Make it Roll

A drone does not bank into a turn like a traditional aircraft, it remains level as it spins in the air to change direction. Even if the drone banks slightly to counteract the wind the camera gimbal keeps the video level.

A cluster of communications antennas along Mauna Kea Access Road in the sunset
A cluster of communications antennas along Mauna Kea Access Road in the sunset

The resulting video from the drone seems flat to me, a sense of something wrong, I expect a little roll while turning.  I find myself struggling with the resulting imagery, what do I do with this?

It is not only aircraft that bank into a hard turn, even an automobile does this on a properly designed roadway.  If the car does not truly bank, we passengers naturally lean into the turn to counteract the centrifugal force.  We expect to lean into a turn, while a drone does not.

How do I restore that roll in the drone video?  

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Editing Video

It always amazes me how much time it takes to edit video.  Hours of fiddling little details, tweaking, or ripping it out when you decide you got it all wrong.

Editing drone video in Premiere Elements 2018
Editing drone video in Premiere Elements 2018

I am editing drone video, material from mornings and evenings flying in the saddle region of Mauna Kea.  I did do a quick video from my first footage in the area, but that was really a learning experience, just seeing what worked and what did not.

This time I am striving for a polished product, not a quick experimental video.  That means taking care in selecting each clip, and blending it in properly to the soundtrack and surrounding clips.  I am also applying more post processing effects; panning, rolls, and color corrections.

Music is always an issue, the soundtrack makes everything work.  In this case I already had a piece of music in mind, a track by a local artist who has graciously given permission to use his artwork.

In the process of editing I end up watching the video hundreds of times, often in little pieces.  If I find myself enjoying the product, it might, just might be worth the effort. So far.. So good.

The Mavic Air QuickShots

One of the compelling features of the DJI Mavic drones are the quick shot capabilities. These are programmed maneuvers that the drone performs while rolling video. Properly used these pre-programmed shots can be stunningly effective.

Testing the boomerang quickshot of the Mavic Air
So far my favorite is the new boomerang shot, introduced in the Mavic Air. Check out the video to the right for an example of what these quick shots can do…

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Keck Timelapse Moonrise

Catching the moonrise in just the right spot and with just the right foreground takes planning and perseverance by the photographer. Sometimes things go right and you catch the shot, but you really do not know what you will catch in the final version until you see the final video…

Moon Muncher from Aaron Kupferman on Vimeo.

No Doors

A helicopter ride over an active volcano… With no doors.

In mid-July deb and I took a helicopter flight over Kilauea with Paradise Helicopter. A lot of fun! I took all of the material we shot in our helicopter flight and assembled as a bit of video. A lot more view-able this way, more fun than a pile of images sitting on a disk.

On the other had I think I discovered all of the things that can go wrong when shooting from a helicopter with no doors! The wind and vibration is rough, making even the wide angle video of a GoPro jump about. Video shot on the DLSR’s was useless. I also discovered that helicopter blades passing in front of the Sun gives the GoPro Hero 4 Black exposure fits, with black ripples in the image. Thanks to image stabilization and fast shutter speeds the still photos are fairly good.

Seated in a steeply banking helicopter with nothing between me and the molten lava a couple hundred feet below is a thrill I will not soon forget. You can smell the sulfur and feel the heat. Hopefully a little of that comes through in the video.

No Doors

No Doors from Andrew Cooper on Vimeo


Late in the evening when not ready for sleep, but too tired or relaxed for anything else… What to do? Often my answer is to browse through YouTube or Vimeo watching creative short videos. In these days of excellent video from every camera, powerful CGI and desktop editing software that anyone can afford and master, the limit on creativity in video is limitless, or at least limited only by one’s imagination and willingness to put in the substantial effort required to create the video. Thus creative short story videos abound… Many are just bad, a lot are fairly good, and a few a really quite good. The good ones? They not only feature good technical efforts and perhaps good acting, but ask troubling questions, things that make you think.

My favorite genre is usually science fiction. A good science fiction video (or book for that matter) asks uncomfortable questions about where our society is going, what are the implications of societal trends or technological innovations? How will our world change if current trends continue or some new technology disrupts the current order. Some simply critique current problems in an attempt to educate or change our society, the best look beyond to ask “What if?” You know that the video was good when you find yourself thinking about the video days later

One thing I do note is the abundance of post-apocalyptic videos. There are dozens upon dozens of them to be found, they seem to represent the majority of creative sci-fi shorts on YouTube. The causes of the apocalypse are varied and predictable… War, disease, famine or environmental collapse. Indeed the form of the apocalypse is often unimportant to the story. A ruined world, people struggling to survive with only fragments of technology, violence and brutality ruling the lives of the survivors. Often the message can be powerful in a well written and produced video. Sad stories set in the ruins of an almost recognizable world.

What I wonder about is the reason there are so many such videos? Is it that these videos are easy to produce and have such a wide range of possibilities to explore? The sets and costumes are easy, a ruined factory and a few wrecked automobiles often provide an easy backdrop for the action. Ragged clothing from a surplus store, well within the non-existent budget of an aspiring filmmaker or a film school project.

Or is it that there is a sense of pessimism that pervades today’s society, that when creative filmmakers look to the future they see only bleak possibilities?

It is this last thought that haunts me. So many look to the future and no longer see a limitless universe among the stars. Gone is the optimistic vision that formed the basis of shows like Star Trek or Lost in Space. I suspect that endless controversy and dire predictions over issues such as climate change, genetically modified organisms, and endless middle eastern wars has so taken root in our collective consciousness that it becomes very easy to imagine an apocalyptic future.

Lava Lake at Halemaʻumaʻu

A bit of video put together from the clips I recorded at Kilauea Caldera this morning. The video was shot with a Canon 6D and a Televue 76mm telescope. It really does not do justice to the image through the ‘scope with a mark I eyeball. But it will have to do.

The soundtrack was mostly wind noise and random comments from the crowd of people watching the spectacle. Very faintly you can hear some of the noises from the lava, but only in spots. Instead of this annoyance I just threw a copy of Fireworks Music in place of the mic noise, much better.

Lava Lake at Halemaʻumaʻu from Andrew Cooper on Vimeo.

Thunderstorms Captured by the Keck CloudCam

Our new CloudCam is undergoing testing. It assembles a video each night, just like the original CFHT CloudCam. The website is not quite public yet, but I had to share this one…

Heather mentioned at breakfast that she had been watching thunderstorms on CloudCam as she ran the telescope through the night. Thanks to the new camera we can all enjoy the spectacle.