February 6, 2014

Freefly Took the 6K RED DRAGON Airborne on Their CineStar Copter & the Results are Stunning

Freefly, who makes all sorts of stabilized aerial copters for cameras (and who is now better known as the creator of the MōVI), just got their hands on a 6K RED EPIC DRAGON, and the first thing they did was take the little guy into the sky. The team put the camera on one of their 8 rotor CineStar copters, and the resulting footage is about the smoothest you're going to see with an unmanned vehicle. Check out the gorgeous video below, which was filmed with the Tokina 11-16mm lens:

Our Red Dragon came in Friday night, we quickly prepped the CineStar for the new camera and headed out for a first flight. The fact that you can have this kind of dynamic range and resolution flying on a 20lb multi-rotor is mind blowing!

Big thanks to Ben MacDougall for the music!

And a BTS shot of the CineStar in action:

As much as I am a fan of a larger camera that has all its pieces already built, the advantage to a very small camera like the EPIC is that you can put it on a device like the CineStar and get helicopter-style aerials at a fraction of the cost. Putting a GoPro on a DJI Phantom is one thing, but being able to take a 6K camera with lots of dynamic range airborne is pretty remarkable, especially when you consider how far we've come in the last few years.

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73 Comments

Does anyone else find it odd that they used the tokina 11-16 lens? Dont get me wrong, the footage is gorgeous, but I figured to take advantage of 6K they would want a better/sharper lens, even just a CP.2 or any prime.

Maybe it shows how naive I really am, and when a lens is stopped down and just meant for online viewing, a $400 zoom is all thats is needed to showcase great footage. I must say I am pretty stunned.

February 6, 2014 at 1:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Taylor C

A CP.2 would much heavier and not really ideal for mounting on a drone...

February 6, 2014 at 2:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Raul

Manufacturers want people to believe that a lens has to be a HD lens for HD and above. Stills lenses are more than capable of much higher resolutions than 4K. Even the cheap ones. The cheapest you may need stop down a little. There is plenty of very expensive PL glass that is quite soft. Price shouldn't be a measure of a lenses quality (or a camera's).

The average stills lens has the surface smoothness of a credit card on a glass dome over a sports stadium. Think I've quoted that correctly.

February 6, 2014 at 5:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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It's not just about sharpness of a lens.It's also about the aesthetics.

February 6, 2014 at 6:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jesper

You can get plenty of good aesthetics with stills lenses. The stills market because of its size and competitiveness has had much more R&D than the tiny cinema market, as much as their marketing departments would like us to think otherwise. There are nice benefits to cine lenses like longer focus throws and manual rings but those don't justify charging more for less. Its a pretentious and wanky industry at times that still manages to convince people to pay huge amounts for simple to manufacture items like matte boxes, rails, cages etc.

I can buy a leaf blower with all its engineering and parts for a $100 yet if I need just a few 15mm rail extension tubes I'd have to pay a similar amount or more. And no its not need vs demand. Not in a time of manufacture on demand.

Sorry for the rant...

February 6, 2014 at 7:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Very well said, couldn't agree more!

February 6, 2014 at 9:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Raul

WTF?! I never said you couldn't get that from a still lens, I just mentioned that you can't measure a lens only by it's sharpness.

February 6, 2014 at 11:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jesper

I like the part about the leaf blower and some 15mm rods being the same price lol. It is very true though.

February 6, 2014 at 4:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jesper sorry I was agreeing with you and just adding a thought but was tired when I wrote that so didn't articulate so well.

February 6, 2014 at 6:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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With all due respect, that's more of a hobbyist approach. Ac's on sets where time is money would work with the appropriate gear. Lens with proper cine gears and mechanics. There's no way to properly explain it except to suggest that you all get on a real major production(WITH UNION MEMBERS). They are not there to be fancy, that's the job of a talent not crew.
On the other hand, the resolving power of that cheap zoom is what's needed for an operation such as aerial footage with the Dragon, not aesthetics

February 7, 2014 at 8:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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thadon calico

With cinema lenses you usually pay a big, big premium just because they don't breathe when pulling focus.
If you can live with focus breathing, you can get really good lenses that are low cost like for example the Samyang lenses.
When compared to really expensive Zeiss cinema glass, you would never believe the Samyang are five to ten times less expensive than the Zeiss, because the achieve almost the same picture quality.

Also a lot of money goes into the overall build quality and the quality of the focus ring. Not saying the Samyang are badly built, but more expensive cinema lenses are just perfect, while the cheaper ones are only "good".
Also the cinema lenses aren't sold that much, while everyone buys DSLR lenses these days. They just sell so many more compared to specialized cinema products, it makes them even cheaper.

February 11, 2014 at 5:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Heiko

It's not just that a CP2 is much heavier, it would also require an Iris motor weighting it further down, while the (canon version) of the Tokina has an electronic aperture that could be adjusted in the air - although it seems they did not take advantage of this...

February 6, 2014 at 10:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Davíð

Still lenses are made for more resolution than 4K so even the cheaper ones should service quite well. Still image sensors even on cheaper cameras like the canon rebels take images at 5184x3456 pixels.

February 13, 2014 at 6:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gary

The Tokina has amazing glass. Duclos lenses actually re-house the Tokina with a PL mount to have a proper cine lens with manual íris zoom and focus. The 11-16mm is one of the best zoom lenses on the market.

February 15, 2014 at 5:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Augusto Alves d...

These guys are brave - flying a Red Dragon, and over water, no less! I already lost a Phantom/GoPro combo. Footage looks great!

February 6, 2014 at 2:11AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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These were my thoughts as well.

February 8, 2014 at 1:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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nynex

I 3rd that exact thought. Would be an expensive crash.

February 13, 2014 at 6:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gary

Do you even imagine how many Cinestars they sell just by posting these amazing images? Not to mention the RED. This is their job....filming with these rigs and cameras. Of course shit happens but a octocopter like a commercial plane are not made to be crashed. Their top of the range products rarely crash...and as they say...most crashes are pilot´s fault.

February 15, 2014 at 5:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Augusto Alves d...

I don't find it odd. I think it's a great choice for this application. A great piece of glass. And the Cine-Mod Tokina is more around $3500.

February 6, 2014 at 2:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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sklein

Yeah I was wondering if it was a Duclos 11-16 or an off the shelf lens ... either way, I love my Tokina.

February 6, 2014 at 12:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Was this footage shot in 4K or was it in 6K and then resized to minimize the vignetting on the APS-C Tokina?

February 6, 2014 at 6:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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George

You are right. I have both Canon and Duclos versions and they are brilliant.

February 15, 2014 at 5:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Augusto Alves d...

The Tokina 11-16 is really light. No doubt they are pushing the weight limits with the Dragon set up. Great lens on the Dragon though. Gives a unique perspective.

February 6, 2014 at 2:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Yeah the 11-16 looks great and the Freefly team really can fly, the MoVI airborne is rock solid. Really thought the Dragon would impress more though, those highlights feel very yellow and videoish.

February 6, 2014 at 3:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Phil McTaggins

Yellow and videoish? Let's see how Alexa handles severe overexposure? That's right, yellow and videoish. Try it for yourself.

February 6, 2014 at 2:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Natt

Sick!

February 6, 2014 at 3:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Bummer, now I've got to add copter to the Xmas list. Not 100% sure the video illustrates the Dragon's dynamic range particularly well though, shadows seemed pretty lacking in detail, but may just be viewing it thia way. Would have been tempted to go for the 15mm Zeiss ZF2 rather than the Tokina.

February 6, 2014 at 3:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Richard Wilcox

The camera movement looked great.
did anyone else think that the images looked for lack of a better word, too "digital".

the dynamic range is great, but it seemed like there were no true blacks in the footage. the footage looks similar to HDR timelapses. Maybe that was just the choice of the colorist?

February 6, 2014 at 4:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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luke

Color of RED Dragon sucks. It can handle quite wide dynamic range, but it's digitally pushed and dead.
I'd prefer Blackmagic 2.5k with a bit less dynamic range, but live color in shadows.

February 6, 2014 at 6:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jekabs

It seems that you've never tried a Red DRagon.
Always depends on the colorist. However, many people are saying after trying Dragon vs Alexa, that Dragon is better. And from what I have seen so far I agree, RED has finally done a fantastic camera.

February 6, 2014 at 8:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Alexiss

Colorist can do color even on B/W footage if he would work hard. :D

February 6, 2014 at 7:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jekabs

I don´t get in that discussion which camera is better...it is like blindes vs brunettes. The best images I have seen were not filmes with Alexa or Red...they were filmes by amazing DOP´s.

February 15, 2014 at 5:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Augusto Alves d...

I wouldn't say the camera sucks, but Jekabs makes a valid point regarding this particular video. The grade is pushed too far. The shadows look okay. The highlights look bad. The CineStar copter is incredible, but the camera's performance here is less than "stunning." That said, even a great stills camera will fall apart if you overexpose the sky too much and try to bring the clouds back in post. I think some people just get a little overconfident when it comes to their camera's exposure latitude. The camera isn't all-powerful.

February 6, 2014 at 8:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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This might help explain the look you describe. From Tabb Firchau's post on Reduser:

"2. Beautiful dynamic range - We had no iris motor installed for this flight so I had to try and find a compromise between the very dark shadows down on the pond and very hot sunset. I was probably a stop or more off where I should have been but the Dragon handled it very nicely."

February 6, 2014 at 10:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

I dont get how thats 'beautiful dynamic range'. To get crushed blacks and blown highlights you would have needed to be somewhere in the middle but I'm surprised how far they are blown and crushed in the same shot.

Not good example of DR. Excellent flight and control. Love the top down reflection.

February 6, 2014 at 7:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Shot RED DRAGON, no color grading. :P
https://vimeo.com/85187623

February 6, 2014 at 5:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Vict

That one is more interesting than the one in this post. The detail was fricking great! The Red Dragon has quite an intriguing look. And it looks like it has great potential for still photography!

February 6, 2014 at 9:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene

Of course it was a choice of the colorist. By the looks of it, there wasn't much grading done other the a few level adjustments. Also vimeo has a slight gamma shift which makes the blacks a little milky. If it looks digital, that's because it is digital. There are an infinite amount of ways you could grade footage, even giving it a curve that more closely resembles film if you wanted. It's raw footage, you do what you please. For those who want an "out the box" look should buy a handicam instead.

February 6, 2014 at 8:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tony

I've always thought these videos should show ungraded and graded, but not just graded in one way, but in several different ways. It only takes minutes to grade a video in several different ways. Of course the rendering takes a bit.

February 6, 2014 at 9:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene

You will always be at the mercy of the Cinematographer, and colorist when trying to evaluate these shots. I find most Epic vs Alexa arguments to be weak, because so much is dependent on the guys behind the camera, and the choices they make. What's quelled most myths by either is actually going out and using the footage from both cameras, and making my own determination based on experience. You wouldn't evaluate a good guitar by having someone shitty play it, why would you do it with a camera. I can say without a doubt, both cameras are excellent, and Dragon brings something big to the table. If you can't shoot something great with either of these cameras, the finger needs to be pointed elsewhere.

February 6, 2014 at 10:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tony

No...the RED Dragon sensor has a magenta shift...

February 15, 2014 at 5:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Augusto Alves d...

Every test and Dragon .R3D I've seen shows the opposite of your claim. Do you have a link you can share to back up that statement? The MX sensor has the magenta issue but I haven't seen it in Dragon.

February 15, 2014 at 5:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

Me too. I don't like the grading in all their videos, it looks a bit off somehow.

February 11, 2014 at 5:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Heiko

Agree it takes some stones to fly this rig out over the water. Gorgeous pan/tilt. And I love the position lights on the drone - we had a big octo on a shoot in Bulgaria but it didn´t have them and I found it hard to orient myself (where´s the front of this thing??).

February 6, 2014 at 5:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Matthias Giese

We also fly with octocopters and RED Epic (with Dragon upgrade) and Movi stabiliser. Mainly in Europe, Asia and Middle East. Check out our reel at http://londonhelicam.co.uk - it doesn't have any footage with Dragon yet but should give an idea of the quality.

The Tokina 11-16mm is a very sharp lens, we use Zeiss primes too.

February 6, 2014 at 9:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Footage looks beautiful.

I know this is just showing off gear, but if your gonna take time to set it to music, why not actually cut the damn thing well. It would sell the footage that much more, even if you just basic cut to the music.

February 6, 2014 at 9:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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seth.iamfilms

I flew 35mm movie cameras with 3 axis stabilization remotely, for 6 years, two decades ago.

Make no mistake, these guys have raised the bar significantly. Period. Regardless of which camera they fly.

Secondly, it takes no more "stones" to fly over water than anywhere else. If it's going to fall out of the sky, well, there's going to be damage done. The camera will take the brunt of the fall anyway and airframes are cheap. Gear like this being presented here eventually means it'll be used on productions around people and valuable property, either of which far exceed the value of the machinery. Thinking about dropping it out of the sky in those situations will remind you that dumping it into a lake is a relief.

February 6, 2014 at 10:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Very astute!
I think people here mostly only have experience with small drones, so for them a crash on land usually there's little property damage and at least they can retrieve it.
Having hung out of more than a few full-size choppers in my time camera in hand I too prefer to be over water :-)

/footage above looked nice, if not mindblowing.

February 6, 2014 at 11:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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marklondon

You can't tell how sharp Dragon can be off 1080p Vimeo. And, if the image is smoother, is it because of the sensor or the filters?

February 6, 2014 at 10:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

I doubt that anyone who who believes that Red is weak in the shadows, has ever used Red. I literally is among its strongest suites. The roll off into the darks is super subtle. Plus the Dragon has 16.3 stops of DR, I think you'll be fine.

February 6, 2014 at 10:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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ryan

I'm in a debate with 4 coworkers over the footage that is 50 seconds into clip. Anyone from Freefly care to explain the horizon is not level?

February 6, 2014 at 12:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Joe p

Ya, I thought the horizon was off as well. Maybe an alignment issue on the gimble? or in the wind, above the tree's, the motor couldnt heft the dragon up due to the octo's pitch? The last shot prob kills the 2nd idea.

February 6, 2014 at 5:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jake

Was this color-corrected in any way?

If not...WOAH.

February 6, 2014 at 12:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Holly

I doubt it was, probably some quick curve in Redcine at most.

February 6, 2014 at 2:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Natt

Not bad at all.

February 6, 2014 at 1:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Natt

I'm sorry, but I was unimpressed with this. How do you manage to blow your highlights when you have 16+ stops of range? Color was hardly there, it could have been filmed on a FS100 and looked better.

I'm sorry, RED sucks.

February 6, 2014 at 3:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Daniel

Who needs stinking Red, when you can have this ! :) :) :

http://www.43rumors.com/first-panasonic-gh4-images/

You nofilmschool people are slow : )

So, basically final production GH4 specs and images of camera have leaked.

4096 "4K" at 96 frames / sec, 200 Mbit /sec max datarate.

February 6, 2014 at 4:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Juhan-i

I agree, 4K is a massive format and shooting RAW 4K just isn't quite in everybody's ability just yet. Panasonic is actually smart in developing a 4K format that most people will be handle.

Plus I always liked the way Panasonic handled it's color rendition.

February 6, 2014 at 4:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Daniel

Well, I was also bit joking... Obviously GH4 and Red raw are not the same thing...

But there are indeed plus sides working with non-raw, or well... better implemented raw:

http://vimeo.com/85438677

February 6, 2014 at 4:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Juhan-i

But a DSLR style camera is going to be a lot lighter to fly, whether on an RC or hand held. Hypothetically speaking, add the Phase Detect auto focusing such as on 70D and 5-Axis stabilization such as on Olympus EM-1 - each cameras selling for under $1,500 - and you'd have a quality film making tool.

February 6, 2014 at 8:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

96fps---you sure?

February 6, 2014 at 9:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene

I am sure Joe is working on the GH4 article, as we speak. A lot of info to process (and it is 96 fps at 1080p). And only 100 Mbps in 4K. With a 4-core processor, it may be OK but I wonder why they didn't get up to 200.

February 6, 2014 at 11:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

I didn't think it could be 96fps in 4K.

February 6, 2014 at 11:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene

Shot on a FS100, and still looks better.

February 6, 2014 at 4:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Daniel

February 6, 2014 at 4:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Daniel

Some of the shots work, but others are too hazy and or the color looks a bit to blue for me, 1:37 on "Sweet Sunset."

Also most of this video looks as if most of the shots are during the golden hour with direct light from the sun which is going to give you the most pleasing lighting on your subject. The Dragon footage looks like it was also shot during the golden hour but most of the light is going to be restricted by the trees surrounding the pond, which is going to cause a flatter light.

I would really like to see a comparison of those two cameras with similar lighting and see how they compare to each other.

February 6, 2014 at 5:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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George

I'm not going to say it looks bad, because it doesn't, but if you say it was shot on a FS100 I believe you because it looks like it was shot on an FS100. I could shoot the same thing on a 7D with prores, but I wouldn't say it looked better because I have a pretty sunset shot, I also wouldn't waste my money on a Dragon if that's all I planned on shooting.

February 6, 2014 at 9:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tony

You mean it has more saturation?

February 6, 2014 at 9:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene

Common, I say'd that COLOR sucks, but not a whole camera. Sorry, I touched your feelings about RED Dragon.

February 6, 2014 at 7:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jekabs

Is that footage so different form Canon 5 d mk2 ? And the diference in price is huge:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvnC4dfVN9c&feature=share&list=UUWR2d-l2M...

February 9, 2014 at 7:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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You haven't seen the original material, just a 1080 Vimeo stream of the Red.

If you have ever seen the original footage from a Red, not even the from the dragon sensor, just the normal 4K Red One, you don't even have to compare it to the 5D material anymore.

5D MkII can look nice, and you can make nice Youtube videos with it, but it doesn't compare to Red raw material in any aspect. Especially if you want to professionally grade the footage to a certain look, or do chroma keying and other fun stuff.

February 11, 2014 at 6:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Heiko

Yeah, kinda not sharp enough for some reason

February 13, 2014 at 4:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Cal

red dragon is where all film makers are heading and should be . i as a cinematographer when i look at my pictures after a days shoot , i find my self smiling and proud of what have archived .its a raw video that i can justify why i had it taken that way .
please check out our facebook page arosto or emnaz or habibu and see some of our good jobs done by red one

February 18, 2014 at 4:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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abner ondiek anyang