Orford from the air in 4K

We’ve been using a variety of drones in our shoots recently. Our favourite is the Phantom 3 Professional, which can shoot in 4K at 24fps. This is a test flight, following a little accident with a tunnel in the Peak District. The Phantom 3 is a great way of getting into using a drone. It’s easy to use with lots of advanced features, but remember always keep it away from people unless you are authorised and even then be careful (ok that’s the health and safety bit now for some fun).

This video was shot on a beautiful day in Orford on the Suffolk Heritage Coast in the UK. Most of the footage is filmed at 100m high and we were testing for rolling shutter or jello, which is when the sensor can’t keep up with the movement of the camera basically. It happens on landscape shots where there is little to focus on or when you’re moving quickly. You can also get it from the vibration in your gimbal rig (the bit under the Phantom 3 that keeps the camera gliding along as the quadcopter fights the wind). I’d also been having problems with the level of the horizon before the crash so I wanted to see how good the DJI support was. The answer to that is very good. I did have some issues with communication, but after a month my drone was returned to me, fixed and with new rotor blades, all free of charge, except for the postage which cost me about £100 with insurance.

So what did I learn. Well 4K is great and all, but for fast movement the camera is going to struggle a little. I could play the 4K video back on my iMac, but when I tried to show my family on Youtube on a 4K TV it didn’t work because the app for the TV wasn’t 4K compatible. It turns out I need to copy the file to a specially formatted hard drive, connect it to the TV and then they can watch my 90 second video. All seems a little convoluted and I think that sums up 4K TVs at the moment!  All of this means that 4K is cool and I would definitely recommend it for slow moving or lower altitude sequences as part of a documentary, but for most commercial jobs I would switch to HD which would allow me to shoot up to 60fps if I need to.

It’s also important to point your camera down a little. If you have it completely level for the whole flight you’ll see the props appearing in shot quite a bit as the drone fights the wind. That’s particularly true if you’re in GPS mode, which is far more accurate for beginners but won’t allow the drone to drift with the wind, which you might like if fluidity and getting the shot is more important. You could switch to Attitude mode but that’s how I crashed in a tunnel so you have been warned.

Surprisingly for the UK (we’re not known for our sunshine) I could really have done with a lens shield as you could see shadowing on quite a bit of the footage. An ND filter would also have helped with the rolling shutter and bright light but considering I deliberately set the camera to automatic mode the Phantom did really well. Flying with the wind and away from the sun was a joy which is why most of the sequences appear to be going backwards.

I’m always intrigued by people you meet flying a drone. Way more people speak to you than when you’re standing there with a tripod. In Suffolk everyone has been overwhelming positive and can’t believe the technology. One issue with an island climate is that we don’t have many crickets so when I filmed this it was dead calm and really quiet. You could hear the drone like a petrol strimmer in the sky! Definitely easier to film in mediterranean countries where there’s already a loud background noise. You wouldn’t even know I was there.

If you like drones, aerial videos or travel subscribe to our Youtube channel. We’ll be posting more videos like this soon.

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