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Aerial Platforms

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The basic skills and hardware required for the world of aerial photography and videography will be examined and explained. We will look into what types of cameras to use, what kind of aerial platforms to fly and how to frame each camera shot.

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Aerial Platforms

Multirotors or multi copters are the way of choice for professional film makers and photographers. Conventional single rotor helicopters are also used but less often because they are rather cumbersome and require lots of maintenance. They are also less redundant, as if its only motor fails, the helicopter will fall out of the sky, while if one motors fails on a multirotor it has backup motors to allow for the craft to land safely and not damage any components.



Octocopter
Multirotors

The picture above shows and high end aerial multi rotor platform. When looking at the image carefully it is observed that the aerial platform has eight motors meaning that it is an octocopter. Octocopters are among the highest of quality and are capable of lifting the most mass compared to other remote controlled aircraft. The particular octocopter in the image is lifting a high end DSLR camera.



helicopter
Single rotor helicopter

The image above is an example of a conventional single rotor helicopter. These helicopters offer much smoother flights however require far more maintenance than multirotors and are far more dangerous because of the large spinning blades.



Quadcopter
Beginner Multirotor

The quadcopter pictured above is a great example of what to get as a first/beginner multirotor to practice your flying skills. It is constructed out of high strength plastic material and can resist most crashes into the ground or trees. This multirotor is slightly smaller than higher end platforms however is fully capable of lifting small keychain cameras and GoPros.




How to build a multirotor

Building a flying machine may seem like a very difficult process however is far easier than what most people would think; it just takes a long time. There are many well written instructions and videos on youtube on how to build a multirotor but for the most part multirotors only require several components- in a nutshell, multirotors are comprised of the following: The frame, flight controller, motors, electronic speed controllers, propellers and a transmitter or remote control unit.






Cameras



A lightweight camera may not have the best image quality, however will allow for itself to be put into tight, small places. Larger cameras offer much better image quality and more accurate colours however are far more delicate.



The GoPro and Action Cams


Gopro Hero action cameras are very popular cameras in the sports and action filming industry. They are encased in a durable polycarbonate case which protects them from water and drops. They are also small and light cameras meaning that they can be mounted in tight spaces and be hidden for the puposes of a hidden camera show. The durability and light weight of the gopro allows for the camera to be mounted onto aerial platforms to get panoramic aerial shots. The recent release of the Gopro Hero 4 will allow amateurs to get high quality 4k aerial footage in a small form factor without sacrificing size and durability.



DSLR & Mirrorless Cams


Higher end DSLR or mirrorless cameras should only be used if you have a heavy lift multirotor and are sufficient at flying rc aircraft. They are expensive pieces of hardware and should be treated more carefully than smaller cameras such as the gopro. These cameras record faster bitrate video with more accurate colours but are extremely delicate.




Camera Settings



Shutter Speed


Shutter speed is the length of time for each exposure taken by the camera. Depending on what shutter speed to run depends on the focal length of lens and what video frame rate the camera is running. Most cameras these days can have shutter speeds ranging from speeds of 30 seconds to over 1/25000th of a second. The shutter speed should always be higher than the focal length of the lens and two times faster than the frame rate of the video camera.



Aperture


Aperture is the amount of light that is let through the lens of a camera. The aperture is measured in F stops. Most common lenses have a F stop of F/2.8 which is the focal length of the lens divided by the diameter of the front lens element. Generally the smaller the F stop the more light the lens will let in giving the camera a better performance in low lit situations. Larger apertures also give the camera a greater depth of field which is background blur when photographing or video taping a subject.



ISO


ISO may seem like a acronym however is not. ISO simply is the sensitivity of the camera sensor. ISO settings can range from as low as 50 to over 400000 ISO. Running a higher ISO will give you a brighter looking image but with this brightness comes more noise noise in each shot. Noise is mis-coloured pixels in the image. Running a high ISO will also reduce the amount of detail in your shot, that is why running a low ISO is more ideal as images will look sharper, have less noise and have more detail.



Conversion Tables



ISOF/stopShutter Speed
100f/5.61/60s.
200f/81/60s.
400f/111/60s.
800f/161/60s.
1600f/221/60s.
3200f/361/60s.
ISOF/stopShutter Speed
100f/5.61/60s.
200f/5.61/125s.
400f/5.61/250s.
800f/5.61/500s.
1600f/5.61/1000s.
3200f/5.61/2000s.

Composition

Composition is the layout of visual artifacts in an image or drawing. In order for there to be a good image or video the composition must be good, if the main subject of the video or photo is cut off by the edge of the video the photo or video does not have a good composition.

Rule of Thirds
Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is the basis of all photographs and videos. With most shots the main subject should be in the very center square, this allows for the background of the image to become out of focus and gives the image nice bokeh (blur in the background of an image or video). When framing a shot with more than one main subject, both subjects should be off to equal sides of the frame. Whenever you look through the viewfinder of a camera or are abouut to snap an image think of the rule of thirds.

aspect ratio
Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio is ratio between the width and height of an image or video. Humans are scientifically proven to prefer aspect ratios close to the golden ratio (1.617:1). The most common aspect ratio is 16:9 meaning that 9 parts of the height of screen will go in 16 times on the width. This aspect ratio is very similar to the golden ratio. Other aspects ratios do exist, both more tall and more wide. Hollywood films are generally filmed in a 21:9 aspect ratio, this is because 21:9 is more wide screen and allows for more landscape to fill the frame. When photographing portraits or tall building and tall aspect ratio is used such as 9:16. These aspect ratios are generally used for portrait photography because of the height of a model and are rarely used for video.