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More New Hardware and WWKW 2013

Posted by Tom Benedict on 16/04/2013

More new stuff showed up over the weekend. The first was an 808 #16D v.2 camera. They’re the next logical progression from the gumstick camera I played with back in 2009.

Gumstick Camera - View 1

The newer cameras are leaps and bounds better than my old gumstick, which suffered from a harder-than-recommended impact with the ground shortly after I got it, may it rest in peace. The specs on the #16D are a 120 degree FOV lens, 1280×720 30fps HD video, room for a 32GB microSD card, and upgradeable firmware – something the gumstick certainly didn’t have. People have even written utilities for configuring the #16D via its USB cable. All in all it’s a very nice bit of hardware.

808 #16D

On a whim I taped it to the tail of my Bixler 2 and flew out over the Waikoloa turnoff, a few miles from town. The weather wasn’t great, the light was terrible, and the winds aloft were a lot stronger than I’d reckoned on. Also, light though this camera is, its weight on the tail was enough to throw the balance off on the plane. The first flight was seriously tail heavy, and despite trying to correct through pitch trim, it porpoised madly throughout the entire flight. The second flight was better, with the battery shoved full-forward into the nose of the plane to level things off.

This was actually what I got the camera for: creating videos from an airplane showing most of the control surfaces working. I wanted it more as a diagnostic tool than as a videographer’s camera. But I’m actually impressed by the video it generated! The quality isn’t as good as the Hero 3 I’ve been using, nor did I expect it to be. But it’s a far cry better than the video from the gumstick. In decent light, it’s quite nice. (This isn’t decent light.)

And yeah, I can see using it on kites as well. I’d love to mount it on a tripod of kite spars on the back of a kite (say a Dopero?) and make a video similar to the video from the Bixler 2, but this time from a kite. If I worked out the geometry correctly, it should actually look quite good. It might be fun to do the same sort of thing on the back of a two-line sport kite, but the resulting video might make people motion sick. Eeeeh… I’ll probably try it anyway, just to see.

Speaking of kites, the other bit of kit that showed up was the new monitor for my KAP rig. Back in December, 2011, I added a 5.8GHz video link to my main KAP rig, and tacked a small monitor onto my RC transmitter.

5.8GHz KAP Gear

This worked, but the system was plagued by glitchy video. I changed the power setup, cabling, antennas… everything but the monitor. And in the end it turned out that the monitor was the culprit. The one I originally got was intended to be hard-wired into a car as an assist for going into reverse. It was never intended to be used as part of a radio video link. Two of its “features” were that it would detect the timing of the incoming video signal and switch between NTSC and PAL mode automatically, albeit with a bright blue glitch as it swapped, and that when it lost video signal, it would go to a blank blue screen. The glitches that are inevitable in a radio video link meant that it was always swapping modes and blanking out.

Feelworld 7" LCD Monitor

The replacement screen was designed for aerial use. It has to be told whether to be in PAL or NTSC mode, and when it loses signal it shows static. No more blue screen! Even better, it’s about four times larger than the original. Not great for transportability, but fantastic for my far-sighted eyes. I no longer have to squint at the screen to see what the camera is pointed at.

I still haven’t mounted the new monitor, but I’ve come up with a plan for a mount that will let me remove the monitor when not in use. This will make it so I can zip my KAP bag shut when everything is put away. I haven’t been able to do that since mounting the original monitor back in 2011. It’ll be a good change.

And it’s just in time for WWKW2013!

I can’t take vacation time during World Wide KAP Week, so my time will be limited. I’ve been trying to plan out where I’ll go and what I’ll do, but about a week ago I had an epiphany: I keep thinking of KAP in terms of landscape photography – a form of photography that I’m quite fond of. But with a couple of exceptions, the KAP photos I’m most drawn to aren’t landscapes. They’re something else: portraits, architecture, abstracts, action… not landscapes.

So rather than drift farther afield this World Wide KAP Week in search of new vistas to photograph, I’m thinking of drifting a little closer to home. One of my favorite things to do with a camera is just walk around and see what I see. Rather than plan out what I want to do with KAP, I’m going to put a kite up, hang a camera on the line, and see what I see no matter where I am.

Well… that and play. I’ve just been itching to play with kites and cameras. Hmmm! Maybe that’ll be a good time to try the “camera on the back of a kite” trick. It would make for a cool still, done using a Hero 3.

Ok, maybe I really should make some plans… this is getting complicated.

– Tom


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