2017 was also pretty much a year of testing techniques and discovering new perspectives. I spend a lot of time to find out how create new perspectives with copters under various circumstances on water. The most recent copters are a perfectly stabilized platform and this has some potentials for new visuals. The successful Mirabaud 2017 shot is likely one of the beste examples. The platforms are however also perfectly useable as a stabilized platform for filming slow motions on water. I was testing some footage in summer 2016 for Slomo shootings but could not really find how to get stabilized sequences. A copter has not the capabilities to do tele kind of action shots but wide angle slomos come out nicely with the 120fps on 1080p footage recording. Its clearly compressed footage at 100Mbit bitrate and the sensors is also not a high iso wizard but somehow its easy to generate footage that reveals new structures and it should be possible to also get precise Slomos from fast paced sailing maneuvers.
Here a cut from summer 2017 where we spend some weeks in Scandinavia at the coast of West-Sweden and Skagen.
Likely best viewed when all the stress is over these days and with a single malt at hand at late night contemplations :)
My time-motion stack made it into the Top20 of the international Mirabaud Yacht Racing Photo Contest. This is really great since it means that the image will be displayed on some events! When I planned this shot in winter 2016/17 I never thought that this concept would work so well – although I felt that the potential application of these kind of shots is clearly multi-folded. First tests in April already went very well. Its a very graphical visual but these kind of shot composites also reveal tactical errors or wrong tacking decisions. The flight altitude limitation is basically the main problem for these copter based imaging concepts.
Letzte Woche fand ja auch die UAV-g17 Tagung in Bonn statt – eine Fernerkundungstagung mit UAV Schwerpunkt. Gute Gelegenheit mit den Leuten von DJI mal intensiver zu reden und einige Konzepte zu diskutieren. Nächste Woche geht es voraussichtlich nach Bayern für einige spezielle Befliegungen für die Vor- und Frühgeschichte, außerdem ist die IDM der Drachen in der Planung.
Wiedermal eine tolle Veranstaltung – die German Classics 2017 vor Laboe am letzten Wochenende. Obwohl diesmal nicht ganz so stark besucht wie in den letzten Jahren und durchaus vom Wetter etwas gebeutelt hatte dieses Wochenende irre Momente zu bieten. Der Sonnabend war schlicht eine herrliche Rauschefahrt bei 5-6Bf und schöner Welle. Fotografisch gesehen war wirklich am Sonnabend alles drin, nur der Coptereinsatz war etwas problematisch vom Schlauchi aus. Schlicht recht viel Bewegung und in den Böen schwer zu fangen der Copter auf dem/vom Zodiac aus. Der nächtliche Beamer Bilder BestOf aus meiner Feder kam auch gut an.
Tausend Dank an Christiane Rink und Nicole Ziercke für die präzisen Zodiac Moves!!! und die gemeinsame Zeit mit Ecke Erben, Jozef Kubica und Hendrick Ballhausen!
Kleiner Preview goes here: – volle Galerie auf http://www.sailpower.de Ende dieser Woche.
Right back from our Scandinavia tour! Shot a lot of these fantastic landscapes at the west coast of Sweden and than also some in the North of Denmark. The mixed weather was kind of cool for doing all sorts of things photographically – from under-water towards copter night time and sunset shots and also using slomos at the coast. I am also feeling much more confident now that the Phantom copter systems are dealing well with strong winds ;).
A shot from Hirtshals Fyr: – flying at night is likely the most exciting you can do with a copter.
Did also some footage with grading in Adobe AE towards nice slomos. I am still working on these but there will be a slomo teaser soon for this project. Its just a very cool feature that can be used nicely to visualize waves and coastal textures and I want to use the 12o fps in the future also for the sailing sport photography. This is clearly a domain where we can do much more – and better ;).
Right now: preparing for the German Classics 2017 – this is as usual one of these very big events. The forecast is kind of hinting windy conditions but this is pretty much expected this summer.
Some of the new interesting perspectives of copter based regatta and yacht photography clearly come with time series visuals – or as I would rather call it: “motion-time stacks”. Its not new in sports photography and with fast cont. autofocus and high speed cont. shooting speed we have seen it in motorbike sports, skiing , swimming and especially with athletics and dancing. The appealing aspect is that you can tell a (very short) story with these stacks. The image reveals a series of decisions and is much more than a capture of a specific situation.
With UAV visuals you can create comparable shots – mainly possible due to the precise GPS controlled position hold of the modern quadrocopters – especially the DJI Phantom series. The lat/lon/altitude position is very precisely corrected and together with the gimbal correction you have only minimal changes of the area covered with the FOV of your camera. Combining different situations at the same position is more a question of how to post process the time series and how to combine the changes into one image. With the new Phantom copter generations you can easily leave the copter at a specific place & altitude and let it capture the scene while shooting with a DSLR at the water level. The only problem are winds above 5Bf and/or gusts that exceed 5-6 Bf. The copter drifts away and you would have to manually move the copter in S-Mode to get back to your start position. Flying freely without VR-googles is also not too much advised when you do not have constant visual control of the copter position. You easily loose track where the copter exactly is. The standard RTH functiondoes not work on water (you usually drift on a small rib, when you trigger RTH the copter will fly towards the position where you have been – not to where you are now) – though flying back to sender (and not to the start position) is helpful and implemented in a way as you can update the “Home Point” manually in the Phantom series control software when you have a GPS enabled controller device (iphone/iPad). This can safe your copter because on water you easily loose track where exactly your copter is. RTH with the hover option enabled (you do not want the copter to land automatically!) is a great function as long as you update the home point regularly on the boat. Thats the function that I trained a couple of times for these not so nice moments when you believe that you lost control and the battery warning noise is slowly eating your coolness. Btw: updating the controller position should be set with a shortcut once selected – its the function that you want to trigger every 20sec or so on a boat. I dont understand why this is not already implemented in the DJI GO app.
The „Dynamic Home Point„ feature of the Inspire copter controller software (version update 29.05.17) is also a very remarkable feature in that context. It updates the position of the „Home Point“ using the controller GPS information. The RTH function is in that form a really useful function again. This is by far the most secure option for flights over water where you start from a boat but it doesnt create safe automatic landings on a moving boat! Landing is usually by picking the copter in air by hand. Its the reason why the Phantom series works well here: you can easily pick the copter up by its legs.
Some picture examples that I did in may/june 2017 to find out what is working are attached here. Imo you either fly very high (you need a permission for above 100m!) or very low – approx. 20m – to get exciting perspectives – the in between wont make it in my opinion. Low flying is difficult, you often cannot clearly define the relative height difference to the boat rigs and you do not want to distract peoples attention. Very high positions are nice to capture the field at the start leg or at the luv position but even with the 20mm (equiv) of the P3 you will need 150-250m flight altitude – and clearly a BFA permission to go that high.
To create appealing visual compositions you have to pre-visualize the direction and possible crossings of the boats – that is really the most challenging part. I usually try to get a fixed position close to a turning point where maneuvers take place. There are endless option how to combine light and action into something appealing. With the wide angle 20mm equiv. camera system of the P3 one always collects sun glint that will mess up the stacking process later. Its hard to avoid but you can try to keep at least the action out of the glint region and it can be also nicely used as part of the composition.
With the new copter regulation in place for Germany its easier to do commercial/research work than it was before. Mainly because you do not need an allowance for every flight from the regional authority anymore. There is a general clearance for commercial flights below 100m, and below 5kg weight in place. Above 100m and in EDR zones and some other restricted region-types a special permission is needed (an insurance is also a given).
In Berlin the EDR4 is blocking the south-western part of the Havel – so everything west of the “Kälberwerder” island is very clearly within the EDR4 zone (a restricted flight zone around the HMI experimental nuclear reactor). For this year for the “Havel Klassik” regatta race I applied for a clearance (that I received already) because the interesting visuals are all west of the Peacock Island and fully within the EDR4 zone.
I will add some more shots here in the future to make this post a diary of the experiences with the P3A and the P4P from DJI. So stay tuned.
There is a lot of confusion about the speed of MicroSD cards these days and various standards exist. Overall its easy to buy yourself into the wrong card type and for copter data acquisitions with the P4Pro the card speed is essential.
So here we go:
UHS-I and UHS-II (Ultra High Speed Classes):
UHS-II is the newest standard but is not supported by many yet. The Phantom series 3 and 4 all need UHS-I and definitely the fastest UHS-I cards. The UHS-I bus goes to 104MB/s whereas the UHS-II bus goes up to 300MB/s (theoretical limits – the cards will not perform at this speed).
UHS Speed classes are subdivided in to u1 and u3, while u3 performs minimum at 30MB/s write speed (needed for copter flights).
A new speed rating is called “video rating”. It scales from V6 to V90. The fastest cards are v60 right now (possible values are V6 V10 V30 V60 V90, but note that V60 and higher is usually UHS-II bus type and not supported by Phantom 3 and 4 series).
Speed Rating up to 10MB/s write – this is a slow class rating and c10 should be always possible for fast cards.
SDHC vers SDXC:
Up to 32GB capacity the cards have the label microSDHC whereas cards bigger (64-256GB) hold the label microSDXC.
For the Phantom3A (5MB/s max write speed) Phantom3Pro (60mb/s =7.5MB/s) and Phantom 4Pro (100mb/s=12.5 MB/s) series the fastest at writing to card seems to be right now the UHS-I SanDisk Extrem plus and Extreme pro cards (90MB/s sequential write). While this seems overkill the u3/V30 just certifies that you will never be below 30MB/s write speed under real world / all temperature conditions.
For some of the copter data processing folks Agisoft Photoscan turns out to be the most important tool/software to calculate point clouds, orthoimages and nadir data mosaics from copter photographs.
Problem: very long processing times with dense point cloud calculations with high or ultra-high settings (full resolution image matching with SfM (Structure from Motion) algorithms).
Some nice net finds show how multicore processing has its limits and why you should invest into GPU performance … and in high end 3D graphic cards.
Combining more than 20 CPU cores doesnt seem to speed up the process and combining more than 4 GPU systems also doesnt seem to help. There is only a minimal speed increase when you add more CPUs and or more GPUs when a 24 core system is already installed.
It boils down to a dedicated system with 2-4 Graphic cards with 3D acceleration (GTX-1080ti cards from Nvidea or if you can afford it a TESLA p100 based system), with approx 64-128 GB RAM and a dual i7 system setup.
The higher resolution version of the Schlachtensee Pano shot / panorama from early February. This was a magic week. Temperatures and light were just perfect and the ice was incredible untouched. This pano is from the P3A.
For those not familiar with the Berlin south west. The Schlachtensee region is known in Berlin as the area where the people who love dogs used to have some conflicts with those that go for a run and/or the other way around. I think the conflict has been cooling down now somewhat fortunately! In summer its great to have a swim here early in the morning. Skating in winter only works every 5-10years – so these days in February were kind of unique. (Pano from 4 different shots: resampled to 4300×1300).
The into the sun shots just capture a lot of flare and the sun star is very much Samyang 14mm like. This is an issue and it reduces the image acuity for 3D point cloud modeling for object measurements as well as for the landscape panorama approach.
The against the light shots look very much like the Samyang/Rokinon 14mm lens character. The sunstar has light rays that increase in size from the center and these rays cover the full frame of the 1inch sensor when the illumination comes from one of the outer edges. It clearly degrades the full image when the lens is stopped down to f.e. f8 but gets better when the lens is driven wide open. There seem to be some diffraction effects at work that are clearly not so great. You can drive the camera to generate sharp sun stars, but as usual here the characteristics of this star make a difference to some of us. The Samyang like star is not so well received. The linked flare issue however is much more a problem because it is hard to avoid when you have the sun in your frame and when the lens is stopped down to f8 or f11. For some scenarios a lens hood may be useful but its only functional for those shooting scenarios where the sun is not within your FoV.
To be honest I am bit puzzled … this is the first affordable 1-inch sensor platform with nice resolution and better DR, but – the flare issue is likely killing some of the potential ideas that you might develop with this machine. A pitty!
Comparison shot done with the Phantom 3A, clearly shows that the lens/sensor combi wont give the same amount of flare here (again different light level and different sun illumination angle):