A look at the recent update for the 3DR Solo quadcopter, which expands its filmmaking functionality.
Last time we left off, we reviewed the 3DR Solo and its two axis capabilities. The 3DR Solo has a couple awesome party tricks, but these tricks more-or-less live in a two dimensional world. Cable Cam is great in theory, but as media creators, we paint our pictures in multiple dimensions, orchestrating complex movements with our subjects. 3DR understands this level of complexity, so the company has refined its Cable Cam feature with the latest update, version 2.0, introducing Multipoint Cable Cam.
What does this mean for Solo users? Well, as the name implies, this will enable you to create multiple waypoints so you can create a repeatable scene. Imagine you're on set and you have a SWAT team about to enter a partially exposed building with multiple levels to it. You want to depict the actors entering the building. The actors climb the stairs; the Solo elevates swooping past a window. As the actors make their way up the building, the Solo wraps around the other side of the structure, showing the face of the building is slightly demolished. We can now see the actors storm the last set of stairs to the rooftop where the Solo whizzes in for a close-up of the SWAT team holding up the bad guy. The Solo pauses for a moment and then pulls away into the sunset.
Prior to the update , all of this would have been nearly impossible without having an accomplished UAV pilot inputting commands manually. Now I'm good, but I'm not that good to repeat my actions and timing on a dime. So, I went out and tried a simple three-point movement just to see how this looked. It took some getting used to, but the multipoint works as promised. Instead of hitting A and B to set your points, users will fly to their first point and hit A. Once your first point is set, you will then fly to your second point and hit A again. This will create another waypoint for you and you will continue to hit the A button untill you reach your last position. Once at your last position, the user will hit the B button, completing the Cable Cam.
One sticking point: there is no way to delete waypoints while in this mode. The only way to clear a waypoint is to exit the mode entirely, fly back to your first point and re-enter the Cable Cam mode. I suggest you have an idea as to what you want ahead of time. Drawing things out on a storyboard might help and scouting the scene will definitely help ensure a safe flight pattern. This new tool really opens the full realm of possibilities to the users and is another step further in setting itself apart from the competition.
Timelapse and Follow-Me Free Look
In addition to the Multipoint Cable Cam, v2.0 now offers a Timelapse and Follow-Me Free-Look mode. The Timelapse mode as the name implies allows your Solo to capture content in timelapse photo mode, creeping the copter from your desired points ever so slightly. Beware user: if you execute a long point, your copter will exaggerate these movements over the course of an extended period. So, if you intend on flying a timelapse over water or a risky area, just know that you will exhaust your battery and need to return it to home at some point during the shot.
Free-look is AWESOME! 3DR has finally refined its follow me mode to a point where it is actually viable. In Free-Look, you will be able to adjust your Solo's altitude, speed and camera perspective as you are in the air. Get closer to your subject, pull back a little bit, elevate or descend – its all possible now! Before, Follow-Me mode was really a set it (altitude) and forget ordeal. If you are in a vehicle, this is probably the best way to utilize this type of shot. It would be nice if there were some sort of touch screen wristwatch 3DR created to enable your follow. The reason I say this is because the controller is so obtrusive. If I want to follow myself on my dirtbike or even walking in a field, having my controller in hand sort of pulls the viewer out of the scene. I actually intend on using this mode while in the countryside of Ireland this June, so I am excited to share the results with you!
In conclusion, 3DR is really keeping true to its motto "The Solo you have today will only get better tomorrow." This small update is anything but, adding much needed functionality to an already capable copter. Version 2.0 really opens the doors to limitless possibilities and allows users to orchestrate complex shots only seasoned pros could have pulled off prior to this update. If you haven't already, update your Solo today and get out there to shoot something. We love seeing your work, so feel free to share in the comments below!