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

26 Dec

Channel mapping with the DJI A2 and Futaba T14SG

Overcoming some issues sorting out the configuration of the DJI A2 and the Futaba 14SG controller and I thought I would share. There are a ton of tutorials out there but it took some digging to figure out just how to apply a channel to a switch and then map that channel to a function on the A2.

On the controller push LNK 2 times and then scroll to FUNCTION and press RTN. The numbers on the left correspond to the channels. The designation next must be unique if you want the joined channel and switch to be independent so I immediately set each open channel to a unite AUX number.

Next you assign a CTRL by scrolling to the appropriate position, push RTN and then scroll to the button name (i.e. SA, SE, etc). This maps the channel to that specific switch.

In the A2 software click the channel mapping button (in the lower right of any control page) and then click the button to the right which will read ‘Unmapped’ and choose the channel you linked to a button on the controller.

Writing this out it now sounds obvious but on the tutorials I went through it was left out and I found a gap between the Futaba manual and the A2 manual that left me temporarily scratching my head.

If you have issues contact me by email – I’ve disabled the comments due the debilitating spam they generate.

25 Dec

EasyRig really is easy – a long overdue review

For a long time I’ve admired this piece of gear from afar with a certain trepidation. The idea of having the weight of the camera distributed and having more freedom to access controls is alluring but the it just looks a bit ridiculous. However function generally wins out over form in my mind and on a recent shoot as an AC on a joint shoot for Filson Clothing and Shinola I had an opportunity to try out what is called ‘The Cameraman’s Original Back Saver Since 1994’, EasyRig.

IMG_8409.JPGDirector/DP Patrick Kehoe with the RED and EasyRig

The shoot called for a RED Scarlet and a set of CP.2 primes and a variety of Canon L series lenses including the 70-200. The basic camera rig included the tactical plate, top handle and we added a hand grip mounted to the top plate to provide an additional hold point along side the RED side handle. A RED BRICK and plate provided power with the REDVOLT in the handle for hot-swapping.

The Director/DP Patrick Kehoe was as hesitant as I was about the absurdity of the EasyRig but shared my desire for support when it comes to a heavy rig like the RED. We had shot for this client earlier in the year at Taylor Shellfish Farms in Bellingham, dressed in hip-waders and schlepping gear across the mud flats as the tide rolled in. For that shoot Patrick relied more heavily on the sticks and his hand-held moves were reserved to cradling the camera, resolving him to low-angles.

The first thing we realized is that mounting up this rig is a two-person operation. The tension on the overhead cable from the EasyRig is substantial, as it must be to support the weight. Patrick would hold the camera while I locked open the mounting clip by pushing the locking clasp up and screwing down the pin. After a warning, I would pull hard on the cable and place the clip around the handle, unscrew the pin and then re-tighten. This final step is critical – at one point we realized the clip was at the very end of the handle, saved only by the tight spacing between the end of the handle and the battery plate. If there were more space the clip could have conceivably popped off the end of the handle and the camera come loose unexpectedly. If you use this rig, pay particular attention to locking the safety pin on the mount!

Once mounted the weight of the camera is transferred magically (or perhaps by science – it’s one-in-the same to me) to the operator’s back and hips. The rig is adjustable like higher quality backpacks and the user is able to shift the weight between hips and back slightly to limit fatigue on long shooting days.

I was amazed at the stability with this heavy rig in-hand. One is able to brace the camera with the left hand while using the side handle to adjust settings then shift camera support to the right and focus with the left. Or, when an Assistant is available, work with camera settings and framing while focus is handled. In any case, the speed and flexibility of shooting were greatly improved.

The RED is a fine camera suitable in many ways but quite cumbersome at times, particularly when one is used to shooting on smaller, lighter platforms. However with the right equipment and support like the EasyRig, an operator can have the freedom to move about and get the shot without killing themselves.

As technology advances I look forward to seeing what else comes about like the ActionProducts Runner or the L’Aigle Exoskeleton, both equally ridiculous looking and designed to support the additional weight of a camera gimbal.

IMG_8410.JPGDirector/DP Patrick Kehoe with the RED and EasyRig 

IMG_8400.JPG