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RC Helicopter filming
June 22, 2010 9:29 AM   Subscribe

What happens when you strap one of those new Canon 7D SLR cameras that do HD video to a remote controlled helicopter? You get amazing video, on the cheap. [via]
posted by mathowie (66 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

 
on the cheap.

How much does this stuff usually cost? Because to me, a Canon 7D SLR + RC helicopter + RC camera mount = a lot of money.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


That said, the shots where the copter followed closely behind Basagoitia as he went through the track were great. I would like to see more people with access to this kind of semi-amateur level technology.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:35 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


That is very cool.
posted by rtha at 9:36 AM on June 22, 2010


Amateur filmmakers applaud; union crane camera operators cry.

How much does this stuff usually cost?

Less than a day's rental for a real helicopter or fancy boom rig.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:36 AM on June 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


"Crashing is not an option."

I'll say – you've put your livelihood on a tiny electric helicopter and now you're flying it around by remote control over water? I'd need an equally expensive pair of self-drying pants.
posted by him at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


If I say to you "crane rental for a day" and with it you still can't even get half of those shots... Fuck yeah that's cheap.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2010


Yeah, I guess I should make it clear that while this is probably $5,000 worth of technology, renting a real helicopter to get those kinds of shots is on the order of hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars per hour, in addition to all the film gear you'd need.

In other words, a nerd with a few grand can now film above ground following shots safely and in full 1080p high def, which could be kind of a breakthrough.
posted by mathowie at 9:39 AM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Fuuuuuck that was cool. Dude is a bad-ass bike rider too. I guess he must have a gyro brake set-up? I don't know much about big-wheel dirt jumping bikes like this.
posted by Mister_A at 9:40 AM on June 22, 2010


Crane's gonna be level, though. Depends on the need, of course, but there was a whole lot of tilting in the demoreel.

Plus, those self-drying pants gotta run expensive!
posted by cavalier at 9:40 AM on June 22, 2010


In the future, we'll ALL be followed around by flying cameras.
posted by Balisong at 9:40 AM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wow, pb can write code and huck like that? A true renaissance man.
posted by fixedgear at 9:40 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


And, that said, a fast approach low over a big body of water? There's your money shot right there.
posted by cavalier at 9:41 AM on June 22, 2010


Damn I love seeing technology and options getting cheaper and cheaper for film makers. The line between the young mavericks and the studios keeps getting more blurred.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:43 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Slow motion editing adds a lot, as well.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:43 AM on June 22, 2010


How much does this stuff usually cost?

For a real helicopter and a traditional HD video camera? A lot more, and filming from a helicopter can be tricky. And if you are going for small spaces or dangerous situations, a remote helicopter and a camera that costs less than $2k (USD) (and that seems to be with the basic 28-135 mm lens).

In other words, this could be the high end of DIY videos for "extreme sports" kids who start with a cheap handi-cam and film skateboard tricks.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:44 AM on June 22, 2010


We have cameras?
posted by joe lisboa at 9:44 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Matt, I'm gonna need a 7D and an RC helicopter. For shooting meetups. It's a business expense.
posted by cortex at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2010 [26 favorites]


The sports shots are cool, but what I'm really looking forward to are all the indie film kids using this rig crazy Brian De Palma camera tricks.

How is it shooting with these DSLRs with regard to sync sound? Just shoot the sound off-camera and that's that?
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:47 AM on June 22, 2010


These folks are promoting their own remote control helicam, with their Licensed FAA Commercial Pilot and experienced camera man have their own gallery, but all the videos are embedded in smaller frames than the native Vimeo clips. One thing they note is that it's "greener" (as in more fuel efficient) to shoot from RC.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:48 AM on June 22, 2010


To the Gulf with a fleet of these things. The US need a civilian drone project to watch the watchmen.
posted by Back to you, Jim. at 9:50 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Watch out for ravens.
posted by homunculus at 9:51 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


cavalier: "Crane's gonna be level, though. Depends on the need, of course, but there was a whole lot of tilting in the demoreel.

Plus, those self-drying pants gotta run expensive!
"

Attach the camera to a quadcopter, that you built yourself.
posted by Science! at 9:53 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Attach the camera to a quadcopter, that you built yourself.

It'd have to be a fairly large one to lift that much weight. A 7D + lens + mount is not light.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:57 AM on June 22, 2010


To the Gulf with a fleet of these things. The US need a civilian drone project to watch the watchmen.

Fuck yes. But I don't know what the range/flying time is of a RC copter with a 5lb camera on it. I suspect you'd still get some near-coast shots of oil lapping up on the shore that could be pretty incredible (and depressing).
posted by mathowie at 9:57 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) quadcopter. holllyyyyyy shit.
2) I used to fly RC planes and copters as a teenager. Let me tell you, it was a white knuckle thrill ride getting 100ft or so above ground -- you just don't know what the wind feels like, you have to react to what the RC is looking like. To whoever would be attaching more than a grand of stuff onto that thing? Brass balls, man.
posted by cavalier at 10:03 AM on June 22, 2010


The thought of ubiquitous surveillance drones gets even creepier if they're shooting in HD. I don't want the NSA cataloging my skin blemishes and dandruff distribution patterns.
posted by mecran01 at 10:05 AM on June 22, 2010


Possibly stupid question: Can the person operating the remote helicopter see what the camera is seeing? I mean, is there remote viewing capability that can happen while the heli is flying around with the camera on it?
posted by rtha at 10:06 AM on June 22, 2010


The ability of recent DSLRs to do HD is truly amazing. The season finale of House was shot with a Canon 5D.
posted by condour75 at 10:08 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recently got a 5Dii and while ther eis no way I'd put it up in the air like that I can't help but observe that today's $1.5K+ digital HD cameras will be sub 1K in 5 years or less. The time is not far off where these shots are not out of range for a lot of people (ok a lot of people in certain countries)
posted by edgeways at 10:11 AM on June 22, 2010


Every since I saw this I've wanted make one and do my own ariel videos. This is a cool copter as well (but doesn't look like it has the payload abilities).

I think you could get this down below $5,000 a flip video is much lighter, and less cringe inducing if you did crash. For most people that would be enough.

I was holding out hope for this: AR Drone, but it doesn't allow you to record the video. Front and bottom facing cameras, and no way to record. Bah!
posted by cjorgensen at 10:13 AM on June 22, 2010


That's really, really cool. Thanks for posting.
posted by brundlefly at 10:13 AM on June 22, 2010


oh, and pretty much right out of the box with no prior training or mucking around I thought these where decent for a hand-held.
posted by edgeways at 10:16 AM on June 22, 2010


My old Canon is getting old—I need a new Canon. You have sold a bunch of Canons today, Matt!
posted by Mister_A at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


To the Gulf with a fleet of these things. The US need a civilian drone project to watch the watchmen.

The watchmen don't want you there.
posted by exogenous at 10:25 AM on June 22, 2010


How much does this stuff usually cost? Because to me, a Canon 7D SLR + RC helicopter + RC camera mount = a lot of money.

In the chat under both video links, he mentions the following equipment:
Modified Align T-Rex 700E 3G Flybarless Combo ($1300)
Photoship 2X Camera Gimbal ($300)
Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) ($1300)
Sigma - AF 24-70/2.8 Lens ($600)
Sigma - AF 70-200/2.8 Lens ($1200)

That's about $5k not including the cost of helicopter modifications or any of the hardware/software used to edit the video.
posted by stringbean at 10:26 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


RED BULL RED BULL RED BULL RED BULL

Gee, I wonder who paid for the camera and helicopter?
posted by mark242 at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2010


Wow, my backyard looks just like PB's.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:29 AM on June 22, 2010


In the chat under both video links, he mentions the following equipment:

I wondered how the camera operator knows what is being recorded. How does he or she track the cyclist in mid-air, for example? Is there something transmitting the view to someone on the ground, who can operate the motorized gimbal?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 AM on June 22, 2010


Is there something transmitting the view to someone on the ground

Nope, and with Canons shooting video you don't even get auto-focus, just fixed manual focus (which is why some of the following shots are just slightly fuzzy but they used the video anyway).

I think it's mostly a crapshoot to be honest, you slap a fairly wide lens (24mm at the most) on there, try and open up the f-stop and leave the camera on some medium focus, then follow your subject and hope for the best.
posted by mathowie at 10:39 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


What happens when you strap one of those new Canon 7D SLR cameras that do HD video to a remote controlled helicopter?

This is a bit misleading. The linked page describes what happens when Trent Palmer and Errol Kerr do this. When I strap one of those new Canon 7D SLR cameras that do HD video to a remote controlled helicopter, I get a small crater full of RC helicopter and camera parts.
posted by FishBike at 10:43 AM on June 22, 2010 [32 favorites]


I guess it's cheap and easy enough to collect hours and hours of footage to cut down to a few minutes. And the slow motion that adds drama also aids with cherry-picking the best clips.

It would be interesting if a camera firmware could be programmed with some image recognition routines. You take a few shots on the ground of the cyclist or target of interest, perhaps wearing a colorful jersey or something with a pattern that the camera can easily pick out of background.

Once in-air, every now and again, when it makes sense for the type of shot, the camera does a bit of intelligent tracking work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:45 AM on June 22, 2010


My lad shot this video with a 7D. Rented one in town, got on a plane to Atlanta, shot it, returned and dumped the camera with the footage on the desk of the producer. Done.
posted by Duug at 10:47 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


you slap a fairly wide lens (24mm at the most)

Looks like he has a Tokina 11-16mm cranked all the way down to 11mm in the first video.
posted by zsazsa at 11:03 AM on June 22, 2010


The gear is out there for first person video streaming. A well funded hacker/hobbiest could build thier own RC camera drone with realtime video quite easily. Combine with HD video equipment for fun and profit.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:09 AM on June 22, 2010


To the Gulf with a fleet of these things. The US need a civilian drone project to watch the watchmen.

And this is where public interest overlaps with what the military doesn't want you to be able to do.

Give it a few more years and every 3rd world country will have an army of steath drones able to study anything anywhere in the wordl
posted by blue_beetle at 11:16 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I guess I should make it clear that while this is probably $5,000 worth of technology

He uses a camera mount from these guys.

The camera mount on that first page costs $10,000, just for the mount, not including helicopter or camera.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2010


I must say, between this and the government camera drones, that skylight in the bathroom is looking less and less like a good idea every day.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:26 AM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


"And this is where public interest overlaps with what the military doesn't police don't want you to be able to do."

There, I fixed it.
posted by Xoebe at 11:34 AM on June 22, 2010


Is there something transmitting the view to someone on the ground

In the comments the videographer says, "We used a downlink, its nearly impossible to aim the camera without a live feed." and that he normally shoots with his Sigma 10-20 lens at 20 because 10 is too wide.
posted by bonsai forest at 11:51 AM on June 22, 2010


StickyCarpet: I think the mount price is $999 not $10K
posted by mdoar at 12:32 PM on June 22, 2010


Nope, you're right: $10K for all the other bits and bobs. Ouch! Guess that won't be my birthday present after all.
posted by mdoar at 12:34 PM on June 22, 2010


From the product page for the camera mount:
We are compelled to inform you that these helicopter systems are EXTREMELY difficult to fly safely and REQUIRE a competent and skilled pilot. DO NOT attempt to purchase one of these systems and fly it yourself if you are not a proficient RC helicopter pilot as you will most certainly crash and cause severe damage to persons or property.

We require a telephone interview with the person you will choose to fly the system before we accept any orders. NO EXCEPTIONS!
They also have a mount for the MikroKopter helis, which are amazing.

Check out http://diydrones.com/ for lots more homebrew UAVs.
posted by bigToe at 1:27 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had a friend who was a professional Maryland State Police Medevac pilot for many years. His hobby was flying radio controlled model helicopters. He contended that it was way harder to fly the RC models than it was to fly the Bell Jet Long Ranger that he routinely shoehorned into challenging situations, frequently in really poor weather conditions.

Also, this is insanely cheap compared to what it would have cost even five years ago to achieve similar results.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:50 PM on June 22, 2010


"How many times do I have to tell you, LaRue? No more crane shots!"
posted by gimonca at 4:24 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nope, you're right: $10K for all the other bits and bobs. Ouch! Guess that won't be my birthday present after all.

From the product page StickyCarpet and bigToe linked to, there's a nice PDF price list that gives a total of around 10 grand for the assembled and tested helicopter with the camera mount.

Considered as a personal, rather than corporate, purchase, I wouldn't call that cheap exactly. But you can go to just about any photography club meeting and find somebody who's put that kind of money into camera equipment as a serious hobby, rather than a profession.

That's what's cool about this, it brings the cost of this kind of photography down to a level that I can imagine mere mortals can afford if they're really into it, instead of being the exclusive domain of big companies or, I suppose, the very rich.

[...] and that he normally shoots with his Sigma 10-20 lens at 20 because 10 is too wide.

That sounds about right, yeah. When I use a 10-22 on a similar camera, I have to be careful not to shoot myself in the foot, so to speak, at 10mm. Especially in portrait orientation, it is really easy to get a picture of your own shoes by accident.
posted by FishBike at 4:29 PM on June 22, 2010


so 20mm on the 7d is 30mm on full frame - i'll have to look at this a bit more to see what it looks like wide - with a full frame and a better lens with less distortion it could be set at infinity - although perhaps its better to have the heli further away. Anyway this is giving my mind a bit of a treat as to what other things you could shoot with it, or the new sonys or the new nex sonys - is that pb from mefi ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:37 PM on June 22, 2010


I've been a bit underwhelmed with the 7D/5D video, honestly, it's fairly compressed, doesn't have much dynamic range, and is, as far as I can tell, 8-bit. I can see how some people like it because it gives you shallower depth of field than video cameras, and is decent quality compared to cheap consumer cameras, but I'm always a bit puzzled when people use it for supposedly professional applications.

Oh, and trying to do anything but completely static focus with still lenses is a nightmare.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:11 PM on June 22, 2010


My favorite bike vid of late.
posted by dobbs at 6:41 PM on June 22, 2010


i think the concept is cool and such, but i had a really hard time watching the videos -- especially the biking ones -- it seems like they only got a few seconds of usable footage at a time, so as soon as your eye starts following the action, the subject falls out of frame and it cuts. seems like this is best wide and far, which is certainly a reasonable helicopter replacement in certain scenarios (such as, perhaps, the ending shot of Easy Rider), but it leaves something to be desired close up...
posted by VulcanMike at 6:59 PM on June 22, 2010


I41
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:04 PM on June 22, 2010


Nice. We did something like this (but a little more heavy duty, an HVX) for a music video.

On the DSLR front... they are highly versatile for consumers but highly restrictive for professionals who demand dynamic range, color depth, and so on. I've been using a T2i though and it beats every camcorder on the market.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:52 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


In soviet Russia flying camera remote controls you!
posted by brevator at 9:38 PM on June 22, 2010


Would this work using balloons instead of a helicopter? As long as you had the wind direction right and a vane attached, it seems to me that you could still get the fly-by shots. A definite plus would be that it's pretty hard to crash balloons (raven's notwithstanding).
posted by unliteral at 11:52 PM on June 22, 2010


Have you experimented with a prime lens Joakim? They give a great depth of focus. You can get a cheap one fairly reasonably priced to see if that suits your needs (being a visual medium tho taste is individual, so what you are trying to capture may not be at all what I think is good, it's worth searching for some footage of people using your camera with alternate lenses) The images they produce have a very cinematic nature, even for home movie recording. There is a lot of information within the image that can be accentuated and advanced using one of the digital editing tools and filters but might not show up without tweaking.
It seems in terms of avenues for advancement of these cameras will be in focusing speeds, improvements in the micro motors that are driving lenses, and improvements in the software of recognizing/inputting focus intent (a wireless enabled touch screen display device, with a 'followpoint focus' seems like it could be natural evolution; sony had similar on a handycam [canon crushes sony imho due to all my experiences with trying to manipulate sony footage, it was like having to break into a 10th degree safe just to save footage, and with Canon is like breathing] like 5 years ago) and lens construction material is also one frontier for development.

It will be amazing to see things like this great set of shots from mini-copters as sensor sizes start increasing. There are also large money piles in the business of 'en-ruggedizing' and making new consumer Dslr cameras as the newest are, doubling as HD video Cameras of top quality, and also stunning still phography for the home market.

Like with some measure of shock resistance/absorbtion and a weather sealing wrap... out of the box. Sweet footage.
posted by infinite intimation at 12:30 AM on June 23, 2010


So, it could work.
posted by unliteral at 5:01 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


But you can go to just about any photography club meeting and find somebody who's put that kind of money into camera equipment as a serious hobby, rather than a profession.

Given that, only do this if you could handle your entire camera bag dropped from 50 feet.
posted by smackfu at 1:55 PM on June 25, 2010


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