Goodbye Premiere Pro! Hello Sony Vegas!!

It seems like a virtual eternity since I have posted to this blog.  It has been a busy year and I have been tied up working on a feature-length documentary throughout the spring and summer months (The Regulators).  In fact, it is still ongoing as I work the final editing in preparation for submission to film festivals.

It has been a bumpy process with bad news and good news within it which lead to this article.  First of all, I made the gross mistake of falling for the Adobe Creative Cloud upgrade from CS6.  It was tantalizing to consider that it would handle video formats faster in native containers and make a great big difference in the process that I have been working through.  May I admit to you that this was the biggest mistake of my life.

When you port your CS6 Premiere Pro project to CC you cannot go back!  They moved from a nice open XML project format to some sort of proprietary binary config file so after the porting and continued work, I could not go back.  Sure, I could have resumed where I left off with the old config and redone all the work I had completed in CC but that was a major commitment that I was not willing to make in light of the performance of Adobe’s Premiere Pro.

On my WIndows 7 (64 bit), 12 core Intel i7, 12G RAM system, Premiere Pro CC was constantly attempting to re-render and ending up in a deadlock.  After three long sessions with their tech support (which essentially erved only to revert every critical driver to versions that were years old) the problem never was resolved.  CC 2014 is still broken and the most recent update of that still has the problem.  As a seasoned developer, my gut feel is that there is a thread deadlock somewhere in their code.  Things crank up then hang and never move forward again even if left running overnight.  Exiting the process leaves the image running with tons of threads consuming processor power but achieving nothing…only a well delivered coup d’grace makes it exit.

In despair, I did not know what to do.  I gave Adobe weeks of my time to no avail.  I entertained springing for a new Mac and Final Cut Pro, but finally encountered Sony Vegas Pro 13.  This is the good news part of my ordeal.

It is good that I gave this program a shot.  While there was a learning curve, got me up to speed quickly.  It took a little while to get used to the nesting of Vegas projects but once one embraces this, it is really good.  The ability to open multiple copies of Vegas and work on different projects (or subprojects) simultaneously is truly wonderful.  Also on the good news front, my Magic Bullet Looks and FilmConvert plugged right in.  I am sorry that Magic Bullet’s Colorista does not work there though but as a developer I can understand their reasoning.


After taking a couple weeks to retrain and backtrack the project, I was well on my way with producing the documentary.  I am pleased that I followed this path.  So many things make sense with Vegas – like the plug-in chain for effects and adjustments.  I like the jog and shuttle control and actually invested in a Contour Shuttle Xpress to exploit it fully.

In closing, I think that anyone in the Windows environment should consider Sony Vegas and give it a whirl.  With a 30-day downloadable trial, there is nothing to lose.  One lesson that I have learned is to keep multiple options open when producing a film.  It doesn’t hurt to have two or more equivalent production-quality editors at your immediate disposal so that you can have options.  Assuming that a large corporation like Adobe or Sony or Avid or Apple will react to your woes is naive at best. “Trust, but have a backup editor…”

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“D” Day – 70 years later

In my day job as software engineer, I constantly tote around a notebook. I write my daily notes on one sheet and leave its facing page for additional notes or later discoveries to be noted adjacent to the date. As I feel led by a significant moment, sometimes, I doodle out a simple sketch on a facing page. Today I could not help but think of the intense cost my physical freedom, and the freedom of hundreds of millions around the globe, involved.

Operation Overlord is but one of these events but it is significant in my mind’s eye thanks to the old Life magazine photos and newsreels I consumed in my youth. What courage it took to hop out of a landing craft knowing that a hail of bullets were marching towards you! Many gave their lives to conquer a beachhead, to gain a toehold on continental Nazi-occupied Europe. Yet their sacrifice was not in vain. Many laid down their lives so their neighbors, brothers, and friends would not have to go to that God-forsaken place and to suffer their fate.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NKJV) There is not much more that we should do than to say “thank you” to these brave people and to honor their memory in all that we say and do.

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My Learning Experience in Cinematography

In a recent article, Vilmos Zsigmond stated, “I think film is about images. Cinema needs good images. I think that if you don’t have good images, it’s not going to be a film. I think all films should be really visual.” (see Cinema needs good images) I must say that I totally agree. I am a very visual person and I dabble in many of the visual arts, painting, photography, and now cinematography. Of course, this does not mean that story is not important, and sound is not critical, and editing, and so on. However, I have to agree that all of the aspects of film-making are either made by excellent camera work or are broken by shoddy craftsmanship.

Needless to say, this is one of the many areas in which I am struggling to improve. I have been familiar with still images for most of my life but learning to bring a crispness to my skills with video capture is proving to be quite an adventure. From the cinematographic perspective, I am working diligently to master a finite set of equipment and shooting conditions. There are umpteen different devices and processes out there but I feel that I need to become competent in several core items (pan head, shoulder rig, sliders, basic dollying, etc.) before being overwhelmed by all the rest.

Some say that the best way to learn is by observing. Others say that to truly master an art, one must do. So I am covering both bases with my new documentary project called “The Regulators”. I am “doing” a number of different roles and learning by leaps and bounds. I am also observing others who graciously have opted to work with me on this project. I also am observing through my reading. I have a pair of books that I recently read that are hopefully going to help me reach greater heights in this pursuit.

SevenSamuraiThe first of these is a pre-release by Richard Pepperman called “Everything I Know About Filmmaking I Learned Watching Seven Samurai.” (Michael Wiese Productions – publication in November 2014) Pepperman assumes the role of a master teacher who walks his students through Kurosawa’s epic film. After leading his audience through the basic principles of the movie’s structure and story, he then provides “an overview of the screenwriter, cinematographer, editor and director collaboration without overlooking the obligations of the craftspeople.” Each section of the book brackets a section of the movie and goes into depth concerning how these aspects collaborate in producing a memorable segment of film. As the teacher, Pepperman then highlights the essentials under one or more “Lessons Learned” monikers. Section by section, the student is driven to dig deeper into the art of movie-making, and to learn how elements work together to drive the story forwards. The teacher imparts knowledge to the student while teaching that student how to parse movie material and learn lessons on his or her own. I know that this exposure to this book will produce fruit in my work for the rest of my life.

DSLRCinemaThe second of these is Kurt Lancaster’s “DSLR Cinema, 2nd Edition” (Focal Press) which was an eye-opener to me since I have been enthralled with DSLR videography since I first started it a few years ago. It has been especially on-point as I have been working on this new project. The book walks through the process of achieving filmic results with DSLR videography and includes copious amounts of commentary by known experts in the field (Vincent Laforet, Po Chan, Phillip Bloom, and others). Finally, there is a complete section that goes through gear purchases broken down by budgets, something very helpful to the relative neophyte like myself.

As it goes, “the rest is history.” It is my hope that the knowledge gleaned from these books will combine with my experience and produce memorable, filmic images in the finished product. Time will tell!

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Shooting “The Regulators” (and the Nikon D800E)

It has been a busy couple of months as I have been working on a documentary project concerning the Regulation movement in the Province of North Carolina between 1765 and 1771.  On May 16, 1771, the Regulators faced down Governor Tryon and his mustered militia troops and lost the Battle of Alamance.  A whole slew of information can be found on the project notes site.

Anyway, filming began last month and will continue through Summer.  One of our first shoots was at Tryon Palace in New Bern, NC.  I have been reading good things about the Nikon D800E and so I opted to rent one with the excellent Nikkor 12-24 zoom.  Needless to say, it was love at first shot!  I love the fact that this model does not introduce anything in the path to blur my images.  I have been going crazy with my D700 (which I love, don’t get me wrong) and the fact that everything just seems fuzzy.  With its 36 MP image, close cropping is also easier to do but, the downside is having to handle immense RAW files.  Oh well, that is why all that memory is on my machines!

One of the neat parts of being at Tryon and shooting outdoors was that we had been able to negotiate (under heavy insurance, of course) to capture aerial footage with the DJI Phantom Quadcopter/GoPro rig.  I have become a lot more proficient at it and my wife, Sherry, is also getting really good at flying the beast around.  I have also become more familiar with using GoPro’s ProTune/RAW and pulling it through color processing. Here is a frame grab of the processed video from Tryon Palace.


Returning to the Nikon D800, video capture is very smooth and some additional modes are introduced beyond my D7000’s capabilities.  I really love the fact that one of my pet peeves with the D7000 is no longer an issue.  This camera permits on-the-fly changes of aperture while recording and in LiveView.  The other camera drove me out of my skull in having to exit LV, change aperture, then return to LV to resume every time an aperture had to be modified!  The 12-24 f/28 is a wonderful ultrawide zoom range, which combined with the FX sensor of the D800E, leads to a wonderful filmic feel with lots of headroom.

It was hard to pack it all up and send it back.  However, I only had to say goodbye for a short time…long enough to order one and have it delivered.  I do have to say that if you are looking at expensive equipment, spending a few days with a rental version will either convince you or let you know that it is not a fit.  In the case of the D800, it was a great fit since it mimics the D700 in many respects.  Getting to know where everything is was a minor task and the changes, for me, were good.  Here is an unveiling video shot with my D7000:

The weekend of May 16 will be very busy.  We will be filming the re-enactors at the Alamance Battleground from the 16th through the 18th, then on Monday, May 19th we will be going back to New Bern to film re-enactors in Tryon Palace.  Wish me and the rest of the team good luck!



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Missing the Opportunity

I just read an article passed to me by my wife, Sherry, on Ravi Zacharias’ site concerning the effect of a simple little letter written by a 6-year-old girl. The article is here and is entitled “The World Without a Story.” Boiled down to its essence, 6-year-old Lulu wrote a short letter to God and gave it to her father, a journalist named Alex Renton. He and his wife are atheist but they decided to not allow their position to answer their child’s curiosity. Thus, he chose to email family, Christian friends, and some expert theologians.

In Renton’s own essay entitled A letter to God, the saddest words to me were that “the Episcopalians and Presbyterians did not reply.” Others responded but either noncommittally or in language that was too theological. The best response was that from the (then) Archbishop of Canterbury which can be seen in the article. I recommend reading both Renton’s essay and Jill Carattini’s article on Ravi Zacharias’ site. However, let me return to briefly discuss the missed opportunities here.

As believers, we are exhorted to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4 NKJV with my italics) I presented the context of this because it outlines the seriousness of the charge that Paul made to Timothy, and consequently to all of us. The times around us are wicked, the clamoring noise drowns out God, and man’s heart constantly seeks to invent evil. All around us are as many permutations of “religiosity” as there are members of the populace and we have to be prepared to lay out the Word of God. We cannot afford to shrug off any opportunity, even if that opportunity is a child’s simple question scratched out on notepaper!

It is shameful to not be able to answer a question about the God Whom we love and serve. Sure, we may not be eloquent but we should be able to articulate the basics of Who is God and why do we love Him. 1 Peter 3:15,16 calls Christians, especially those who are suffering for the sake of Christ, to “…sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” (NKJV and italics are mine) The word is “always” not “sometimes” or “occasionally” or “when the Spirit gets you.” Always be ready, in season and out of season. It is amazing how much effort we put into developing an “elevator pitch” about our work, our current project, our vacation plans, or the state of our kids but we won’t do so for the hope that is in us.

Yet, even more shameful were those in ministry who did not deign to answer. Like the priest and Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan they glanced over and didn’t see anything of interest and passed by the question of this child. These busy people considered their pending tasks too important to consider what seemed to be a silly little letter from a child. However, look at what they missed! They missed their response touching a little girl’s life, moving the hearts of atheist parents, and being published in The Times [of London] (article here) front-and-center in their Faith section for umpteen people to read, contemplate, and maybe even come to Christ! One wonders if their responses would have been forthcoming if they had known that there would be an opportunity for their personal glory?

Thank God for the tender answer of the then Archbishop. He was, quite obviously ready in season and out of it to provide the reason for his hope and his response was properly tailored to the needs of a little girl exploring her first tugging questions about a great God’s existence. Even beyond the answer itself, his actions exemplified the character of Jesus for Whom no-one is too small and insignificant for His ministering grace. “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” (Matthew 19:13-15 NKJV) The Archbishop’s response serves us a reminder to all of us about our central mission and why God chose to keep His people in the world and not to translate them to heaven upon their conversion. We are here to tell others the good news and to share the hope that is in us.

May all of us believers be aware of the seeking and probing questions that we are being asked and may we seek, through God’s Spirit, to provide answers. May we not overlook the young, the downtrodden, and the forgotten of our society. May we never be too busy to not be about our Father’s business.

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Dealing with the Serpent’s Venom

As Easter approaches, I prepared the following as a sermon to use at one of our prisons to which we minister. I am sharing it here because its message is so important as we contemplate the Cross and all that Christ is for us.

John 3:13-21 (NKJV)
12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

GustavDore_TheCrucifixionThe gospel is, as Fredrick Buechner put it, incredibly bad news before it is incredibly good news. In this passage, Jesus Himself explained the essence of the gospel message with one of Israel’s teachers, a man named Nicodemus. As we picked up the narrative above, Jesus honed in on the essential news of the gospel and it is nothing like the world imagines.

The terrible news is that Satan has bitten each of us just as a viper does and he has injected his vile poison into our veins. Some of those among us, defiant to the end say things like, “I am looking forward to Hell because all the cool people are there” or “my friends and I will party.” They consider Hell to be just a place, maybe not quite as posh as Heaven, but somewhere where they could make a home. To them, it is the difference between Buckingham Palace or the White House and a no-name motel.

However, Jesus outlined that this is not the case at all. He defined the difference between Heaven and Hell in terms of extremes: life versus death, saved versus condemned. They are polar opposites. There is nothing in the one that is in common with the other. The venom of the Serpent that has been injected into all men’s veins, if left unchecked, leads down a path of total destruction. So other people, who are not as defiant, raise their heads, fearfully turn to God and ask, “What is to become of me?” Nicodemus was one of these people. He was one who was seeking God’s honest answer to the bad news.

To those who ask, Jesus points out what He pointed out to Nicodemus in John 3. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” “Huh? What? What’s that you say?” What in the world does this mean? So confusing…or is it? We MUST all take the time to delve into what is meant by this “Moses and snake” statement, right? In order to do this, we must read Numbers 21:4-9 to understand Jesus’ context, one which obviously was known to Nicodemus. So, let’s turn to it and look at this story of condemnation and grace in terms of the Israelites:

Numbers 21:4-9 (NKJV)
4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.

7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

GustaveDore_TheBrazenSerpentThis occurrence is an analogy of the state of man. The Israelites represent the state of mankind: Venom sweeping through their veins; death staring them in their faces; and God’s response was to command Moses to quickly cobble together a bronze snake, hang it on a pole in the camp, and then bid the bitten to turn to stare at it! Please take careful note that this is the same thing that Jesus bids us do today. Note His words – “AS Moses lifted up….” (John 3:14) – He bids us to do the same as the Israelites in the desert that many years ago.

So what happened with the Israelites stuck with the bad news of their impending doom? The hardened and defiant ones just ignored God’s commandment. “Yeah, whatever??!” They preferred to deal with the poison their own way. They sucked on the bites, cut around them, drank herbal tea, uttered magic incantations, called the psychic hotline, researched “cures” online, and did everything that their minds could come up with to save themselves. And…they died.

The fearful self-proclaimed “faithful” ones heard the admonition and decided that God was crazy. “Turning and looking at some bronze serpent will not fix this poison! I have to do something SERIOUS about this situation.” They decided that they might as well look at the serpent and pretend to obey but at the same time that they would try something else that made more sense. Thus, they were just self-sufficient as the first group but they layered on a thin veneer of “religiosity” to appease their unbelief. In the end, they also tried to save themselves and in so doing, they rejected God. And…they died.

The rest, however, reasoned that God was indeed wise and that if He said it, then it had to be true. They abandoned all hope of saving themselves, turned in their faith, and looked at the bronze serpent. And…they discovered that they were immediately healed. The pain of the poison disappeared instantly and they continued living. That is total trust in a nutshell. Believing to the point of even death itself that God is truthful and able to save. It is not just sitting on the gunwales of the boat dangling your feet in the water. It is hopping out on the water expecting it to be like concrete under your feet…and it is!

So what happened there? Faith was either expressed or it was rejected. Those who outright denied God’s power could not be saved. Those who tried to add human effort to God’s commandment could not be saved. Only those who let go of their doubt and took a flying leap of faith, completely trusting in God’s promise, were saved. The turning to look expressed the desires of their hearts. They trusted God with a childlike faith. We don’t need to know the details of how God will accomplish His saving act in our life. We only need to know that He is fully able to do it.

Salvation, the incredibly good news part of the gospel is summed up in John 3:14 to 17. In the same way that the bronze serpent was lifted up and set in the midst of the dying, so also is Christ. He was raised up on the cross where He died for all mankind’s sin and He was raised up from the dead and is standing by ready to save whosoever will. Verse 15 drives the point home that we must believe in Him. There is no human effort involved. There is nothing additional demanded of us. The kernel of the gospel, the Good News, is that we only need to believe and turn to look upon Him with the eyes of faith.

God has the antidote to the poison which is ravishing our beings. This antidote is the “transfusion” of the precious blood of Jesus into each of us! God’s incredible love for us is so intense that He chose to send His Son, His only Son, a part of the Godhead, a part of Himself, to die for our sins. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that the Perfect was made to become sin for our salvation’s sake. He Who could not sin paid the penalty for our transgressions. The blood of Calvary is more than adequate to cover our sin and move us from the realm of eternal death and into the realm of eternal life.

Do not be mistaken, Hell is a serious place and a serious time. It is an eternal lifetime in a place completely devoid of the love and grace of God. There is no mercy, no relenting, no goodness, and no party. It is, in Jesus’ words in Mark 9:42-47, a place where the fire is never quenched and a person never can escape the torment. God is fully aware of this and so He freely offers us salvation to take us out of this place. God’s love offered up His only beloved Son as the ransom for our souls, and Jesus’ blood is the only antidote to the Satanic poison that afflicts us. As Charles Wesley wrote so eloquently in the hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”:

He breaks the power of cancelled sin
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

Returning to Jesus’ words in John 3, let us consider what they mean to us. John 3:16 is probably among the most quoted verses of the Bible and yet so many miss what it actually says. It states that God’s intense love for us was expressed in the broken, bleeding body of Jesus on Calvary’s cross. He saw the only way that the bite of the serpent could be healed and paid the price Himself. All that we each need to do to be free from the poison of sin is to believe. Jesus’ atoning sacrifice has the power to take us from a state of perishing to a state of eternal life. Verse 17 emphasizes that Jesus came to Earth, to be born as one of us, to be God’s agent of salvation. His first coming to the world has broken open the coffers of God’s grace and He bids us to take hold of it.

The Bible reminds us that Jesus will come to Earth one more time. This second time will not be like the first. The first advent of the Lord Jesus was to NOT condemn the world but to save it (v 17). In the second coming, He will be the Judge of the world. The coffers of grace will once again be sealed up and those who have rejected Him will be condemned and cast into Hell. How can we reject Jesus? Verse 18 clearly outlines that “he who does not believe is condemned already.” We already have the venom of the serpent sweeping through our bodies. That venom, which is our natural sinful nature, will serve to convict us. We stand condemned because of our evil natures which hate God’s light and reject it. If we do not do anything, we are under the death sentence that we rightly deserve.

Yet, the Good News is that there is a way out. God’s light has come into the world. Jesus Christ has come and paid the price and God bids us to turn to Him in faith and trust Him. “He who believes in Him is not condemned,” says verse 21. “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” is stated twice in verses 15 and 16. In verse 17, we are told that God sent His Son into the world to save it. The way out does not depend upon our being intellectual giants. The way out does not need us to be smart. The way out does not need us to be strong. The way out does not need us to know some secret handshake. The way out is to turn in faith, to repent of our sins and hand everything over to the Lord Jesus. The word “repent” literally means a “change of one’s mind” and represents a 180 degree shift in our perspective. We agree with God that we ARE sinners and that we do not have the power to fix it ourselves. We agree with God that, no matter how crazy His solution to the problem may seem, it is the RIGHT one. We turn, like the Israelite did in the desert, and look towards God’s solution with eyes of faith.

Today, if you already have turned and looked at Jesus, if He already is the “author and finisher of your faith (Heb 12:2), then you are blessed. You have loved the light and come into it. However, if you have never really looked to Him as Lord and Savior, then I urge you to not waste another moment. Being under condemnation is not a good place to be. All you have to do is to realize that, without Christ, you have nothing waiting for you but Hell. The gift of God is free. It is waiting for you to accept it. Just have faith in God, trust Him, and turn and look at Jesus.

(Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

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Phantom of the Skies

NewPhantom2Quadcopter4A new toy, er tool, has entered the fray over here. How many times have I desired to be able to add 100ft to my current position and photograph (or video) from a higher vantage point (To see this wish in action, see my blog post here)?

For a while, I have been eyeballing quadcopters. As the image quality of the cameras got better (and the lift improved to allow better cameras to be hoisted into the air), I found myself being tipped over the edge. A friend of my wife’s husband ended up with a Phantom and indirectly I received lots of feedback, mostly positive, about it and the camera rig. A Phantom lived in my Amazon wishlist for a few months until I finally was toppled by this video:

Hatteras from Justin Brown on Vimeo.

To me, Justin Brown’s work is lovely and his videos demonstrate the efficacy of using a quadcopter and GoPro camera. Since I am very familiar with the North Carolina subjects he shot and put on his Vimeo feed, I could definitely evaluate the quality of it. I salivated a bit longer then pulled the trigger.

The most important thing about quadcopters is learning to fly them and to control them properly. In the US, as long as you stay out of regulated airspace, do not use them in specifically banned areas, tread carefully when you fly, and do not attempt to charge for video you shoot (makes it commercial use and prosecutable by the FAA) you can enjoy this hobby (see this article. Nothing will layer incredible regulations on quadcopter use faster than folks who abuse the privilege and bring about the ire of the public and the government.

So, with this being said, it is quite obviously important to learn how to properly fly and control these possible projectiles! Consider this warning commentary about a quadcopter crashing into a busy Manhattan street! With this and other similar anecdotal stories ringing in my ears, I sought to figure how to properly handle this beast before firing it up.

The first good piece of advice came early and was easily heeded. Purchase a small “toy” quadcopter ($40-$80) and use it to learn basic control skills. With a small Hubsan X4 in hand, I could learn to fly indoors with something substantially lighter than the DJI Phantom 2. An additional benefit of learning with these small craft is that they tend to be far more twitchy and unstable than the 3-gyro, GPS-stablized Phantom platform. Learning to control these little guys makes the DJI seem “easy” in comparison (at least, in some respects). The key is to work on learning not only the controls themselves but then how to work the controls regardless of if the craft is oriented nose-out (facing the same way as the controller), nose-in (facing the controller – left/right and back/front are reversed relative to the controller), and every orientation in-between (e.g. side-in) which adds additional complication to the process.

PhantomFlying10A nice tutorial which really helped me initially is How to fly a quadcopter (part 1). It gave a good overview of some of the key basics that I, as an RC newbie, urgently needed. Quadcopters and RC helicopters are very similar in function. With this in mind, I have to also say that the Learn how to fly RC Helicopters series has been extremely helpful so far.

So, stay tuned to here and my video feed on Vimeo for some results from the quadcopter!

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