An interview of Phantom Man Adam Bryant By Real Whitby’s Dave Agnew.
Q – 1 Hi Adam thanks for agreeing to give us a bit more detail on your rather fantastic drone video of the viaduct. so what set up are you using to get quality footage like that. Whats the range etc. how much would a set up like that cost.
A – Hi David thanks for having me and featuring my work on the real Whitby website, it’s pretty exciting to know that my cinematics could well end up being viewed by hundreds of people.
My drone is the recently released DJI Phantom 3 Professional with inbuilt 4k camera mounted onto a 3 axis gimbal. Along with its video capabilities it can also shoot 12MP still images in a variety of different formats.
I bought mine whilst on holiday in the USA to save a few pennies but the device can be had over here in the UK for around £1200, there is also a version with a 1080p camera which is around £900. There is a lot of demand though so you could well have to wait a good few weeks before actually receiving the device.
I have also added some snap on prop guards as a safety precaution just in case something was to go wrong.
I carry all my equipment in a Microraptor waterproof case, you would struggle to find one over here in the UK but you can definitely get similar cases or even opt for a backpack for extra mobility.
Some other additions I am currently awaiting delivery on are a carbon fibre camera guard and a gimbal saver, these in theory will offer a little more protection in case of a hard landing/crash.
My next purchase will definitely be some FPV (First Person View) goggles when they become available, I’m hoping this will be nearest thing to actually being on board the drone itself.
The devices standout feature in my eyes is DJIs Lightbridge technology which allows for a direct live feed straight to my phone/tablet whilst plugged into the remote control with an advertised range of 2miles. I have actually seen people fly them 4 miles before and still receive a clear image feed, there is actually a video online of someone flying one 8miles (one way). It seems the distance is only restricted by the 20minutes battery life you get per charge
As far as vertical distance goes the device is at default limited to 400m which is the legal limit, you can however remove this restriction if you wanted to but to be flying it in other aircrafts airspace is pretty risky business. Online I have seen people flying them above the clouds which I’m sure you can imagine looks amazing but it’s not for me.
Q 2 I particularly liked the editing you did, I’m a big fan of Team Blacksheep on youtube you seem to have a similar vibe, how long does it take you to edit your footage, what programs are you using etc
A. My daily job as a 3D Character Animator has helped a lot when it comes to editing the footage, I have been quite familiar with Adobe After Effects for a while now so making the transition into Adobe Premiere Pro for editing my Drone footage was quite a painless process. I would estimate I spend around 4 hours editing the footage over the course of a few days, most of the time taken is actually shooting the footage, my Viaduct video was made up of 3 separate visits so that’s an hours air time for what ends up beings a 2 minute video.
For anyone wanting to get into editing footage you would be extremely surprised how little you actually need to know about Premier Pro and yet still are able to create amazing content.
Q 3 have you had any close shaves- I’v watched a few videos of drones being rescued by other drones and other ones that met certain death, how do you feel about flying with X amount of expensive equipment over water etc. is it worth it for the footage
The tree in a neighbours back garden about 3 doors up bears the scars of my biggest crash so far, I committed the sin of losing line of sight of my drone along with looking up from my tablet display so I was basically flying blind for a few seconds but that’s all it took. It sounded like someone had thrown a lawn strimmer into the tree, luckily for me it managed to get stuck and saved itself from a good 14ft drop which would have most likely wrote it off completely. Strangely I’m pretty glad it happened, I think I was maybe getting a little too confident so I needed a good scare to make me focus more.
I always expected the nervous feeling I get when flying to ease over time but it’s pretty much the same every flight and I’ve realised it’s just part of the fun, there is definitely adrenaline involved even though I’m just stood on the ground either looking at a screen or looking into the air.
Speaking of close calls, my second cinematic was planned to be based around the 199 Steps/ St Marys Church/ The Abbey but last night I soon learnt that nesting seagulls definitely do not like drones invading their airspace, it was literally a matter of inches from disaster, I wouldn’t like to bet on which would come off worse but I am sure it would be a rather messy affair.
There is also the possibility of the device losing signal from the remote control, incase of this there is a built in RTH (Return To Home) feature and as soon as signal is lost the drone will fly back to the home point from where it took off, I’m still yet to test this feature out.
In my eyes the risk of losing the device is totally worth it though, it’s the ability to see places from a completely different perspective, I had the best personal tour of the Whitby Abbey ever the other day and I barely had to move to take part in it. I would even go as far to say if I did ever happen to lose or destroy mine I would try my hardest to be able to afford another one.
Q 4 do you worry about the gaining popularity of drones leading to some kind of ban by the CAA or other authority, what do you think of Amazons idea of a drone delivery service
A4 The gaining of popularity of drones doesn’t worry me but what comes along with it does. It’s pretty much certain that the laws will tighten as time goes on because they will end up in the wrong hands and people will become careless. It only takes a quick search on YouTube to watch people behind the controls who really shouldn’t be.
There’s also the issue of drones being used for terrorism and I definitely wouldn’t bet against it happening at some point. It’s pretty worrying to think the person responsible could be sat controlling such a device from over 2 miles away.
Bad press is another problem as you can guarantee the papers/media will be all over anything that involves an accident with a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and a person/property, this can only spell bad news for those of us who fly responsibly.
It refreshing to hear good news though, I’ve heard of UAVs been used to help find people stranded in floods and only the other day a fire department in the US used a drone to carry 2 life jackets and a rope out to two children who thought it was a good idea to ride down a fast flowing river in a rubber ring.
I think Amazons drone delivery service was nothing but a successful advertisement campaign, I mean who on earth would insure such a system on a worldwide scale, unless the object avoidance technology gets seriously accurate it just isn’t going to happen.
5. If someone wanted to start this hobby what start up kit would you recommend.
I pretty much jumped in at the deep end and my Phantom3 is my first device, but you can spend less than £100 for a mini drone if you wanted to test your wings first. There’s a company called “Parrot” who have various drones for a range of prices that you could also look into. Not all have the ability to capture video though so keep an eye out for that if it’s a feature you want.
You would then need to factor in the cost of editing software but if you were after a freebie I could definitely recommend “Gopro Studio” it’s completely free and works like a charm with most video formats.
I would always recommend the DJI drones though, you would be amazed at how easy they are to fly which is mostly due to being locked onto upwards of 15 different GPS and GLONAS satellites, if you don’t touch the controls it will just hover in place to the accuracy of .1 metre. It will also self take-off/land if you’re not confident enough but I personally hand catch mine.
You could always opt for one of the older Phantom models aswell which are quite a good price now but just make sure to read the specs to make sure you are getting what you want.
Q6 which other locations have you flown, where would you love to fly out of anywhere in the world.
A6 – I bought my Phantom in Seattle so I flew a few areas over there but it was pretty hard to find a place where I was legally allowed to fly, I was staying on an air force base and the no fly zone spanned for miles.
I regret not taking it up Mount Ranier though even though national park flying is banned due to potentially effecting the wildlife environment I would have shot some amazing footage and I feel it would have been worth it.
I really couldn’t choose one place to fly but somewhere in Australia would be a safe bet I think, I would also love to shoot one of the many deserted old mining towns in the USA that would be great.
7 whats going to be the next big thing in drones- we have ones that follow you now by gps for the ultimate selfie, what in your opinion is coming next?
I personally don’t think there is going to be one stand out feature, the whole UAV scene is about to explode, I think there are 10+ new devices coming out this year alone and much like mobile phones in the end all the flagships will be very similar with features like “Follow Me” “POI Orbit” and the ability to pre plan flights with waypoints.
The bigger differences will come with the more expensive devices that are used for emergency services, police force, military etc., to be able to use a drone instead of putting a life at risk is priceless.
The biggest drawback currently is battery life so hopefully that technology will catch up in the near future, that said we are starting to see UAVs designed that are using small combustion engines in place of electric motors so it’s looking like that could be a thing soon aswell.
Again thanks for having me and don’t forget to subscribe to The Whitby Phantom YouTube channel to be notified of when the next cinematic is online.