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28 March, 2013

Aerial Filming Unit streams video to your phone, no remote control needed

Here is a peek into the not-so-distant-future of flying, smart cams.

Personal flying camera bots like this Quadcopter kit are designed to follow you around and film you and to let you quickly stream video to social networks.

This tiny four-rotor helicopter is super light, uses open source technology and follows your directions by voice command.

The designers boast that it can stream video to your mobile phone, take panorama photos and and is smart enough not to need a human to fly it with a remote control.

The flying personal social video cam product even has a cute name - MeCam.

This tiny "Aerial Filming Unit" employs 14 sensors and a lot of sophisticated code to to stabilise the aircraft and the images it gathers.

I prefer to call hover-cam devices like this "Aerial Filming Units" rather than the more commonly used term "Drones." That word has come to signify something far different than a flying, close-range film camera.

The future potential for a product like this would be to upgrade the camera to the video quality of a GoPro camera. And then it will need a real gimbal system in order to produce smooth-motion video.

It does not matter how many megapixels the sensor is, if there is lot of shake and blur in the resulting footage, it is practically unwatchable unless the content is super-compelling.

Creative hackers are already fabricating smooth motion gimbals for GoPros. 

High angle camera shots are a fantastic and valuable filmmaking and reporting tool, but these shots are only truly useful to professionals if the motion recorded is silky smooth.

Professionals (Like the BBC's Top Gear program) are currently using much larger and more expensive hexacopters, with giant batteries, expensive gimbals, microwave video transmission, gyroscopes and high quality Sony video cameras attached as payload.

These are cool, deliver great results but they cost upwards of $16,000 and clearly take a team of three people to get the most of the technology.

If you want to order the exact unit that the lads on Top Gear used in their recent episode you can build it out to your specifications at this Web site.

Here is an example of the high quality, smooth motion video that this flying camera rig can deliver.

Aerial Showreel 2013 | from Marcus Gelhard 

If you want to capture hover-cam footage with your 4k RED camera you need to spend a little more, on the helo and gimbal system, naturally. But people are doing this because of the disruptive effects of low prices and open source development.

Aerial Filming Units are now very cost-effective for people who use these shots all the time.
Filmmakers and television show producers are finding it to be far less expensive than renting a full-size helicopter and paying for a pilot, permits and all the rest.

There is a flying camera revolution happening with the DIY crowd and the filmmakers who are pushing the boundaries. The delta for low-costs and high production values is being met enthusiastically.

It is this combination is why we are seeing such an explosion in interest in this technology. It is also why so many people remain nervous about unlicensed use of these AFU's.

This emerging tech reminds me very much of the homebrew computer days when 13-year-old kids like myself were busy building our first computers and learning to code in HEX, Basic and Pascal. It is empowering, and also frightening at the same moment. No one is quite certain about where this is all leading.

Staying on top of the work of innovative developers, creative filmmakers and the tech hackers is worthwhile as we get glimpses into what might be included in the next iterations of these AFU's. (Yes, I am going to claim that term from here forward!)

What I can already see happening is much more autonomous operation being built into these devices and that will open the door to mainstream users being attracted to filming with flying cameras for their film productions.

The company that developed the nano point-and-film copter shown in the first photo is called Always Innovating.

This company create prototypes for new technology solutions and then licences their product design to manufacturers.

It is an interesting business concept, I must say.

I like this idea of always innovating. A small, inexpensive and smart "Hero cam" that does not need to be mounted to anything is indeed something that will be a game-changer in filmmaking and video reporting.

Join me at the Global Editors News Summit 2013 in Paris where there will be special sessions on 'Drone Journalism" and journalistic uses of deploying Aerial Filming Units.

Use the discount code below when you purchase a GEN News Summit ticket.

The special promotion code is "robbsfriends". 

This code is good for up to a 50% savings. The full non-membership price costs 1,699 Euros, so this code can save you big bucks.

#innovative #media #conference #hackthenewsroom