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corporate video dallas with DJI Osmo

DJI Osmo Review – Great for Corporate Video

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Handheld gimbals are not new anymore, and the release of the DJI Osmo moves the handheld gimbal into the next generation.  Ever since we grabbed our small phantom drone, turned it on, and held on to it, moving around the location to get that “steadicam” effect, it was clear a new market (or call it a new tool for the videographer) was opening up.

Several years ago, we here at SFilms in Dallas purchased a relatively cheap powered gimbal (sold by a US distributor, but clearly made in China).  It required a GoPro, but we used the device constantly in our corporate videos.  It was taken on road tours for a corporate retail client of ours, for internal communications, and we used it on construction sites and other places as well.  And it fell apart.  We had to take screws from one side, to fill in ones lost on the other.  But using the GoPro gave us some flexibility.

Now DJI, maker of the phantom line of drones, has taken the gimbal and camera used on their Inspire drone, and stuck it on a stick.  Although I’ve had a history of disappointment with DJI (five times, their drones have simply fallen from the sky), there’s no where for this handheld gimbal to fall.  So here’s my rundown:

Receiving the DJO OsmoDJI Osmo in packaging

First, I ordered it, and it came with a few senseless accessories.  A selfie stick?  You can’t use that with the gimbal.  A cool pouch… but the gimbal already comes with a form fitting “miniature guitar” case.  So the pouch was unnecessary.  What I quickly learned is that a battery or two would have been an ideal accessory.

After unboxing, I connected it up.  For someone new to DJI’s app, it will be fairly confusing at first.  But I’ve had some experience, so I was able to get it working quickly.  The construction of the gimbal is pretty solid and well made.  The holder for the iphone or whatever you want to use as a monitor is very well designed and thought out.  I use a lot of ipads and iphones etc and I drop them a bunch so I use hard core cases.  That makes it difficult to mount onto things, but this holder is flexible enough to hold the iphone with the Lifeproof case.

The First Gig– Corporate Video Event in Ballroom


Then came the first big gig to use it on.  Here’s where I learned a lot.  The gimbal’s battery is a pretty quick burn.  Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to charge, but I jumped online and ordered some backup batteriesDJI Osmo at a corporate video event.  I also ordered an ipod touch.  Using my phone works well, but I was in the middle of text conversations with clients on my phone and using it for the gimbal became problematic.  A cheap ipod will fix that.

The gig was a corporate event inside a ballroom.  I quickly changed settings via my iphone.  The image was slightly better than my GoPro Hero 4.  But, as expected, not as good as the Canon C100 Mark II we were using as well.  I experimented with the slow motion settings as well as the 2.7k and 4k resolutions.


Although the Osmo is a great tool for BRoll, it does have some limitations– not great for a quick cold start.  Connecting the app can take crucial seconds when you rea

Osmo tilting

Image from the Osmo with the tilting going on making the image off level.

lly want to grab that handshake the CEO is giving the top sales writer.  You can just start shooting in the blind.  About one out of every five startups, my iphone does not recognize the Osmo’s wifi and I have to restart it.  And the camera lists to port.  I’m guessing this is because the iphone sits on the left side of the stick and so I think I start tilting left.  But reversing it sometimes doesn’t work.  So some of the footage is not level.  And double-clicking the trigger (which centers it) doesn’t have any effect on the level.

It was easy to get used to it because it operates similar to the cheap chinese one I’ve been using.  You rotate one way and the camera follows.  That’s how you drive it.  The thumb switch for manually moving the camera is not a great feature while shooting.  Factory setting is way to fast, so I slowed it down in the settings and use my wrist to turn the stick which will pan the camera smoother than the thumb switch.


In spite of the limitations, overall I really like it.  It will be a great tool in our arsenal for corporate video production here in Dallas.  If anyone has comments, I’d love to hear them.

Why I Struggle With DJI

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Testing the Octo with a GoPro before putting larger cameras on board.

Testing the Octo with a GoPro before putting larger cameras on board.

I use DJI products.  About 7 or 8 years ago, they saw the future and jumped.  Now they’re the Coca-cola of the consumer drone world.  Congrats.  So why am I hating on DJI?

It all started with an Octo.  This particular octocopter was a custom-build.  Of course 3-4 years and further back, everything big like that was a custom build.  For the custom builders, the best “brain” for running these builds, was the wookong, made by DJI.  This was the technology that told the drone what to do.  You inputted a command in the controller, it was received by the wookong and orders went out from it to the motors.

One beautiful twilight evening at a park in North Carolina, I was flying this octo with a $4,000 camera/lens on it.  I had just finished the run and was bringing it back to me in the parking lot.  About 90 feet up and 50 feet away from me, it suddenly flipped over, and flew into the pavement.  I don’t mean fell into the pavement.  The motors were accelerating.  This was the worst drone crash I’ve ever seen.  The only fortunate thing was that because of the flip, the expensive camera was on top, instead of on bottom.  It was the only thing to survive (though the lens was shattered).

The builder contacted DJI for me, and now, a year and a half later, I still have absolutely nothing.  I was promised a replacement wookong, so at least I could try and sell that to get a little of my investment back.  But the expensive gimbal?  Out of luck.  The FPV system?  Too bad.  The frame?  It stays a twisted pile of rubbish. The two $180/each batteries were toast as well.

I understand that 95% of the crashes are user driven.  This clearly wasn’t part of that 95%.  But that was just one thing.  And it’s not like the whole unit was DJI.  What if a component had interfered with the compass?  Who knows, so I can give a little break to DJI.

DJI Phantom 2

Flying the DJI Phantom 2.

So I have had several Phantom 2’s.  I’ve heard horror stories of fly-aways and such.  Here’s my experience (not urban legend).  I have many, many hours of flying.  For the most part, the DJI Phantom 2 has flow wonderfully.  On two different occasions, I have had flyways.  One time I was able to shut down and restart the controller and gain control back.  The other I didn’t and it crashed hard enough that that drone never flew again.  In that case, I had just taken off with new battery, when it just flew off to the right, gaining a little altitude until it crashed on a bridge.

The other problems I’ve had with the Phantom 2 have been unexplained behaviors.  Usually on a low battery, it starts with a slow blinking red light, then starts to blink faster.  Push it far enough and it will do an emergency descent.  All good.  I’ve had three occasions where the Phantom 2 just performed an emergency descent as soon as the battery blinked red for the first time.  Not good.  I did mark the battery the second time and the third time was same battery.  I pulled that one off the line, and it hasn’t happened since.

The last incident was the most troubling.  I was flying, three out of four bars on the battery, 70 feet up, when suddenly it fell to the ground, totaling the phantom and the gimbal.  On play back of the GoPro, it’s clear what happened– the engines totally stopped.  Even when problems occur, the engines will still spin.  This was a total engine fail.

I mention all this because DJI needs more stability in their computer-side of the drone activity.  People can get hurt if you’re flying and you get the drone equivalent of the microsoft blue screen of death.  I just purchased a R3D Solo and I’m hoping that the technology side is more dependable.

Maybe I’m totally off.  Maybe the vast majority have never had a hint of trouble from their DJI product.  One last thought I’ll leave with– WHy did DJI and GoPro have to fight?  Phantom 1 used the slot in the back of the GoPro for easy connection.  With Phantom 2, DJI refused to pay fee, so connecting is actually harder, and now with Phantom 3, you have to use their camera.  Bummer.

Dan using his Canon 7D DSLR on slider

Reviewing the Video Film Slider

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Video Production Benefits from Smaller Cameras and Cool Toys

With the smaller cameras, come cool toys and tools that can have a great impact on your production value.  As of late, there has been a huge boom in sliders.  I know I’ve been using them the last year or two– to the point where it goes out on every shoot.  Sliders are a simple basic replacement for dollies.  Now film and video productions can get great smooth right and left movement for a fraction of the cost and manpower.  You can even truck in and out with them and in some extreme cases, you can crane up and down.

At SFilms, we use a basic Glidetrack.  And recently, we bought a Slyderdolly from Digital Juice that has been pretty impressive.  It’s robust, strong, sturdy and comes with features and accessories that didn’t exist 18 months ago.

So here’s a practical show and tell about sliders– the problems, the solutions and how they can help.

Feel free to leave comments about your own Slider stories!  (Just remember we’re not talking little hamburgers).

Dan shooting with DSLR on jib

Review of the SmallHD DP6 Monitor

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When shooting with the DSLR’s, a monitor is probably the first most important accessory you’ll need (other than lenses).  Especially with the Canon 5D and 7D, due to the LCD screen being fixed on the back of the camera body.  I’ve used Ikan, Marshall and Zacuto.  But a friend in the industry recommended SmallHD.

What I like is that this monitor is true HD– many of the others are still using a 800x something.  And one telling thing– the client the other day, over my shoulder, looked at the image ais that what my video is going to look like?”  She was amazed at the image.

So here’s my video review of the SmallHD monitor.