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Old Apr 05, 2012, 07:47 AM
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MikeWarren's Avatar
Australia, QLD, Cairns
Joined Mar 2012
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Question
Muticopters for Videographers

I'm looking at the possibility of building or buying a quadcopter or hexacopter, but unlike most people here I am not coming at this as a hobby in itself. I want to learn to fly simply as a platform for video.

I've been reading these forums for about a month now, and seen some footage I'd be proud of, but most of it is not up to the standards I'm aiming for.

The odd thing is that some of the good footage has come from what appear to be fairly inexpensive multicopters.

I'm an electronics engineer and quite enjoy building things, so I'd prefer to build something, but I'm still struggling with understanding some of the options available.

I understand a picloc or similar will be required as even the most stable copters seem to roll quite a lot.

So my main questions:

1/ How hard are these to fly, bearing in mind I don't want to dedicate my life to it? I have a couple of cheap coaxial helicopters that I have no problems flying, but I am having quite a lot of difficulty with a normal helicopter on a simulator (Reflex), although I've only been practicing on the sim for a couple of hours so far.

2/ Secondly, the multicopter control boards seem to vary massively in price, from less that $20 up to hundreds. In what ways are the expensive ones better? Is there a path of starting with a cheap board to minimize my risk and then upgrade when I'm confident I can fly it properly?

3/ What is the best size (frame and motors) capable of lifting a dSLR? Perhaps someone can point me to some build threads of the sort of thing I'd need to aim for.

I'm basically trying to determine if the effort I'd need to put into this is going to be too much for the final result. I have a friend who is into copters (his main one is a large T-Rex), but not multis, and he can't answer my questions about them.

Obviously, I don't want to spend more than is necessary. Video is just a hobby for me and it's already quite expensive in equipment and software, but by the same token, there is no point in doing it if it simply isn't going to do the job.
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 08:11 AM
I never finish anyth
United States, TX, Houston
Joined Jan 2012
2,585 Posts
Lots of questions....

I'd say if video is your hobby and you don't think you will enjoy the flying aspect, save your money and find something else. Learning how to fly is the most time consuming part esp if you want good video. You can spend $5k on a multi and the best gimbal on the market but if you don't know how to fly you will end up with poor video (and a smashed up $5k rig and a broken camera).

Coax are a different world from multi, if you just want to learn to fly cheap then but a Blade MQX. They are sold out a lot online but you can find them in the classified for just under MSRP from time to time.

Flight controllers. The $20 ones will allow the craft to fly, the $200 ones will allow them to do cool stuff like autolevel and altitude hold (I am a Naza fan, there are cheaper boards that do this, just not as plug and play), and the $1000 ones give you GPS lock and failsafe return to home and land.

Size? A 550 hex can lift a DSLR but with the added weight comes shorter flight times... you will be maxing out the craft. Also with a hex you don't have redundancy so if/when a prop/motor fails you will be landing very quick and mostly uncontrolled. A Octo offers redundancy if something goes wrong. Remember, don't fly anything you aren't ready to crash.

I plan on flying a GoPro Hero2 without the fisheye lens on a DJI F550 with a Naza flight controller. I spent the money for piece of mind on radio equipment and got a Futaba 8FGS. My total drive out price will be in the neighborhood of $2500 with those items plus batteries and chargers and such (not including the FPV gear I just got and the PhoenixRC simulator I practice on....I need to retotal eventually).

All in all it's not cheap, especially if you plan on sending a DSLR airborne. Is it fun? Hell yes. Is it addicting? Count on it. Is it worth the money? I think it is but it depends on your budget.

It's not a cheap hobby but I love it
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 08:22 AM
Quad lover.
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Joined Dec 2011
853 Posts
Start out small then work your way up, a cheap 150 multirotor is what I am still flying on. It's a great little trainer and it is the most enjoyable thing I have ever done in my life.
It's great, everyday I get better and better. It's a very long learning process though but that's not a downside to it, it's very rewarding to have something you can improve on.
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 08:44 AM
I never finish anyth
United States, TX, Houston
Joined Jan 2012
2,585 Posts
I agree starting out small is a good way to go but I got the F550 Naza as my first and I love it. No real big crashes that cost me over a prop yet and I will be learning FPV within the next week or two. A good FC is key, if it auto levels and/or holds altitude you will learn a lot faster. Then you will go into manual mode, get the crap scared out of you and then never touch that button again . I have slowly been flying in manual mode more and more, just no where near comfortable with it nor do I was to fly in FFF much. I am doing this for video.
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 09:05 AM
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United States, ID, Boise
Joined Dec 2011
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I got into this for the same exact reason as you, so perhaps my experience can be informative.

I was never planning to lift a DSLR, just a GoPro sized camera (it's actually the Crocolis HD), so I bought a 450 sized quad. Between the quad, radio, charger, batteries, etc, the entire rig cost me over $1000, which is not much to some of the people here but was a heck of a lot for me. But, the investment would be worth it for the ability to put aerial footage in my low-budget films.

I got a simulator and practiced until I was very good (in my mind). People had warned me that the simulators are easier to fly than the real thing, but I assumed the difficulty level wouldn't be that much greater. After all, the whole point of a simulator is to help you learn how to fly the real thing. I was pretty confident that I would have no problem learning.

Once the real quad arrived, I practiced with it a bit, and it was indeed a tremendous amount harder to fly than the sim. In fact, I didn't feel much like the sim helped at all aside from basic controls. I crashed the quad several times, though nothing serious. I broke a few props, which is pretty normal and I had expected that. It did not have the camera on it at this time, I was still waiting for the gimbal to arrive and a few other parts.

Once all of that arrived and I had it mounted on the quad, I wanted to do a quick test flight to make sure that my setup would not have unwanted vibration or other issues. So I took it out to my front yard with the intent to lift off, hover for maybe a minute or so, then set down. What actually happened was the quad was completely different to fly with all the weight of the equipment on it, and I accidentally punched the throttle a bit too much and got a little too high. Being inexperienced, I was not comfortable being up that high (especially with all that gear onboard), and panicked. I tried to get control of the copter, but it had drifted right in front of the sun, I had lost orientation, and my attempts to bring the copter toward me resulted in it flying away from me. Long story short, I crashed it in the street outside of my house. The added weight of the equipment meant that there was a lot more stress on the frame when it crashed. It broke an arm, all 4 props, and the $200 gimbal was shattered. The camera, luckily, suffered only minor scratches, and not on the lens.

This was only in February of this year. I realized at that point that I had been foolish to fly that much money without absolute confidence in my piloting ability. I then assembled a microquad and have been practicing on that ever since. I am just now getting to the point where I might feel comfortable trying the larger quad again, and I've been flying the micro every day.

So I guess what I would suggest is, get a cheap quad, and forget about video production until you can fly the thing very well. Because you don't want to put all of that expensive gear at risk. It will take time and effort to learn to pilot it (depending on your talent). Then, once you feel like you can pilot the cheap quad extremely well, get a craft that can carry your gear and start slow on that.

When I began, I assumed that everyone was exaggerating about how hard they are to pilot. I am amazing at video games, have played them my entire life, so I thought it was a bunch of old men with no hand-eye coordination (yeah, sorry guys, the arrogance of youth). I was dead wrong. Don't expect to quickly and easily fly one of these, especially with a bunch of gear strapped to it. If you don't have time or simply don't want to practice A LOT, then just don't bother.

But in that respect, it's just like any other high-end video equipment. Anyone with enough money can buy a professional video camera, but it takes years to learn to use it effectively. You can't just expect to use it like a point-and-shoot camcorder, and will be frustrated with the results if you try.
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 09:07 AM
not insane; Mom had me tested
hallstudio's Avatar
Marietta Ga.
Joined Apr 2005
819 Posts
i agree with MCrites. the key to video is good control. you need to be able to fly fowards backwards sideways and still keep your point of view. learn to fly. i have broken 150 props, lots of arm's and a few motors. money does not buy good pilot skills. in this video i am filming with a gopro velcro mounted to the tri. i got hit several times doing it with less than $20 worth of damage. i was also flying in 10 to 20 mph winds with moving airplanes. this was my first time doing this and i was happy with the results. this video is cut from 2 or 3 flights and was just a quickie. i have 4 hours of video shot over 4 days that i will use at a later time.
The Ultimate RC Airplane FPV From Cheap Easy Tricopter (3 min 48 sec)
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 09:11 AM
not insane; Mom had me tested
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Marietta Ga.
Joined Apr 2005
819 Posts
video on the parts to build cheap tricopter.
Cheap easy tricopter build hobbyking rctimer hobbypartz (6 min 18 sec)
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 09:15 AM
Registered User
United States, AZ, Tucson
Joined Mar 2008
2,195 Posts
I sold my Nikon DSLR and got a much lighter Sony Nex5n from what I read it takes just as good photos and video as a DSLR. Still waiting for delivery for it and the 16mm pancake lens.

I plan on getting a gimbal for my DJI Flame Wheel F550 and attempt to get some great aerial video.
I wish I had the funds for the Wookong and a $500 gimbal. But the $230 NAZA works great.
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 02:45 PM
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MikeWarren's Avatar
Australia, QLD, Cairns
Joined Mar 2012
12 Posts
Thanks for all the replies while I've been sleeping.

I'm just about to go out looking for a crocodile to video and will reply properly in a few hours.
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 04:04 PM
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United States, NM, Las Cruces
Joined Jun 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FullmoonCat View Post
I got into this for the same exact reason as you, so perhaps my experience can be informative.

I was never planning to lift a DSLR, just a GoPro sized camera (it's actually the Crocolis HD), so I bought a 450 sized quad. Between the quad, radio, charger, batteries, etc, the entire rig cost me over $1000, which is not much to some of the people here but was a heck of a lot for me. But, the investment would be worth it for the ability to put aerial footage in my low-budget films.

I got a simulator and practiced until I was very good (in my mind). People had warned me that the simulators are easier to fly than the real thing, but I assumed the difficulty level wouldn't be that much greater. After all, the whole point of a simulator is to help you learn how to fly the real thing. I was pretty confident that I would have no problem learning.

Once the real quad arrived, I practiced with it a bit, and it was indeed a tremendous amount harder to fly than the sim. In fact, I didn't feel much like the sim helped at all aside from basic controls. I crashed the quad several times, though nothing serious. I broke a few props, which is pretty normal and I had expected that. It did not have the camera on it at this time, I was still waiting for the gimbal to arrive and a few other parts.

Once all of that arrived and I had it mounted on the quad, I wanted to do a quick test flight to make sure that my setup would not have unwanted vibration or other issues. So I took it out to my front yard with the intent to lift off, hover for maybe a minute or so, then set down. What actually happened was the quad was completely different to fly with all the weight of the equipment on it, and I accidentally punched the throttle a bit too much and got a little too high. Being inexperienced, I was not comfortable being up that high (especially with all that gear onboard), and panicked. I tried to get control of the copter, but it had drifted right in front of the sun, I had lost orientation, and my attempts to bring the copter toward me resulted in it flying away from me. Long story short, I crashed it in the street outside of my house. The added weight of the equipment meant that there was a lot more stress on the frame when it crashed. It broke an arm, all 4 props, and the $200 gimbal was shattered. The camera, luckily, suffered only minor scratches, and not on the lens.

This was only in February of this year. I realized at that point that I had been foolish to fly that much money without absolute confidence in my piloting ability. I then assembled a microquad and have been practicing on that ever since. I am just now getting to the point where I might feel comfortable trying the larger quad again, and I've been flying the micro every day.

So I guess what I would suggest is, get a cheap quad, and forget about video production until you can fly the thing very well. Because you don't want to put all of that expensive gear at risk. It will take time and effort to learn to pilot it (depending on your talent). Then, once you feel like you can pilot the cheap quad extremely well, get a craft that can carry your gear and start slow on that.

When I began, I assumed that everyone was exaggerating about how hard they are to pilot. I am amazing at video games, have played them my entire life, so I thought it was a bunch of old men with no hand-eye coordination (yeah, sorry guys, the arrogance of youth). I was dead wrong. Don't expect to quickly and easily fly one of these, especially with a bunch of gear strapped to it. If you don't have time or simply don't want to practice A LOT, then just don't bother.

But in that respect, it's just like any other high-end video equipment. Anyone with enough money can buy a professional video camera, but it takes years to learn to use it effectively. You can't just expect to use it like a point-and-shoot camcorder, and will be frustrated with the results if you try.
There's no "Like" button here, so LIKE!
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 10:21 PM
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MikeWarren's Avatar
Australia, QLD, Cairns
Joined Mar 2012
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Thank you all for your most informative replies. They are a lot of help.

Sounds like the best thing to do is go a bit smaller and use a lighter camera. I'm not impressed with the lens on the GoPro. Too much barrel distortion, but something like the NEX5 is certainly an idea. I do have a couple of #11 key cams that I intend to use for practice, and also to put in situations I don't want to risk an expensive camera getting damaged.

So perhaps a smallish (500?) quad with a decent control board might be a starting point.

Another question comes to mind. I know coaxials are known for being poor in the wind, but both of mine (a 30cm 3 channel and a 63cm 4 channel) still go backwards in the slightest puff of a breeze, even when I am applying full forward power. Are small quads just as bad?

One last thing: Is a cheap radio like a Turnigy 9x good enough for my application, or do I need to go for a multi-hundred dollar JR or Futaba? There doesn't seem to be anything between those 2 price groups.

I'm very impressed with the flying skills in those 2 videos.

-Mike
http://mike-warren.net
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 10:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FullmoonCat View Post
I got into this for the same exact reason as you, so perhaps my experience can be informative.
It sounds like you're coming from the same place as me. Your post could well have saved me from making a similar mistake by trying too much too soon. Thanks.

Quote:
Between the quad, radio, charger, batteries, etc, the entire rig cost me over $1000, which is not much to some of the people here but was a heck of a lot for me. But, the investment would be worth it for the ability to put aerial footage in my low-budget films.
Exactly what I'm looking for. $1K or less sounds like a comfortable amount.
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Old Apr 05, 2012, 10:53 PM
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Joined Jun 2009
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Fullmooncat summarises it very well. +1 on the LIKE!!
Anyone who has got as far as getting a recording will understand.

You can get it as good as anyone else on here, but it's not a quick easy or painless route to get consistent good quality. Hope I get there one day.....
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Old Apr 06, 2012, 05:27 PM
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United States, ID, Boise
Joined Dec 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeWarren View Post
Another question comes to mind. I know coaxials are known for being poor in the wind, but both of mine (a 30cm 3 channel and a 63cm 4 channel) still go backwards in the slightest puff of a breeze, even when I am applying full forward power. Are small quads just as bad?
In general, quads can withstand the wind pretty well due to the lack of surface area, as long as you keep your design from acting like a sail (keep everything nice and open, no large surface area flat pieces). However, they will really only fly very smoothly in little to no wind, just due to turbulence.

Larger, slow-moving props are more efficient, but also more susceptible to wind influence. So people often find that using somewhat smaller props will stabilize a video rig. For example, my 450 sized quad can use between 8 and 10 inch props. 10 inch give better flight time, but 8 inch are generally more stable, especially in the wind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeWarren View Post
One last thing: Is a cheap radio like a Turnigy 9x good enough for my application, or do I need to go for a multi-hundred dollar JR or Futaba? There doesn't seem to be anything between those 2 price groups.
There's nothing wrong with the 9x as long as you are willing to upgrade it. The stock Turnigy module is trash, as is the stock firmware. If you upgrade the radio with a FrSky module and the er9x firmware, you have a very nice, rock-solid Tx/Rx combo comparable to systems much more expensive. That's what I use, because I didn't want to spend $300+ on a radio. But it did require opening up the radio, soldering wires to the board, etc. It was pretty easy. I'm a novice with a soldering iron, and I managed it just fine
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Old Apr 06, 2012, 06:36 PM
Fly allot, Crash allot, next?
United States, CA, Corona
Joined Feb 2006
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Mike

Go to WOW helicopters website. They are located a mile from my office in Orange Ca, I visited them a half hour ago.

They have the know how, good prices, and good videos to prove what they sell and the prices are much lower for this stuff as comparared to EDF. I think these guys are giving you some bad advice, check out the videos that were taken with a 1300 RTF setup, talk to Jonathan.

www.wowhobbies.com
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