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Aerial imaging using small, unmanned aircraft systems. Also, I work at DJI.

Last week, I met up with Norman Chan, Will Smith and Adam Savage to do a Tested.com podcast episode about my time flying DJI Global Phantoms at the Holuhraun eruption (Bardarbunga Volcano - Bárðarbunga Volcano) for the first “DJI Feat.” It was the first time I was able to tell the whole story. Thanks to the guys at Tested.com for having me, and for spending so much time chatting about the project!

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A short aerial film showing the beauty of Cape Town and its surrounding area, including Lion’s Head, Table Mountain, Cape Point, Hout Bay, Simon’s Town, and Seal Island. Footage includes great white sharks from above at Seal Island, an aggregation of spotted gully sharks / sharptooth houndshark (Triakis megalopterus) in the surf near Cape Point in Table Mountain National Park, and a sea lion surfing in the waves.

I shot this footage back in August, but only did the edit today; if you are interested in what I was doing with aerial imaging in South Africa, you can see all of the posts from that timeframe here.

Shot with DJI Phantom 2 / Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal / GoPro HERO 3+ Black. All footage was captured in ProTune at 2.7/30p or 1080/60p and run through GoPro Studio for GoPro Color conversion and perspective correction, and then edited in Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2014 with minor grading in Magic Bullet Looks.

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Are you interested in how we captured some of the aerial driving b-roll during the Iceland trip? We didn’t end up using much of it in the video, but it was fun to capture, anyway (video is below).

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Flying a DJI Phantom 2 at Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland. About 10 days ago, I had the great fortune of spending a day close to the Holuhraun eruption at the Bardarbunga volcanic system in Iceland. The eruption sits right up top of the largest glacier in Iceland, and has been spewing out lava in large quantities for well over a month. I went on a press pass with Ragnar Th Sigurðsson, once of Iceland’s best photographers, and we brought Phantoms and a small camera crew so we would capture the process in getting wide-angle aerial footage really close to the exploding magma lake.

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This Instagram post by skyhighmedia explains how to use the DJI Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal with the new GoPro 4.

To balance it in your H3-3D you will need to attach a penny to the tilt motor. You will also need to grind down a little of the frame to avoid contacting the settings button on the side. 

Here is the GoPro HERO 4 announcement video, which is absolutely stunning. Watch it in 4K, if you have a 4K monitor.

Philip Bloom also put up a short aerial video shot with a GoPro 4 and Phantom 2:

Initials shots with GoPro 4 in 4K with DJI Phantom 2 with Lightbridge from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.
This Instagram post by skyhighmedia explains how to use the DJI Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal with the new GoPro 4.

To balance it in your H3-3D you will need to attach a penny to the tilt motor. You will also need to grind down a little of the frame to avoid contacting the settings button on the side. 

Here is the GoPro HERO 4 announcement video, which is absolutely stunning. Watch it in 4K, if you have a 4K monitor.

Philip Bloom also put up a short aerial video shot with a GoPro 4 and Phantom 2:

Initials shots with GoPro 4 in 4K with DJI Phantom 2 with Lightbridge from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

This Instagram post by skyhighmedia explains how to use the DJI Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal with the new GoPro 4.

To balance it in your H3-3D you will need to attach a penny to the tilt motor. You will also need to grind down a little of the frame to avoid contacting the settings button on the side. 

Here is the GoPro HERO 4 announcement video, which is absolutely stunning. Watch it in 4K, if you have a 4K monitor.

Philip Bloom also put up a short aerial video shot with a GoPro 4 and Phantom 2:

Initials shots with GoPro 4 in 4K with DJI Phantom 2 with Lightbridge from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

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I went to see the Holuhraun eruption in the Bardarbunga volcanic system in Iceland. I brought Phantoms, and it was awesome.
I went to see the Holuhraun eruption in the Bardarbunga volcanic system in Iceland. I brought Phantoms, and it was awesome.

I went to see the Holuhraun eruption in the Bardarbunga volcanic system in Iceland. I brought Phantoms, and it was awesome.

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My photo travel gear is featured over at Shotkit! The feature includes all of the photography gear I took with me on a recent trip to Cape Town to do both aerial and underwater imaging. Check it out, here: http://shotkit.com/eric-cheng
My photo travel gear is featured over at Shotkit! The feature includes all of the photography gear I took with me on a recent trip to Cape Town to do both aerial and underwater imaging. Check it out, here: http://shotkit.com/eric-cheng

My photo travel gear is featured over at Shotkit! The feature includes all of the photography gear I took with me on a recent trip to Cape Town to do both aerial and underwater imaging. Check it out, here: http://shotkit.com/eric-cheng

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I get asked a lot how I mount my FPV monitors to my radios. My favorite mount for the Phantom radio is the 3D-printed Rave Aerial Video mount, which snaps into place using the radio’s antenna and rear metal handle. It locks in solidly, and is perfect for the Black Pearl 5.8Ghz Diversity Receiver / Monitor, which is my standard receiver / monitor when I’m flying around using my Boscam TS-353 FPV video transmitter.

When I was at Burning Man last week, I used a Lightbridge setup on my Phantom 2, and elected to use a Lilliput 7” 664/o/p monitor, instead. Rave Aerial Video says they have a version that works with the Lilliput 668, but I’m not sure if it works with the 664 (but I don’t have it). I used the Tarot video mount, instead, and it was absolutely terrible. After a day or two, everything was loose, and I had to literally tape the monitor to my radio, which wasn’t ideal.

I think I’m going to go with Sam Chen's mounting approach for Lilliput and heavier displays. Sam opened up his radio, drilled a hole, and mounted a mini ball head with a quick-release plate (use a large washer on the inner side so the ball head is secured by a lot of plastic).

For quick release, I’ll likely use a Mini Clamp DAC-25, which is a tiny, inexpensive, and Arca-Swiss compatible (I use RSS for everything), and a SUNWAYFOTO 26mm QR Plate, which has 3 holes for maximum positioning versatility. If you aren’t standardized around Arca-Swiss or RRS, any ol’ cheap quick-release product is probably fine.

If you’re wondering what timer Sam has mounted to his radio in the photo above, it’s the Presto 04213.

Finally, with all that weight on top of your radio, you will likely want to shift your neck strap mounting location further up. I use these cheap balancers from eBay. Even attaching your strap to the third hole won’t be enough to fully balance your radio, but it will help.

This article has generated some good discussion over at the Quadcopters group on Facebook.

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Aerial footage of Burning Man 2014. Shot with DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter, Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal, GoPro HERO 3+ Black, with DJI Lightbridge and Lilliput monitor as FPV and livestreaming solution. Some of this footage was streamed live to Burning Man’s Ustream live webcast during the event.

If you’re interested in what it was like to fly drones at Burning Man, check out the last post.

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