Author - Steve

Webber Falls Video

A while back I went out to this cool location to see if I could capture some water falls.  Note in California we have a serious draught issue so I wasn’t sure if it was flowing.  Webber Falls is about 20 miles give or take outside of Truckee, California.  After finding this little hidden gem I had to pack up the inspire 1 using a Microraptor backpack which works great and walk down a bit to the falls.

This wasnt a professional shoot, just messing around in this area seeing what looks good.  I finally got around to editing the video and did a lot of rough cuts but here you can see for your self the end results.  This was edited in Adobe Premiere Pro 2015 and the end credits where done with After Effects 2015.


microraptor i1




Youtube Link (please watch it in 4k if your computer can handle it, it defaults to 720p)

Inspire 1 Log format and Transoder Tool

I have been playing around with my Inspire 1 from DJI recently and testing various video settings and conversion tools to get the best quality that I can then pass off to post for more color correction.

I have read many blogs and watched a lot of videos where people recommend to shoot in Log mode which can be found in the Pilot app under Fn button, then select Color and you will see an option for LOG mode.  If you want more of a technical explanation of LOG format please visit this page here.

I also stumbled across the DJI transcoder which transcodes the inspire 1 video format (DJI AVC) into Apple ProRes YUV 4:2:2 10 bit.

ProRes is a line of intermediate codecs, which means they are intended for use during video editing, and not for practical end-user viewing. The benefit of an intermediate codec is that it retains higher quality than end-user codecs while still requiring much less expensive disk systems compared to uncompressed video. It is comparable to Avid’s DNxHD codec or CineForm which offer similar bitrates which are also intended to be used as intermediate codecs. ProRes 422 is a DCT-based[2]intra-frame-only codec and is therefore simpler to decode than distribution-oriented formats like H.264. – Wikipedia Link

So I thought I would test this out with out doing any extra color correction.  I took some footage directly from the Inspire 1 from a recent shoot I did in Virginia City, NV and transcoded the clip with the DJI tool which can be found here (see software tools section at the bottom).

Someone recommend these settings so my first test is with the profile set to apco(Proxy) and Gamma to Inspire 1.

This turned my 338meg mp4 file into a 2.56 mov file.



This didnt take long on my power house mac but Ill defiantly need to invest in more hard drives very soon, also just to be clear this is is used just for editing allowing you to adjust more color processing in Adobe Premier Pro or Apple Final Cut X and it not intended to be the end result for viewing.

Move the slider to see the differences.

As you can see the left part of the image is from the original video taking from the Inspire 1, and the right is the transcoded Image that does a nice little job of adding back in some of the colors lost or washed out.

Looking at this in Apple Final Cut Pro X and checking out the RGB Channels from the video you can clearly see that the original video is reaching the color space limitations where you start to get blown our or washed out colors, highlights and beyond.


And here is the transcoded video which tightens up the color space a bit in the allowed color space (depending on what look your going for).


So overall if your not going though this step you might be loosing a bit of data that you can then process while editing how ever be prepared for large files and lots of storage to be used :).

I do not claim to be an expert in this area but know a decent amount about color correction to make me dangerous but I’m just passing this information along for those who may not be away of this work flow and shooting in LOG format with your Inspire 1.

Please feel free to submit comments blow.


Their is some discussion on Facebook and some other locations as to why you would need to transcode to Apple ProRes and if you really need it since some NLE (None Linear Editors) you can correct the color profile yourself with some tweaks.  This is true that you an do this and I found some interesting links to people talking about this and providing some pro’s and cons.

DJI Thread on some of this can be found here.

2 Posts stick out to me the most in this thread and its one from Marty where he does video comparisons of the various modes.

In his post he askes a few key questions which Ill not repost but you get the idea and can make your own decision as to what you want to do.  For me I perfer to play around and get the best result out of my footage and if Apple ProRes provides more grading space vs compressed h.264 video from the inspire 1.  I want to be clear their seems to be some confusion that the inspire 1 shoots video at RAW this is not true its compressed format of MP4/MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264)at a bitrate of 60Mbps.

DJI-CAO replied to this post with his own info and I believe (I could be wrong) works on the transcoder from DJI which is right underneath the post from Marty which is linked above. However someone else on Youtube also answered one of the questions that might ring very true to most people.

To answer your question #2, by transcoding to ProRes 422, first, you have a codec that is more compatible with certain editors. For example, H.264 does play well with FCP. Another advantage is ProRes is better codec to color grade in. It’s a much bigger container, meaning it has more headroom when you’re pushing colors around. As result, you might get slightly better result, especially if you’re doing heavy grading. If none of the above apply to your workflow, it would be a waste of time and HD space to transcode to ProRes. Why does it use ProRes? It’s an industry standard format. If you ever work with other editors and need to provide RAW files, they might ask for them in ProRes format.

So my take away is depending on your situation you may need to convert to ProRes 422 if your handing this off to a professional service that will be editing your video. If your just messing around and putting together a few clips here and their for your own time you may want to consider using this because it gives you a first level of color correction or if you do not want to waste HD space you can make some adjustments in your editing program which can be small tweaks that give you similar results.

Aerial Photos around Lake Tahoe

Here is a gallery of some of the latest aerial photos taken from my drone around the Lake Tahoe, California area these last few months.

Another aerial photo to 3d landscape test

So here are some of the of the new 3d landscapes I have generated recently with my drone.  I’m still working out a few bugs and how to better capture data and am in contact with the companies that make the software.  One issue is water because its moving or has a nice reflections built in.  So you can see with my tests of a secret beach here in Tahoe some of the water is gone or the 3d model is deformed.

Secret Beach generated with Pix4D from about 300 images.

Secret Beach generated with Photoscan with the same image set.

You can notice between the 2 software packages that in this case with the water that Pix4D did a better job and some parts are missing in the Photoscan version.  I will try to do a recalculation of this data set again to make sure im getting the same results.

You can defiantly see the potential complexity of having the software try to build a 3d mesh with this type of data.

Here is another aerial shot right above the boat house that I posted on Facebook that got quite a few likes!


Anyhow check out all the models I have processed so far here and feel free to provide comments below.

Here is a 3d fly through I did with the Pix4d software


Generating 3D landscapes from Aerial Photos Part 2

After spending a bit more time testing various software to generate 3d landscapes I wanted to write up a second post with more detail and showing off another data set I collected the other day while hiking around Donner Lake area near Lake Tahoe.

First part of the post can be found here.

Let me first talk about my setup more in detail.

About a 2 1/2 years ago I started playing around with drones from the small cheap $50 ones to eventually shelling out and buying a DJI Phantom 2 which then I added on various components.

Here is a shot of both of my birds before doing a shoot at Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe.

Setting up the Phantoms for flight

Setting up the Phantoms for flight

So as mentioned in my first post I had been trying out Pix4D application which has some nice features but its quite expensive.  I also recently ran across recently Agisoft Photoscan which has some similar features to Pix4D and is a little less expensive if you buy the standard edition.  I guess it would depend on what you want to do with each software and Ill mention the pro’s and cons later in this article but both give you a trial version which you can test out for yourself.

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Generating 3D landscapes from Aerial Photos

I love playing around with new technology and my I have a strong background in 3D modeling since I was a young kid and got a job in the video game industry.  I’m also always looking for new ways to use my skills test out new ideas.

I have been playing around with the idea of using my drones to build 3d landscapes and over the time tested various software to help convert 3d aerial photos into 3d objects.  Granted some of my first tests didn’t turn out as well as I thought so I kept playing around to see what I could come up with.

I’m using Pix4d to convert the Nadar type of photos (basically the camera on the drone looks directly down at the ground).  I use my iPad Ground Station from DJI to fly a grid style pattern making sure I have enough overlap of images taking fro the GoPro.

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Will the Truckee River have enough water this summer?

Updated with new photo from April 11th – 2017

Updated with 3d landscape recreated April 14th.

I have been watching and taking photos of the part of Lake Tahoe that mostly feeds the Truckee River.  I took a photo back in Jan and it went a bit viral on Facebook with over 250k views and tons of comments.

Here is a before and after photo of about 2 weeks since we had a few inches of rain and not how much snow fall last weekend.


You can clearly see on the left that its starting to fill in a bit, I tried my best to take the photo at the exact location but this still gives you an idea.

I will try to do a pic once a week or every other week to keep this updated, the interesting time will be when the snow is really starting to melt off, granted today as I write this in Tahoe City its almost 60F so I’m imagining we are getting a bit of snow melt off now as well.

March 28th, 2015

Commons Beach March 28, 2015

Feel free to share this photo and if you want to use these in your posts I have the originals that can be used just hit me up via the contact page.

April 14th Update.

Here is a 3d landscape recreated by taking over 300 photos of the area and processing it with various tools to generate a 3d landscape.

2016 Photo Update, Lake Tahoe is now at its natural rim (article).

Here is an updated photo, note while its at the natural rim there isnt a lot of water to push into the Tahoe Dam thus not feeing the Truckee River, and unfortunately it looks like yet another year without the lazy river rafting companies.

2016 Updated photo

2016 Updated photo

April 11, 2017

Updated April 11, 2017

Eagle Lake Hike Aerial Video

So, I finally had a chance to edit my hike up to Eagle Lake in Tahoe.  Granted It wasn’t a planed shoot for me, I usually have one of my drones in my car and have a backpack with my equipment in it.  If I find a good location I try to get a few shots done before other people are coming by, and some times its just a random shot.  I cut this video down from 2 minutes and added one of my buddies music track Bring it on Back from Momu .  This was edited in final cut pro with some color correction and trimmed down shots since my camera gimbal was a bit shaky at times due to the wind and just various issues.

I hope you enjoy this video.

Oh water where art thou

If you live in the Lake Tahoe area you know that something is changing and thats out water levels.

USA Today wrote an article last year already stating the obvious to some of us who live here and said.

“We haven’t seen this for 20 years. We’re extremely dry,” said Chad Blanchard, federal water master. “The river will basically dry up below Lake Tahoe about the end of this month.” – USA Today

I thought I would share some aerial photos I took the other day of what is happening on the Lake Tahoe side and show just how bad it is right now. Granted we haven’t received much snow and anyone living here is hoping we see a lot of it in February but will the next few months help out? What will the rafting companies that supply summer jobs do if we don’t get a great melt off of snow?

Here is the raw video shot also

Eagle Lake Trail in Winter

Today I wanted to do some aerial photos and videos of this great little hike at Eagle Lake.

Eagle Lake Trail is a moderate 2 mile out and back trail located near South Lake Tahoe, California offering forest, lake and High Sierra views. – All Trails

During the winter this is also a great hike provided lots of snow hasn’t fallen yet. I do recommend if you go during the winter to bundle up and wear some good hiking shoes because at various places on the way up their are lots of places to slip and break something. Don’t let that stop you just be safe and slow, the end result is amazing. First you get to see a great view towards Emerald Bay, then cross a small bridge. This time the bridge had a great frozen water fall. At the top Eagle Lake is a great small Lake at was frozen when I went.

Below are some still taking from my Phantom 2 and GoPro 4. Over the next few days Ill work on the video and post that as well. Cheers and I hope you enjoy these photos!