Getting braver but it could’ve all ended in disaster!

So with a month of flying under my belt I thought it was about time I expanded my flying repertoire by trying to get some cinematic shots, following some techniques I’d seen on YouTube (the best place to learn for free of course!).

Armed with my drone, the dog and a can of Jungle Formula I headed off to the local gravel pit adjacent the River Nene for some early morning quadcoptering (I know it’s not a proper word but ‘droning’ isn’t much better 🙂 )

Anyhow, I had pre-planned my shots for two locations; one from the side of the Thrapston gravel pit and the second from the river bank and fortunately neither had any fishing men nearby (both locations are popular with piscatorial folk). Both flights required flying over water, which I’d only done once before and so it was with nervousness that I sent the Phantom up for the first time.

Here is the first flight (edited on the DJI app so click here to view). The quality isn’t brilliant but I think that’s due to the app not the drone.

Mission one accomplished we moved on to location two, a short distance to the river bank. Here I wanted a slightly different shot and the plan was to do a flyover up the river but the shot didn’t quite come off so I tried another selfie with Rio.

Here’s the second film, this time posted on YouTube.

I was quite pleased with that one 🙂

And so on to last night and with the evening brightening up, I took the opportunity to get out for an hour and go explore. I headed for a local footpath I’d never been to before as it looked a quiet location and would be idea for flying.

I also took my handheld video camera this time as one of the YouTube channels suggested using footage taken from the ground to enhance the filming. It was a challenge at first to control the drone and the camera but I will agree it does add something extra to the overall quality of the film.

And so to the near disaster…

I spend some time flying around and practicing some flyovers and other filming techniques before heading back to the first field for more of the same before the second battery went flat. Just before I finished for the evening I decided on one last flyover and it nearly ended up…. well rather than give the game away take a look at the longer edited version of the film I made…

My heart nearly sank as my pride and joy nearly came a cropper but thankfully all turned out well in the end. A lesson learned to be a bit more careful in future!

I also made a shortened version which I posted on Facebook which gives the near-fail a bit more of a dramatic edge.

I am continually researching new places to go and fly; the Peak District is one of my possible destinations but it might have to wait until the kids go back to school as there’s bound to be too many people there time this time of the year.

Flights #4, #5 & #6

Last week I had to drive to Teesside, which is quite close to the Yorkshire Moors, an ideal place to get in some drone flying. After my meeting, I headed off towards the park but was thwarted by heavy rain so abandoned the idea.

So with the weekend weather improving, it was time to try to get some flying in so off I and Rio headed to a field nearby. On arriving I found that the farmer had even cut down the long grass for me, what a result.

I soon had the drone up in the air, surveying the surrounding countryside, including the River Nene and the local lakes. I then spotted a worrying view at the far end of the field from the on board camera; a gathering of travellers and the vehicles was growing! I hastily moved back into the corner, not wanting to trigger a gypsy aircraft attack and carried flying until the battery alarm signalled it was time to bring it back down.

With my normal dog walking route to the nature reserve needing to go past the visitors; I packed up my bag and headed off towards them but found that instead I’d stumbled on a metal detectorists gathering (ah that was why the farmer had cut down the grass!). I stopped and had a chat with the marshall before continuing the dog walk.

Interestingly I’d never come across a treasure hunter meet before and assumed it would be organised so that every blade of grass was covered. Not a chance! They fanned out as they arrived in their cars, every saddo to themselves, digging holes as they went.

If you look carefully you can see the cars starting to line up along the edge of the field.

Anyhow here is the footage for flight #4.

My next flight was Sunday evening when I went out with the family and did some flyovers, making good use of the foreground interest they afforded as well as the low sunset glows. Rather than use Final Cut Pro I created a video using the DJI software. I will edit the full footage but was quite please with this short effort.

https://www.skypixel.com/share/video/family-flyover

[update: And the longer Final Cut Pro version is now below]

My latest flight was last night, again making use the great sunlight and was rather pleased with the outcome. Check out the start of the big reveal from 1:30, a great cinematic shot.

I have also been looking up local spots to fly from, using Ordinance Survey maps to find footpaths; I have a few marked so hopefully I’ll be able to get some different countryside shots over coming weeks.

Flight #03

So flight number three nearly didn’t happen yesterday as the weather was crap when I got home from work so I was pleasantly surprised when the clouds cleared around 8pm allowing some flying time. It was a bit windy but not enough to stop the flying.

I intended to drive down to the first place I flew my quadcopter, but found out that cars were not allowed down the lane so instead stopped at a spot I often walk the dog. It looks down over the town so thought it would be an ideal spot for getting shots of the fields and the setting sun.

I soon had the aircraft in the sky and filming the surrounding countryside, practicing flying and generally having some fun, especially knowing that I had extra time in the air as I now had the second battery I’d ordered.

Disappointingly, the setting sun wasn’t great to look at so in the end did some low level shots of the wheat fields and a couple of flyovers. I then headed home and downloaded the video to my laptop ready for editing tonight.

The last time I did any proper video editing using Final Cut Pro was a few years ago, but after watching a couple of online tutorials I soon got back into it. The final edit ended up a a bit smaller in frame size than I would have liked but I needed to cut out some of the video shots due to the high winds showing the propeller guards.

Anyhow, here is flight number 3…

 

Flight #2

Another glorious day and ideal flying weather meant only one thing; Rio was in for an early morning walk again and it was also drone time (I really need to stop calling it a drone, it’s technically a quad-copter!).

We set off towards the river and found an ideal spot for launching the aircraft; a quiet car park right next to a field. After carrying out the pre-flight checks I soon had it in the air; the distinctive red propeller guards I’d bought yesterday helping me to see which round the copter was facing.

I did some fly-by’s of the adjacent lake and some shots of Rio and me walking before the battery warning message showed it was time to bring it back down. The twenty minutes flight time really does go quickly when your having fun.

I’m trying to keep the videos fairly short so they don’t bore the pants of the viewers!

Phantom 3 Standard Quad-copter (or drone if you prefer)

Well, after losing my first drone last weekend (Matt’s father’s day present to me had a mind of its own and flew into a lake on its first flight) I decided to upgrade to DJI Phantom 3 Standard and give flying another go.

After watching lots of YouTube videos and practicing on the DJI app, Rio and I got up early this morning and headed for the Northants countryside to test out my new toy.

Within minutes I had the quad-copter flying and filming some of the surrounding landscape; controlling the drone was simple and easy to get some great shots.

Unfortunately the battery didn’t last long and my fun ended prematurely but I had gotten the bug and was eager to get it recharged and get out flying again. Unfortunately the weather for the rest of the day was not so good, with high winds and showers so no more flying but I did manage to cobble together this video…

Fingers crossed for some good weather in the morning!

Final Cut Pro

Over recent years I have been interested in creating films and particular editing the videos I have recorded of the dog, Rio and family holidays. The iMac is so easy to use for this type of work and I found Apple iMovie intuitive and allows the user to create really good looking videos. The templates for making home movie trailers are particularly easy to use and can look quite professional.

My favourites are the Grand Canyon helicopter ride…

and the San Francisco trailer…

But over recent months I’ve been wanting the do more of the editing myself and whilst iMovie is a good package, I really wanted to give Apple’s Final Cut Pro X a go. The problem though was the cost! FCP is a professional package used extensively in the film and video industry and therefore comes at a relatively high price of £199 and so kept me from downloading a copy.

And then a month ago I won an award at work and a prize of £250 Apple voucher. I duly downloaded the trial FCP X, a fully working version and soon got to grips with the new controls. My first effort was the Gran Canaria holiday video…

Having decided that the application was worthy of the price tag I then decided to buy it using my voucher only to discover that I can only spend it on hardware at an Apple store. Doh! Oh well at least I’ll be able to use it for the new iPhone when it comes out in the autumn.

So have I bought the package?

You guessed it, yep and I’m loving it.

Here’s the latest video I have created, updating a film I made last year with new footage.

Enjoy…

My next plan is to try to persuade Tina to come with me to do some filming using a second video recorder so I can do some editing of multi-camera shots. Yeah right!

And all from a phone…

I was up early yesterday, not because I was anticipating hundreds of birthday cards to open but because I always get up really early, even on a weekend. And even on my birthday!

I decided to take advantage of the lovely morning and go for a walk with Rio so I took him down the field on the other side of the River Nene which leads to the old railway line. I firstly negotiated the High Street and Islip bridge, which was really slippery in the ice and was especially difficult as I was being led by a dog that knew he was heading in a direction that meant ‘play’. The field is great for letting him off his lead as there are not normally too many dog walkers and plenty of room for him to get a runaround.

Yesterday was especially good as there was still lots of snow on the ground and he was able to bound around like a mad thing, chasing snow balls that I was throwing at him :). He also enjoyed digging  through the snow, either looking for rabbits or moles, I’m not quite sure, but digging all the same!

Anyhow whilst he was playing I was also able to take some photos. I took some not only of him but the of the frost-laden landscape, which looked spectacular with the winter sun low in the sky. What I didn’t realise at the time though that the temperatures were between minus ten and minus five degrees Celsius which was why the the frost covered the whole of the trees making them look very spectacular! Although I only had with me my iPhone camera with it’s limited capability I was still able to capture some picturesque shots and am quite pleased with the results. It is incredible that you can get such detail and resolution in a camera built into a mobile phone.

Just as I was leaving I saw a couple walking towards the field laden with their SLR cameras. I wonder if they were able to get any better shots that I did with my iPhone?

Hollywood, Los Angeles, London and Thrapston…

OK so the title was a bit of a headline grabber but it’s true!

So we arrive at our final day of our holiday, although this is not quite strictly true as we will be travelling from tonight through to tomorrow afternoon UK time so actually it officially finishes on Sunday.

I left Tina in bed as she didn’t get a good nights sleep and had a shave & shower. She soon woke up soon after. We went down for breakfast, which had a good selection, although as usual not much for gluten-free-ites. We returned to our rooms with coffee/tee (yes, very American as you don’t see many without a cup of something in their hands) and finished off packing. We are a bit worried out the amount of weight in our cases but once packed they do seem lighter than when we came over, how can that happen as we have the same amount of clothes?

We checked out of the hotel and agreed that we would return to Hollywood, where our road trip started, for one final look around.

We set off down the I5 towards Los Angeles and in particular Hollywood; the traffic was busy, in particular heading north out of the city, Americans on the way to their holiday weekend breaks no doubt.

We headed for the same area that we stayed at on our first night in California and soon found a car park costing $10 for the day. We then walked the short distance to the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood boulevard. We were surprised how busy the place was compared to last time we were there, although I guessed the Memorial weekend had brought more visitors out. We stopped for a Starbucks coffee and then walked around the shops for a while.

Lunch soon beckoned so we ordered two plates of nachos with the full works. Of course we should have realised by now that American portions are enormous and neither of us could finish the plate full of Mexican food. We then browsed a few more shops before finding a seat close to the water fountains where we sat for an hour or so, people watching. I was then asked by a couple of people whether would take their photos, which of course I obliged. What I should have done was to charge a dollar a time as did the lady at the Las Vegas sign last week. Missed opportunity or what…!

We then took a slow walk back to the car and set the sat nav for the Alamo car rental return depot, that’s close to the airport. Thirty minutes later we were unloading the cases and boarding the bus that would transport us to the terminal. Once in, we dropped our bags off before queuing to get through security. The process is really tight now, with all jewellery and anything metal having to be removed, including Tina’s birthday presents and placed in a tray. I wisely removed all my gadgets and unlike at Heathrow, got through without a bag search this time.

As soon as we were clear, we hit the duty free shop, buying the kids some smellies as prezzies and then grabbed a drink from Starbucks. Unfortunately there was no free wifi within the departure lounge so for the next few hours or so we were without Internet. As we had arrived a few hours before the flight we had wait until 8.30pm before boarding.

The flight boarded quickly and we took off shortly before 9.30 local time or 5.30 UK time and were immediately served dinner and drinks. The flight was a bit turbulent; in fact it was probably the bumpiest time I had in a plane and whilst I was OK with it Tina was in tears. After an hour or so it subsided although there were a few more rough areas during the rest of the flight.

As is normal on these type of planes, I find it very difficult to sleep and only managed to grab a few minutes during the nine hours we were airborne. Towards the end of the flight, we were served breakfast although I skipped it as it was not gluten-free.
After circling Heathrow for 15 minutes we finally touched down around 3.15pm about half an hour earlier than scheduled. We queued for Border Control before collecting our cases and going through customs. We then found the transfer bus to our car and soon were on our way around the M25 and M1. At Junction 14, we swapped drivers and Tina drove the remainder of the journey home.