How I make RC videos (more interesting) (part1) - RC Groups
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Aug 10, 2012, 03:29 AM
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How I make RC videos (more interesting) (part1)

After posting a couple videos here I got asked a number of times what equipment I use and what tools and techniques I use. I answered every one of them but figured I'd do a quick run down here for everybody to see. Disclaimer: Neither am I a professional, not even an expert nor do I have help in the process of making these videos. I thought everything myself. So by no means expect a cinematic how-to.

I'll chop this into three main steps/posts. The first and most important being the idea, equipment and pre-filming preparations. In later posts I'll cover the filming itself and finally the post processing.

Preparation and Tools

Get the tools together. I use the Hero2 camera for most of my takes. The camera retails currently at 300$. Unless you can get employee pricing or a new model comes out you will not get this much cheaper, even used. Occasionally I recruit a Sony alpha SLT33 DSLR for some takes, however the normal flying field really is not a suitable environment that I like to take high end equipment to. The videos posted earlier are Hero2 only.

Before the Hero2 I experimented with with various keychain cameras (#8 and HK "HD") but they turned out to be unsuited because of the poor video quality especially against the sun and the relatively low frame rate - I'll get to the last point later. I liked, however, the fact that I can velcro these light weight cameras pretty much anywhere on the plane for interesting angles without changing the flight characteristics too much.

In addition to velcro tape and DIY mounts for onboard footage for the Hero2 I have several folding tripods (15$) and a Jody GorillaPod (free with your unused airline miles) with a GoPro tripod adapter (>10$). Nobody likes shaky footage.

For cutting and post-processing I used to use Windows Movie maker, but quickly upgraded to Adobe Premiere Elements 10 which includes a tad more features and convenience. I occasionally use trial versions of the really expensive tools to try out certain features or just to evaluate a new software. I did look at After Effects and a couple plugins for the a fore mentioned.

Get to know the equipment. I play with it, use it as much as possible in any situation even if it is not RC related. This way I understand the short comings. Then I can plan accordingly during the shoot. For instance, I found out that my keychain cameras are just awful against light, but hey, I should have just read this on RCG.


I grew up with MTV still showing actual music videos with fast cuts, dynamic settings and crazy ideas and special effects. Somehow I like these types of aesthetics which may also explain why the music selection of my videos is so important. I wanted to avoid doing another hat cam or pure onboard video. While some are somewhat interesting to see the flight characteristics of a new plane most are rather boring. Also it is very difficult to tell a story with just one take. The one take shot nevertheless can be very interesting and there are plenty of music videos that use this technique: Massive Attack' s Unfinished Sympathy & Protection and the Old Spice commercials randomly pops into my mind. Try that with a hat cam .

Usually I spend some time thinking about a project weeks before I actually go and shoot it. Sometimes things do not work out they way they are planned and by pure luck an improvisation you end up with something great. The Untitled video being an example of it. I was actually trying to shoot onboard video with the GoPro at an interesting location (San Gregorio Beach if you want to know). After flying my good battery packs with the GoPro onboard I still had a couple old and flat batteries and figure I just do some slow and very close flybys of my cam on a tripod. I was blow away by that by-product footage that I decided to do Untitled purely based on that.

As for the idea: I want shoot video that shows an action that gives the clip a story. I try to develop a plot before I shoot but sometimes the plot develops as late as during the cutting process. The plot for Untitled was to show off the main characteristics of the plane - a Multiplex Fun Cub. This amazing plane resembles a bush plane, hence the idea of flying it in rugged terrain. The footage was slowed down to exaggerate the slow flying capabilities of the plane. This is where the high fps Hero2 came to shine.

The location was chosen very carefully in previous trips in that area. I wanted hills and cliffs for a beach setting that provide a frame or backdrop for the plane. By pure luck the day I shoot Untitled the weather was not particularly nice but in the end that provided for a high swell and dramatic clouds (blue sky = boring). I do not know if you noticed how slow the waves break in the video but I think that is one of the visual highlights of the clip. On of the ideas I had during the cutting process was to leave the ending open ("dramatic" take off towards the ocean). Normally I would want to show a take off, some flying and end with a landing as base structure but in this case I figured let's leave the end to the person watching it. This will engage the viewer more than just a plain cut after landing. Sort of a cliffhanger if you will.

Next time, I will describe my filming techniques.

Disclaimer: When shooting off-airport I make sure I do not violate any laws (trespassing, littering) and pay great attention to safety of bystanders. I generally try to be as discrete as possible.
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Aug 10, 2012, 09:19 PM
Wada ya mean, over engineered?
cubcrafter60's Avatar
Dominik - Excellent post! The amount of planning and forethought that go into your productions, pays off big! I believe these two videos are in a class of their own! I'm looking forward to Pt. Duex in this 'series'.
I was just wondering - do you prefer Vimeo over YouTube? I'm registered on both but really haven't checked out vimeo that much yet. Regards ~ Robin

PS - Reading your blog answered my question about your power set-up and I'm really looking forward to making it down to RSA, I don't think I'll be doing any 'mowing' though!
Latest blog entry: Seagull Gipsy Moth (back to it)
Aug 11, 2012, 01:36 AM
Registered User
Good stuff, thanks for telling your story. I've got a hero2 ready to start flying on a zephry2 soon.
Aug 11, 2012, 01:55 AM
Registered User
Yes, come down here. There are plenty of other FCs to play with. Looking forward to see your custom FC in action.

I definitely like Vimeo better. The compression is a lot better there providing a better picture quality. I actually did upload both to Vimeo and Youtube. I activated and automatic color correction in the YouTube vid so it'll look a bit different but you can see lots of compression artifacts especially in the sky (whenever there are smooth even colored areas). In the Vimeo one things are a lot better. But see for yourself:

Fun Cub "Target" Practice (3 min 59 sec)

Fun Cub "Target" Practice (3 min 58 sec)

You want to watch and compare the HD versions of the vids.
Aug 11, 2012, 01:57 AM
Registered User
With the target practice video, it looked like two cubs at the same time around 2:45, was that two planes or just good mixing?
Aug 11, 2012, 02:17 AM
Registered User
Originally Posted by tobermei
With the target practice video, it looked like two cubs at the same time around 2:45, was that two planes or just good mixing?
Those were two entirely different FCs (there are three different ones in the video). There is a couple of FC on this field and we always try to come up with crazy challenges and the video is the result of such suicide mission.

I think though you had a great idea that I actually like to try sometime. Thanks for the inspiration!

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