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NAB Video: CineChopper on Modifying the DJI Phantom

If you thought you were safe from more NAB videos, well, you were wrong, as we’ve got a few additional interviews from our friends over at FreshDV. The DJI Phantom has certainly brought down the cost of entry for getting great-looking aerial footage — especially with cameras like the GoPro HERO3 — but right out of the box, there are some modifications that can be done to improve the steadiness. Here is Chris Newman from CineChopper on his modifications:

It’s pretty remarkable that the built-in GPS can take the copter back to you if you lose sight of it. For someone like me who knows little to nothing about flying these, that feature would likely be a lifesaver on more than one occasion. If you haven’t seen it before, here are some of the things Chris has been able to accomplish over at CineChopper:

For more information about Chris and the company, head on over to his website.

What do you guys think about the current state of aerial video? Is this just the tip of the iceberg? Does anyone own a Phantom? If so, how do you like it?



We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 18 COMMENTS

  • I had thought about the Phantom for things like weddings, shooting above the parking lot outside the church as people got out of their car and walked up to the church, just an interesting angle for the beginning of wedding videos. And then a little segment at the end of all the people exiting the church immediately after the wedding. But learning about persistent jello from online comments completely turned me off to the Phantom. I hadn’t thought of time lapse to solve the problem. Seeing time lapse of people arriving at the wedding for a short segment at the beginning, then leaving at the end, sounds even more interesting than video. So now I’m back to contemplating a Phantom.

    BTW, the demo video is great.

    • That would be a great shot until you lose control and the Phantom goes diving into the crowd of people full speed..

    • A guy I shoot weddings for is thinking the same thing, but another factor I told him to keep in mind is that these things are LOUD. Even the Phantom, at NAB, was really loud… anything bigger is a downright hurricane. He was thinking of over-head shots during outdoor ceremonies, but that is completely out of the question. Maybe shots at a well-lit reception.

      • How about if there was a zoom lens on the GoPro and it was about 200 or 300 feet up?

        • That sounds like too much of an effort for probably even worse results. Even if the Phantom can hold the extra weight of a zoom lens, it will add even more jello and shakiness to the video..

          • Zoom lenses on a GoPro are light and small. I have ruled out video with the Phantom. I’m only contemplating time lapse in deciding if I’ll buy one.

    • Terence Kearns on 04.30.13 @ 9:14PM

      “persistent jello” Isn’t that only a problem for large sensors? Just use a go pro.

      • There’s videos of jello in GoPros on YouTube and all the steps that some are taking to try to get rid of it. It’s tinker, tinker, tinker, tinker. I think only people that have the time to deal with it like full time job finally get rid of all of it. I don’t have the time.

  • Thanks for posting this Joe. This guy is really good at the whole cinechopper thing and I have been following him for a while.

  • I don’t think so all those footage are on GoPro HERO3 with Phantom…..those footage are taken by a much more stable and expensive complete set with Gimbal system.

    Just so let you know, I have a GoPro HERO3 with Phantom and I wouldn’t rely on the GPS at all. In order for the “Coming-back-home” feature to function properly, you need to be connected to 6 or more Satellites and there is no way we are getting that kinda of coverage at the places we shot before. So we crash one of our Phantoms into the lake and there goes the reliability and trust in the GPS system. Luckily that was done during a dry run and we still have the HERO3 with us.

    Buy a proper system or hire someone really experience like CineChopper. It is not like you will be using this Copter/ Quad system with most of your shoot-out unless you are like CineChopper.

  • I own both the Phantom and DJI S800 and I love them. The Phantom is definitely a starter multirotor. Being a filmmaker as well as a multirotor pilot, I will say there’s a lot to learn to fly a hexacopter with gimbal and camera control. Just going from the DJI Phantom to the DJI S800 was a huge jump in complexity. Most people are not going to want to mess with an S800 due to it’s difficulties and cost.

    Certainly the footage is amazing on a 2 or 3 axis gimbal, but there are a lot of challenges that go along with it. The main thing is the responsibility of flying one of these things. If you don’t know what you’re doing and hit something or someone, you could cause a lot of damage or worse yet serious injury.

    “With great power comes great responsibility…” No joke!

    The main thing is to be creative, be safe and have a blast filming stuff!

  • The video demo reel footage shows a Cinestar 8 w/ regular gimbal. It is safe to assume that this is the aerial platform used to acquire the footage. The GoPro for all its ‘wonderfulness’ is a lousy camera for even half-way serious aerial filming. Rolling shutter is a huge problem. The Phantom is DJI’s latest entry level multi-rotor and is designed to have a camera slung under it from the outset – not like their previous small, entry-level MR’s. However, being so light the footage will be bouncy and far too full of movement.

    A Direct Drive gimbal is now available from DJI for the GoPro which will certainly improve video image performance, albeit within the constraints of using a GoPro, but DJI is not the only manufacturer of Direct Drive gimbals. They were part of the advance guard with the Zenmuse, but that mount is limited to two specific cameras – Sony NEX and Panasonic GH2. Now Freefly (responsible for the Cinestar MR) is bringing the MOVI to market for bigger cameras.

    DJI also produce the S800 Spreading Wings (dreadful chinese names), supposedly a professional aerial filming platform, but it has been absolutely beset with problems from the outset with pretty much every single major component suffering failure and being replaced with Version 2′s – much to the chagrin of S800 owners who are being charged for these ‘upgrades’. DJI is conveniently ignoring the fact that they should in fact be replacements under guarantee for the original faulty designs.

    As such, the Phantom should be treated with caution. It is a toy and does not come with a blemish-free heritage.

  • I bought the phantom a few months ago and so far I have been able to get about a second and a half of useable footage for a stylized video which is great! I don’t really have time to mess with all the tinkering and upgrades but I didn’t really plan on Getting great footage from the system to begin with. My purpose in getting the system was to learn how to fly it so I could eventually upgrade to a more professional platform. Realizing now how much time this pursuit requires I will likely just hire it out when needed. With that being said flying this is a blast! Maybe if I get more time in the future I will invest it in doing this right. For now I will keep flying for fun under the guise of “work”:)

  • Inna Goroh on 05.3.13 @ 9:06AM

    My question is: Does one need a gimbal to be able to rotate the camera separate from the chopper. How are those crazy shots achieved? Simply with the Phantom and GOpro?

    i have seen some people selling 2 axis gimbals for the Phantom. is it necessary?

  • DJi is releasing the Zenmuse gimbal for GoPro in the next few weeks. It will be a game changer. The stability is awesome. But there are other small companies out there that are releasing similar products.

    Just a word to the wise on safety: don’t take it lightly. A few weeks ago in Malaysia a larger RC heli (single blade) crashed into a crowd and gave a guy 40 stitches and killed the baby that he was holding. That’s enough for me to never buy one of those larger single blades but go with a safer multi rotor option. Yes, killing a baby is about as bad as mistakes get in life. No one heals from that.

  • Wise words, Alex. The Phantom is not a toy. It may only weigh 1kg or so but if there is a flight failure, 1kg can be deadly falling from hundreds of feet! With that said, most of these failures (crashes and so-called “fly aways”) are not random. Typically, there is 2.4Ghz interference causing them or pilor error either in terms of navigation or modification to the vehicle. It could even be as simple as having forgotten to fully charge the battery. With that said, the Phantom is very capable after a few tweaks. The jello can be addressed without spending $600 on the Zenmuse gimbal. There are affordable alternative gimbals as well as far more affordable modifications to address jello (stiffer props, shock absorbing mounts, smoother motor bearings). And of course, there’s post productino techniques that can remove any remaining jello. Stay on top of all things Phantom at the DJI Phantom Forum