Tag Archives: zhiyun

JSD Labs: DJI Mavic Air, iPhone 7 Plus, and Cherry Blossoms in Japan

A few weeks ago I finally got my own drone. The Mavic Air came out at the right time and had the right specs for my needs, so I picked one up. I have flown drones plenty of times in Japan, either rentals or client’s drones, but this is the first one I have owned.  It’s a different experience flying something that you personally have something invested in. One wrong move and it could be gone. So I haven’t done anything crazy with it.

Drones are banned in Tokyo, which is a shame. I have been working in Tokyo a lot recently and I haven’t been able to take it with me. Luckily, I live in Yokohama. With the exception of military bases, airports, events, and densely populated areas, it’s OK to fly here. I have been practicing in local parks, which were fine for gaining my bearings with it, but I can’t do too much crazy or intense flying. In sport mode the drone can cross a baseball field in seconds. With so many tall buildings and hills it’s easy for the Mavic to get out of sight really quickly. I plan to take it out to the beach when it warms up a bit more, but then I have the other fun issue of it being over water. I didn’t get it as a toy, it’s for filming only. Losing it would hurt my production values and wallet.

Overall it is a VERY solid drone. It packs up so tiny. My only issue is that it’s size doesn’t inspire confidence sometimes and can make it hard to see at a distance. I haven’t had any issues with connection or flying badly. But then again, I haven’t tried to push it at all. I only have two batteries right now, as my budget for film making is currently done. I had to sell a bunch of stuff to get this and something else, which I will be writing about very soon. I do want to fly it more often and try it out on some big projects, so I will invest in it a bit more when I can.

As for the video, I didn’t do much as far as settings other than changing some of the settings to be more film-like. Everything else was auto. I will try some manual camera settings on my next shoot. I also got a CPL to try. I hope to get some NDs for it in the future too. I brought my Zhiyun Smooth II iPhone gimbal to see what I could get with a super portable setup. I tried to go full manual in the Mavis app, so some of the shots didn’t match very well. If I went full manual on the Mavic too I think I could get them to match better. I also wanted to try a video with zero slow-motion. As much as I like the look it can be a crutch sometimes. I also had a hard time getting the colors the way I wanted, so I kinda give up and am posting it as the best I could. I really, really need to practice that more. Overall it’s just a test video of sorts. I have been flying since I got it, but just simple stuff that I post on Instagram.

The location for the shoot was fantastic. I had never been to this park before. I came upon it by chance when I went out to practice flying early one morning. The park I wanted to use had a baseball game (at 7:30 AM!) and I just wandered around looking for places to fly for like an hour. The only issue with the park is that it’s kinda far from everything. But it was so perfect for practice… very few people, good scenery, open spaces, perfect cherry blossoms.

I’ll have some more Mavic videos soon, but they’ll most likely be part of other projects. If I can, I’ll do a good beach video at the same place I did the iPhone 7 Plus anamorphic video.

Hopefully content will start flowing more regularly from now on too.

JSD Labs: Zhiyun Smooth II, iPhone 7 Plus, and Mavis in Yoyogi Park

A few weeks ago I got a deal on a new Zhiyun Smooth II, the updated version. I had read, though I forget where, that it has really strong motors that let you use clip-on lenses on big phones. While the DJI phone gimbal seems to have good features, I had also heard that people had issues adding extras on their phone. I jumped on this one while I had the chance.

That said, the Smooth II does not lack in features at all. In fact, in this video I only used a small fraction of them, the main being the basic stabilization modes. I’ll try to do some more tests on it when I get a chance, but overall I am very impressed with this gimbal. It’s super solid and takes the same batteries as my Beholder, which is a bonus. The only issue I have with it is that it’s almost too light. For added stability (and more shooting options) I had it attached to a monopod for most of this video.

The big test for this video, however, was Mavis. I wanted to see how hard I could push it during touch and go shooting. Some of the shots pulled out of this session are absolutely amazing. However, there is still a learning curve and process that must be followed to use it correctly. Sometimes you forget that you have a fully manual control and that you have to change the settings manually for each shot. I tried to use the auto settings a few times, or had it set on target mode by mistake, leading to fluctuations of shutter speed or whatever. It was also kind of hard to see the screen in bright light sometimes. I think that with a polarizer filter and slowing down a bit I could consistently get clean shots with this rig. The Smooth II is nice and stiff when using the screen, so working with settings on the fly is easy.

Only issues I encountered overall were using the zoom lens with having the gimbal on the monopod and leaving some setting on Mavis in target mode. The vibrations are too much for the zoom OIS and it was hard to get a clean, steady shot while moving and using the zoom. No issues otherwise. I hope to see how far I can push this setup. Editing and color grading was surprisingly easy for most shots. The 100 MB/s files Mavis gives you have plenty of information to work with. Don’t let your shots get too dark, though. But I think that goes without saying for any kind of mobile video.

Big shoutout once again to Jesse of Ice Block, who let me tag along as he shot some b-roll for his upcoming feature, The Library. Here is the video he shot that day:

Finally, once again the music was made in the Novation Launchpad app. It’s a fantastic app for making worry-free music on the fly.  I have built up a cache of clips to use for future videos and even went and bought some of the sound packs. It’s fun and easy until I can get around to making more 100% original music.