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Can the Panasonic GH4 + Canon’s C300 and C100 go hand in hand – Nicos Argillet reports on his testing

Guest post by Nicos Argillet:

After spending a week with the GH4, I had to fly to Georgia in the Caucasus to direct a documentary for France 5, one of the French national TV channels. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to test the GH4 in a real production environment and see how it could match our C300 and C100 in the field. Here is a quick edit of the results.

Note that I am not a colorist nor a pixel peeper but a director and DP who is trying to understand his tools and share what he learned. All shots were only slightly graded in Premiere CS6 using the basic color correction tools to match exposure and roughly set the black/white/saturation levels.

All C300/C100 shots are C-Log. All GH4 shots used the Natural profile with sharpness and noise reduction set to -5, and contrast and saturation between -3 and -5, depending on the scene. Master Pedestal was set to +10. Curves, iDynamic and iResolution were set to their default settings.

This is the profile I found works best for me after testing during my first week with the camera – but please share your profiles too.

I didn’t try to match the tints as I wanted to check how close I could get the results straight ‘out of the camera’. The GH4 had a Schneider True Match Vari ND in front of the lens, which while being one of the more natural looking ND solutions out there may still give the image a twist.

The GH4 kit in the field

The GH4 kit in the field

So, what did I learn? Looking at the landscape shots from the GH4 I am pretty impressed with the results. Shooting in 4K and editing on a 1080p timeline gives a pretty close match in terms of resolution and very nice rendering.

On the dynamic range side, the GH4, in the way I had it set, is definitely not as good as the Canon cameras. It may not be completely obvious from the video above but the GH4 just can’t handle as much difference between highlights and shadows as well – the reason for that is the noise level.

All shots on the C300 were done between 850 and 1600 ISO. GH4 was set to 200 ISO. To my eyes, the noise of the GH4 at 200 ISO is as visible as 1600 ISO on the C300. The other thing I noticed is that the GH4 can be very noisy on the dark part of the image. When shooting a mountain top with a forest below, if you set the exposure to protect the sky, the forest – although clearly visible – would become really noisy. Even though the GH4 seemed to capture those dark stops, it was capturing it with a lot of noise.

Canon C300 on location

Canon C300 on location

For me it means that protecting the highlights and underexposing like you could do on a C300 is problematic on the GH4 as the grade would bring too much noise. For the same reason I believe that trying to increase dynamic range with picture profiles will only show noisier shadows.

On the other side, the GH4 has some great tools that the C300 does not. It can do time lapses straight in camera, which is a big time saver and a very cool feature. I used that feature a lot during our shooting and I am very pleased not to have to bring another stills camera just for timelapse. On the C300 the under-crank is just rubbish. On the GH4 you just decide how many frames you want (like 250 for 10 sec. on a 25P timeline), the time interval, and let it roll for the next 12, 30, 60 minutes… In the end the video is created in camera and there you go, a nice time-lapse. Brilliant !

The GH4 also has very cool slow-motion possibilities. I didn’t use those during this shoot because it wouldn’t match our story. But for more creative shooting it is definitely a plus.

Technical limitations asides, the GH4 proved to be a really great tool for our shooting environment, especially because it is so ergonomic.

When shooting abroad in remote areas, we usually take with us a C300 as our A camera and a C100 as a B camera. But when conditions of shooting imply long hiking sessions or when battery life becomes more important than image quality then the C300 just stays home and the C100 becomes the A camera. It’s in those situations that I was really hoping the GH4 could be a good sidekick.

The Canon C300 and C100 are at the center of my kit

The Canon C300 and C100 are at the center of my kit

When shooting all year long with a camera like the C300 you become very choosy about the camera you shoot with: the C300’s EVF is very good, the screen beautiful, the electronic NDs classy…

All of that gives you a certain feeling of luxury. But in the first place I had to reassign a lot of stuff to make it the way I wanted (no ISO button Canon, really?) In comparison, after only few hours with the GH4, I was feeling at home. Just being able to put your eye to your camera, like you would normally do when taking photos, gives you a natural feeling of doing things the right way. From there the WB, ISO and Magnify buttons (assigned in my case to the FN1 button) can be pressed and dialled instinctively. Assigning peaking and zebras to FN buttons 2 and 3 makes it easy to turn them on and off according to your needs. The flip screen is just something you wonder how you lived without.

One week with the GH4 from Nicos A. on Vimeo.

On the firmware side the GH4 has for me two very important features: The ability to turn each screen display on and off easily, and a to set a free-run timecode. The timecode option alone is a big time-saver in post production.

In the end, using the two cameras side-by-side was painless. Even though I am so used to my C300 buttons layout I could easily switch my mind to using the GH4. And trust me: changing between two different cameras when you are in a rush is usually not that easy.

When you add on top of that the GH4 form factor, size, weight, battery life and media capacity, it’s just the perfect tool for those kind of jobs.

With only a battery grip, a vari ND and a reference mic, I was able to shoot all day in all conditions, even when riding a horse.

The other thing that strikes me is how good is the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens is. When I bought the camera I was really hoping for Metabones to release an active EF to MFT adapter. I am not anymore. I wouldn’t add any more weight to my package. The Panasonic 12-35mm and 35-100mm f/2.8 zooms are in my opinion just as good as the equivalent focal range canon zooms are for the C300/C100 cameras, minus the weight and with more depth of field.

Of course, there are some downsides. The EVF is not as good as the one on the C300, the screen is not very bright, the peaking is not the best in the world and you need a vari ND on top of your lens…but who cares? It gets the job done.

And if you want to the truth, the GH4 EVF is still better than the one on the Canon C100 – I just hate the screen on it.

Despite all these virtues, the real test was to see how well I could match the Canon cameras and the GH4. Looking at the images from the two cameras side by side, and especially the interview parts, I think that the C-series and GH4 intercut very nicely, with minimum post-production. And for me this is the most important. I can’t afford to spend hours trying to match color sciences and skin tones from completely different planets.

In the end, the GH4 maybe not be the perfect camera, but the C300 and C100 aren’t either. What matters is how effective it can be in the field. It can help me tell stories, be more responsive and travel lighter.

Gear used:
Panasonic GH4
Panasonic Battery Grip
Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 OIS lens
Schneider True-Match Vari ND 77mm
Cordvision 58mm-77mm setup adapter ring
Canon C300 & C100
Canon 17-55mm f2.8 EFS lens
Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6 L lens
Canon 24-105mm f4.0 L lens

C300 & GH4 operated by Nicos Argillet
C100 operated by Manuel Laigre

Music : შენმა სურვილმა დამლია

You can find out more and contact Nicos Argillet via his website.

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Posted on July 29th, 2014 by Nicos Argillet | Category: Canon C100, Canon C300, Panasonic GH4 | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Go Creative Show talks Frame.io and collaboration – plus some gear chat with Matt Allard

By site editor Dan Chung:

GCS037 Communicate

This week’s Go Creative Show takes collaboration and communication as its theme. Host Ben Consoli talks Emery Wells, co-founder of Frame.io – a collaborative working app designed to help teams and clients work on projects remotely. Ben also talks to presentation and communication skills coach Andrew Hurteau. Our own Matt Allard is also on hand to update on all the latest industry news. Click below to listen in:

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Posted on July 27th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Go Creative show | Permalink | Comments (0)

Amazing 5D mkIII aerials for ITN documentary on the World’s largest soccer academy – shot by SCP aerials using the DJI S1000

By site editor Dan Chung:

DRONE FILMING AT THE WORLD’S LARGEST FOOTBALL ACADEMY from Spontaneous Combustion on Vimeo.

Recently we have featured several articles by shooters using inexpensive DJI Phantom drones to get previously unattainable shots. But what happens when a major network needs to get shots over the world’s largest soccer academy? How do you ensure safety for children playing football below?

Instead of attempting to do it themselves ITN decided to call in the experts from SCP Aerials in Hong Kong to handle the aerial shooting. SCP fly larger drones capable of carrying cameras like the Canon 5D mkIII and Red Epic.

I asked Richard Kimber of SCP Aerials about the shoot and the challenges of shooting with drones professionally:

“My team at SCP Aerials has had more than its fair share of adventures over the past few years of playing with drones. 

We’ve shot ultra-marathons in the vast deserts of Inner Mongolia, luxury properties in the snowy mountains of Japan, yacht races in the middle of giant lakes in China, and car chases on huge green-screen movie sets in Hong Kong. We’ve even shot horse racing and beamed our drone camera’s images straight on to live TV. 

But in the midst of the recent World Cup fever we jumped at the chance to head to China and film the world’s largest soccer academy with ITN, one of the most respected news organisations in the world. The documentary was part of the new ‘On Assignment’ series that ITN makes for ITV, the main commercial channel in the UK. 

The SCP team at the Soccer Academy

The SCP team at the Soccer Academy

SCP Aerials has been operating for a few years now as a division of the Spontaneous Combustion Productions film company in Hong Kong. We first started flying drone cameras as a means of getting awesome action shots at the many adventure sport events that we cover. From the moment that we first started experimenting with the then untried and untested technology, we knew it was going to be a game-changer. Since then we have grown fast and have become the official production partner of DJI, the world’s biggest manufacturer of drone camera equipment. 

The ITN soccer documentary was a perfect fit for us. It was a very newsy subject matter with lots of human interest value, and it was a story that just couldn’t be properly told without some aerial shots to communicate the mammoth scale of the facilities at the academy. 

It can be tough working with a news crew as shooting schedules tend to be tight, shots need to be short, sharp and very precise, and the subject matter for filming may not always be pleased to see you! Fortunately the ITN crew had everything organised before we arrived… including the weather, which they somehow managed to manipulate to our advantage despite the dire forecast! 

Setting up the DJI S1000. Photo by Lucy Watson/ITN

Setting up the DJI S1000. Photo by Lucy Watson/ITN

Using the DJI S1000 with the Canon 5D mkIII enabled us to get a rich colour scheme even through the haze, and the rock solid gimbal gave us lots of control to sculpt an eye-catching opening shot that slowly revealed the size of the enormous facilities without giving it all away at the start. With its retractable arms and rotors we were also able to transport the S1000 around easily and set-up it up quickly, allowing us to film in multiple locations during the short time-frame available. 

We use a full-HD, zero-latency transmitter and a portable 24 inch HD monitor to help our clients see exactly what the camera is shooting while it is in the air.  This helps to make sure that we can get a winning shot with every flight and adjust the framing to exactly suit the client’s needs before starting our pre-planned filming path.  For a news crew this is especially important as it ensures they can get what they need and wrap the shoot on time. 

Taking flight over the soccer academy

Taking flight over the soccer academy. Photo by Lucy Watson/ITN

The drone camera technology is evolving fast.  As DJI Phantoms become cheaper and easier to fly it is now possible for many budding filmmakers to add aerial Go Pro shots to their storyboards.  However my feeling is that operating bigger multi-rotor aircraft is still a job for professionals only.  Apart from cost considerations, bigger aircraft require a much greater depth of experience to be flown safely, and the maintenance is a lot more complicated. There is a significantly greater risk to be managed as well. Operators should be expected to have comprehensive third party liability insurance, and should be actively engaged with their local government or aviation department to ensure that they are submitting permission applications for their flights. Ideally they should have gone through a certified training programme as well. We sent our newest pilot to the UK to earn his stripes as there is currently no such qualification available in Asia. 

The industry will continue to expand and new regulation is inevitable. We are working closely with the Civil Aviation Department in Hong Kong to help build a community of aerial filmmakers in the hope that we can all help one another, rather than aggressively compete.  I believe that if we all play by the rules and fly responsibly, we can continue having fun with this fantastic technology for many years to come…  or at least until something new and even cooler arrives!”

You can find out more about SCP Aerials and their work at http://www.hotaerials.tv

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Posted on July 27th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Canon EOS 5D MkIII, Drones | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Boda jib Kickstarter project – a crane that claims a 30 second set up and 25lbs payload

By site editor Dan Chung:

Boda Jib Kickstarter from Jeremy Sawatzky on Vimeo.

There are plenty of travel jibs around these days. Most will lift a DSLR or small camera, some will even take cameras like the FS700 or Red Epic. But the new Boda jib aims to carry even heavier loads – right up to 25 pounds (15 pounds at full extension).

The dream of Canadian machinist and engineer Jeremy Sawatzky, the Cinetech Industries Boda jib is designed to be incredibly simple in operation, yet highly portable. It weighs just 9 pounds and compacts to a mere 28 inches long. To achieve this Sawatzky has used carbon fibre and CNC cut aluminium. The unique fold out design has a claimed 30 second setup time, which if true will beat just about every other jib out there.

The Boda jib

The Boda jib

The camera can be attached via a cheese plate mount or an optional 75mm bowl mount. Sawatzky says motion control heads and gimbals can can also be attached.

The jib has a hollow construction to allow easy running of cables inside it. There are mounting points on the base of the jib to mount accessories such as monitor arms.

It has an optional fluid base which should allow for smooth pans without the need for a tripod head below the jib. This attaches to a half-ball or tripod head via a 3/8 screw mount. I’m slightly concerned that this might not be strong enough for large payloads but time will tell.

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Sawatzky has turned to Kickstarter to raise funding to put his jib into production. His estimated retail prices are certainly not inexpensive. The expected price for the basic model is $2500 CAD. Right now a pledge of $2099 CAD should reward you with the basic model without 75mm bowl adapter, fluid pan base, padded case or levelling weight. Step up to $2450 and the reward is a full kit with pan base, bag, weight bar, levelling weight and bowl adapter.

I spoke to Sawatzky to find out what inspired him to create the jib, how he got to where he is now, and why he turned to Kickstarter. This is what he had to say:

“My inspiration stemmed from a constant need to tinker and build my own equipment instead of paying for a finished product. I saw a picture of a camera crane, understood the basic principle behind it, and designed my first model in my parents garage using nothing but a drill press and a table saw. It was large, clumsy, heavy and hard to move around but functioned well. I built my second crane that I sold to a friend using a single hinge to fold the crane in half reducing its packed size. He took that crane to Israel, Africa and still uses it today. I took that hinge design and expanded on the idea, building more prototypes until I ended up where I am now. I have shot many small projects over the years, lots to do with cars and short films. I love dramatic sweeping shots and that is why I wanted a jib in the first place.

I built my first prototypes out of aluminum, removing as much unnecessary material as possible to maintain a light product. I could never achieve my lightness and weight capacity goal with aluminum so I decided that carbon fiber would be the perfect candidate. I use a high grade carbon fiber made in the United States. Carbon fiber is immune to the elements and will not rust or degrade. It is very lightweight and stiff. It is bonded to the other components using an extremely high grade epoxy that will not break down over time. It is a difficult material to work with and very expensive hence the high price but the benefits outweigh the downsides.

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My price point is determined with simple math, how much does each unit cost to build and how much overhead do I have. I allow enough profit to expand the business and you have the purchase price. Provided I am successful with funding, there are plans for many versions to be built. Cheaper, more capacity, less capacity, shorter, longer, etc. I cannot afford to overwhelm myself with multiple versions. One step at a time. The Kickstarter funds will allow me to make the initial part and carbon fiber orders. Large bulk orders are necessary in order to maintain the price point of the jib.” 

As with all Kickstarter projects there is a the risk that the project runs into difficulties and rewards may be delayed – or in some cases never fulfilled. Head over to the Boda jib Kickstarter page for more info.

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Posted on July 26th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Jibs and Cranes | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jem Schofield’s filmmaker’s intensive in Scotland aims to make you a better doc shooter

By site editor Dan Chung:

The Filmmaker’s Intensive 2014 from theC47 on Vimeo.

There are plenty of training courses that claim to turn you into a better shooter but there are not many well tailored to documentary shooters wanting to brush up on their lighting and shooting skills. Trainer and educator Jem Schofield’s latest intensive course starts in Scotland in just a few days. It focuses on shooting in the real world and places are limited to 20 so that everyone gets time with the instructors. If you are in or near the UK and can spare the time then it should be worth the price of admission.

To find out more head over to thefilmmakersintensive.com.

Jem is a long time friend of this site and really knows his stuff. He not only runs his own courses he is also produces many of the training resources for the Canon cinema camera series. Here are some examples:

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Posted on July 26th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: Training | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blackmagic Design add histogram and audio level meters to their 4K Production camera

By site editor Dan Chung:

bmd 4k display

Another week, another announcement from Blackmagic Design. This time it is exciting news for owner and prospective buyers of the 4K Production camera. The company’s new free 1.9 Camera update adds overlays for histogram, audio level meters and a recording time remaining indicator to the camera’s rear screen. This is something that Blackmagic camera owners have been crying out for for months.

These functions have not made it into the other cameras in the range in this release, but the company says it is working to make that happen in the next few weeks.

You can watch a video of Blackmagic Design CEO Grant Petty explaining the upgrade here.

Here is the full release from Blackmagic Design:

Fremont, CA – July 24, 2014 – Blackmagic Design today announced the immediate availability of Camera 1.9 software which includes new “heads up display” on screen metering that provides customers with histogram, peak audio meters and recording time remaining for the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K.

Camera 1.9 update is available now free of charge from the Blackmagic Design website.

Using these additional displays for the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K means that customers can easily and quickly check important camera settings such as exposure, audio level and the remaining space on their recording disk.

Using the histogram scope, customers can now easily and rapidly set exposure in a shot as the histogram shows the the distribution of luminance in their images and if highlights or shadows are being clipped. Images with clipped highlights or shadows make it much harder to color grade the shots in post production, so having the histogram feature helps DOP’s shoot with confidence. The histogram scope is real time so highlights and shadows can be adjusted interactively with the lens setting, ensuring images are not clipped and maximum detail in tonal ranges is preserved, critically important for allowing colorists to create amazing grading effects in post production using the full contrast range of the camera.

Camera 1.9 software update also includes a new audio metering with peak hold feature to allow setting audio levels for Channels 1 and 2 when using the built in microphone as well as externally connected audio sources. The audio meters make it fast to view audio levels and adjust camera audio gain so that audio is not clipped or distorted.

The new heads up display also includes a recording time remaining indicator that shows remaining space on the recording disk. The time remaining indicator is automatically re-calibrated to ensure an accurate time remaining value if the either the frame rate or codec are changed, and displays red when the disk is getting full.

This update is available to our Blackmagic Production Camera 4K customers free of charge. Customers can download this update now and install it onto their camera from either Mac or Windows computers using a simple USB cable connection to the camera. Once the update is complete, customers can view the new on screen menus by simply swiping their finger up from the bottom of the capacitative touch screen.

This new heads up display will be released for other models of Blackmagic Design cameras over the coming weeks, so an even wider range of Blackmagic Design camera customers can get the benefits of this new display.

“We are extremely excited that we have been able to provide yet another release for our camera customers ,” said Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design. “Having this new heads up display with on screen scopes will enable film makers to shoot the most amazing images with confidence that they will get incredible results in post production!”

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Posted on July 25th, 2014 by Dan Chung | Category: 4K, Blackmagic design | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rode release NT-USB studio mic for iPad, OSX and Windows

Guest post by Clinton Harn:

NT-USB three quarter - no popfilter

Rode have just released their new NT-USB studio mic. Connecting via USB to an iPad, OSX or Windows PC it focusses on convenience and quick turn around times – useful in broadcast scenarios and fast sound recording applications.

This mic isn’t a “re-hash” of their popular Podcaster. The capsule itself has been designed from the ground up, and manufactured to specifications as a Cardioid condenser, while the podcaster is a dynamic mic. This simply means that the NT-USB would be ideal for picking up more sound nuance and detail. 

There are subtle differences in application. I see the NT-USB performing a more versatile role and would consider it a go to “Bread & butter” microphone for more general applications.

NT-USB_Mac

The Podcaster has been around for a while now and is mainly for voice application, whereas the NT-USB is not only great for voice, but the condenser properties mean you can use the mic for a plethora of purposes such as instrument, foley on location and ambient recording.

You can pair the mic to an iPad via the Apple camera connection kit (or other suitable USB adapter). Similar to the iXY, the NT-USB works with the RØDE Rec app making it ideal for journalists and correspondents on the go.  

The USB to computer option allows you to use it with your mainstream audio based programs such as Logic, Protools, Garage Band, right down to direct voice overs on iMovie.

Front end computer audio devices & interfaces often suffer lag during data transfer, and are generally dependent on buffer rates. The NT-USB features a zero-latency stereo headphone monitoring (3.5mm) jack, which allows users to monitor the microphone input in realtime, along with dials to adjust the monitoring level .

Build and sound quality should typical of a RØDE mic – the company claim best in class performance. Really nice finishing touches included are a pop filter, a high-quality stand mount with industry standard 3/8” thread, desktop tripod and a pouch. 

Full disclosure: Rode is a sponsor of this site.

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Posted on July 25th, 2014 by Clinton Harn | Category: Uncategorized | Permalink | Comments (2)

Video review: The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ that fell from the sky

Guest post by D J Clark:

After playing with a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ in the park for the past month, I felt it was time to take it out on an assignment. 

The untreated footage, shot in standard auto mode with some adjustments while it was up in the sky, looks good on a mobile device but starts to show its limitations on a big screen. I sat down with Newsshooter.com to talk through my experience so far.

Video:
The Vision+ shoots 1080P at 25 or 30 FPS + 1080i & 720P at 50 or 60 FPS. It also has manual controls over ISO, white balance, exposure, sharpness & anti-flicker. All the above can be controlled during flight from the phone app.

In this demo I was shooting 1080P with sharpness set to standard. All the video is straight off the memory card unaltered.

Photos:
The Vision+ allows you to shoot JPEG or DNG RAW (4384 x 3288 px) and has the same manual controls as you have with video, also controllable in flight.

In this demo I was shooting RAW and the images shown here and in the video have had basic edits in Adobe Lightroom.

image-2

Phantom 2 Vision+ versus the Phantom 2 with a GoPro on a gimbal:

As has been demonstrated in other tests online, the video from the GoPro Hero3+ outperforms the Vision+. However, bear in mind to get close to the same functionality as the Vision+ you will need to also buy and fit:


- a Zenmuse H3-3D 3-Axis Gimbal

- a wireless video link for FPV so you can send the video signal back to the controller

- 7″ FPV monitor with built-in receiver so you can see the video on a monitor attached to the controller

- iOSD superimposed flight data on video so you can use the monitor for helping you control the quadcopter
- plus a GoPro Hero 3+
- GoPro batteries

It almost doubles the price and is a lot less compact and easy to set up. You can almost start flying the Phantom 2 Vision+ out of the box and it syncs through an app to an iPhone or Android phone.

The fall from the Sky:
In the video above I describe how my Phantom 2 seemingly fell out of the sky for no reason. Since returning home I have been able to research the incident and found the following.

The crash was most probably caused by the Vortex Ring State – an issue with the stability of multirotors. The DJI Phantom is prone to it when descending too quickly, or in strong winds. My natural action to throttle up, probably made it worse. There are no warnings in the manual related to this issue.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 19.00.14

DJI issued a new firmware update in late April to counter this by restricting the descent speed. Although my unit was purchased in early May it appeared not to have the latest update. I would urge anyone with a Phantom 2 to check you are running the latest software.

I spoke to DJI support in the US and in China. Though sympathetic to my crash, both stated company policy is not to offer replacements to units damaged by this issue. Support in China did offer me 20% off a new unit.

Conclusion:
As I state in the video, even with the crash I still have come out with a positive experience using the Phantom. The video from the Vision+ isn’t as good as a GoPro Hero3+ but is so unique that everyone I have showed it to has missed its flaws while marveling at the smooth movements. The still images, once edited, are amazing.

The crash was disappointing as I still had another five flights planned. It was also an important reminder of the potential dangers of flying – especially when above people.


As I say in the video the shots above with the Phantom were done at the end of a network TV shoot I was on. I won’t get to edit the TV package for another couple of weeks and only then will be able to decide whether I can sneak one or two shots from the Vision+ in. It may be a stretch. But for online only, and learning to fly and shoot, I would recommend the Vision+. I am hoping DJI come out with a better camera or a better way to integrate the GoPro soon.

D J Clark is DP for Assignment Asia, a new current affairs program due to launch very soon. He also freelances for The Economist and teaches on the University of Bolton MA in Multimedia Journalism that runs in Beijing, China.

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Posted on July 24th, 2014 by D J Clark | Category: Drones, Journalism, quadcopters | Permalink | Comments (4)

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