Category Archives: Software

Shotting with D-Log on Phantom 4 Pro/Adv

Last Saturday I had my first experience shooting D-Log on my Phantom 4 Advanced during sunrise at Otmoor Reserve near Oxford, England. It’s basically a big swamp. Since D-Log profile is locked at 500 ISO my main concern was obviously the noise. I as per many recommendations I was shooting with +2.0 EV, following ETTR method – exposure to the right – in reference to the histogram, where you try to expose footage in such a way where most of the data is stored towards the highlights. The theory is that D-Log is optimised for preserving highlights more than shadows, i.e. the profile allocates more bits for highlights. So by overexposing you shift shadows towards midtones.

Now as you see from the screen grabs (not yet properly colour graded) I got absolutely stunning footage.

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Phantom 4 Advanced

Just two days ago I bought myself Phantom 4 Advanced. I debated within myself whether I needed all the features of Phantom 4 Pro and decided that the extra pair of anti collision sensors plus the ability to use 5.8Ghz spectrum wasn’t worth it. I noticed in all the screenshot from Phantom 4 Pro that everyone still uses 2.4GHz. 5.8GHz is designed to be used in built up areas. Due to the fact that the whole area where I live use the same ISP, which provides 5.8Ghz routers as standard it wouldn’t have helped me. Out in the open you would still want to use 2.4GHz as it provides a superior range. In the end the deciding factor was the deal that I managed to get on eBay – I got a brand new Phantom 4 Advanced for a mere £700. How and why would someone want to sell a brand new Phantom 4 Advanced for almost half the price is beyond me. It came in a sealed box, all the stickers were still in place, controller wrapped and the battery showing 0 number of charges.

The main reason I decided to move on to Phantom 4 Advanced/Pro is the 30 minutes flight time and its camera. 20 megapixels is nice but what is more impressive is the full sensor size and the ability to change the aperture! Now when shooting a video it is much easier to follow 180 degree rule. Yes I might still need one ND4 filter on a very sunny day, since for the most part I should be able to adjust the shutter speed with the aperture alone.  The camera even gives you an aperture or shutter speed priority. I haven’t tried those yet, but in theory, in case of shutter speed priority it will keep the constant shutter speed by adjusting the aperture and the ISO. The ISO has been bumped up all the way up to 25K (with a small hack or 12K without it). Still, most of my photos and videos are going to be at 100 ISO.

What I like about Phantom 4 Advanced

  • Its camera. The UHD videos and the photos are awesome. Especially on my new 43″ UHD screen.
  • The build quality – DJI have learnt from the past and this time use much better materials for the body. The gimbal is now attached to the camera from both sides, rather than just one. Props are now easier to put on. Attaching the gimbal holder/fixing mechanism is no longer comparable to solving a rubik’s cube. Prop are also easier to attach: just press then twist and they are securely attached.
  • Intelligent flight modes: I haven’t tried them all yet, but the tripod mode is great and yet so simple.
  • Flight characteristics: it hovers much better, no movement whatsoever. The flight speed has also increased (that is if you disable obstacle avoidance or switch to the sports mode) 45mph is no joke. I also had a mini collision on its maiden flight at about 2m in height. I clipped a propeller by getting too close to a lamppost. To my surprise a bit of the propeller flew off, the drone shook for a second and the carried on on hovering like nothing happened. Upon inspection 1.5 cm of one of its propellers was missing. I very much doubt that Phantom 3 would have been able to stay in the air. I think it’s due to the material that the propellers are made of and a better IMU. The plastic is quite hard but brittle at the time. I was really impressed, as it looked like the drone would crash.
  • The box that it comes with is very nice and saves you from buying a separate carrier bag. It’s probably not as durable but still much better than simply a box

Things I didn’t like so much

  • Obstacle avoidance is useless. It didn’t save me from hitting a lamppost nor did it recognise a small tree as something that needs avoiding. In addition when obstacle avoidance is on the flight speed is restricted. In the Pro version the side sensors work only in the tripod mode (what was DJI thinking?) . I seriously wouldn’t trust it and have turned it off on my drone. So I’m glad I didn’t go for the Pro version. Looking at the forums the majority keep the collision avoidance permanently switched off.
  • The batteries are very expensive. The new one £169!

Overall I’m very impressed with the camera, its build quality and the flight time. And how it saved itself after colliding with a lapmpost. Worthy upgrade, especially for £700.

Martin Dalby Way – Flyby Video

Used DaVinci Resolve 15 Beta to edit this video. Have mixed feelings about the software. The editing capabilities are nowhere near that of Adobe Premiere Pro CC, however colour correction and colour grading is out of this world!

What I liked about Resolve 15:

  • The user interface is somewhat less flimsy than in Premier Pro or After Effects. It clearly dictates the work flow you should follow, whereas in Adobe it’s all over the place.
  • Sound editing capabilities
  • Fusion, which is now integrated is extremely powerful. Whether it’s better than After Effects I can’t say since I’m not really an expert.
  • The free version has more than enough functionality unless you’re editing commercially.
  • Colour correction and grading is extremely powerful.

What I didn’t like:

  • Can’t create proxy files
  • Interface for adjusting colour interface is overwhelming, but then again it’s super feature rich.
  • Stabilisation doesn’t work as well as in Adobe
  • Not as many effects in the free version compared to Premiere Pro

Taking into account that the free version is not very limiting it’s an excellent software!

DJI limit drones’ range if you are not in the US!

On DJI drones the GPS location is used by the aircraft/remote control to adjust the power output of the signal transmission to meet the local regulations. In the US, the governing body is FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in Europe it’s CE (Conformité Européenne). Doing that allows DJI to sell the same device in both markets.

In case of Phantom 3 Standard, when I say “power output” I mean both the 2.4GHz link – the bi-directional communication between the aircraft through the remote control, and the 5.8GHz control signal – one-way link to the aircraft.

FCC seem to be far more generous and allow for higher levels of power output by consumer devices. CE, on the other hand, are more strict in that regard. What this means is that, if a DJI drone detects that it’s outside of the US, it automatically applies the CE standards, even though you might not be in Europe. It either goes by FCC or by CE regulations. How and when exactly this limitation is applied is somewhat of a mystery to me (I’m still researching this topic, so please do let me know in the comments if you know the specifics). This lowers the power output of the transmission on both, the aircraft and the the remote control from 27 dBm to 17 dBm – almost by 40%! Inevitably that results in reduced range for those of us operating our drones outside of the US.

Continue reading DJI limit drones’ range if you are not in the US!

Litchi – Godsend for drone owners

If I had to choose one thing I could change on my drone for the rest of its life, without any doubt I would go with Litchi for DJI Phantom 3. The application unlocks the true potential of the drone and turns it into Phantom 4. It supports pretty much every single feature that I want my drone to support from the software point of view. For me the most important ones are:

  • Ability to plan your flight missions on your PC using waypoint navigation. No more fidgeting with your mobile phone, especially with my fat fingers. You do it as nature intended – with a mouse and a big screen. You then specify which path the drone has to follow and which objects the camera should be pointed at. At each waypoint you need to specify the altitude, the speed and optionally the number of other things: whether to start/stop recording, take a picture, turn, tilt etc. If you specify 10mph at waypoint A and 20mph at waypoint B, the speed in between will be linearly interpolated.
  • If you are signed-in, the mission is automatically synced with your phone! You can then export the flight, analyse it into Google Earth, check elevations, make sure that the drone while flying automatically doesn’t crash into anything.
  • At the end of each mission, you can tell the drone what to do, whether to return to home, reverse, go to waypoint 1, land at the destination (the latter one is a great feature)
  • It also has a bunch of other features:
    • Object tracking, which by default is currently available on Phantom 4 and above.
    • Panorama shooting
    • Orbiting
    • Support for VR without the expensive goggles!
    • More

You can literally uninstall the DJI software, it’s useless, in fact, I only used it twice, once to fly and another one to upgrade the firmware (so actually keep it for that reason alone)

The fact that the application is £19.99 is a good thing. Meaning that the company can afford to employ proper developers, improve and maintain the software on a continuous basis. In fact, I would have paid more for this software!

If you go to Google Play, make sure you search for Litchi Phantom 3 as there are different versions available for each drone. The rating of the application is surprisingly low, even though it’s rated extremely highly by drone user community. I guess it’s primarily because people don’t take time to learn such a feature-rich application.

I will post tutorials of each feature on my blog and YouTube channel as soon as I have some time. The application is a Godsend!