How to get rid of vibrations in your multi rotor helicopter

If you want to snap images or record video from your quadcopter it needs to be as vibration free as possible. When you manage that you get shots like these:

But when you start googling you get the same answer all over:

1. Balance your propellers
2. Balance your motors

But I did that:

And I still had vibrations, blurry stills and jelly-looking video. After a lot of trial and error found the solution.

It doesn’t matter how much you balance your props if they’re the wrong props. You need high quality very stiff props for aerial photography (AP). So, on the same quad, with perfectly balanced props I had lots of vibrations with one set of props and no vibrations with another.

I have had best results with Gaui props and Graupner E-props.

In addition to this I made a dampening system. First I tried to mount the camera directly on a small plate that was mounted on the quad with rubber dampers. That din’t work very well:

(Dampers = red)

Then I made a long extra board under the quad. Mounted it to the quad using four rubber dampeners and mounted both the camera and the battery on that one. Wow! No vibrations with any of my cameras!

(Dampers = red)

And this is how video looks like if you don’t limit the vibrations.

How to get rid of vibrations in your multi rotor helicopter

Test images from my current cameras

My available cameras today (shot with my 5D2, so it's not in the image)

As part of some experiments I’m running I snapped more or less the same image with all the cameras available to me today. The devices you see in the image above in addition to my 5D Mark II (that I used to snap that image…). Simply because I wanted to be able to compare some details.

And my conclusion? Once you go full frame you never go back. If I’m shooting anything even remotely serious I’ll bring my 5D2. Now if someone could give me a full frame digital compact with the size and weight of my old analog (and indeed full frame) Olympus XA

By clicking on the image you get through to flickr where you can have a look at the original full size image.

Canon 5D Mark II
Test - Canon 5D MkII

Canon SX200 IS
Test - Canon SX200 IS

Nokia N95
Test - Nokia N95

Canon 400D
Test - Canon 400D

Canon Powershot S50
Test - Canon Powershot S50

Apple iPhone 3G
Test - iPhone

Test images from my current cameras

HDR Timelapsevideo

I’ve written about the HDR effect before. And I’ve written about timelapse several times

Per Erik Sviland just published a video that combines the stuff. Timelapse and HDR. That high dynamic range effect usually just add an intense feeling of something kitschy. But because it really enhance the clouds it works well in a video like this.

Gruda/Ullandhaug HDR Timelapse in HD from Per Erik Sviland on Vimeo.

Per Erik has also been kind enough to include a nice how-to explaining how he made this video on his blog.

HDR Timelapsevideo

How to make that cardboard ‘hood’ for the DIY bokeh effect

Earlier this year I posted an article about how to make your own “bokeh” in your images. People have asked me for details about the cardboard “hood” I’ve been using.

So I decided to simply tear it apart and put it together in front of my video camera. Three minutes and fifty seconds later. And there you are. A nice tutorial on how this was put together.
DIY bokeh from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

Direct link to the video file.

How to make that cardboard ‘hood’ for the DIY bokeh effect

Automatic geotagging of your images

Geotagged image of a white cat

You’re geotagged, baby!

Six years ago I did an experiment after returning from a trip in France. I matched the time stamps of my digital images with the time stamps in the track from my GPS to be able to automatically place all my images on a map. At that point the trick included a lot of manual work, coding and hacking.

Fast forward to 2008 and there are a lot of software to help you do this. And I really like all solutions that can help me with automatic tagging of my images. Like most people I’m not too clever at manually tagging my images…

Time to find the best solution. My iPhone has a built in GPS and the best solution would be to leave a GPS tracker running on it at all times. Unfortunately that’s not possible due to the stupid fact that the iPhone doesn’t support proper multitasking. And it would probably drain the battery on my phone too fast.

So I’ll opt for yet another gadget. A small tracker that I can leave in my camera bag. It needs to be sensitive, fast and have a very good battery life. And it must support Mac OSX.

After some hours of research I’ve decided on the Qstarz BT-Q1000P. According to the reviews it is very accurate and sensitive. Due to the relatively new MTK 51 channel chipset. And probably due to a good antenna. The battery lasts for 32 hours continous use (according to a test the real life performance was actually measured to 36 hours). And it can be charged through a standard USB cable.

The Mac support isn’t out of the box but done with some third party software. Namely the MacTravelRecorder or the free bt747. I’ll get back here with my experience when I have received the device.

Geotagged image in google maps

Of course, I can’t just wait for that gadget to arrive, so I had to do some tests with my iPhone. I installed iTrail and went for a quick walk with my Canon 400D.

My camera doesn’t know anything about geotagging, but the beauty is that I’m now walking around with a device that records track points for where I am at any time (iPhone with GPS) and another device that snaps images and records the time when it was shot (the Canon 400D). And that’s the only thing you need to be able to place the images pretty accurately on a map.

Well back home I exported the track and used Gpicsync to do the work. The version of iTrail that I used doesn’t record time stamps for the track points, so the utterly intelligent Henrik Lied had to help me do some scripting to generate time stamps based on the start time and intervals. The author of iTrail promises time stamps in the next release. You point the software to the GPS track file and the folder with the images and it does the rest. It marks the photos with the nearest track point and adds tags for the actual location names. Meaning that you’ll not only get the coordinates, but actual tags with location names: “oslo”, “norway”, “marienlyst” etc. And the software will also make nice files for Google Earth and Google Maps. Here’s my experiment embedded:

And a direct link to Google Maps.

Don’t mind the boring images. This was not a test of my photography skills…

The nice thing about all this is that my image archive in Lightroom will be way better if I bring a GPS while shooting. Because of the fact that the software also adds names in the tags I can quickly find all images taken on a specific location.

Now, if I only had been smart enough to always bring a GPS the day I started shooting digitally. :-)

Some resources on geotagging: » Review: Geotagging software comparison for the Mac
Mac geotagging software showdown
Qstarz BT-Q1000P Platinum Travel Recorder – Review
Qstarz BT-Q1000 GPS logger review
ImageIngester – Software for professional digital photographers
VCP Serial Driver (you need it for Mac compatibility on a lot of the dataloggers)

And the two other data loggers on my shortlist before I went for the QStarz:
AMOD AGL3080 – Mounts like a USB drive to let you download tracks, meaning out of the box mac support. But using the older SIRFstar III chipset and can’t be charged through standard USB.

GISTEQ PhotoTrackr – Native mac software is a plus. Motion sensor for power management is a plus. But the dpl700 can’t be charged through USB and seems less sensitive than the QStarz (after reading several tests). The rechargeable Gisteq CD111 is supposed to have been upgraded to the new chipset, but according to ThinkGeek and Expansys they’re both still selling the old version.

So I’m waiting for my BT-Q1000P…

I have recieved my Qstarz device and it worked very well on my Mac using this program:
Mac TravelRecorder

It will set you back $49,- but it works very well. First of all, I could download tracks and update all settings through bluetooth. No drivers needed. In addition to that I installed the USB driver and it also works through USB.

The same thing is supposed to work with another software – BT747, but that software didn’t work right out of the box. BT747 is completely free, but I decided to go with the extra $49,- because I didn’t have the time to make BT747 work (please note that I have something close to zero patience if I have an alternative that works. And with this device I had a $49,- alternative).

The tests I’ve done with the Qstarz device show what I’ve been reading elsewhere. It’s very sensitive. Gives me connection where other devices won’t. I haven’t done any extensive tests during travel yet, but so far I’m very pleased with the device.

I’ve used the Qstarz on my MacBook Pro through bluetooth and USB. And on my 24″ iMac through bluetooth. Both running the latest version of Mac OSX 10.5.

Automatic geotagging of your images

Vote for my image on this weeks Wired photo contest

This week they’re running a contest with images of food. So I submitted this one:

“One mistake and this turns into scrambled eggs”

If you like it you can click yourself over to Wired and vote it up. Right now (as of June 30. @15:15 CET) it is at top. w00t! :-)

And by the way, you can only submit one vote.

Vote for my image on this weeks Wired photo contest

Different seasons in one image

If you have been following this blog for a long time you know that I did an experiment snapping images out of my window for a year. I made a video that was hugely popular and my images have been used in several interesting projects.

At that point I snapped the images with a Sony compact camera. After buying a digital SLR I decided to do the same thing. But this time in better quality and not shooting the images through my window.

I still have a couple of months before the next year of images are captured, but I have enough to do some experiments. Mainly because I want some feedback. This time I’m shooting three exposures each time. Giving me the possibility of putting them together using HDR software.

The following video is a horrible rough cut of the images so far. The black levels are completely off, the HDR effect too strong and the video is way too long for this kind of viewing.

The audio is actual audio captured at the same spot that the images are taken, but not at all synced with the images.

Still, it would be valuable to get some feedback and ideas. That will make it easier for me to make the final video perfect when I have all the images at some point late this summer.

Seasons – testvideo from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

Go ahead. Post your ideas and thoughts!

Different seasons in one image