A lot of people have been asking to see raw footage from DJI’s S800 hexacopter. So we went flying and shooting yesterday and we were able to capture some pretty nice imagery.
My camera setup is different then most S800 users. I’m using the Panasonic GH2 mirrorless DSLR. The number one thing that’s a huge drawback about these cameras or even the Sony NEX-7 is the low bitrate. Both of these cameras are capped at 24Mbps while using the AVCHD codec. This is going to be next to awful when shooting aerial footage since in most cases, there’s going to be so much movement and color changes in your shots, the video bandwidth is going to be used up and the image is going to start getting pixelated real fast. So, what’s the solution? Hack the camera of course! I updated the firmware on my GH2 and now instead of 24 Mbps, I’m getting close to 90 Mbps. This really helps perserve the maximum detail in your imagery when shooting at this high bitrate.
Another difference about my setup is I’m using the 20mm F1.7 pancake lens, instead of the typical 14mm. I decide on this lens for several seasons. First, the 14mm lens is not quite as sharp as the 20mm. Second, the 14mm has vignetting on the edges (the edges darken slightly) of the frame due to it’s wide angle. Thirdly, 14mm is so wide, and does not capture a cinematic look at all. Now the argument may be, “but you’re shooting aerial… don’t you want the widest look so you can capture more and give the illusion of a massive image?” My goal is to have this “wide look” about 10% of the time when I shoot with my hexacopter. The other 90% I like to shoot cinematically,… it’s what a filmmaker should want to do. Besides, if you want a wide shot, just fly further away.
The main drawback to having a 20mm lens vs. the 14mm is because the camera is shooting a tighter image, it will be easier to see some minor bumps in the footage from the hexacopter’s movement. However, I’ve been really impressed with the overall test footage so far. Since there’s not much shake at all, you can always stabilize the footage in post to perfect the shot.
I’m using the Zenmuse Z15 gimbal with this rig, and I’ve been impressed with it so far. It does a great job keeping the footage stable at all times. The only downside at the moment is it can only be customized to hold the GH2 or the Sony NEX-7. I will be wanting to upgrade to a larger gimbal so I can fly with the 5D Mark III eventually. The S800 can lift a 12 lbs. payload, so it won’t have any issues lifting the 5D Mark III.
If you have any questions, let me know.