Last weekend, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on a DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter drone, to shoot some gorgeous 4k footage over Lewes in East Sussex, where we at So Motion are based.
It’s a truly remarkable piece of kit – it fits into a small flight case, can be assembled in minutes, and shoots full 4k video.
The Inspire is impressive given its price tag of around £2,500. The package includes the unit, a 4k built-in 3 axis stabilized video camera, and one controller. Additional controllers cost more, as do extra batteries.
On our shoot, we had separate controllers for the UAV pilot and camera operator, and two extra batteries which proved more than sufficient to capture the footage we needed.
Innovatively, the DJI hooks up with iPad and Android devices, using them as the viewing screen. I used my Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, which has a full 5.1” HD (1920×1080) display, and whilst it was small, it proved more than ample for filming. In fact it was considerably better than the larger standard definition 7” displays I’ve used before.
Also of note was the lack of picture interference, which I have experienced on analogue systems. Being a touchscreen, the phone also allows you to easily change the camera settings. The pilot uses the same app and hardware, and sees a flight map showing the camera drone’s position. In flight, the Inspire is steady as a rock, fast and agile.
On the negative side, there’s not a lot to report. It’s well under the sub 7kg rating, allowing it to be used in congested areas. It has four motors rather than the six or eight more commonly seen in professional gear. This no doubt provides longer flight times and is ample for a machine of its weight, but it does concern me that if a prop was to fail, it doesn’t have the built in redundancy of the extra motors.
The camera’s image quality was fantastic, but is still fairly highly compressed. It’s far higher quality than using a GoPro (particularly as it doesn’t have the fisheye lens), but I doubt it will grade as nicely as BMPCC or GH4 footage.
These concerns are minor. My only real grumble is with DJI’s software and the limitations they place on usage. The software won’t allow you to take off if you are too close to a major airport, and limits your flight height for a radius of a few miles outside the no-fly zone. For hobbyist equipment I have no complaints, but for professional gear the inability to turn this off is maddening. The CAA does not impose this limitation, so why on earth does DJI
All in all though, a delightful piece of gear to work with, and there’s nothing else I’m aware of that offers this level of quality for the price.
So Motion has been working with aerial filming techniques for over eight years, but mainly from helicopter platforms. Drones are an exciting new endeavour for us, and we will share our experiences as we expand into this realm across 2015.
The DJI Inspire 1 was flown by Paul Gibson, an experienced UAV operator with full CAA permissions for commercial aerial work.
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