but not now. There’s just way too much content to sift through considering that 72 hours of mostly music related video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. High end commercials are hard as hell to break into, but you will very rarely be asked to work for free, and you will develop more professional relationships that will come useful in securing freelance work. The pay is better, prospects are better, and commercials have considerable benefits in terms of filmmaker development. You will most likely have to deal with agency creatives looking over your shoulder while you direct, but compared to the endless demands of rapper entourages and managers, it feels more like a real job and not indentured servitude.
My work for tech company Duo Security sometimes dips into narrative territory, a creative burst of fresh air
In conclusion, the more talented you are as a filmmaker, the more jaded you will get by involving yourself with the hip hop music video scene. You will eventually hit a ceiling because that need to execute an exciting and original concept that is completely birthed out of your own imagination will always get batted down. If you can earn an income outside of the music industry, you’ll be able to focus on what you really want to do instead of living check to check from an industry that will never really respect you. Plus less stress and frustration is proven to increase your lifespan. But if all you’ve ever aspired to become is just a hip hop music video director then hurry up and wait. The rappers and their entourage are on their way.
I’m still that same hungry kid from Queens, but with a better perspective and less stress
Recently I had the opportunity to direct a promo video for designer Jonathan Simkhai and the luxury women’s activewear brand Carbon38 for media publishing giant Harper’s Bazaar. As a fan of activewear and technical design, the collaboration was a match made in heaven.
Our concept was all about movement and incorporating dancers to show what the clothes were capable of. Utilizing natural light, a gritty warehouse setting, the handheld fluidity of the Sony FS7 and Panasonic GH4 and a giant 20k fresnel light, my goal was to capture our choreographer Normann Shay and the dancers in a candid, real moment punctuated by a stylized, massive backlight. The energy from the shoot was reflected behind the scenes when an impromptu, unscripted soul train line formed with the entire crew expressing their own personal style and grace. For more information on the collection be sure to visit carbon38.com and jonathansimkhai.com
Director: Rik Cordero; Choreographer: Normann Shay; Assistant Choreographer: Soraya Lundy; Music: Angel + Dren; Dancers: Jazz Johnson, Jadée Nikita, Karin Tatsuoka, Kana Matsui; Director: Rik Cordero; Creative Director: Thomas Beckner; Producer: Angel Lenise; Stylist: Kerry Pieri; Associate Producer: Bree Green; Director of Photography: Clay Combe; Assistant Camera: Nolan Maloney; Wardrobe Assistant: Jensen Turner; Hair: Ro Morgan; Hair Assistant: Shanice Fields; Makeup: Katie Jane Hughes; Makeup Assistant: Isabel Rosado; Gaffer: Andrea Boglioli; Colorist: Josh K. Brede; Best Boy: Corey Gailit; PA: Frank Traggianese; PA: Joe Speer; PA: Joe Storch.
Winter in Ann Arbor, MI is typically cold and grey with rough road conditions that make e-skating very difficult. So naturally I’ve started to think about building a DIY E-Bike to commute around the downtown area. Using one of my spare electric skateboard battery packs, we’ve decided to repurpose it for a DIY E-Bike. Here’s Part 1 of our build.
Ikea is low key, the best backpack designer out right now.
Just when I thought I’ve seen every small handheld gimbal that’s out there, along comes the Feiyu Tech SPG Plus 3-Axis gimbal for smartphones. With it’s two handed operation, it resembles the style of traditional gimbals but in a smaller, more compact frame. It’s perfect for content creators who share their videos directly on social media.
One cool feature is that the SPG Plus can automatically alter between horizontal, vertical and upright modes using a specially designed altitude sensor. The gimbal also offers 360 degree panning, tilting and rolling. Combined with it’s structural stabilization, the SPG Plus makes it easy to take perfect panoramic shots with your smartphone.
In addition, the SPG Plus also has a sliding arm on the roll motor side to easily fine tune the balance of just about any phone, even with accessories like lens clips or filters. With foam spacers, the SPG Plus is also capable of flying action cams like the GoPro or Xiaomi Yi.
Accessory wise, the SPG Plus features 5 1/4-20 threads – three on top and two on the bottom of the handles for attaching a top handle, lights, mics or other accessories. Feiyu Tech also released a companion app which allows you to initialize gimbal calibration, update the rig’s firmware and customize settings. The SPG Plus is powered by a massive 22650 Li-Ion battery that offers up to eight hours of shooting.
Recently I’ve become pretty gimbal weary, especially for mobile phone or action cams but I was pleasantly surprised by the SPG Plus. With it’s sleek two handle design, and auto balancing features, it’s truly a unique entry in the crowded world of lightweight gimbals. If you have any questions about the Feiyu Tech SPG Plus, hit me up in the comments below.