How I make RC video (more interesting), part2 - RC Groups
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Aug 16, 2012, 01:15 AM
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How I make RC video (more interesting), part2

As mentioned before I used to watch MTV a lot. Another source of inspiration is the British car show Top Gear. Their camera work exceptional. Watch it for some inspiration - it's on Netflix and Amazon for free.

Filming Techniques

I have seen a lot of RC videos. There basically are three types:
  • The third person view: A person other than the pilot is filming the plane. The difficulties are keeping the plane in focus and centered and of course it requires having an camera man/woman often with questionable camera experience.
  • First person view: The pilot filming the plane in the air through a camera fixed to the head. The pilot's head is following the plane and in theory the plane is always in the picture.
  • On board view: A camera is mounted on the plane itself and records a flight while in the air. The camera either records on an internal memory of the video signal is transmitted to a ground station for live viewing (or both). Admittedly there are some really cool videos out there using this view.
All of the above are more or less easy ways to document a flight depending on what one tries to achieve. Ideally I would want to use a combination of the above.

While I have not done the first person view yet I do use the other two techniques. I build a snap-on GoPro mount that I can put in between the removable wings on my Fun Cub. It allows for forward and backward facing footage and with some GoPro adapters I can swivel the cam as well to get sideways footage. The rolling shutter of the Hero2 will create an interference with the propeller (all CCD/CMOS digital cameras suffer from this) I tried to mount the camera as high as possible in order to shoot over the prop. I have yet to post a video that makes use of this setup. My early experiments with the Hero2 onboard have been not as exciting as I hoped for.

As I am lacking a willing wife to act as camera man the third person view is achieved by mounting the Hero2 on my one of my tripods. The tripod naturally give a steady view so the viewers are focused on the plane and not the shaky camera work by the camera man - how many RC videos feature at least one "Honey, I lost it"? I am sure it is more than a few.

The tripods also allow for unusual angles. I like to mount the camera on almost ground level between 0 to 2 ft off the ground because this presents a more common perspective that people are used to rather than the traditional head high position which in relation to the scale of the plane ends up being conceived as a birds eye view. The perception of the plane in this angle also makes the plane appear bigger/closer to scale so it present itself to the viewer as a full size plane at familiar (eye level) angle. It doesn't hurt to have something in the foreground to increase the perception of a depth. In the videos I posted here, for instance, I featured tall weeds or textured surfaces in my videos. Basically I try to have several visual layers in my videos: Foreground (beach/weeds/driftwood/landing strip), background (cliffs/water/trees + sky) and the plane - bonus points of foreground or background have some sort of dynamics of its own (weeds waving in the wind, waves breaking at the beach).

Speaking of the landscape. Most of the time I want to have the some parts of the landscape in the picture because it provides an anchor point to the viewer that he can use to get general sense of speed and direction. I generally try to avoid sky-only shots, especially in the often perfectly blue skies of CA.

One of the unique features of the Hero2 is its wide angle lens. The Hero2 allows to setup 170 and 110 degree angles through smart use of its 11 megapixel sensor. This helps to make up for the lack of a viewfinder on this camera. I had to develop a feeling for the angle of the camera guessing how big a plane would be at what distance and what part of the landscape it would capture. I found while the wide angle helps to get my planes in the picture it also means that planes further away are just small dots on the footage. As a result I have to fly by the camera at close distance at which the plane just briefly whizzes by. To compensate for that I slow down the footage. The alternative, that I have not tried, would be to use an extreme zoom, say, angled down to the runway like plane spotters tend to use when they film a plane taking off.

There are a number of other shots that I do not use often but once in a while to liven things up. For instance an shot sharply angled upwards with the plane flying by or a very low shot that allows the plane's wing to pass over the camera while taxiing. Again, I need to be close to the action in order to see detail. The closer the better.

Around the plane

I do a couple iterations of the above to gather enough material to later pick just the better parts of it. Also I want to film a couple takeoffs and landings to eventually give the clip a flow to it. Finally, it can never hurt to get some extra shots/stills of the surroundings of your location (bonus points if it's a time lapse with the plane or a close by landmark) and/or parts of the journey to and from the location. They may come in handy in the post processing as filler material. After a days work I come home with 1-2 hours of material and am ready for some cold ones and viewing the raw footage once.

In the next step I go over my post processing. Sneak peak below:

FC_super_sm.mp4 (0 min 15 sec)
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May 20, 2013, 01:48 AM
Wada ya mean, over engineered?
cubcrafter60's Avatar

Nice write up! Sorry I missed it, I could have used it on my Tiger Moth maiden video! I was wondering does the GoPro have it's own video editing software or are you using another editor?

Latest blog entry: Seagull Gipsy Moth (back to it)

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