Working with a Camera Operator (Dual Operator Mode)
So Jim and I got together on the roof here at Creative Live and fired up the Inspire to demonstrate how working as a two man team looks like. And we actually did still photos this way, that way it kind of gave him a sense initially of how to get around using the second controller to move the camera, tilt and pan the camera. So what we did is we got up on the roof, we put the 45, right now this has got the 45 mil lens which is this is a four thirds sensor so it's a two time prop factor so it's an effective 90 mil lens and it just compressed the image of this sort of skyline of San Francisco in the background. So, I was just flying and Jim was flying the camera and we had a lot of fun up there on the roof doing that so let's take a look at that. Alright, so what are we doing here, Jim?
Dual camera operation, right? So, Blaine, tell me a little bit about this because a lot of our folks out there are one-man bands, right?
They're gonna be one man, one drone but this two person ...
operation, explain exactly what we're each going to do and how you're going to lead the charge?
Sure, so with this we're flying the DGI Inspire and it has a gimbal that can be controlled completely independent of the drone or the copter. So, what I've done is I've set it up so that we can operate in two man operation, two person operation. I'm simply just gonna be putting the drone in the sky where Jim wants it or where we want it collectively. We'll be communicating together where that's gonna be. We're on the top here of the Creative Live offices and just over on the other side of the roof we've got a view of the San Francisco skyline so what we're gonna try to do is get a nice panoramic shot. We're using a 45 mil, it's effectively a 90 mil lens so hopefully we'll get a nice compressed shot of the skyline in the distance and as we do it I'm gonna show Jim just how to get around moving the gimbal up and down, left, right, and controlling the camera setting.
And when you say the gimbal, you mean the actual camera.
Yeah, the camera's actually mounted to a three access gimbal, the gimbal is what, it's kind of like sometimes there'll be one of these kind of gimbal stabilization systems on the end of a jib, but you'll see it, there's one on that the camera's attached to so that it can move it on X, Y, and Z axis I guess, it's three axises of motion.
Great! Let's give it a try!
Awesome! Alright so, ready to go, GPS, alright. Okay, launching. (mechanical whirring) Cool, and I'll have it hover and right now it's in GPS mode, so it should just stay locked in place. I'll put it a little higher, alright. So now, as you can see Jim, it's a little blown out.
Yeah. So let's go ahead and look at our camera settings. I showed you that there's the wheel on the back on the right?
Yup, exactly at the top here I can adjust ISO, shutter speed, and F stop and it looks like we're at 100, so we're at our lowest ISO so it's looking like we're gonna have to adjust shutter speed and our F stop.
Let's go ahead and roll the F stop smaller.
Or actually, yeah, other way, yeah. And as you start getting a bit more of a decent exposure why don't you move the camera.
Move the camera down?
Oops, that was up.
Yeah so just keep moving down, oh yeah there you go!
There she is!
Sweet! Got it, okay.
So you want to frame that kind of how you want it.
Well we're doing a pano, so I'm gonna start over here on the left, on my far left edge.
And I'm gonna kind of find where is gonna be a good spot for that.
And that's the thing when you're doing the pano is you kinda wanna like audition the whole move.
So you wanna make sure that there's no buildings that go out of frame as you scan along. And also let's go ahead and get in focus while we're at it.
Yeah let's do focus, I'm at F8 right now, but I'm gonna just ... I'm gonna go to ...
You can see your exposure value.
Right to the right of the, it's showing it's plus 1.3.
See, I would just recommend going to zero.
Okay so that's gonna be in camera I believe.
Nope, no actually as you adjust the F stop, just keep rolling it closer to F and you'll see it starting to go down. Yeah so roll the F stop the other way and you'll see the E, exposure value, yup.
Oh yeah, great.
So right at about F14 I think it was. Yeah, right around there.
Yeah, that's looking good. That's looking good.
So now go ahead, right now it's set to manual focus.
And if you click over here and toggle to auto-focus
That third one down there?
Here I'll show you, right there, see that?
Toggle that to auto-focus.
I love auto-focus. I'm gonna turn this off.
Yup, and let's get outta that menu. Yeah there you go. Now, just tap on one of the buildings.
Oh brilliant! That's cool!
So once it locks I like to toggle it out of auto-focus. So now hit the auto-focus manual focus toggle so now it's locked focus.
So now you can just scan around until you like your framing.
Okay and I'm gonna check that my tallest buildings are all, sort of, in the frame.
Yeah, and since there's not much going on with the sky.
Yeah so bring it down a bit.
I would potentially bring it down a bit so that we get some of the foreground as well.
Yeah I like that. Okay, I'm happy with my framing.
How many shots do you think I'll do for this pano, five?
I have no idea, I would just kind of go as wide to the, I'd go as far to the left as you find it interesting.
And then we can just kind of see how much we can let Lightroom see how extreme we can stitch things together.
Okay, I'm a short pano guy, I like them smaller than super wide.
So I'm liking that shot right there.
So am I ready to shoot away or are there any other adjustments we need to make? We're at F13, shutter speed is 320 at 100.
That's perfect and we're shooting JPEG and raw so we should be good to go, so.
I'm gonna make my first shot, and I made it.
Yeah so now slowly rotate the gimbal just so you have a little bit of overlap.
And I'm gonna do, what would you say, about 20%?
Yeah something like that. There you go.
Alright. I'm gonna make number two.
I'm hitting that shutter down below there
Looks about right. (mechanical clicking)
I like to get one, couple more with that... Oh no that's good, one last one with the bridge in there.
Hit that about there.
Okay Blaine, that was awesome. Now, usually I'm guessing panorama is gonna be really good for a one man band. It's pretty simple, you're just panning and taking photographs. Let's talk about where a two man operation is really gonna make a much more much better bang for your buck.
So, two person operation is really great when you're tracking really anything but especially fast moving subjects. It allows the pilot to have 100% attention on the copter. The other day we were, when we were in Santa Cruz I was filming just single operator filming surfers and while you can do it safely there's a certain level of padding you have to give yourself to make sure you don't end up running into somebody, into the water, into the back of a cliff, or whatever. Whereas, if I was 100% focused on the copter, I could push the limits of tracking and closeness and angles and moves while a dedicated camera operator could always have that person in focus. So, we've done that a lot, myself with my business partner, Phil Van Drunen with Cloudgate. We've done that a lot with snowboarders and skiers and that works really well because I can just hammer it down the hill and Phil can keep lock on the subject.
And let me ask you another question. As the flier, right, and as the cinematographer, you guys make a game plan before each shot, you know you plan out what you're going to do. But in the heat of the moment, since I'm the cinematographer seeing what's going on, will I say Blaine, hey, slow it down or speed it up or circle around this way?
It's really me making the, controlling you as opposed to you controlling me as a camera person?
Absolutely, and there's sort of a language that you learn to speak to each other. You know, both it can be just encouraging like the camera op or mostly it's the camera op or cinematographer encouraging the pilot, like oh that's perfect, the speed's perfect, slow it down a little bit, slow it down a little bit, okay that's perfect, let's keep that. There's a lot of back and forth. Oftentimes as a pilot I'm like hey, am I right where you need me to be? Could I fly slower, could I fly faster, could I fly smoother, anything like that. And what's nice is having a reference monitor, we both have monitors. Sometimes we'll wear goggles as well, where even though I'm not operating the camera, if I know that we're trying to track a subject I can at least keep an eye, sort of out of the corner of my eye on the subject making sure that I'm not going too fast or too slow.
That's great. I wanna fly again! But I know we got a lot to cover.
So thanks very much.
Awesome. That's the problem with this, it's too much fun so it's just like it's... Even when we're just trying to create like little lessons for y'all, we just wanted to go out and fly cause it's super fun. I thought it would be worth showing maybe some of our work with Cloudgate of working two person operation. This example here is tracking grand slalom racers. They were practicing for the Olympics over at Loveland. This is at like 12,000 feet up, so we had our, I can't remember, I think it was our S, it was an octo-copter, I think it was our S and the interesting thing about this, it was so steep, the course, that basically I thought that, talk about getting a rhythm, it took me an hour or so just to figure out how to track them because you would think they're going fast so you're gonna gas up on the right stick, right? You're gonna go super, you're gonna punch the power, almost like how you would do it with a helicopter because sometimes with a helicopter what you'd do is you'd give it full power, but then you would push down to get it to kind of nose down and actually descend while still picking up speed. But with a drone, oftentimes like what you have to do if you're descending is you have to basically drop power because you want it to just fall outta the sky basically, a controlled fall. And so, in this example, like all day I was just basically taking the left stick. It was scary because I, at the time I was newer to flying DGI products and I knew that there was not just a combined stick command but like if you pull it all the way down if it was on the ground it would stop the motors. I hadn't yet gotten to the point of trust, where it was like does it know that I'm still, like, moving and I'm in the air? Or is it gonna just shut off? And so, it took me a while to kind of gain the trust with the system back then. This is the shot I was telling you guys about before when the New York Times ended up seeing it, they gave us a call and wanted to work with us from that point. But this was so early on, their legal team didn't know quite what to do with it. They didn't know quite how to handle it, but yeah, this is a good example of two person tracking. So they're moving, I mean, at times they're probably going 50. You can see how tight we are on them. I love this shot. It's tight, you know? I love how long that shot was. That's just a good long shot. If you see some speed ramping, it's because I was ramping it to the music, so every time they hit the pole there it was working with the music. Yeah see you can see Phil was yawing the camera around to get them reframed. It's a pretty dynamic move. With that system you can also control the roll as well. Yeah, how cool is that at the end where it gets close? I mean, these guys were moving so fast, I mean, by the end of the day, we finally figured out how to catch up with them and it was like just literally just cutting the power and just letting the thing fall like a controlled stone down the hill. So yeah, two person set up has it's advantages. The first time that we ever tracked like skiers, snowboarders, we situated ourselves on the side of the hill where we would see them coming up ahead and then we'd get up there and try to track them and then we would come down and we found that to be really difficult because your perspective about how fast they're going, line of sight, anyways, is skewed because you see them, they're kind of like up against the mountain and you're like, yeah they're going kind of fast. So what we ended up doing on this shoot is we hiked our stuff all the way up to the top of the mountain and started with them right at the starting gate, so as they're going, we're going. As they're speeding up, we're speeding up. As they're doing their thing, we're able to track a lot better and it also gave us much better sight lines, you know, because if you think about it, if you're at the bottom of a hill and you see a skier right up against the white of the hill, you have no idea. It's just like the problem with the surfing, you know what I mean? It's like you have no idea how high you are other than by trusting your monitor. But then again, depending on the focal length of your lens, you know, I mean, what we see is sort of like 50 mil, you know, and so, without our periphery anyways. And so, to have a wide lens or to have a long lens? Eh, it's just like objects may appear closer or might be closer than they appear so it's always best to have a good sight line.