28 Apr

Sony a7s ii with the Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4 G OSS Lens on the FreeFly Movi m5

I wasn’t sure if this would work – the Sony E PZ 18-110 lens is pretty long and the depth of the spacing on the m5 can be a limitation. I tried mounting my Canon 70-200 lens once, to see if I could use it a stabilized, long lens setup for shooting whales on a boat, but it didn’t fit.

Image of the a7s ii on the MOVI

the Sony a7s ii with the Sony 18-110 on the MOVI m5

This beautiful Sony lens, which I rented for the week from BorrowLenses for a couple projects, fits with just enough room to fully tilt. And I mean just barely. The lens runs around $3,500 from B&H..

Showing the Clearance in the MOVI

Just enough depth clearance for full-tilt action

I bought most of the parts of a Zacuto Indie Recoil this week as well along with a Gripper battery system, but B&H failed to ship the item, though it was listed on shipping notifications.. it wasn’t the package arrived that they realized they hadn’t even shipped it yet, leaving me to figure out an alternative power solution for my two films this week.

I’m really liking the Sony lens – it will compliment my Sony 16-35 I picked up a month ago that I use mostly on the MOVI and flying under the Alta. So far, I’m stoked about the Recoil and have found it exceptionally modular and flexible – a real upgrade from my Cinevate handheld rig, which did last me 6 or so years before failing. I’m still using the hand-grips from that for the moment.


Camera Rig Image

the RedRock Micro Wireless FollowFocus with the Sony a7s ii on the Zacuto Indie Recoil, using the Sony 18-110 Cinema

The one thing I’ve noticed – no matter where my RedRock Micro torque motor is mounted or with which lens, when we shift directions on the focus, the motor pushes the camera round in the rig. Maybe I really do need the coldshoe lock to tie in the upper z-rail, but I wonder if anyone else has experienced this. It wouldn’t be noticeable in a shot unless you made some rapid focus shifts. It just looks dodgy.

19 Feb

Issue with Sony a7s mark II SteadyShot with MetaBones and Canon Lens

Last night I was queued up to shoot a sunset using the Sony a7s ii Time Lapse app. Nearly every time I’ve used these apps it’s been a failure. At first on the mark I version of the camera it would simply stop after shooting some frames, so I’d set my time lapse, come back and the camera would be shut down in power-save with either limited frames or no video (depending on settings). This seemed fixed with a firmware update and on the mark ii.

As the sun was setting into the Bay of Banderas, a message pops up that tells me to disable SteadyShot. Ok, no problem, except that with the MetaBones and my Canon 24-105 L USM lens, I can’t. It displays as ‘on’ but greyed out so it can’t be changed. If I switch to an old, manual Nikon prime lens then it works as expected.

Sony a7s ii with SteadyShot Locked out

So I guess I can’t use my Canon L series lenses with the apps which is quite frustrating. The core functions on this camera are great – the image is sharp, the 4K is nice, high frame rates, low light performance but beware those apps. Rather frustrating to pay extra to download them and have them fail time and again!

23 Nov

Mounting the Amimon Connex on the MOVI m5 (and ALTA)

Connex on MOVI

Amimon Connex Mounted on the FreeFly MOVI m5

There isn’t much information out there but I came up with a solution that was pretty solid. Amazon was good for a roll of Techflex Flexo Braided Cable sleeve, the 1/4-inch was perfect. I also acquired some very tiny black zip-ties and heat shrinks from my husband’s hangar (tons of good stuff to pilfer from the Lear Jet!). Use the Flexo around the antenna cables then apply a heat shrink to each end and zip-tie over the heat shrink to minimize flexing at the weak points.

For close proximity work I removed the Connex antenna extensions and used velcro to attach the antennas to the end of each carbon fiber support on the MOVI. The Connex itself I mounted to the back of the MOVI just above the power switch, securing it with both velcro and a zip-tie passed through the removable mounting plate and around the vertical post of the MOVI.

Power is supplied using a y-cable soldered and cleaned up with heat-shrink and covered with sealing wrap. I used one of the cables provided by Connex and a power connector FreeFly was kind enough to give me when I visited for the open house just before I received the ALTA.

So far this is working well – tested hand-held in a crowded event the video started to give out about 150 feet away in the next room. I suspect clear line of sight it will work adequately and if I plan to really push the range I’ll put the antenna extensions back on to move the antennas themselves further from the carbon fiber.



24 Aug

Flying a MOVI m5 on UAV

There’s a thousand ways to get a camera airborne these days but as the camera weight increases so do the hardware requirements and equally, costs. Sure, you can drop $10,000 (after batteries, tax, shipping, FPV, etc) on a FreeFly Alta and have the ultimate setup (keep in mind it’s another $4,000 for a MOVI m5). But if you’re looking for something on a budget I’m offering up the most affordable way to get extremely professional aerial footage immediately, especially if you already have a MOVI or other lightweight gimbal.

I spent more than six months ordering parts from around the world (thanks DHL), dismantling and rebuilding the DJI s1000 UAV with numerous improvements (documented on my blog).

If you’re interested in getting a Sony a7s, GH4, Canon 5D Mark III or other DSLR airborne quickly – email me!

An overview of modifications to the s1000:

  • replaced the central stiffening board with an 8-point version (the stock connects only to 4 of the 8 booms).
  • Added the Kopterworx s1000 MOVI adapter
  • Replaced the landing legs with 500mm carbon fiber tubs to allow the needed vertical height to fit the MOVI suspended below the s1000
  • Added the DJI AVL-58 fpv using a Kopterworx HDMI to AV adapter to transmit the main camera image to the ground
  • Also purchased the IOSD mini which would show telemetry info but the data never did connect properly. I never troubleshot this issue though as the Alta arrived about that time.
  • I have two 5000mAh PULSE batteries and one additional 16,000 mAh PULSE. With the larger battery I could get around 10 minutes flight time with the MOVI and a SONY a7s camera.

26 Apr

Adapting the DJI s1000 with the MOVI m5


Between work and traveling to Europe for three weeks, I was still able to get a couple shots off with the setup. It was pretty rock solid, even in about 10 knots of wind and with the MOVI mounted on the Freefly Systems Toad-in-the-Hole. I picked up a PULSE 16000 mAH battery but realized after it arrived it only meets the DJI s1000 minimum requirement of 15c and so it isn’t but a few minutes before any significant power draw (ascent, bank or turn) results in the first, yellow LED warning. Initial tests suggest about 9:30 flight times but I’ve been landing around 7 when fully loaded with the gimbal and camera to be safe.

My big limitation now is that I have to have an operator or pilot – can’t really and operate solo. I know some people have been setting up basic gimbal functions on the main pilot remote or configuring the MOVI to run in majestic mode after takeoff, but for decent video you want a separate operator anyway.

The newly integrated DJI AVL58 video downlink seems OK – picture appears wildly overexposed in my monitor, which is fine – I choose and set exposure prior – but even framing can be a little rough in certain lighting situations.

Added the following from Kopterworx:

  • Movi M5/M10 adapter for DJI S1000 frame movim5s1000
  • 3K Carbon tube 550mm/25mm x 2 (landing gear extensions)
  • HDMIV converter mini


  • FreeFly Systems Toad-in-the-Hole Quick adapter
  • DJI AVL58 video TX/RX
  • DJI S1000 – UPGRADE Carbon Fiber Reinforcement Plate from http://globe-flight.de/

I purchased the copter used and there was light damage to the other parts so I replaced the upper and lower boards and one frame arm- I disassembled every single piece of hardware and rebuilt from scratch.

________________ original post below____________

I’ve been working towards marrying my DJI s1000 with my FreeflySystems MOVI m5 – it’s not a match made in heaven, but an arranged marriage with two hesitant parties.

Fortunately a few companies have stepped up in the marketplace and with the help of others who paved this path before me, I’m almost there.

I mentioned before that I bought the s1000 used, which is another long and sordid tale. There was a little damage but when I dismantled it for repairs, I discovered the damage was more extensive than expected. Numerous late night binge orders later and countless visits from FedEx, UPS and DHL, I was able to get the UAV back in the air today, briefly before the rain settled back into the area.

During that process I did have some trouble with Compass Calibration. As I attempted to calibrate it kept giving me the red LED and the flashing green/yellow (looks more green/orange to me) which indicates compass issues. Then suddenly I was able to take off in Attitude mode. After reseating some power connections it suddenly began working again as expected, picking up the GPS signals and switching to that sweet, purple GPS LED.

My final step is to find a decent battery (alternating two 5000 maH Pulse batteries now which give me about 5 minutes) so that I can carry the extra weight of the gimbal with a modest flight time. And also an FPV. I’ve had the DJI AVL58 sitting in my Amazon cart all day, thought I can’t figure out how to tap into the UAV power by looking at instructions, diagrams and pictures and DJI’s manuals are painfully vague in many areas.


17 Jan

Setting up the DJI s1000 with a GoPro Hero 4 Black

I must be crazy to have a larger UAV like the DJI s1000 and want to fly a little GoPro, but I want options. Eventually I plan to modify the aircraft to carry my MOVI m5 with longer landing gear legs, but for now I just want a simple camera setup and since the latest GoPro has 4K, it’s a worthy setup.

Funny though, that DJI and the UAV community have little info on this setup. In fact I was looking for a Zenmuse H4-3D, and previously an H3-3D for my s1000 and everywhere i looked they seem to indicate that the little Zenmuse GoPro gimbals were for Phantom only. Even B&H Photo which has a ‘standard‘ and ‘phantom‘ version, which last week listed both as ‘for Phantom only’ but I can’t seem to find that statement now on the standard. Multiple tweets to DJI have been fruitless.

UPDATE- Just noticed the listing on the B&H for the DJI H4-3D says:

  • Plug-and-Play with Phantom 2
  • Optional GCU for Other Aircraft

So it should work with my s1000.

Fortunately I found the company DSStyles.com and their carbon fiber gimbal mount which was a deal for around $35 (nothing in this world of UAVs seems to be less then $100). It just arrived and I have it mounted up, but still don’t have a gimbal. I think I’m waiting on the H4-3D and in the meantime I found this Carbon Fiber 4-Axis 6-Axis FPV Gimbal PTZ for Gopro 3 DJI Phantom on ebay, which isn’t really a gimbal at all but just a static GoPro attachment, but at less than $12, it will hold me over.


DSStyles Gimbal Mount for s1000

The DSStyles Carbon Fiber Gimbal mount newly attached to my DJI s1000 – ready and waiting for the Zenmuse H4-3D gimbal

30 Dec

Comparing the DJI Ronin with the MOVI m5, the less obvious items

I first purchased the DJI Ronin with the hopes of mounting it under a UAV not realizing this wasn’t practical, but empowered by a photo I had seen of someone doing just that. From the image I believe it was mounted to an s1000 but closer analysis determined this was not so. The week after I purchased the price of the MOVI m5 dropped by $1,000.

The Ronin is very well built and I enjoyed the custom, solidly built case, albeit like it’s cargo, quite heavy. If I recall correctly it comes in at just about 50 pounds in the case, so still manageable with airline rules if you don’t add too much. My dream was to eventually get into a RED or another seriously pro camera package. After much deliberation, as I tested my Ronin with my trusty Canon 5d Mark II, I came to realize that at this point, the RED is beyond the scope of my personal kit. I still rent and use it occasionally.

So I sold the Ronin and purchased the MOVI, fortunate to get the holiday deal with controller and custom Pelican case. I picked it up on-site and the guys who handed off the gear were adamant that I contact them with absolutely any questions (pretty cool). Immediately I fell in love. After hoisting the Ronin the MOVI is a feather. The difference in weight is difference in usability.

On test shoots I could only hoist up the Ronin for a minute or two at a time and I workout regularly and keep fairly fit. The MOVI, with a monitor, would allow for much greater mobility.

Another key point is the MOVI rotates a full 360 degrees in pan and tilt and greater roll as well. The Ronin is more restricted from what I recall. I felt immediately the fluidity and concise operation of the MOVI were more in-tune. It felt like a much more precise operational package. The only thing that seems a little cheap are the tool-less, locking tabs, but as long as they hold up, I suppose the reason is that the light plastic adds nominal weight to the package.

Finally the controller uses the vertical movement of the left stick to adjust the pan speed and a dial to adjust tilt speed, while the Ronin has to be adjusted using the app or software. Having that immediate control that can even be adjusted mid-shot is top-notch.

28 Dec

While I Wasn’t Looking: Why Price Drops Make Me Sad

Caught up in the excitement of the UAV age (intentionally not using the word drone so I don’t sound like an amateur), I searched for a long time for a deal on a solid 8-rotor platform with the hopes of flying a DSLR or possibly one of the new mirror-less cameras like the Panasonic GH4 or Sony A7s.

Craigslist afforded me a prime opportunity to score a used DJI s1000 with the A2 flight controller and Futaba 14SG radio remote – buyer asking $4500. With the s1000 alone going for almost $4,000, the A2 around $1,300 and the Futaba about $600, it seemed like a great idea, especially when he threw in a couple LiPo batteries so I could get started. Upon inspection the aircraft had some minor damage which would require about $500 in parts and the seller agreed to discount as much so I dropped the $4,000 and went home excited and ready to take off.

Once home I started looking through the documentation and discovered that whomever had this before had no clue what they were doing and probably didn’t know how to read. The wiring was totally wrong on the controller and it took me a couple weeks to get organized enough, order the necessary battery connectors and solder them on, etc.

It was about this time I happened to pop on to DJI.com and browse their store and notice that they now listed the s1000 directly, previously I had looked and was quite sure they only carried the Phantom – the s1000 had to be purchased through a dealer. Not only was it there on the site but the price was now $2,670. I was shocked to say the least and immediately searched the dealer listings I had looked over previously to see their prices were still around $4,000 for the pair (about half have since dropped as of this post).

So here I was with a broken UAV that brand new would run me around $3,400 (for my setup) and I was in at $4,000 and needing $500 in replacement parts. If I had only waited a week. Buying gear in this market is a gamble. You wait and watch that Canon C100 for a year and finally make the jump and the next week the Mark II is announced for the same price (happened to my friend).

Or you can wait and wait and wait and never shoot a thing. Such is modern filmmaking.

26 Dec

Channel and function mapping on the Futaba T14SG remote

Futaba T14SG diagramAs I was getting ready to fly my DJI s1000 with A2 flight controller using the Futaba T14SG remote, I created form field enabled PDF that allows you to document the settings for each function then print and carry in the field. Hopefully others might benefit from this.

Many people use a labeler, which I’ll probably do as well, but this will be handy to keep a record and potentially share settings with others.

There are two versions:

To help with mapping channels and switches to functions