DRONUS INTERRUPTUS

The Job That Flew Away

You remember Mary from my Production Diary a couple of months ago. Yes, of course you do: she’s the client who said, “It’s perfect. I absolutely love it!” and then, a few weeks later, wanted a dumb title at the start.

Now she’s got another job for me and it’s brilliant. All is forgiven. A guest lodge in the Sierra Nevada mountains: spectacular scenery, hiking trails, horse riding, hot springs, tall red fir trees, snow-topped mountains and a decent-sized budget to boot. In short, a perfect subject for me and my Phantom Quadcopter.

I bill her for 50 percent up front. She pays quickly. I’m rich. Time to upgrade my Phantom.

Did Gyre and Gimble in the Wabe

I want a DJI Zenmuse H3-2D gimbal for my Phantom. The demo video is a knockout.

First test of the Zenmuse for GoPro from DJI Innovations on Vimeo.

I pack my Phantom and mail to Florida for gimbal installation. It comes back with strange black wires hanging out of its clamshell body—no instructions, just a heap of bits and pieces. Even the GoPro is loose.

Inside the Phantom with Zenmuse gimbal board and Naza power management unit

After a full day, we crack it. If the Phantom wobbles, the gimbal keeps the GoPro HERO3 dead stable. Pure magic.

First-Person View

We in the RC biz call it FPV. “Got FPV?”“You bet, it’s an RC Logger.” Jargon for saying you’re transmitting air-to-ground video from your GoPro.

The GoPro’s video signal comes out of the Zenmuse board packed way inside the Phantom. Undo 16 screws and find the board. Plug in the video out wire and push it through a hole in the Phantom shell. Do up 16 screws.

Now I need 5 volts for the FPV transmitter. Gulp. Undo 16 screws. Cut ’n solder. Do up 16 screws. It doesn’t work. So 16 out—rewire—15 back. Where’s that missing screw?

Geronimo, I have FPV. But the idgy-widgy monitor is impossible to see in daylight. Nothing but the best for Mary; I lash out more of my 50 percent upfront and buy an OLED 7.7” monitor and sunshade.

There’s Something About Mary

Zenmuse gimbal holding the GoPro HERO3—FPV transmitter mounted with Velcro

And that something is called Jane. Mary has given her the job of producing me.

I need a producer like a hole in the head.

Now the e-mails start flowing. Jane wants a script, a shot list, a budget—all the usual film school crap. She drones on and on, excuse the pun.

Then suddenly it’s off. Bad weather. Delayed for two months. Hey, it rained for a day. Two months! Summer will be over.

My Beamish Boy

While I’m waiting, I discover Sam. He flies my Phantom like a real pro; sheer artistry to watch. I hire Sam and his brother, Jack, to help me with the shoot. Mary will be pleased.

Then another e-mail from Jane, ONE DAY BEFORE THE SHOOT …

Phantom of the Off Now

Stephan (she can’t even get my name right!), would you absolutely kill me if we needed to reschedule the shoot? I am terribly ill with a nasty flu and just not getting better. I might rally but wanted to take your temperature regarding a possible switch to September or June of next season—2014.

Sam, Jack and I are packed, ready to go—and she pulls the plug. Zap!

Bitter? No, just sad. I really wanted that job.

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