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Taking Flight: Drone Photography & Video

Lesson 3 of 23

Pre-Flight Equipment and Gear


Taking Flight: Drone Photography & Video

Lesson 3 of 23

Pre-Flight Equipment and Gear


Lesson Info

Pre-Flight Equipment and Gear

So uh we're gonna talk briefly about, uh, equipment um and pre flighting your equipment and a reason why I want to cover this in some safety issues before we even look att the gear is because this is what's always skipped over well, you get the thing out of the box it's shiny it's new it's begging for you to take it outside you just want to check to make sure those batteries are charged up and then you're you're off and the cards go to the side and all the instructions and everything or some of them just don't come with much instructions all the little card telling you what some of the little led flashes mean and what not ah and that's about it but to alleviate most of the problems and crashes and equipment failures that people have um that they call flyaways is just a lack of pre flight ah and a lack of er really checking your gear I'm not saying flyways don't happen I'm just saying it probably ninety percent of them or more could be alleviated by really checking your gear and going t...

hrough uh checklist um you've got to check all your props are they tight? Are they ok? Are they nicked up and chipped? Um are they on? Are they on well your batteries get a battery checker get a voltage checker make sure that your your batteries are charged up right? Um is your trance is your transmitter? Your controls are those charged and reason why this list has come up is because I've done all of these things wrong at one time or another so I've spun a prop off in the air in the copter came crashing down but I didn't tighten it I've had problems where I didn't check the battery voltage I thought oh, I think that's a fresh battery and I stuck it in I didn't check it first I was in a hurry stuck in a you know, half dead battery and crash came down the transmitter I've had it hey nothing's happening and luckily it returned to home and landed at my feet because my transmitter died I didn't check the batteries and so it's all these things you have to really check ah love your f p v connections ftv terminology wise first person view that's the camera that's flying by sight by looking at your monitor with goggles were going to get into that is everything correct? Did you do a compass calibration on your your quadcopter or whatever whatever device you have out there um are all those things done sometimes yes, a lot of times not uh where are you flying? Have you flown there before? Have you checked it out if it's a place you haven't um checked out are you are you did you go out and walk around? What is they're out there? Is there a telephone wires on the other side of those trees? You know what's on the other side we're going to fly over something or fly away from your line of sight what's out there where is it going to crash if it comes down what if something does happen? Um where's it gonna land? Is it gonna land out in the bay? You know probably um it's not going to really hurt anybody out there you'll just be lost of gear and um you'll be crying and he'll be crying for days um so safety first I said one thing I can't I can't uh harp on enough is being aware of your surroundings where the people around you where's the property around you you were you flying and how good of a flyer are you? How confident are you in your flying and confidence? I don't mean over confidence because it's really it's really easy to get over confident with these things because they are so forgiving and when things start going wrong, you start panicking you're you know, flick and switches and knobs and and you're doing everything probably wrong the best thing to do, especially with these entry level ones that are set up for for failsafe modes is to just take your hands off the sticks and let it hover teo regain your own composure uh in most of the time that will save it but a lot of times your flying it feels like it's going out of control that you go the other way to try to avert it end up in the ground or in a tree um hey don't forget the sim card how many times have you gone out to shoot something and you forgot that you took your sim cards out to unload the last shoot and you didn't put him in your camera not is often with the eye dslr is because you're going to be given that message hey no sim card as soon as you turn it on well, same thing happens in these guys to you forget to take a sim card out um don't have one with you you've got this awesome location and no way to record it that's really sad don't let this happen to you uh, these things have dangerous batteries in him, and when I first started into this thing, I really didn't know much about that there was really no uh was really know really know uh guidance on that so that's the first thing I want to cover with you is battery safety uh what do you do when you're when you're charging these things uh the lithium polymer batteries or lie pose we call him I have a special charger special settings you've got to familiarize yourself with these things and make sure that you really understand yeah all all of the ways of handling these batteries they're different than just your typical rechargeable batteries you never really want to drain one dead you don't want to fly till you crash you don't want to you know leave one on and let it sit in your car overnight um because when you do that they don't really like it and they'll start getting puffy ah if you ever do that you overwork when you overheat one you damage it and starts getting puffy in any way you wantto find the safest way to dispose of it and not use it because it's too late for that battery in most cases um always store and transport your your packs your lipo packs in a uh a lipo bag or in a proof container going to show you that here in a second ah you always charged them in a lipo bag if possible at least in a in a ventilated area like on concrete out somewhere in you know, even in the middle of the garage in the middle of your patio or something charge him somewhere safe, so if something did happen one exploded or caught on fire uh it won't burn your whole house down uh never leave him in a hot car that's something most of them don't tell you it's like oh, I left my rig in the car and it's one hundred ten out you leave him out there all day, they get really hot and bad things can happen you may come back to a pile of ashes and stood in your car um, don't let him get damaged or puncture did you handle these things with care? You just don't throw him in a in a box with a bunch of other tools and stuff were thrown in the trunk you handle them very carefully. Um when you're when you're going to travel like if you're going to fly or go on a road trip or something it's good to discharge these things down to about thirty percent fifty to thirty percent safe for storage and for traveling uh airline recommendations or thirty percent um and again, if they swell, do not use them don't charge him bad things can happen and if one does catch on fire, don't put water on the fire it just makes it worse. So baking soda fire extinguisher approved for electrical fires, that kind of thing but don't put water on a fire if it does catch so with that said, let me go over the batteries with you the different types of batteries that we end up with here now um typically with some of the older phantoms they had ah little battery packs this is actually one for a transmitter but this is a little lipo battery pack um and of course bigger ones for bigger copters. Ah, but this is this is typically what lipo battery has it's got two connections on it once for the power once for the balance and it's important that you use a balanced charger most of these kit's come with their own charger it's kind of an entry level type of charge you get something like this with a phantom or with the three d robotics iris comes with a charger like this. Ah one thing that is very important there's a switch here and if you want to zoom in on this I'll try to hold it still, this is the most important switch that will save your house from burning down it's ah lipo and then ah ah life e I guess it's ah what is that? Uh, lithium iron ferrous oxide? Something like that anyway, but you want to make sure it's always switched a lipo because I've seen pictures of guys actually did accidentally had that switch clicked over and they caught caught on fire because that that charges the battery incorrectly it makes it too hot and it surges it will screw it up, burn your house down also how many amps are you able to do it? And that's? Why it's really important to understand? What can your batteries handle? What should they do? Find out what the manufacturer's recommendations are before you do your first charge? I know it's really exciting to get out there and start charging up your batteries as soon as you pull it out of the box. But if you don't understand these settings on the chargers, they provide for you, you can really have cem cem, horrible results. Um, here's the lipo bags and get these pretty cheap a lot of times the manufacturers and now shipping product with a lipo bag. Um, this is a special bag that if something bad does happen, it kind of contains it from being a really horrible flames and smoke will shoot out the sides here, but it won't blow up and burn everything up in sight. Eso it's very important that you thies air handled well that they're stored in these bags when you're travelling, put them in a bag like this or a fireproof type of container, like an ammo box. I got this cheap ammo box on amazon, and what I'll do is all actually put my batteries in my lipo bag and put him carry him in the ammo box if I'm gonna be driving to a location especially I do I do some off roading so I don't want batteries bouncing around in the truck so I packed everything in these a pack these in here not packing tight inside the ammo box in that way if I see a trail I can't resist I know that I can safely go on that trail and I'm not gonna blow up um so I guess you know it's it's better to be paranoid when it comes to safety be overly cautious some people say I don't need to do that I prefer to be careful and cautious because I don't it only takes once it's like being a safe driver you know um yeah, it can happen to you so it's really important to just be treated like nitroglycerin you know that's the way I see it um and then you know you'll be you'll be safe. I do the same thing with these phantom um batteries to they come uh self contained with their own little um they're only little display on here that shows you how you know what the battery level is. Uh you can also see it through the ftv um uh monitor the use whether use an ipad or an iphone or something that's where you get more information but again these guys too they travel either in a case that is designed for them where they won't touch each other they they won't move at all and I make sure that they if I'm traveling there discharged um or I'll put them in lipo bags and treat him just like my other batteries but they never just get thrown in the trunk or thrown in thrown on the box never ever um battery checkers really good if you have the packs like this get a little battery checker that will let you check what your voltage is the balance of the cells in the battery this is a little too cell battery. This one needs to be charged because I actually discharged it so that I could travel with it so it's down to forty percent right now, um but tells me it's seven point uh six four seven volts forty percent and uh I can find out right away if it needs to be charged or if it's been discharged is enough to make it safe for travel. Another type of charger that these chargers you can, you know spend a lot of money on chargers alone. Thes chargers both these charges came with kids, so this one is one that dslr pros provides it just a step up from these but this allows you to select different different sized batteries, different types of connections, different voltages um different types you know, a different different cell numbers so that that's another step up in a type of a balanced charger you always want is a balanced charger if you have more than one cell because you want these things to charge up evenly so if you got two cells it needs to charge both of them up at the same time three cells for cells on up you want to make sure that they are balanced when they're charging. Ok, so gear um, where do you start if you don't want to spend a lot of money but you want to kind of improve your get up on your skills, get one of these little guys you can get, um get thes for around forty fifty bucks. Ah, a lot of places this one is actually I think this was like a hundred hundred twenty bucks because it's got a little camera built into it and it came with this really fancy controller. Um this is from hoops on hobson hoops on hobson h u b s a n hobson ah, and there is their little f p view flyer and the nice thing about these is they're so touchy they're really hard to fly and you think, well, why do I want something hard to fly? I want some easy to fly well, they're hard to fly because they're so they're so touching this is all over the place that bounced all over the place but that's what's beautiful about him you know they'll drop they'll know running into things they're really so small they're not gonna break it nothing um just don't let your mom catch you flying them in the house she'll still yell at you but um or your wife so um but yeah, you can you can fly these scenes around but the thing with this one because it has the little camera in it it does help you practice ah you're f p v skills a little bit even in a small area take him outside though in any wind it all and they're gone so because there's so little so these air really for indoors or non windy days um an area like this would be great for something like that it's a great way to practice and not break the bank you know even if you lose it you're not out is much money. Um moving up is the d j I uh phantom vision plus and this is their their latest version of their vision has their own built in camera on it it's got a three access gimbal on it it's based on the phantom too uh quadcopter platform and this is the same whether it comes with the camera or not if it comes without the camera it's just called the phantom too and that comes with its own controller which is this guy right here and because this one has the the, uh the vision has the wifi extender in it uh that allows you to use your your iphone and this becomes your your device for flying not necessarily just for flying but it's for your f p v s you can see where the what the camera sees and they'll show up here on your phone and you can also control of that camera so you can tilt the camera up and down through the software on the iphone and you can set the settings for your camera live even when it's in the air, which is kind of cool um and you can switch between photo and video while you're flying so for shooting video and so I really want to get a really clean pano here I'm going to turn on video and I'm going to start taking pictures while I slowly spend in three hundred sixty degrees and then you can get really nice fourteen megapixels pictures um personally the video and this is okay. Um some of the video you saw in that example was shot with this ah, you see some fluttering a little bit of fluttering a little bit of jell o it's not great it's over compressed it shoots ten eighty ten eighty thirty so um the aspect ratio and everything is good it's easy to edit with but some of the quality just doesn't hold up to the gopro but photos I've seen some amazing photos because you can get really really high resolution photos because they're lousy a shooting raw format so you can open a mopey and photoshopped or light room and uh have some really really crystal clear photos to work with but again I'm a video guys I've rarely shoot the photos um but this is this is a good entry level because the camera's already there it's it's all self contained you just need your iphone I think it also works the android um and you're ready to go with these two pieces here you can you can go out and fly so that's ah that's a good starter uh it also comes with these prop guards you can put on actually this one doesn't come with him you have to buy him separately with that but with the higher end ones they'll they'll provide them for you or you can buy them separate these these go on in here they have to be screwed on somebody makes a a third party quick release for these which I think is really smart because sometimes you want these if you're gonna be flying um sometimes if you're flying indoors or if you're flying like in a manufacturing environment and they for their for their safety and also there reassurance that you're not going to chop up stuff with the blades um, I think it's good for that, but for beginners there, good, because it does help you near tipping over these things there top heavy, you know, they're kind of top heavy, so when you're landing, sometimes it might tip over on landing. Sometimes it tips over on takeoff. So when you're first starting out these air good, some people call these training wheels I don't use them very often, but I do keep them on hand for for when I am going to do ah production and I'm going to be inside or in a tight environment that I know there's a chance I might bump up against something than there definitely worth having and of course, having extra props no matter which cop to you by getting extra props right from the beginning is really important. Now this one is thie dslr pros can addition, kitt, I notice it comes with a different, um, controller. This comes with the futaba ah t eight f gs controller branded for dslr pros, of course, and this allows you ah ah lot more a lot more functions and control a lot more maneuverability program ability um, they've got a cut switch here that lets you cut the trim on the copters controls down to increments of sixty and thirty percent so if you really want to slow down the moves make it nice and smooth you can you can cut that but just remember when you're trying to fly back home before the battery runs out flick that back up so you can get home quick otherwise this gay slowly coming or going come on come on, come on so that happens thie this guy here is my f p v viewer this allows me to see what the camera sees on here. Um of course this has a the three access gimbal on it with the gopro ah it also has the f p v um transmitter and it's also got this ah iowa which is uh um onscreen data which khun read to an eye an ipad so this is a diversity receiver so this this allows you to teo use either antenna with it a lot of times they just come with two of these this is ah I think they call it pancake antenna that's more directional but it really pulls in a signal so it goes between whichever the strongest of the two are and you're going to see us using these a lot today almost everybody's using them out here so we'll be using those so um we've got that another way that people like two flies with the goggles I've tried it a few times I have a really hard time with the goggles were for month and wear glasses so I have to tune it for my my glasses are to go without my glasses and tweak it and they steam up on dh I have problems I like to be able to be able to look lina site where I'm flying and look at the same time so I have a harder time with ease but I know mark is a is a pro at it and he's going to be showing you some goggles here in a little bit that are just fantastic some new things um one quick thing if you are interested in reading ah what the wind is outside if you want to keep it under your fifteen miles per hour it's good to get one of these cheap little wind meters this is just a little wind meter I got out from amazon for like fifty bucks and uh I think I dropped out a couple times but it will it will tell you the gust you just hold it up there for a bit and at least tell you on the location for landing and take off what you're what your ground wind gusts are like there's a bunch of mount there there's even one that works for an iphone to that I've seen okay three d robotics this is the get the the guy that's going to be um raffled off we're not raffled off but it's in our in our contest um this is the ah iris and it's a quadcopter um this has got thea to access gamble on it with a gopro hero three plus and this guy's pretty cool it's really stable out there and you know it's it's a little bigger than the uh in the phantom but it it's it's it's fairly stable in the wind I was flying it and some pretty pretty big wins you know is really stable so um that was pretty cool it comes with a controller I did get another bracket to put an f p v monitor on it too which mounts a little bit differently but just also comes with it is don't control her and then this guy here is the y six this one uh is really special it's got it's got the gimbal to go pro as well but the way that these props are configured on here their opposing each other so you know they're spending two different two different directions but it just creates this amazing amount of stability and lift and colin quinn's going to be here a little later tio show us this this guy and in action this one's pretty cool because you can choose either too uh have your f p v from the gopro or it's got its own built in ah little f tv camera here which is pretty cool so if you are just taking still images and sound still image lock down to you don't I really need the f p v from the gopro special if you're moving it around but you really want to see where the plane is flying it it's pretty amazing because it's going teo uh really show you how it's moving a lot of times when you're trying to do f p v with the gimbal it shows this this really nice smooth everything's wonderful and you're flying like a bird everything's great and you look up and you see your craft is doing this because it's really windy or your crazy with the controls um it's sometimes it's nice to get the camera that's built down to the body of the craft because you can really gauge okay I need to smooth out I need to move a little of the rite oh there's a tree there I better look out for that things like that especially if you're if you're gimble is tipped the camera's tipped down here looking straight down if you're taking pictures of an area down below you you can't see where you're flying you're just seeing what's down below you you need to be able to see where you are flying and it's really important people have that uh function to there again that one comes um this one I got with the spectrum remote um I kind of made my own bracket for the f p v for this one, um, but again, it's a like a black pearl style, uh, diversity, um, receiver and monitor their, uh, another thing with these. The next level up is being able to use ah, waypoints. And we're going to get into that in a little bit, too. Um, but I've got to set up here, which is another monitor and receiver with a nexus tablet up here, and that we may be plugging in once. We could go outside and fire it up. A cz. Well.

Class Description

Drone photography and videography captures some of the most stunning images out there, but the tools, techniques, and gadgets used to capture the action are often confusing and difficult to master. Join Jeff Foster and special guests for an exciting and highly informative class and get a running start at unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) photography.

In this course, you'll learn how to capture stunning aerial shots with an impressive range of aerial gear – including; 3D Robotics multicopters, DJI multirotors, GoPros, DSLRs and more. You'll get an introduction to the best tools for beginners and see demonstrations of the sophisticated gear used by the most in-demand professional photographers and filmmakers. You’ll learn essential skills for controlling a UAV flight; basic flight controls, necessary equipment for successful shooting, planning and lining up the perfect shots, flight prep and safety, waypoint navigation and more. You'll gain an understanding of the production and post-production techniques unique and essential to aerial photography – including how to stabilize video, create stunning panoramic photos, and remove lens distortion in your photos and videos.

If you're ready to explore this wonderful world from a new elevated visual perspective, then this is the course for you!

Guests include:
Colin Guinn -
Mark Johnson and Romeo Dursher -
Stephen Wheatcraft -
Peter Sachs -
Russell Brown -

CreativeLive is proud to announce that Jeff Foster was a Bronze winner in the 36th Annual Telly Awards for this class.   With nearly 12,000 entries from all 50 states and numerous countries, this is truly an honor. Congratulations Jeff!  

What You Will Learn in This Course

1. Gearing Up: Intro to Aerial

    • Jeff will take us through some of the various quadcopters and multirotors that are commonly used in the hobby/commercial photography markets today. Basic concepts of pre-flight prep, safety, equipment, and terminology will be covered for various disciplines.

2. Basics of Flight

    • Colin Guinn from 3D Robotics joins Jeff in demonstrating the basics of good flight, best practices to improve your skills and get those important shots you want!

3. Practical Application – Commercial Flight

    • Jeff leads off with some examples of fixed-wing drones used for various commercial and environmental uses, such as precision agriculture, search and rescue, firefighting and land surveying. Colin Guinn shows us how 3D Robotics is already addressing these important fields with advanced technology.

4. Advanced Flight for Film Production 

    • Romeo Durscher and Mark Johnson of to show us the S1000 octocopter and how to use it to get those high-definition aerial video shots that filmmakers demand. Stephen Wheatcraft then brings his S1000 octocopter in to demonstrate how he gets beautiful landscape panoramas with his setup. 

5. The Future of Drone Flight: Laws 

    • We will be talking in the studio with drone expert and visionary, Colin Guinn from 3D Robotics about his vision of the industry – where it has come; where it is today and where he sees it in the near future. We are then joined via a live video feed from Maine with drone legal expert Peter Sachs, Esq. To discuss the recent mandates and restriction imposed by the FAA in the US and what that means to the industry on a global scale.

6. Processing Aerial Footage in Post w/ Premiere

    • Jeff will show us some footage from the previous day's flights as well as some examples that might need a little “help” with stabilization and color correction, using Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

7. Processing Aerial Photos in Post w/ Photoshop

    • We're honored to have THE Russell “Doc” Brown from Adobe join us for a head-spinning session in Adobe Photoshop CC with tips on working with drone-captured images and what projects he currently has brewing!

8. Processing Aerial Video in After Effects

    • Jeff returns to turn up the heat in Adobe After Effects to share with us some of his techniques for footage stabilization, lens correction, tilt-shift lens effects and much more!


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This is a great course! This workshop was very professionally put together. This was my first experience with CreativeLive and I was impressed at every turn with how well everything turned out. The content was engaging, the guests and instructor gave out many many useful tips on responsible drone operation... I can't say enough great things about this course. I'll be watching many of the segments over and over again to pick up all of the quick golden tips that were shared, as well as picking up the proper industry terms for types of shots, or piloting techniques. Very impressive! Thanks to Jeff Foster, his guests and the entire crew of Creative Live for making this happen. Simply Amazing!

a Creativelive Student

Not for experienced/informed pilots looking for the next level. It was a good intro for those new to the concept of UAV's in photo/video but never got specific enough about maneuvers, equipment, or shooting styles to be useful. The outdoor flying was a complete mess. Demos of what the equipment looked like, not how to best use it creatively. Glad I watched it live. The chat rooms were very informative.