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Posted by on Mar 5, 2013 in Blog, Video

Ghosts in the Mist

Winter is…going

…but it hasn’t gone yet, and this morning I awoke to the ethereal light of trees shrouded in thick fog. Flying in fog is usually a massive waste of time – everything has no contrast, there’s not much to see – not much you can see, the sun is usually entirely obscured by cloud, and there really has to be some pretty special scenery around to make this sort of thing worthwhile.

This morning, however, the intense Winter sun and a cloudless sky (obviously not counting the fog) was making all the difference and I got out there just as the mist began to lift. And I wanted to get my GoPro 3 in the air again as soon as was humanly possible…

There' not much in life I enjoy more than spooky trees in fog.

There’s not much in life I enjoy more than spooky trees in fog.

Testing Times

It’s always testing time in one way or another, but today’s flight is mainly about the video test rather than choice location. That location is my back yard, and I have permission from the owner (my landlord) to fly here.

Today I am testing 2.7K video / 30 FPS / Wide FOV, and also Sony Vegas Movie Studio 12 as it down-samples it to 1080, being unable as it is, to output at full resolution (Annoying, but I can’t afford Vegas Pro at the moment).

There are numerous factors working against us:

  • Unbalanced motor – one of my Tiger motors was knocked slightly off balance in a recent crash, and although it performs and flies perfectly (and rotates freely enough that it doesn’t warrant ceasing of flights until its replacement arrives) I am fairly sure it is mostly responsible for the micro-blurring and lack of sharpness in the final vid.
  • The Fog – this never helps visibility, or clarity, but that’s fine – I need to test under difficult conditions too.
  • The Sun – was really blown out through the fog (as you can see at the top most of the way through the vid) which made it more diffuse and more of it extra-bright, something the GoPro series doesn’t cope with very well, the GoPro 3 being no exception. Having said that I’d much rather fly with the sun than without it !
  • Sony VMS 12‘s down-sampling is an unknown quantity – there will need to be many tests to find the optimum I/O settings, compression rates and codec choice. Today, I output to 1080p, XDCAM EX 35 Mb/Sec (Variable Bit Rate).

Just because…

…we’re testing doesn’t mean there can’t be nice things to look at. This was the first of four 5-6 minute flights, and unusually for me (probably because its only a test), we have a whole unedited flight, mainly because I really liked the result, and was pleased to see that my efforts in the smooth camera-move department were helping things along nicely. It’s so nice (and so rare) when there’s no wind.

In fact my pursuit of quality cinematography was fairly consistent on all today’s flights, and I plan to do a proper multi-flight video too, as there some great shots later when the mist lifts a bit more.

Not often I can get in or above the clouds. Today they helpfully came to me.

Not often I can get in or above the clouds. Today they helpfully came to me.

Any good then ?

Well it’s too early to tell, and as listed above, the flying situation is not ideal, so it is far too early to come to any firm conclusions. There must be 2.7K flights in all sorts of weather, and much experimentation to be done with settings before I can decide if it’s a passable result.

Considering all that, I am quite pleased with how this turned out…

Special Mentions

I am the first to whinge when it doesn’t work, but my god, when it does… Google de-shake has performed bloody majestically here, removing nearly all signs of an unbalanced craft, and making a video that was ‘slightly smooth’ originally, ‘ultra-slinky-smooth’ now. I think it’s mainly down to luck that this vid doesn’t feature many of the sort of shots that de-shake traditionally ruins, but even so – at the admitted expense of some clarity, I’d say it was well worth it in this case.

Sonic Spectres

Today’s gloriously atmospheric / eerie music is once again from my favourite soundtrack of all-time, ‘The Killing Room’ by Bryan Tyler. It’s the particularly brilliant last track ‘End’. Definitely buy the album like I did – not enough people know about him.

The cold Winter sun, which, to be fair, did heat up a bit later.

The cold Winter sun, which, to be fair, did heat up a bit later.