Category Archives: Aerial

Polar Pro Launches New Drone Accessories – NAB 2016

Our friends at Polar Pro continue to dominate the industry with their always evolving professional grade product line and innovative ideas. And with a recent appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank, their business has lept tremendously with a $1 million investment by Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec.

At this year’s NAB Show, we checked out Polar Pro’s latest drone accessories for the DJI Phantom 3, DJI Inspire 1, 3DR Solo as well as the Trippler – a compact tripod / grip / pole combo for action cameras and mobile phones. With my frequent forays into electric longboarding, the Trippler has instantly become my go-to accessory for capturing the moment.

inspire 1 filters
product information button runplayback Polar Pro DJI Zenmuse X3 Filter 3-Pack

phantom 3 filters
product information button runplayback Polar Pro DJI Phantom 4 / Phantom 3 Filter 6-Pack

phantom 3 lights
product information button runplayback Polar Pro LED Light Kit for DJI Phantom 3 Quadcopter

phantom 3 landing gear
product information button runplayback Polar Pro Landing Gear for DJI Phantom 3

phantom 3 gimbal lock
product information button runplayback Polar Pro Lens Cover / Gimbal Lock for Select Phantom 3 Quadcopters

phantom 3 gimbal guard
product information button runplayback Polar Pro Gimbal Guard for Phantom 3 Professional / Advanced / Standard

solo lights
product information button runplayback Polar Pro Headlight and Taillight Kit for 3DR Solo Quadcopter

solo prop guards
product information button runplayback Polar Pro Prop Guards for 3DR Solo Quadcopter

trippler
product information button runplayback Polar Pro Trippler 3-in-1 Tripod/Grip/Pole

Warm Weather Means DIY Electric Skateboard Cruising

When it hits 57 degrees in February in MICHIGAN, you must take full advantage. πŸ™‚

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Carvon V2 Single Hub Motor + Matching Trucks + Wheels Set

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Enertion 10S Space Cell Battery

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VESC – Open Source ESC Speed Controller

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RunPlayBack Sulaco V1 Enclosure

The 24 Hour Shootout Survival Kit

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Last week Arbor Day Pictures aka Nancy Mitchell, Hannah Mitchell and myself participated in YPSI24, a 24 hour shootout competition where we won second place amongst 40+ entries. It was an awesome experience to witness so many filmmakers of all levels express themselves using a variety of video techniques within experimental and narrative storytelling.

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However, with a 24 hour time limit and a 3 person crew including myself (2 of whom were acting on camera), it was vital that I assemble an equipment package that worked for our story. Too much gear and I’d risk a lot of unncessary setup and breakdown time. Too little gear and I’d lose the visual storytelling that was essential for characterization. We were super honored to win an award and it may not have happened without our 24 Hour Shootout Survival Kit. So here’s how we did it.

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THE STORY
A few weeks before the shoot, we bounced around some preliminary ideas, some that either proved too difficult or too time consuming. Finally, the night before YPSI24, Nancy assembled all of our initial ideas into a creepy story about supernatural revenge. Next, I fleshed out the summary into a rough, 5 page script which would be our blueprint for the day. We all agreed that the concept would remain loose in order to incorporate the YPSI24 “ingredients” that we would be given. Creating a script as a guide for our shotlist/schedule was definitely a critical part of our planning.

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THE SUPPORT
For Camera A support I went with the heavy duty yet light and portable 8.5lb ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs which are typically built for jib cranes but work great with a Manfrotto fluid head and Konova K3 slider as they can hold up to 80 lbs. It even has a super convenient mid level spreader for added stability and adjustable rubber or spiked feet for all kinds of terrain. At $120 shipped, the ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs are an exceptional deal for the quality.

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proam
product information button runplayback ProAm USA PROAMFT Pro Tripod Legs & Bag Kit

manfrotto
product information button runplayback Manfrotto MVH500AH Fluid Video Head with Flat Base

konova_k3
product information button runplayback Konova Slider K3 100cm (39.4-Inch)

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THE LIGHTING
Lighting was very minimal as we were mostly daylight dependent. For the ending interior shots we used a pair of budget friendly ePhoto 600 CN600HS LED Lights with Kayo Maxtar V-Mount Li-Ion Batteries. The Kayo Maxtar is a new addition to my kit and one of the best V-Mount battery options out right now. Fully charged, the Kayo can power these lights for up to 6 hours straight. Very impressive!

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ePhoto 600 Led Dimmable CN600HS Video Photography Light

kayo
Kayo Maxtar 177Wh(12000mAh/14.8V) V Mount Battery

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THE SOUND
To keep our sound kit as light and simple as possible, I went with the Zoom H1, Rode Micro Boompole, Rode VideoMic Pro, Aspen HQ-S Lav Mic, P&C Handgrip and an audio extension cable. Our rule was that whoever wasn’t on camera would be the Sound Recordist. With some easy to remember sound recording basics and having a kit this simple ensured that no one would have to be a pro to capture quality sound.

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product information button runplayback Zoom H1 Ultra-Portable Digital Audio Recorder

rode
product information button runplayback Rode Micro Boompole – 3-Section Boom Pole

rode
product information button runplayback Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Shotgun Microphone

aspenmics
AspenMics Lavalier Microphones

p&c
product information button runplayback Dot Line P&C Handgrip

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THE CAMERA A KIT
Having some early success with the latest Panasonic V-Log color profile, I decided to use my workhorse GH4 mounted with a Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster and classic Canon FD glass – 20mm, 28mm, 50mm and 35-105mm. This combination would create a vintage, lived-in look that I thought would be perfect for a horror film.

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I kitted out my GH4 shoulder rig with a Varavon Armor Cage, Aputure V-Screen field monitor, Fotga follow focus, Ikan Tilta V-Mount Plate and a Kayo Maxtar BP-GL175 Li-Ion Battery. With the Kayo, I was able to power the Aputure monitor and use it as a counterweight for the GH4. There’s also a convenient USB port located on the side which kept my iPhone charged at every location.


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster GH4
Metabones Speedbooster Canon FD Lens to M43 Adapter

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Varavon Armor II GH4 & GH3 Cage

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Aputure VS-3 V-Screen 7″ IPS Field Monitor

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Fotga DP500IIS Follow Focus

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ikan Tilta TT-C12 HyperDeck Shuttle Mount with V-Mount Plate

kayo
Kayo Maxtar 177Wh(12000mAh/14.8V) V Mount Battery

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THE CAMERA B KIT
Our story included many scenes of walking through the woods so I wanted to incorporate gimbal tracking shots without having to spend any time balancing or breaking down the Camera A Kit. For this situation I went with the Ikan Fly-X3 Gimbal paired with the Xiaomi Yi Action Camera aka the $80 Chinese GoPro. Since these walking shots would include both Hannah and Nancy in the shot, it would leave me as the Sound Recordist. The Ikan Fly-X3 doesn’t have a 1/4-20 thread so I rigged a Joby GorillaPod to the handle and fitted it with a Rode VideoMic, Zoom H1, an audio extension cable and a pair of lightweight Auvio Headphones. With the shotgun mic I was then able to capture realtime location sound while also performing stable gimbal shots while walking backwards through the woods. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

flyx3
product information button runplayback Ikan Fly-X3 Plus 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Kit with GoPro HERO3/4 mount

xiaomi
Xiaomi Yi Action Camera with Wi-Fi

Joby Action Clamp GorillaPod Arm
product information button runplayback Joby Action Clamp with GorillaPod Arm

auvio
Auvio Black Ear-Cup Foldable Headphones

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Another interesting rig we built was an Indy Mogul style DIY 3rd person POV action camera backpack. Designed with cheap PVC pipe from Home Depot, we mounted an Oben Mini Ballhead and the Xiaomi Yi on the rig to create the over the shoulder look during the “search” scenes in the woods. With the Xiamoi’s Wi-Fi app, I would be able to monitor the shots while giving direction to Nancy. We wanted to present an unusual sense of vertigo during these scenes since her character would become more desperate as day turned to night.

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product information button runplayback Oben BD-0 Mini Ball Head

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THE CAMERA C KIT
For a 24 Hour Shootout, it would be tempting to use the DJI Phantom 3 Professional as a shortcut for production value but we didn’t want to go that route. Our initial thought was that an aerial would take up valuable time that we could put towards characterization. Also, because of the hazardous weather conditions on the shoot day, flying a drone would prove too risky. However, nature was on our side when we had a small 10 minute window of clear weather. It was a tricky manuever as I had to fly through a 10 foot clearing in the trees towards a height that revealed just enough of the forest without showing any residential homes or highways. I fitted the Phantom 3 with a Polar Pro Polarizer Filter to prevent glare off the water and was able to get the shot in just two takes. However, flying the drone back to home point was nerve racking as I clipped a few small branches due to the wind and unstable GPS lock. Luckily I had Nancy and Hannah as my spotters on each side of the clearing to prevent the Phantom from going down into the water. The shot was definitely worth it as it created a vast sense of exploration for the Alice character, establishing the forest as a kind of supernatural playground.

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product information button runplayback DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter with 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal

polarprofilters
Polar Pro DJI Phantom 3 Professional Filter 6-Pack

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THE POST PRODUCTION
We finished our last shot at about 11:30pm and after ingesting all the footage in Adobe Premiere, post production began at 12 midnight. By this time, I was exhausted but not completely tapped out. I knew that once I got past the hump of assembly I would go into creative mode, driven by pure adrenaline. With the help of a large iced coffee I finished assembly by 2:00am and edited straight until 9:00am. The GH4 V-Log setting was especially helpful in color correction for each clip. After dropping in the Panasonic Varicam 35 LUT, I simply adjusted exposure within Lumetri Color and did my best to match the Xiaomi Yi and Phantom 3 footage.

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As the sun started to rise and the 10:00am delivery deadline looming, I did a few last touches and exported the file onto a flash drive. Since the YSPI24 rendevouz was a half hour away, I wasn’t able to do a final preview. At this point, I was completely delirious and just grateful that we completed our film.

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THE EXPERIENCE
YPSI24 was an insanely inspiring good time. From the cordial and energizing meetup with our fellow filmmakers to the hack-a-thon like shooting experience to the final screening at the 500 seat venue, YPSI24 reminded me of why I got into video in the first place. It wasn’t to win awards or make commercials. It was to tell a story using a language that didn’t require an army of people pontificating about the laws of Cinema. It’s a relief to know that the DIY spirit that’s shaped both my personal and professional life has never left me. Hashtag #setlife is not enough. Old traditions and new technologies are not enough. It’s the communal experience of being vulnerable with people that I care about which matters most. Check out our 2015 YPSI24 short “Always Alice” below and remember to always stay inspired!


Always Alice (2015 YPSI24)

Drones Build Rope Bridges To Help People, Not Spy On Them

What in the world? All this talk about drones invading privacy but not much coverage on the “good guy” drones like these built by a team in Switzerland. Utilizing motion capture devices with positional measurements, these drones (which look like a more aggressive cousin of a DJI Phantom) can assemble a rope bridge thats sturdy enough for an adult human being to walk on. Imagine the possibilities such as rescue and humanitarian missions where drones could access hazardous conditions. For more information visit Robohub.

phantom3
product information button runplayback DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter with 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal

DJI Gets Smart With New Flight Modes

DJI continues the dominate the consumer-friendly quadcopter market with the release of it’s latest Intelligent Flight Mode firmware update for the Phantom 3 Professional & Advanced and the Inspire 1. The new flight features that impressed me are Point of Interest (360 degree flight around a set object), Follow Me (the quad auto follows a subject holding the controller) and Waypoints (map out a predetermined path and the quad will follow). The upgrade also bumps the Phantom 3 Advance camera recording resolution from 1080p to 2.7k or 20704×1520. These features are a welcome addition to my reliable aerial shoots with the Phantom 3 and I definitely look forward to using them in the field. Stay tuned!

phantom3
product information button runplayback DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter with 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal

polarprofilters
Polar Pro DJI Phantom 3 Professional Filter 6-Pack

I Got My Drone Skills From Aspekt Visual & Aerial

A few months ago I met Connor Leszczuk, owner of Aspekt Visual & Aerial at a local Makers Fair where he was demonstrating DIY drone technology and aerial video production. I was pretty much hooked since that day and Connor’s expertise has been instrumental in helping me hone my quadcopter piloting skills and custom builds for Mini FPV racing. Above is a video I put together for his company that speaks on Connor’s experience and how he envisions the future of drone technology. We shot everything with the Panasonic GH4, Polaroid Cube, Varavon Birdycam Gimbal and a GoPro Hero 4. For more information on Aspekt Visual & Aerial visit their website here.


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

cube
product information button runplayback Polaroid Cube Mini Lifestyle Action Camera (Black)

varavon birdycam
Varavon Birdycam2 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

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product information button runplayback GoPro HERO4 Black Edition 4K Video Action Camera

DJI Phantom 3 4K Professional Maiden Flight

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Here’s a fun recap video of my DJI Phantom 3 maiden flight. I try a few basic maneuvers but nothing too crazy as I’m still getting familiar with the controls. After practicing on micro and mini quadcopters, the Phantom 3 is a breeze to fly with it’s incredible stability and flight behavior. And what about that 4K camera? I have to say, it’s very impressive. DJI must have gotten a little tired of GoPro digging into their real estate so they designed a camera that is so fully integrated into the Phantom that it’s like one piece. Once you get used to the flight behavior, it’s really about how to control your camera to get smooth, epic shots. And the best part is everything just WORKS. While I have a great time building my own miniquads, there’s nothing like flying a quadcopter that consistently responds to your controls. Hands down, the DJI Phantom 3 4K Professional is a winner.

Fun Fact: all of those silky smooth slider shots were made with the Konova K3 Slider and Master Pan which I’ll be reviewing very soon.

phantom3
product information button runplayback DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter with 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal

konova_k3
product information button runplayback Konova Slider K3 100cm (39.4-Inch)

konova_masterpan
product information button runplayback Konova Master Pan for K3 100cm Slider

DJI Phantom 3 4K Professional Quadcopter Unboxing

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DJI have finally released the highly anticipated successor to their flagship Phantom quadcopter series, and I had a chance to take one for a test flight. But first, here’s an unboxing video giving you a rundown on the key features and what’s included in the Professional 4K package.

Update: In the video I mention that you can simultaneously charge both your remote and battery at the same time. That’s my mistake. DJI highly recommends that you DO NOT do that. Only charge one at a time.

phantom3
product information button runplayback DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter with 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal