Welcome to the AirView Blog.
Here you will find assorted writings about things that we find interesting, or ideas that we need to hash out in writing. It will be mostly about gear, policy related to drones, and maybe the occasional piece about art and aesthetics. Thank you for coming by, we hope to have you back again and again.
We’ve been using DJI products from the very start. We nearly started building a Flamewheel, but were a bit gun shy. Fortunately it was only weeks later that the Phantom line was announced and we jumped aboard the DJI ship that has taken this entire industry so very far. During these years we’ve flown most of what DJI has brought to market, and crashed a few. To date, every crash, but a few times where we were just being a bit too rowdy, has been due to product system failure and everyone of those times, DJI has refused to accept responsibility, or support their product. And even in one case, refused to support their own failed repair after the craft returned still broken. Without turning this into a long rant about DJI poor follow up support, We’d like talk about a post-DJI future.
Currently, the bang for the buck champ is the Inspire 2 system. For the money, it offers more in quality imagery, and aerial capability than any other drone on the market. The Battery Station can charge 8 batteries faster than you can drain them while flying, leading to an unprecedented 100% contiguous flight time. All while shooting up to 6k RAW. It’s simply an impressive system that hits way above it’s price range. To outdo what it’s capable of requires a heavy lift drone system, gimbal, and camera that starts above where a maxed out I2 system tops out at. This has placed it as the go-to system for most commercial drone operators working in TV/Film.
The drone is a force to be reckoned with. But, one of the things that makes it so successful, we think is it’s Achille’s Heel: propriety. The integration of the camera’s processor into the craft itself allows for less wait and greater efficiency of the gimbal. The gimbal only has to hold what it really needs, which the camera’s sensor and lens. The processor and media are just extra weight that don’t require to be stabilized. This is where DJI’s brilliance was shown, they thought through exactly what would make for the most efficient system possible. This level of integration between drone and camera comes at the cost of modularity. The only third party options on the Inspire 2, is the choice of smart device, a list of compatible M43 lenses for the X5S and appropriate filters, and lastly which size and brand of MicroSD card to use.
Everything is not only specific to DJI, but proprietary to the Inspire 2 system. This is exemplified by the X7 and it’s X7 specific lenses. A $4700 set of lenses that have no other application other than this proprietary camera, that has no other use than on this drone. This means that you have little to no options for other cameras, and that you’re going to have massive depreciation towards the end of the product’s life cycle as every component is proprietary.
Sony has entered the segment, looking right at this segment of the market. The Airpeak is capable of carrying one of several Sony mirrorless cameras, and given the weight limits of the Gremsy gimbal that accompanies it, should be able to carry other small cameras such as the Blackmagic Pocket 6k or even the Red Komodo. This is where Sony comes in swinging right at DJI’s weak spot. Even if the Sony was limited to only carry Sony cameras, the lens options of the E Mount will put the DJI X5S/X7 lens options to shame.
Having a camera full un-integrated from the drone does mean that there is a large amount of unneeded weight being stabilized, and thus power wasted, but this also means that the imaging system, camera processor is upgradable. At the time of this writing, the Sony A1 is capable of shooting 50mb stills, and capture 10 bit 8k footage, and will fit on the Airpeak. That swings way over the I2’s head, and only costs a little north of $17,000 compared to our I2’s kit that costs just a little north of that as assembled.
DJI offered up an easy solution to getting beautiful footage, but within the walled garden ecosystem, removed all freedom of choice for camera and lenses. Sony seems firmly aimed at giving those in the garden a ladder out without charging a ransom. At this very moment, we’re prepping for the change over to Sony once it becomes available.
As lovers of the Inspire 2 system, and all that it offers, we were really excited to hear that the X7 was announced. As all of our ground cameras are Super 35, it seemed like a perfect match to how we like to shoot. Unfortunately, those stats on paper didn’t lead up to the kind of results we need in the air. This post explains our thoughts on the matter.
A larger sensor increases the depth within an image. On the ground this serves to help isolate a subject from its background, in the air, it increases the complexity of achieving critical focus. This was experienced firsthand on set when the director called for a long dolly out over a lake, with the camera focused on the subject on the shore. Even when removing the NDs, putting the aperture at its max of F16, there was no way to keep the subject in focus without a dedicated puller.
This was the first thing we had against the X7, the X7-specific DL Mount lenses. The Inspire 2 already suffers from being a complex, expensive (our kit pushing around $12k), and proprietary system. The X7 takes propriety one step further with lenses that can only be used on this one single camera. But, where the propriety of the system once resulted in having an extremely cohesive system that allowed you to focus on image-making, this addition stifles creativity by locking you into a very small amount of lens choices. Adding in the cost of a larger camera, and a full set of DL mount lenses, would drive up the price of our kit up to nearly $20k all in.
Having a respectable number of shows under our belt, we know how drone shots are used in most productions. Adding the X7 adds another crew member to the aerial team, and almost doubles the value of the gear hovering in the air. Ultimately, this would require us to nearly double our daily rate while only offering a very small increment of improved quality.
Admittedly it’s hard to say no to new gear. We always want to bring the newest and best tools to set. This is why passing on the X7 is a choice we don’t make lightly, and that we keep revisiting. Now that the camera has come down in price, and 3rd parties like Laowa have started releasing lenses for the DL mount, we’re keeping our minds open to the idea of picking one up. In the meantime, we are more than willing to rent and fly the X7 if requested for your project.
National Association of Broadcasters Show 2019
To say that we’re excited to go to NAB this year is an understatement. As a company that uses cutting edge technology to deliver stunning footage to our clients, it is important for use to know what’s just around the corner. It’s our first trip to NAB, and first Las Vegas Convention. With that said, we’re playing it pretty low-key. We’ll be visiting the vendors of our favorite products and keeping an eye out for new trends and gear.
Stay tuned to this blog over the next week or two as we’ll be posting up our thoughts on the convention.
Due to the destabilizing effect that Facebook has had on our democracy, socialization, and cognition, we will be permanently deleting our Facebook account.
We believe a line has to be drawn somewhere. We believe we’ve crossed that line a while back, but didn’t take it serious enough.
You can continue to see our image-heavy exploits on Instagram (unless it falls into abuse too).
This choice doesn’t come lightly, as we know that the way in which people communicate with friends and family has fundamental changed. I, the owner of AirView Cinematography have lost real friend by removing myself from Facebook because this is now how people communicate. It’s a contemporary move akin to moving into the woods without a phone. People don’t write you, and they surely don’t come to visit. So, following deletion always comes a wave of loneliness as a vast interface of human interaction is removed. But, it’s a pain like setting a fracture. And we must attempt to heal what is broken.
Here’s how you can keep in touch:
And if you want to go real old school, phone/text: 5035120461
With that said, if you’re considering doing the same, there are somethings you might want to consider to get your digital house in order.
Here’s a rough facebook delete tutorial. A little bit dated.
Were happy to finally announce our new aerial A-camera. We have chosen the DJI Inspire 2 as our new cinematography drone. The image quality is nothing short of amazing, while offering the performance and safety and redundancy that we require. We have been waiting and watching for months to vet the second generation Inspire. The original Inspire is arguably the best built, most reliable product DJI has made. It’s looking like they may have taken themselves to task of being a drone better built and more capable than the first model.
We had a hard time choosing another DJI product, as putting all our eggs in a single manufacturer’s basket is frankly a little scary, especially with DJI’s new aggressive geo fencing.
The problem really is that the rest of the drone industry is over a year behind DJI. There’s nothing on the market that can compete with the Inspire 2. We briefly considered getting a larger Hex copter like a the Freefly Alta 6 and fly our Sony FS5, but put up against the Inspire 2, it would cost significantly more, have a much higher cost of operation and insurance, and limit us to the camera capabilities of the FS5 which don’t measure up to the X5S.
In the end, we’re very happy with our new drone and camera system and look forward to expanding its capability with additional batteries, multi-charger, tracking antenna, and future cameras.
Spring is here (for the most part), and the Pacific Northwest is on the verge of blooming into one of the most beautiful places on this planet. Pardon the hyperbole, but we’re pretty biased about the beauty found here. The video short here was a quick stop on the side of the road to capture the light that was just starting to peek into this little draw. It reminds us that beauty, and a little magic can be found almost anywhere if you have an open mind and sharp eye.
As I sit here updating the website
I’m flipping between this, and my B&H Wish Lists that I use for planning, and budgeting gear updates and replacements. Currently, I’m torn between whether to get the Sony FS7, or the Sony FS7 II. Both are a bit of overkill for what my current client list requires of me. I’m of the mindset that you should tool up for the work that you want to do, not just what you’re doing currently.
The FS7 II solves all of the issues that come up with FS7, such as the lens mount, the EVF mount, adds REC2020, etc. It’s really a no-brainer, if money isn’t an issue. Which it is. My grand total for a proper video camera capable of shooting 4k 4:2:2 internally, along with a DSLR capable of shooting 4K that cuts well with the former, lenses, and required accessories, is $15k. If I get the FS7II, the body takes up $10k of that, leaving $5k for the A7R II ($3k), and $2k for lenses and accessories. The budget gets eaten quickly, and I ultimately end up with amazing camera bodies and some pretty disappointing lenses. This means I’ll be using a rental house to get glass for any larger gigs.
The FS7, with it’s issues is a great machine. It’s been a sweet spot filling camera capable of run and gun, cinema, or live broadcast. And if I get the FS7, then I have enough left over to get the PZ 28-135mm kit lens. I’ve rented that lens, and like it very much. Despite it not getting wide enough, almost everything else about it shines. I would likely be able to use it for 90% (pulled that number off my shoe) of the work I would use the FS7 for.
The first 4k video camera that I considered was the Sony FS5. It’s small and lightweight design would make it easy to take anywhere (including to the air on a DJI M600). I’ve rented the FS5, and really liked shooting with it. Although, the in-camera 4:2:0 left me wishing for more. Also, the camera was almost too light. It made it seem a bit cheap feeling.
The FS5, is certainly better than any DSLR or Mirrorless camera that I’m used to using. But, that’s the point. I am tired of settling for the quality of video that is eeked out of photography cameras.
I want to have the data, and dynamic range to be able to polish the footage into something that’s diamond-like. I don’t expect that any of these solutions are going to give me ARRI-results. But, I do think that either FS7 will push me (and remind me) to shoot better video. I am almost certain that I’m going to go with the FS7 II, as it is a second generation model, and all my experience points me towards buying something that’s got the bugs worked out. The Rec BT-2020, 4:2:2, and the infinitely variable ND pretty much seal the deal. The lenses options I’ll have for it aren’t too terrible, but not very exciting. I’ll have to fight with what glass I have available for it for the time being.