360° In Flight…

360° In Flight…

phantomSo I am heading back to Utila in October, and I have this passion project that I am working on regarding plastics and the ocean.  In a nutshell, I am planning on creating my own short film urging people to reduce, reuse or recycle, and the damages that plastics cause to our oceans, but I want to do it with a twist, I want to do it in 360° spherical video…

Yes, you heard that right, an entire short film, all shot in spherical video, by a completely untrained and amateur cinematographer.  Not a small undertaking by any stretch, and honestly one that seems to be pushing my limits on all fronts (new technology mixed with new skills, new software, and a learning curve on actually the business of making a film!).

Anyway, this post isn’t about the film, but it IS about a tool I plan to use in the film.  For several shots I really want to get aerial shots so the viewer feels like they are floating just above the action.  When 3DR released the Solo earlier this year and promised a mounting rig for a pair of Kodak SP360 4k cameras, I was hopeful that this would be the solution to my problem of a “floating 360° rig”.  Sadly, the Solo had a lot of issues, and flight reliability left me wondering after only 6 attempted flights where I was successful in only 2 of them.  Dealt with tech support for a few days and decided to return the Solo and get a DJI Phantom 3 4K instead.  Only problem is nobody had a mount for the 2 x SP360’s for the Phantom.

14095712_10154282740726839_1306379982874452426_nNot one to be deterred, I experimented a bit and managed to fabricate my own setup.  Kodak didn’t make it easy because they chose to use a similar, but incompatible system to the GoPro mounts.  On the GoPro, the mount has 3 tabs, and the camera has 2, on Kodak they reversed it.  There are some adapters out there that will mount the 2 together, but they are expensive for what they are so I decided to just cut a tab off of of a spare GoPro mount and it worked perfectly!  That took care of the camera mounted on top.

14039911_10154282740606839_5905293088460455606_nOn the bottom, it was easy!  I had a tripod camera adapter mount for the GoPro.  With only 2 tabs, it would accept the Kodak housing, and the 1/4″ screw fit perfectly in my gimbal guard, practically dead center under the quadcopter.  I plan to add a second nut to act as a jam nut and make sure the mount doesn’t vibrate loose but otherwise the camera mounting looks to be a success, so I couldn’t wait to take it out and test it even though its harsh lighting at about 7pm.

I quickly get outside before it gets dark, and I get a short test flight in.  The Phantom 3 has no issues with the additional payload, and the only thing you need to do differently now is the hand launch and hand landing of the drone because of the bottom camera that is mounted under the landing gear.  No biggie, I’ve practiced this a bit with this drone, and its actually pretty easy to do.

I rush back inside, fire up Kolor’s Autopano Video Pro 2.5 and start to stitch the two videos together, and start a quick render to see if my concept works.


First rendering of 360° video in flight

Success!  But I can still see ghosting in the propellers, and some doubling at the seam lines, but I know I can fix a lot of that if I take more time with the stitching process by using masking, and adding a lot of control points in Autopano Giga.  Remember, that first rendering was just proof of concept for me.

After some more time spent in Video Pro 2.5 and Giga, I ended up adding 970 control points, lowering the RMS to 3.06 and using the mask tool to eliminate the propellers completely.  This really seemed to clear up the video, eliminated some other ghosting (peak of my roof and mountains in the distance), and I think I am VERY happy with the end result!


Second rendering of 360° video in flight, control points added, masking applied
to remove propeller ghosts and sharpen video.

Now I can’t wait to take this little toy to some areas with beautiful scenery that I can capture in full spherical video!  Not to mention, I now have one less thing to get working for my film on plastics in the ocean, I have working aerial spherical video!


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