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Photography Techniques and Equipment This forum is for the discussion of technical details of how to take good pictures as well as discuss the equipment used in that pursuit.

Xiaomi Mi 4K drone
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Old 12-15-2017, 11:59 AM   #11
Rich Z
Originally Posted by jet_set_willy View Post
You can't beat a drone for the perspective it brings you.

Like you I waited for prices to fall and was fortunate to come across the 3d robotics solo which went in fire sales for cheap. a $2000 drone for $180 I ended up with 2 so can keep one as a spare.
I fixed those links for you to your videos. The syntax for using the YouTube tag pair is:

[youtube]YouTube video code ONLY![/youtube]

The videos you took look awesome! Wish I had areas that photogenic around here. And honestly it's probably going to take a while before I develop the nerve to fly my drone over the water. The fact that the ability for US to be able to take videos of that nature and quality now just really excites me.

I've been watching 3DR ever since they started producing consumer level drones, and I likely would have bought one had they not always seemed to be just shy of what I wanted. For instance, they refused to over 3D gimbals on their drones and only offered 2D for the longest time. As most people discovered, 2D just doesn't cut the mustard on a flying platform for video.

Not sure what is going on with 3DR now, but my guess is that they are abandoning the consumer market and only targeting professionals and professional applications. I guess they got tired of people crashing their drone and wanting a replacement even though it likely crashing because of operator error.

But what is becoming more and more evident to me is that 4K 30fps is just fine for ground based video, or from flying platforms that are remaining in a stable position with only modest movement in the subject matter. For anything akin to actually flying while video taping, 30 fps just can't process the data stream properly for smooth video. At least to my eyes. Seems that when the processor can't process the data fast enough, it just fills in the blanks with a close approximation which turns out leaving the resultant video "fuzzy" looking in areas. This is especially true in high detail areas like grass and foliage.

I'm guessing my Xiaomi Mi drone will be obsoleted by a 4K 60fps version in a year or less. Xiaomi seems to want to go toe to toe with DJI, and they need to make that step. If they were to come out with something like DJI's Mavic Pro but with 4K 60fps, it would be a killer product, I think. I just hope they don't make the body a dark color. Something of that color will just be a whole lot harder to find if it drops into the underbrush somewhere and you have to run off to try to find it.
Old 12-15-2017, 02:01 PM   #12
Thanks for fixing the links

Yeah 3dr target the site survey pro's now.

I would be more worried about losing my gopro than the drone lol but even that I got from ebay so my outlay wasn't that great.

I also upgraded the gps board which gives me confidence to fly over water and far into the distance.

The worst aspect of the 3dr is the size which is quite cumbersome even in its backpack.
Would like a DJI Mavic Pro for its compactness but much to expensive for the casual fun use that I want it for.

Technology is moving at such a pace though that it won't be too long before it trickles down into my price bracket.

For now I'll just practice while having fun
Old 12-16-2017, 01:46 AM   #13
Rich Z
I took the drone out for a flight again today...

Unfortunately I lost the last third of the video because I forgot to stop the recording before shutting down the battery on the drone. I knew I had screwed up just as soon as the battery beeped. Oh well. And it was such a perfect landing too. That "Return To Home" function works really well. What happens is that when you shut off the power before closing down the video, the file becomes corrupted because something isn't written to the file by the camera that needs to be in an orderly shutdown of the video. I've done this before with the little drones I played with, but seems that there is a lot going on to occupy my mind doing this stuff, and the old gray matter just ain't what it used to be.

I only used one battery as I just wanted to test a few things out this trip. I imagine that flying around above my property like this is going to get old soon enough, so no sense pushing it.

At first I took it up to 125 feet, but for some reason the tree tops just looked awfully close to me. So I wound up bumping it up to 250 feet which put a lot more air between the drone and the treetops. I really need to check to see what I have the Return to Home altitude set to. I really don't want that to be below the tallest trees it might encounter if it decides to head on back because of a connection failure. I've watched several YouTube videos of crashes that it seemed obvious that this is what happened to them.

I took a look at the roof of the house and can see quite a bit of rust on that sheet metal roof. So much for the contractor telling us that it would be good for 75 years. I think they used some of the pieces that were "seconds", as that seems to be a common practice around here with contractors and subcontractors. I notice the several better looking pieces were ones that they had replaced soon after putting on the roof. I had commented to them that it looked odd having them so different looking from the rest of the roof, but the contractor told me that it would all look the same after a year or two. Well here we are 26 years later..... Liar. Might have to see if we can find someone who can paint the roof with a "paint over rust" paint and sealer someday, I guess. That's not a job I want to do myself. That roof is pretty steep, and I'm sure falling off of it would really ruin my day

Did a little cruise over our property, heading mostly north towards the stream, but didn't go to the edges. It seems the GPS signal indicating the location of the drone on my smart phone wasn't showing up once it got further away from me, so I'm guessing the trees are blocking some of the signals. The view I could see from the camera was holding up OK, though, so it's not like I was flying blind. It was difficult to keep an eye on the drone through the trees sometimes. The drone SHOULD kick into the "Return to home" function automatically if it loses signal completely.

I tried recording this at 2560x1440 60fps, and the raw video looks pretty good. But when I went to process it with my video editing programs, NONE of them wanted to work with that resolution. So I wound up upscaling it to 4K 60fps and that seemed to work OK. I'll have to play around with various combinations of resolution and frame rate, and rendering options, to see what seems to work best.

I actually landed the drone while still having 50 percent charge on the battery. But looking up into the sky for long stretches is really hard on my neck.

Later on today I played around with the various exposure settings on the camera while having it sitting on a table pointed to an old camera color test strip card I have laying around in a bunch of old camera equipment. From looking at the results, I think I can improve on the video quite a bit with some tweaks I will implement next time I take it out.

It was kind of windy above the tree tops today, but the drone didn't seem to mind too much. I could hear the motors changing pitch as it fought against the wind, but I couldn't see any sign of that in the videos. That 3 axis gimbal seems to do a pretty good job keeping the camera steady, I guess.
Old 12-16-2017, 01:56 PM   #14
What a fantastic place to live
Old 12-16-2017, 08:10 PM   #15
Rich Z
I was able to fly the drone quite a bit today, and spent some time playing around with the settings for the camera. Honestly, my first test didn't turn out so hot with the video results, as I believe I had the contrast and saturation way too high. I didn't have them at max, but apparently it was still too much. Also set the white balance for the "Sunny" setting, and not sure if the combination was the issue or not, but I could actually see the colors changing on the treetops. It was NOT a good looking effect. And the shadows were just too dark, and the light areas just too bright. So back to the drawing board.

For the next launch I cut both the saturation and the contrast settings in half, and reverted the white balance setting back to the default option. Color seemed MUCH better this time, and I didn't have that odd color shifting. So I think perhaps the white balance setting might be important for a stable image, but perhaps more testing will enlighten me.

I got up to around 340 ft, and was about 800 feet away this time, I flew out to the north and south edges of my property. I'll tell you, at that height and distance, if you take your eyes off of the drone for even an instant, it is VERY VERY difficult to find it again, visually. I was actually surprised at how disorienting it is looking at my property like this from an elevated platform. I thought that if the drone ever lost power and just dropped to the ground, I would be able to locate it fairly easily just by noting where it dropped. But man, I dunno. All the trees look alike when seen from above. Might be a good idea to paint the thing fluorescent orange or bright blue to help in finding the thing if need be.

I did lose the video feed once, but it came back a little later on. I still had the GPS locator signal, so at least I knew where it was supposed to be and what direction it was pointing. I flicked it into Return to Home mode and it headed right on back to me, so at least I still had control over it. But definitely a tense moment. I'm looking for an antenna signal booster right now, as evidently the trees are blocking the signals somewhat. I really can't see me ever wanting to fly any drone that doesn't have a "Return To Home" feature. Having that working for you will make ALL the difference between getting your drone back and it just flying off, never to be seen again.

And I got another corrupted video file too. Again, the last file in the series when I was coming in for a landing during the first time out today. I KNOW I turned off the video that time, so not sure what is going on. The second time out, just as a precaution, I stopped the video right after touchdown, and then started it back up again, just in case the LAST video in a series was getting corrupted somehow. But in this case, ALL of the videos were clean when I took a look at them, and none were corrupted. So, beats me.

I'm not sure which is more boring, looking at someone flying a drone over an open field, or looking at a video of just tree tops. So I doubt you all are going to want to watch basically the same old thing every time I take the drone up for a flight. I may render some of them here and there, but unless there is something noteworthy to look out, I don't see much reason to post all of them up on YouTube.

Oh yeah, I actually used the drone for something I originally thought one might be a good tool for. I used it to inspect the rain spouts on the garage to see if the down spouts are clogged up with pine needles and leaves. Maybe I will render that one later tonight, just to show you all how that worked out. But the short answer is, YES, I need to clean them out. Hopefully tomorrow, as the forecast is calling for rain most of next week. If we get a REAL heavy rain, somehow the installers put those rain spout gutters up in such a way that if they do not drain fast enough, the water will back up in them till water actually starts leaking into the INSIDE wall of the garage. I may have to drill some drain holes at that "leak" level in the gutter sides. I guess that kind of defeats the purpose of those rain gutters being there, but oh well. Much better than having water leaking into the garage. Maybe I need to look into a product that keep the gutters from filling up with crap in the first place. If the pine needles and leaves were dry enough, I think the downdraft of the drone's propellers would probably just blow the junk out of the gutters anyway. That thing does move some air!
Old 12-17-2017, 08:28 AM   #16
I've been kind of looking at drones, but I can't decide. I wanted a smaller one that would be easy to take hiking. Like the DJI Spark. Yours is less expensive, though, with a much longer flight time.
Old 12-17-2017, 12:34 PM   #17
Rich Z
Yeah, I'm hoping that Xiaomi comes out with a DJI Mavic look-a-like. The Mavic is what got my interest back up in drones because of the portable nature of it. There are several manufacturers now coming out with a similar looking drone, but a lot of them seem to still be vaporware proposals to generate funding.

If I were to buy a more expensive drone, I will have to insist in 4K 60fps. For really quality video, I believe this is a necessity. And it has to be NATIVE too, not simply upscaled in the drone's processor. If I want upscaling, I can do that in post processing and not spend the extra money on bogus marketing claims they use for check marks on a capability list.
Old 12-22-2017, 01:27 AM   #18
Rich Z
I did an inspection of the rain gutters and downspouts on the roof of the garage the other day, figuring this would be a nice PRACTICAL use of a drone. Ordinarily I need to drag out the 12 ft. ladder just to take a peek, so I tend to put if off longer than I should. So maybe now it will be something I do more often rather than waiting for heavy rains to cause the water to back up and leak into the inside of the garage as has happened a few times.

Seemed to work out OK, but I can see where a larger display screen than my smart phone would be a lot handier for something like this. I really couldn't see a lot of detail till I downloaded the video onto my PC and then took a look at it on the big screen. I could generally see what I was looking at, but determining just how packed the pine needles and leaves were there, well, not so much.

It was actually tougher than I would have expected to control the drone that close to the roof of the garage. I think the downdraft from the propellers was playing hell with the positioning, not only because the drone was mostly half over the roof and half not, but with the roof being sloped, that was probably causing some unusual wind patterns that the drone was having to deal with. Luckily it wasn't enough to unbalance the drone, so no mishaps, and it worked rather well, I think.

And yeah, it looked like I needed to clean out around the downspout areas, and with rain having been in the forecast 2 days later, I did that chore the next day. Being up on top of that 12 ft. ladder is not my favorite thing to do. though. The ground just looks so far away up there, and I'm sure my falling off of the ladder would make for a pretty bad day.

Of course, after the "work" part of this flight, I goofed off and did a flight over a small area of our property. Hope you like seeing the tops of tree tops.... :hehehe:

Yeah, I know watching something like this is just about as boring as watching grass grow, but heck, this fascinates the hell out of me just being able to take video like this. But doing it seems to be a whole lot more interesting that actually watching it. It's all I can do to stay awake through the entire clip.... zzzzzz

Oh, this was taken in 2560x1440 60fps and then upscaled to 4K 60fps using Vegas Pro 15. I think the upscaling is introducing a bit of graininess, so I might have to try just uploading in the native resolution to see if that is any better.
Old 12-23-2017, 05:21 PM   #19
Rich Z
I am glad that people are having the courage to post their videos of their crashing their drones. I think I'm learning a lot by watching their mistakes and trying to figure out what they did wrong. There appear to be several causes:
  1. Being distracted by someone else nearby
  2. Flying via FPV in a direction other than where the camera is pointing
  3. Misjudging how far the drone is from some obstruction or it not being visible at a distance when flying via line of sight
  4. A hardware or software failure in the drone or controller

From what I have seen in the available videos, the first three are much more common than #4. And since people might be a whole lot less likely to post videos showing their mistakes than they would of actual failures of the drone/controller, I suspect that "pilot error" is the cause of a vast number of crashes.

Before doing this latest flight yesterday, I recalibrated the gimbal and the compass, and had to do a firmware update too, so I was running slim on battery life for the flight afterwards. These firmware updates are mandatory, evidently, and you just cannot fly the drone until the update has completely successfuly.

The gimbal seemed more level than before, and I didn't get any of the compass errors I seemed to get every flight. The horizon still goes skewed sometimes, but it seems to correct itself eventually.

I also mounted a modified antenna booster too, just to see if that would help. But I didn't send the drone out far enough to really test it any. I will sometimes get video distortion on the display of the cell phone, so I want to see if the antenna booster will help with that.

As mentioned above about "pilot error" I almost made a mistake when Connie was out there with me. Not paying close attention and when I was bringing the drone back down, it had drifted away from the garage more than I had realized. When I noticed the drift, I got disoriented when I tried to move it away from the tree, not immediately realizing what direction the drone was pointing, but luckily caught it in time. When the drone is pointing towards you, all of the lateral movement is the reverse of what you think it should do. I wasn't as close to the tree as it appeared in the video, but close enough. Not a good idea getting distracted when flying these things, I suppose.

Anyway tried a little manual "follow her" when Connie walked down the driveway to fetch the trash cans.

I'm still very impressed with how stable this flying video platform is.
Old 12-23-2017, 11:48 PM   #20
When I was flying radio controlled planes and gliders they could be flown as high as big dots in the air. Indeed, one of the local airports filed a complaint that we were flying too high. What has happened to the range we used to enjoy? When I read about certain drones the specifications state effective range of 30 meters for the cheaper ones and some up to 50 meters or more. That isn't one heck of a lot of range. If you need to keep the drone in close proximity to the transmitter it kind of limits what you can do, and where you can fly.

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