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Drone tips


Rob
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Given the drone thread on here I thought I'd put in my 2 cents with some tips as these things are very challenging to operate, especially for those that have no prior RC experience (me). Oddly enough, if you played Nintendo or similar console in the past, I actually found that experience to be pretty helpful. Random tips:

 

- use sport mode if you have it. You want to be able to reach top speed of this thing even for subjects that aren't at slalom top speed yet (kids, trickers etc) because for any number of reasons it will eventually be far away from the skier and you'll need to catch up.

 

- fly the drone manually...follow mode is cool but the additional flexibility of manual shooting will open up a world of additional possibilities, unique angles etc.

 

- know where the sun is, and follow best practice of having the sun behind the camera (unless you're intentionally going for that whole backlit deal which can be cool but very challenging to get right- see sample below for the problems with this (glare/overexposed, generally crappy shot etc.))

 

- get some ND filters for your lens - these proved invaluable and won't break the bank either...

 

- be prepared to destroy your drone. I have had so many close calls with this thing it isn't funny. Working in 3 dimensional space, attempting to work the exposure triangle, follow rule of thirds, get horizon line correct all while making sure you don't fly into the water, the boat or heaven forbid the skier is all very overwhelming until you get the hang of it.

 

- practice practice practice

 

- when attempting to follow a skier, look at your screen, not your drone. This is seriously important! When you look at what the camera is shooting, then the controls will make much more sense to you. This means if you want to go left or right, the control inputs to do so will always feel natural and you'll never go right when you meant to go left or vice versa. Trying to follow something or a certain path by looking at your drone, which may be flying forward/backward/sideways all while moving up and down at the same time is exceedingly difficult if not impossible. At the same time, and this is one reason why this is so damn hard, you still have to periodically look at your drone to ensure you're not flying into anything!

 

- don't try and fly the drone from the boat the skier is sking from if at all possible...while this is not impossible to do, it's way more challenging than if you are stationary relative to your subject

 

Funny story about my own adventures to the last point above: My drone memorizes it's starting GPS coordinates and has a configurable limit as to how far away from those coordinates you will fly. Due to drone regulations in my area I have this set to the equivalent of about half a mile. But when I shot the video linked below I did so from the boat, and so got in a situation where I was more than the limit away from my starting location. I was actually very close to the drone, but it wouldn't come to me - it thought I was still back at it's starting (takeoff) location. I had to have the boat driver drive back toward our starting location before the drone could be flown to me to actually land it.

 

Some sample footage can be found half way through this video:

 

I shoot with a Mavic Pro and I love the thing.

 

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