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Jonesy Jones

Drones. Which one?

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We don’t talk about drones much here…. 

I am extremely interested in buying a drone in the very near future. My needs are, a short doc that I am currently in production on, stock footage beginning in the next few months, and MAYBE a feature doc in the next year. 4K seems pretty necessary for the stock footage, not so much the short doc. But I would want 4K for the feature doc if that happened. So which drone?

The two models that I have been considering are the X5R + Inspire, or a Matrice whatever. The Matrice has the benefit of using the camera of your choice (within specs) but has the downside of it being large and comparatively time consuming to set up and get going. The Inspire can fly through amazingly tight quarters, is quick to set up and easy to transport, but obviously you’re pretty committed to the camera (X5R), though with future DJI releases this could potentially be upgraded too. 

I am definitely leaning toward the Inspire/X5R combo. 

For all the reasons I’ve listed, plus, the image is pretty amazing. It’s not as filmic as say a Blackmagic, but with nearly 13 DR and full 4k raw there’s a lot to work with. From what I’ve seen, I would have few problems matching it fairly closely with nearly any image produced by a camera under $10-$15K, and maybe even some of those. Interchangeable lenses is awesome. I love that I can combine the X5R with an Osmo and have sweet little gimbal as well. Battery life on these things are not great. I’d buy a few extras. 

Am I missing anything? 

Is there another manufacturer I should be looking at instead?

Is the Matrice the better option for a reason I’m not considering?

This is not a cheap investment, so again, what am I not considering?

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

Unless you're flying an Alexa Mini and need that last bit of highlight detail (like in the Revenant or something) I think you'd be foolish not to go with the X5R. The smaller platform is more stable. Lots of price/performance there, too–I expect the image to be competitive with anything up to and included the Dragon–but with less flexibility in terms of lens changes. But if you need to buy a new A camera, too, and are already getting a Ronin MX for it, then maybe it becomes less obvious a choice.

Also, the Osmo and Z axis would be amazing.

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3 hours ago, Jonesy Jones said:

We don’t talk about drones much here…. 

I am extremely interested in buying a drone in the very near future. My needs are, a short doc that I am currently in production on, stock footage beginning in the next few months, and MAYBE a feature doc in the next year. 4K seems pretty necessary for the stock footage, not so much the short doc. But I would want 4K for the feature doc if that happened. So which drone?

The 4K aspect is a good idea. While the importance of 4K is often over-stated, for aerial footage it makes a big difference. This might be due to the detailed nature of foliage and the wide-angle nature of the shots.  Or maybe the lower-end 1080p drones just weren't delivering nearly that, making "4K" look disproportionately better (even when downscaled to 1080p).

Even flying a lower-end drone like a DJI Phantom safely and effectively (from a cinematographic standpoint) requires a considerable amount of skill. All the time you take studying that, practicing, maintaining it, etc, is subtracted from your other pre-production time. For intermittent or infrequent needs I would tend to suggest just hiring one. If you want to develop a more self-sufficient capability, be prepared for the investment in study and time. Without considerable experience it is easy to crash an expensive drone.

Also inquire locally about what your regulatory, registration and enforcement situation is. There are a lot of issues about "geofencing",  temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), etc.

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Start small... These things are tricky beasts and 1 lapse of concentration can see you in trouble.... The DJI stuff is clever, but you still need to take alot of care and attention.

Get a 2nd hand phantom or something and really learn the thing, then see if you feel comfortable with a bigger rig.

I know from experience moving too quickly onto a more powerful copter and getting in what is known as the toilet bowl... 1 droidworx drone and a bmpcc smashed  to pieces on only our 3rd flight!

Once you feel comfortable though... The inspire is a nice copter... Really nice... Not sure I would want an X5R on 4 blade copter though... With 6 blades,.you have a far better chance of landing if one goes wrong.

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1 hour ago, Jimmy said:

Start small... These things are tricky beasts and 1 lapse of concentration can see you in trouble.... The DJI stuff is clever, but you still need to take alot of care and attention.

Get a 2nd hand phantom or something and really learn the thing, then see if you feel comfortable with a bigger rig.

I know from experience moving too quickly onto a more powerful copter and getting in what is known as the toilet bowl... 1 droidworx drone and a bmpcc smashed  to pieces on only our 3rd flight!

Haha, this is so true. DJI stuff is smart, so it can lull you into a false sense of security, and make you think you're a better pilot than you really are. They do take some time and practice, but the stuff you can get out of them is pretty great, considering the price.

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Why buy a drone at all?...unless you personally want to specialise in that , I'd side with hiring in a qualified and experienced pilot is often much more cost effective for many projects. Hiring an experienced person with top of the line gear is always going to give far better results, plus they'll have liability insurance, safety training and any relevant flying permits/ licence.

any chump can buy a drone these days and get exactly the same results as everyone else - like most things, if you want special results from a piece of equiptment, you get a specialist to operate it for you....or make the decision yourself to focus just on drone piloting and spend a lot of time and money on it as your business. I'm a big believer in maintaining the 'craft' of things...realising that there are reasons why people specialise in such things.

The same thing has happened with gimbals - people buy or rent those over an experienced steadicam op who actually know how to make a shot work technically as well as creatively. Now with all these cheaper options to hand, it seems like a race to the bottom, when it comes to quality cinematic movement of a camera. 

saying that, the Inspire is a good all-round drone if you were to take the jump for your own video projects.

 

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I'd love to get shots like this on the easy with a DJI:

Still love this one too, that's from the time people would still shoot with GoPros...

It's really been made accessible for the consumer and prosumer. One of Casey Neistat's signature things to do in his 'episodes' is including aerial video shot with a DJI Phantom... a lot of the times whilst riding a board or bike, although I'm not sure how he hasn't gotten into trouble with the authorities yet... then again, I'm no expert at NY or US legislation and tolerances.

Anyways. I used to screw around with cheap Chinese toy quadcopters and lightweight spycams, just to end up with pretty crappy vomit-o-vision video... and look what you can manage to pull of now in 2016... unfortunately, the risen popularity of aerial multirotor platforms has caused the grey areas of the law to be properly defined and restrictive. So, for me it's pretty much a no-go, unless I want to make a business out of it, which would be kinda fun perhaps, but I don't think so. Something like a CineStar looks pretty cool, but you know, that's more of a big production team effort...

or their new baby...

 

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It's all fun and games until you use on a paid gig and an accident happens. I recently hired a pilot and I was camera operator on the drone...he was flying fully CAA qualified, 10 years experience, flew cameras on the latest Bond film, and had £5million liability insurance in case the worst happened. All for the cost of what would buy him a battery or two. It's personal taste and judgement I know, but I'd not be suckered into thinking that  just because it's now affordable to put a camera in the air that it will instantly give production value - it doesn't, it requires practice and skill to not look like every other aerial video these days IMHO.

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Thanks to everyone for posting. I am still leaning toward the X5R Inspire kit. You've definitely talked me out of the big heavy lift ones. And even though there is a lot of sense in starting with the little ones, I don't think the Inspire is really that big, just more expensive, which is a big deal. But if I take it easy and start simple, I'm sure I can get it down. Anything less is just not usable for me quality wise. And there is a ton that can be done with this camera. Haven't decided to pull the trigger, but collecting info/numbers to present to my wife. Wish me luck. :)

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1 hour ago, Jonesy Jones said:

Thanks to everyone for posting. I am still leaning toward the X5R Inspire kit. You've definitely talked me out of the big heavy lift ones. And even though there is a lot of sense in starting with the little ones, I don't think the Inspire is really that big, just more expensive, which is a big deal. But if I take it easy and start simple, I'm sure I can get it down. 

That is a good but fairly expensive package. If you have no experience flying a drone I strongly suggest you get a DJI Phantom 3 Standard or 4K to practice with. those are $500-$650. Don't practice from a dead start with the X5R.

My documentary team has an FAA licenced rotorcraft pilot to fly our fleet of three Phantom 3 Pros, although we may upgrade to the Inspire/X5R. It is not legally required but he's a helicopter pilot and has lots of drone experience. He is constantly reading, studying and practicing to optimize our chances when we get on site. He has a large tacklebox of repair parts and tools. Despite that experience, he has crashed several drones on various shooting sites. Most of those were not disastrous but several of them could have been. 

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2 hours ago, Jimmy said:

Try and check it out before you buy... it is a big, somewhat dangerous bit of kit. It's a bit like seeing a Red epic in pictures, then seeing and holding one in person.

Oh ye of little faith... :)

A lot of what you guys say makes sense. Ok. Maybe I'll get the Phantom, and the X5R and Osmo, since that's what I need right at the moment. Practice with the Phantom. Then buy the Inspire a bit later when I actually need it.

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Hey Guys. I've been building and flying drone for years now, long before it became mainstream. Here is what I would consider:

- Before buying a 4-5K inspire, get a a dirt cheap used Phantom 3 Standard (the cheap version) for $300-400 and play with it a lot. The control and handling are similar to the Inspire but this is the one you want to experiment and crash (because you will crash at the beginning). I would even start with a $35 Hubsan X4 to get familiar with the controls.

- There are a lot of brand but the ready to fly package are DJI, Yuneec and 3DR. unfortunately the inspire with X5 is the only one that can provide enough IQ for real pro work.

- Matrice 600 Vs Inspire X5R ? Beside the big size difference, the main aspect is redundancy. There is no room for failure on the Inspire. If one ESC/Motor/Prop/battery/flight controller IMU or compass fails, the whole drone is going down.
The new Matrice 600 offers in its Pro version a new A3 flight controller with 3 GPS antenna and 3 IMU in order to prevent failure (like in modern airliners, the 3 sensors check against each other and the computer eliminate the one unit that would give false reading)

The Matrice can also handle the loss of and ESC/Motor or prop and land safely, albeit with limited control. A quadcopter will spin an free fall in this case. There are solutions though with safety parachute and automatic deployment systems such as MARS and NorthUAV mayday board.

Last the Matrice 600 has a multi battery system that can handle the loss of power on one battery. This multi battery systems also offers the advantage of not having to carry large battery like other drone in this class. Large batteries are a problem because they are legally impossible to carry on board aircraft (check IATA policy).

- As for flying, all these machine offer dumb proof assisted flight mode (GPS, ATTI, Return to home). No need to be an helicopter pilot. Any kid can fly a drone these days. Just a matter of practice.

Feel free if you have other questions.

 

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I would also recommend to buy the cheapest Phantom you find and practice practice practice. Once you are good at flying the cheap Phantom, you can decide better what to buy. The Inspire is great, but it's not a first drone buy, imho. Your first crash with it you loose 5K$. Crash a cheaper drone first! ;-D

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I started with X4 for practice, then Phantom 2, then to Inspire 1

 

Still inspire 1 got crashed twice, repair bill is like $3000 (one for repair and the other one is for replacing the whole body).  One of the inspire 1 crash is caused by mid air collision by a bird. The inspire 1 was set static in the air while I was changing settings, then all of sudden the screen goes mad, when I look up I see inspire 1 and a bird (albatross? not sure what it is) were falling down, but the bird managed to regain control and fly away, the inspire 1 did not.

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