Monday, June 30, 2014

"The Bravest, The Boldest" Wins Audience Award at 2014 Nantucket Film Festival

© Pactum Films

Congrats to director Moon Molson, and the rest of the #TBTB team for winning the Audience Award for best short film at the 2014 Nantucket Film Festival.

Read the Hollywood Reporter article HERE.

Follow the #TBTB Facebook page HERE.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

FAA Restates Its Position On Hobby Drone Pilots

Yesterday, the FAA gave a big help to the R/C community, and drone pilots across the country, by reaffirming its position on hobby aircraft.  They're operating with some transparency in hopes of easing the confusion by many newer pilots.  If you're an FPV pilot, you need to pay attention.

Some quick bullet points (from FAA doc):

• These operating standards included restricting operations over populated areas, limiting use of the devices around spectators until after the devices had been flight tested and proven airworthy; restricting operations to 400 feet above the surface; requiring that the devices give right of way to, and avoid flying near manned aircraft, and using observers to assist in operations.

• With respect to UAS used as model aircraft, the FAA reiterated the operating guidelines in AC 91-57, and further noted that to qualify as a model aircraft, the aircraft would need to be operated purely for recreational or hobby purposes, and within the visual line of sight of the operator. The policy statement also clarified that AC 91-57 applied only to modelers and “specifically excludes its use by persons or companies for business purposes.”

• Under the terms of the Act, a model aircraft is defined as “an unmanned aircraft” that is “(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere; (2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and (3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.”

Here's the biggie, and the part that bans FPV goggles for hobby pilots:

• By definition, a model aircraft must be “flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft.” P.L. 112-95, section 336(c)(2).1 Based on the plain language of the statute, the FAA interprets this requirement to mean that: (1) the aircraft must be visible at all times to the operator; (2) that the operator must use his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the aircraft; and (3) people other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator for maintaining visual line of sight. Under the criteria above, visual line of sight would mean that the operator has an unobstructed view of the model aircraft. To ensure that the operator has the best view of the aircraft, the statutory requirement would preclude the use of vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars, night vision goggles, powered vision magnifying devices, and goggles designed to provide a “first-person view” from the model.  Such devices would limit the operator’s field of view thereby reducing his or her ability to see-and-avoid other aircraft in the area. Additionally, some of these devices could dramatically increase the distance at which an operator could see the aircraft, rendering the statutory visual-line-of-sight requirements meaningless.

Someone asked me on my Facebook page how I was able to shoot #QUADthemovie legally.  First of all, I'm a member of the AMA, and I follow their guidelines for safety and legal issues.  Second, #QUADthemovie was, and is, a hobby project.  At the time of #QUADthemovie, I was in grief for the loss of a family member.  I intended to travel, and find beauty along the California coastline.  The quads just happened to come along, as part of my flight therapy.  With the exception of hotel bills and food for my vacation, I spent very little on the production of the film.
Rob Stenger watches Quad

Additionally, safety was my number one concern while shooting #QUADthemovie footage.  Many times I wouldn't fly a location if there were too many people wandering around.  It was difficult finding locations that didn't have people, but we increased our chances of a deserted location by filming in the early mornings.  We never flew around humans, children or animals, and were always respectful of others in our environment.  Speaking of environment, we always tried to remove trash from a location as a way of thanking the location for giving us good images.  This increased our positive karma flow.  Unfortunately, we removed a lot of trash, and it was sad to see so much human trash and litter ruining an otherwise pristine spot.  Please always leave your location better than when you arrived.

We never flew over 400' feet because it's extremely dangerous to commercial flight traffic.  This is common sense.  There's no need to fly over that height because you lose detail in your shot.  Height?  Distance?  Who cares?  I want beautiful shots!  

We always flew with an FPV monitor, and not with FPV goggles.  We were a 2-man team at all times (pilot & spotter with walkies), and frequently compared ourselves to Mav and Goose.  It is perfectly legal, logical and acceptable to reenact macho TOP GUN volleyball scenes after flying. But, that was mainly Rob, as I simply did the Rick Rossovich pose ad nauseam.
© Paramount Pictures

For more safety & video tips from our experiences shooting #QUADthemovie, check out my Top 100 Quad Tips article.

Bottom line, the FAA is trying to help the DJI Phantom 2 pilots out there with a clear set of rules on hobbyist flying.  However, with the exception of a foreign oil company that recently damaged our coastline, the FAA is STILL not allowing Americans to make taxable income in order to put food on our family.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

IKAN FLY X3 Smartphone Gimbal Review

JB Quick Review: C+ = don't buy (see below)

After a very long wait, Ikan has finally released their new smartphone gimbal called "The Fly X3" smartphone gimbal.  This is a 3-axis brushless gimbal stabilizer that will turn your iPhone (or Android) into a steadi-device for micro productions.  I wanted to love this product.  I was very excited to use it, and have been waiting many moons for a product like this.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to keep waiting. While this gimbal may be good for smaller productions, or stabilizing handheld interviews, it's not robust enough to be used (without frustration) in a professional setting.  Certainly not for the $299 price tag they lump on this paper weight.  Being the first to market is an exciting prospect for a fledgling monitor company like Ikan, but releasing a product that works out of the box is a priority to a consumer like me, over shipping speed.  You get one shot with me, otherwise I'll push my dollars elsewhere.  I'm a fan of Ikan.  I own one of their monitors that I really like, so I trusted the brand would perform.  That being said, it kinda worked.  After every 4-second calibration process, there was a slight sloping or leaning, down to the right.  I couldn't ever correctly calibrate the machine to fix this issue.  Sometimes it worked, but most of the time the Ikan Fly X3 did not perform as advertised.

I hate being so negative on a product.  But I was really wanting to love it, so it pained me to have so many issues.  The Fly X3's battery charged quickly (within and hour or so), but the two thin wires to plug in the battery are prone to destruction when I apply my ape-like hands.  Something more robust in the power cables would be an upgrade.  I liked the blue "power on" light, and it is very simple to calibrate.  The absolute best part of the gimbal is the phone holder.  It's very snug, safe and you can access your home screen.  I would consider the Ikan Fly X3 for half its current cost, but if you're looking for something more robust and reliable for professional video production, pass on this product in its current condition. I'm returning mine.

Ethics Statement: I own an Ikan 5" monitor, that I purchased in 2010.  I purchased the Ikan Fly X3 smartphone gimbal.  Ikan did not send me this product to review.  Ikan does not sponsor me in any way, nor does this site accept any sponsorships.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Hubsan X4 "Ladybird" Drone Has Arrived

In addition to some awesome X4-C quad models, I just received the Hubsan X4 "Ladybird" micro-drone ($45).  It is nearly identical to the X4-C model, except that it is slightly smaller in size, and has a smaller LiPo battery.  Hubsan also makes a larger model, the $173 X4-D.  I've been crashing them around my apartment for the last few days, so stay tuned for a full review.

My initial thoughts from the 659 crashes I've experienced so far are that these quads are a blast to fly, and are extremely durable.  However, the video is lacking, and not really useable at a pro level, but it is fun to watch your near-misses (on microSD cards).  I read these things can do flips in expert mode, so I'll try to work it into #QUADthemovie.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

World's Greatest Unboxing Video Is Here: The Hubsan X4 Micro-Drone

You wanted the best, you got the best.  The hottest unboxing video in the world.  Buckle up.  There's even a vampire at the end of the video, that might look like a creature on GAME OF THRONES or THE WALKING DEAD (previous seven words not contractual).

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Polar Pro ND Filter For The GoPro Hero 3/3+ & DJI Phantom 2

<  So the Polar Pro ND filter arrived today.  This filter uses friction to mount to your GoPro Hero 3/3+ camera on your DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter.  The Polar Pro ND filter will reduce the amount of light entering your lens, slowing down your shutter speed to prevent the dreaded "jello effect."  My first impressions were that it was a well-made piece of glass (although the fingerprint smudge from the factory is odd), and it was heavier than I expected.  I'm curious to see how the gimbal handles the filter in the long run, but it had no problems in my pre-flight tests.

< The big deal about this filter is the fact that it can fit on the GoPro camera, and still leave enough room for the mounting bar of the gimbal.  Notice the distance between the camera and the filter.  The mounting bar has no problem fitting in this area.

Gonna give this baby a whirl, and will be posting test footage soon.  My hope is that this filter will remove the "prop shadow" effect, but I'm not sure.  Colors are an issue.  Hype is an issue.

Stay tuned for more updates as I have them.