The incredible pace of aerial-imaging technology
Hosted at: http://skypixel.org/post/80763333064
Earlier this week, DJI announced the Zenmuse H3-3D 3-axis gimbal for GoPro HERO3 and HERO3+ cameras. Traditional, 2-axis gimbals correct against unwanted movements in pitch and roll, but don’t have a 3rd motor for correcting movements in yaw (turning from side to side).
When shooting video from a camera mounted on a 2-axis gimbal, twitchy pilots, gusts of wind, and other environmental factors can easily cause unwanted wiggles in yaw, which are hard to smooth out during editing. New, 3-axis gimbals (both from DJI and 3rd parties) will pretty much eliminate unwanted yaw wiggle, and videos will be buttery smooth in even harsh aerial conditions.
I’m writing that rather casually, but it is really freaking amazing that you can now put a completely-stabilized HD camera into the air for minutes at a time for less than $1,000 (cheaper, if you build a ship yourself).
In July of 2013, I spent about 2 hours flying a DJI Phantom (original version) at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. Attached to the Phantom was a prototype Rotorpixel 2-axis brushless gimbal (you had to specify brushless back then because most gimbals used servos). I had to use 3rd-party propellers because the stock props didn’t have enough lift for me to control the ship effectively.
People who saw this video went absolutely nuts, and it quickly went viral. I was even interviewed for a local TV station. In July of 2013, gimbals that could stabilize cameras were not a normal feature of aerial imaging platforms. And seven months before, mainstream aerial platforms available that could carry a decent camera didn’t even exist. To go from no flying camera to a flying camera to a stabilized flying camera in 7 months was a pretty incredible thing to see.
My surf video was popular, but it wasn’t really a great video. I mean, I spent two hours shooting and about an hour editing, and then chucked the thing onto the web. I knew it was special for its time, but didn’t think much of it until it started getting a lot of attention.
Let’s compare it to a video shot by Eric Sterman over the course of the 2013 season at Pipeline, on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. He posted it in January of 2013.
Now that video is truly epic. I don’t know how many hours Eric spent shooting at Pipeline, but his video is 1000x better than the one I posted. Stabilized brushless gimbals had been the norm for many months, and people with talent and time started to do things with new possibilities in composition and camera movement.
Then, last week, Superman found a GoPro.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0Ib9SwC7EI]
This creative video was done by Corridor Digital with a 2-axis-stabilized GoPro camera on a Phantom. It received over 4 million views in a day, and as of the writing of this article, it’s up over 10 million views. Making this production this before little flying cameras existed would have required a real helicopter, a huge team of CG artists and a massive budget.
In the behind-the-scenes video, they show how they did it.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OgxR2zz6Nw]
Each technological improvement gives filmmakers and hobbyists yet another creative tool to use in their projects. In 3 months, we’ll forget that there ever were 2-axis gimbals, just as we’ve already forgotten that gimbals used to be powered by slow, noisy servos. Imagine kids in a not-so-distant future. They’ll react to what we’re using today in the same way these kids react to rotary phones.
We have been in a renaissance of imaging for many years now, but unlocking the entire third dimension of camera movement for everybody is an absolutely monumental event in the history of photography. I’m really excited to see what comes next.