I just made my first flights with the new GoPro Hero3+ Black edition. My first videos and photos were very disappointing. The fisheye lens effect I was hoping to get rid of was still there, and it looked worse.
I dug into the manual for the GoPro Hero3+ Black and excitedly found that some capture settings could be customized. There are settings for super-wide, medium and narrow width with regards to video or still images. My excitement was squashed as soon as I looked at what I captured in those settings. The distortion is still there, but the width is cropped so the worst distortion is simply cut out.
I’ve read in several forums online (namely here and here) that the 3+ Black model may have some focus problems. It seems that the unit is focused well on short distances of a few feet, but long distances are out of focus. This is obviously bad for aerial photography and video. All of the data I capture will be from far more than the 2-3 feet the Black is best focused on.
I have more research to do and heard that GoPro was replacing units within a certain serial number range which have the problem. I have yet to check my serial number, or closely look at my images to see if they’re out of focus or not.
The video quality and colors seem better than the old GoPro. Also, the new image capture is a 12 megapixel file, instead of a 5 megapixel.
One other GREAT thing is that there’s a setting in which the camera can simultaneously capture video AND still images. I can set the camera to capture HD video, and take a photo ever 1, 5, 10, 30 60 seconds.
I have yet to determine if the image quality is different when capturing video at the same time versus straight image mode.
Right Side Upside Down
My current mount, which isn’t a gimbal, is setup for hanging the GoPro from the quadcopter. I can use the waterproof case for the Hero3+ Black to hang it and it works great. But, the camera is upside down. I’d already figured that I would have to rotate my photos and videos 180 degrees until I found that the new GoPro has an “upside down” mode. Problem solved!
And a great byproduct of mounting the Hero3+ Black in the waterproof case is that the wind noise is gone. Of course the video still has the sound of the motors/props, but it is not the horridly distorted sound of wind blowing out the crappy onboard mic.
Lens Distortion – Possible Solution
In analyzing the images I found that some of the lens distortion was extreme and some not. The extreme cases were situations where the angle of the camera was such that the horizon was being captured by the top of the lens, where there is a large amount of fisheye effect. The fisheye effect is more severe toward the outer edges of the lens. The images which were acceptable to my eye were those in which the horizon was in the center of the lens, which is where the least amount of distortion is.
The conclusion based on the findings above, is that I’m happy with video or images which are captured when the horizon or crucial data is hitting the center of the image frame. Therefore, the angle the camera is at during capture is crucial.
The problems with the camera angle situation are that the quadcopter pitches when it is flying. It does not stay level. The higher the throttle, the more of a pitched angle the copter is in. And the copter can be pitched at an angle when it is hovering, if there is a wind which the copter is fighting against.
The solution to all of this camera angle and copter pitch? Installing a gimbal (device which keeps camera at a set level) and making sure it is set to the proper angle.
I now have a gimbal and will be installing/testing it soon.
Admittedly I was quite disappointed with the quality of my first videos and photos when I finally got the Phantom airborne with the GoPro. The vibration from the props was making the GoPro video shake, called the “GoPro jello effect.”
After a bunch of searching I found some solutions, one which was only $12 on amazon.com, DJI Phantom GoPro Anti Vibration Anti-Jello Vibration Isolator Low Profile Carbon Fiber Mount.
I must say the results have been huge. No more jello or lines in the video. Next is the gimbal, which is on the way.
Conditions were calm, presenting a great opportunity to head down to my home course River Oaks to try some aerial video with the DJI Phantom Quadcopter and my new vibration damping attachment. River Oaks can be extremely windy, so when calmer conditions present themselves, its time to hit it.
It was VERY cold, but the Phantom did well.
Just like regular photography/video, lighting is key. The sun was setting and there was some great light and shadows (above), for a while. Those shadows made for good imagery.
I also need to keep in mind where the light source, the sun, is. For much of the video the camera was pointed at the sun. The GoPro doesn’t do terribly when when facing into the sun and since it doesn’t shoot raw, I can’t mess with the exposure. But then again, you can’t shoot video in raw…
Once the quadcopter gets to about 170 yards away it is but a tiny object and hard to see, even with my glasses on. It is almost impossible to tell what direction the copter is pointing. In GPS mode I can stop the unit and it will hover in place, then I can try some small directional moves to see if I’m sending it farther away or closer. The problem there is that there’s quite an illusion with distance. It can actually look like the unit is getting closer to you when it is actually going farther away, and vice versa. That’s a tough one I’m not sure how to deal with just yet. I handled it more calmly this time, unlike the last time when it went over a fence and crashed into a tree.
I certainly need to get a small stopwatch and perhaps velcro it to the remote. With the GoPro mounted, I get about 10 minutes of flight time. Once the battery starts to die, the unit will land itself. That’s great, unless it is over a body of water or over the freeway.
If I’m flying over bodies of water or areas in which the copter simply cannot land, I need to start those with a fully battery and be fully aware of how many minutes flight time there is left. I need to be sure to give myself enough battery power to get the unit back before it lands on its own.
I’m uploading a video to YouTube from today. It is greatly improved with the vibration damping system. BUT, a gimbal is sorely needed to keep the video smooth.