Friday, May 27, 2016


There are many words that are synonymous with the man who started KesslerCrane, Eric Kessler. The title of this blog says it all. If you are looking for innovative gear that will keep your budget INCREDIBLY low and yield results comparable to gear from Chapman-Leonard,  MSE and more look no further!

Kessler products are game changers and they fueled a revolution with support gear like their jibs and sliders while providing a low cost entry point even offering automated versions for both!  I know first hand working as a DP, Director and Producer exactly what the Kessler arsenal can do for your work as a filmmaker. If you never heard of this company I strongly suggest you check them out along with Zacuto at Cinegear 2016.

We've used their gear on countless documentaries for Natgeo, Discovery; feature and Indie films and TV series for years! This is NOT a paid endorsement, I neither work for Kessler or receive compensation. As a filmmaker I am compelled to share information and useful tools for the work we do and Kessler along with its founder is one company you should know about and can trust to support you as a customer!

I'll be reviewing some of the new gear, like Second Shooter from this company who has truly led the way in the realm of providing reasonably priced and creative gear on a shoestring budget!

Sunday, May 1, 2016


OK I bought into the Digi ProControl back in 2000 and still rely on this great versatile tactile surface for our music and ADR sessions. I have the main unit and one fader pack. As a whole it's been fairly reliable over the years until recently. Why am I putting this in our BLOG!? Because it was time consuming and frustrating especially dealing with AVID on obsolete Digidesign products and no one should have to work so hard to get info! So I'm sharing these tips for my fellow ProControl users!

Faders started failing back in 2007, a friends EDIT PACK went dead, Clock segment on my main unit went black on one of the counters, faders started failing.

So now what? Well I went out and bought another main control unit for 400.00 to scavenge parts but what if you just want the parts? Well hit and miss as there are some fader replacement parts out there on eBay and gearslutz but usually rebuilts and they break! Simple cure that worked 75% of the time, REMOVE THE BAD/SUSPECT fader and CLEAN IT ! Clean the rails with Iso Alcohol and voila reborn 3 out of 4 times.

Simple just remove all the small allen flat pan screws on the TOP of the unit then lift up,  (12-16 screws on fader & edit packs). Don't get stumped and start unscrewing any side or bottom screws, not necessary.

Removal means dissassembly to get it out. Basically take the TOP off and then go to the rear of the unit and unscrew the middle vented back panel. From top inside remove the 4 screws securing the display panel assy. to the bottom of the chassis so it can be lifted up and removed. Mark all cables that you may have to disconnect to clear the way for removing the power supply. NOTE:Sometimes it's an overheated connection on the Molex connector. If you need to replace the power supply this company, SAGER, has them. You can also eMail SKYNET for details
They are mostly SKYNET power supplies and run around $72.00-$85.00.  These guys repair them: SIRES.

Well this one requires removing the TOP. Unscrew all back screws, remove long vented panel by tilting back and up and out. More on this later as I have not tackled it yet. I'm hoping the Counter chips are plugged into sockets...

Hope this helps some of you and feel free to comment if it did!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

PHANTOM 4 vs INSPIRE Same Camera SPEC! Which one is right for me?

OK so maybe this is your first UAS aka UAV aka Drone purchase and you're confused by the astounding amount of products available on the market as a whole and even with the leading manufacturer DJI. Well lets just take a look at DJI's latest offering, the Phantom 4 and compare it to it's top of the line Inspire series!

The Phantom 4 is a remarkable machine with it's abilities to track a target, follow, Point of Interest, waypoint navigation and obstacle avoidance, truly amazing! Do they all work, well the tracking an object is at 60-70% success rate given our field testing which is still pretty good! POI amazing, you can basically set it and take a nap while it does the work! Flight time is up to 26 minutes by our calcs.

The camera is fully comparable to the Inspire! And one step up in that it does 120FPS. We did test that and the quality was NOT that impressive vs. 60 fps which both Phantom 4 and Inspire handle well.

Glaring differences are  dual operation Camera and Flight separate controllers, different camera options X5, X5R for feature film quality! The BLACK INSPIRE for the COOL factor, and
retractable gear and PAN capability with camera but seriously do you really need to spend that much money on the Inspire for these feature? Well that's your call, some of these features like the retractable gear and Pan capable gimbal are awesome features but as experienced and FAA compliant pilots we were well able to get around that feature set and get amazing similar moving shots. Just know the limitations to work around them...lFor example even  the P4 motors are mounted higher with the intention to avoid props in the picture well, high speed maneuvers and wrong angle to the sun can still bring the props into the scene so it's all about being aware and developing good pilot/filming skills to avoid the occasional propeller in frame and get similar results to the Inspire and it's remarkable camera capabilities. Take a look at these brief comparison charts and you be the judge. Happy and safe flying!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

LOOKOUT FOR BAD DRONE-Animated spoof on a Drone named B.D.

OK well seems Drones UAV's, UAS whatever you would like to call them are in the headlines EVERY DAY! So it's about time an animated drone character was created to make light of all the antics and negative feelings being thrown at the world of Drones.

Welcome BAD DRONE and you can check it out for FREE on Youtube and it's own website. Spread the word...B.D. a drone brought to life and along with his adopted family teenagers Arnold and Roxy and their dog SNIPPET, well hilarious situations are sure to follow. B.D. means well but somehow everything he does seems to go awry in the misfit, mishap world of BAD DRONE®2015

Follow B.D. and the rest of the cast at BADDRONETV.COM!The laughs are non-stop! Coming soon...Oh yeah and if you want your very own B.D. thats available now CLICK HERE


Sunday, September 13, 2015


Woodshole Oceanographic Institute's Alvin DSV
Well it's been 5 years since we headed down to the Gulf to work on a multi-episodic documentary centered around the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The negative impact it had on the economy, the environment and most importantly to its people is still in play today.

The team of scientists assembled onboard the R/V Atlantis were world re-known.  We even had a visit and some one on one time with Dr. Sylvia Earle during ALVIN DSV's last dive.

At present we are still trying to raise funds to return and complete the story but in the meantime I took my family on a related journey, a personal one for me...

Our next generation will be inheriting much of the mess my generation has subjected the planet to over the past 40 years. So along with my wife and my 15 year old son we packed our bags and headed to the East coast to pay a visit to Dr. Tim Shanks and some other members of the scientific team that I was onboard with on the R/V Atlantis back in 2010.

I believe our trip to Falmouth , MA. was an eye opening trip for my son and I also believe his appreciation of our oceans and our environment is growing with each passing year. For me it was not only uplifting to meet with some of these people again but it was also a reminder of spending time with Mike deGruy in the Alvin sub and working feverishly to fix it's many problems related to imaging back in 2010. Without good video and images we would not have been able to make a case that the oil and dispersants were indeed killing the deep sea corals and marine life. We purveiled and on the last dive with Dr. Chuck Fisher and Mike shooting away, the images were brought back for the world to see the real damage these deadly ingredients wreaked upon our precious environment, a fragile ecosystem 5000 ft below the oceans surface.

My son has been on this journey with me all the way. We even flew him out to the Gulf for our wrap party and the two of us, along with my nephew driving a Uhaul truck,  drove all the way back from Pensacola Florida, all the way back to Santa Barbara and stopping everywhere along the way.

We talked about a lot of things and for a 10 year old he had a lot to say and a lot of opinions over what happened as well as what we saw each day during our travels in the Gulf and across this great country. My son was named after Sir Francis Drake the great explorer and I'm hopeful that Drake will be active about our planet no matter what career may be his calling. If we continue to educate our youth and show them the good as well as some of the bad things going on in our environment then hopefully they will be better caretakers of our fragile eco-system here on planet Earth.
Looking at the old 6 foot diameter titanium ball, the heart and soul and our safety net that once was inside the Alvin DSV's frame work I thought about Mike deGruy, his infectious laugh, his big smile and his incredible life devotion to making things better for all of us that dwell upon the Earth. We along with Dr. Chuck Fisher, Dr. Tim Shanks and Pilot Dave were the last ones inside that sphere and I shed a tear and wished he could be here walking among us! And then I looked back at my son and could comfortably relay to Mike...Hey Mike the world will be in good hands, in good hands!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

UPDATE ON 3DR SOLO No Dynamic Home Point means no fly from boat

Would not FLY from boat
 OK Quick update on 3DR SOLO- Bought One! Tested it out kinda cool because you can fly manually as well as all the autonomous features of auto flying but one big caveate for us!! The SOLO would not initialize in auto FLY or FLY Manual mode while any platform we chose to launch it from was moving! It has to be level and perfectly still for the SOLO to pass it's internal pre-flight checks. It just kept all GREEN LED indicators on and never would initialize from a boat. The other bigger problem was waiting 4 months for the gimbal, still no show. So if you can live without launching from a moving platform and no gimbal then go ahead and get one. As for our team that's just not usable.

GoPro4 and 360ยบ Kodak Cam WOW!
We tried some cool stuff like mounting a GoPro 4 Black edition and a Kodak SP360 camera on the belly and got some very cool but unfortunately very unstable video. Stills were great! So this little guy has plenty of Horsepower for a load and it stayed in the air 21 minutes!
Always boils down to the right tool for the job. For now we are sticking with our mini fleet of Inspire 1's and the new 1 pro with the ZENMUSE and X5R camera the right tool for feature films!!

OK it will boil down to functionality ie. how much BANG for your $BUCK$ but in my book for escalating baggage fees and theft size truly does play a significant role and if the SOLO does live up to it's incredible list of features and GREAT CUSTOMER SUPPORT than it will emerge as the clear winner. DJI may very well have to up the anty on it's customer service as well as DURABILITY which seems to rest right now on the fragile ARMS of the INSPIRE 1.

                                  DJI INSPIRE 1        DJI PHANTOM 3        3DR SOLO Back packable!

Saturday, April 18, 2015



With the advent of Sonar based sensing for flying a drone indoors as well as their incredible outdoor GPS based flying it seems that 200-750lbs worth of crane gear and time to assemble and operate may be a thing of the past!

There certainly are the obvious reasons of one over the other, SAFETY and NOISE being at the top of my list. You're not going to fly a drone to film a live indoor concert or theatrical play...

But lets actually compare a shoot with a drone vs a jib/crane...

We'll be using the KesslerCrane 18ft model vs. the DJI Inpsire 1 and lets see if you can tell the difference!

We are shooting this today so standby for the updated post! 

Friday, April 17, 2015

3D Robotics SOLO Feature Set to good to believe? DJI INSPIRE FEATURES FINALLY UPDATED !

SOLO's POWERFUL FEATURE SET-Does it live up to it...Well see the summary at end of blog.


With Solo locked on a virtual cable in the air, you’re free to pan and tilt the camera without worrying about piloting the copter. Solo can even memorize the shot at each end point and fly itself from one frame to the next, while working the camera for you as smoothly and evenly as a seasoned pro.
With Solo locked on a virtual cable in the air, you’re free to pan and tilt the camera without worrying about piloting the copter. Solo can even memorize the shot at each end point and fly itself from one frame to the next, while working the camera for you as smoothly and evenly as a seasoned pro.
cablecamIt’s this easy: Just use the live view on your mobile screen to guide Solo to your desired start and end points. Once those are set, Solo is automatically locked to the virtual cable between them. Now you can focus exclusively on capturing the exact shots you want as Solo moves up and down the tracks—or just push “play” and let Solo handle the camerawork. And really: Even professional pilots can’t get these kinds of shots.


orbitGet an iconic wraparound shot by locking your GoPro® onto any object with the push of a button. Orbit mode puts Solo on a circular track with an adjustable radius. Fly around the circle in either direction and Solo will keep the camera locked on your subject. You can also adjust altitude and flight speed to create dynamic and sophisticated aerial shots.
It’s this easy: Once Solo is in the air, point the camera at the object you want to film. Press the assigned “Orbit” button and the camera stays fixed on the object. The copter is now locked into a circle around the object. Now control the speed and direction of Solo’s orbit and capture perfectly smooth wraparound shots with no uneven or jerky movements—or tap “play” and Solo will do it all.


Automatically put yourself in the middle of a scenic aerial pullout shot. As Solo flies itself up and back, your surroundings expand, building and revealing more and more of the world around you—it’s a portrait and a landscape all at once. Record the clip directly to your phone for easy saving and sharing.
It’s this easy: Put Solo on the ground in front of you with the camera facing you. Tap Selfie, press Fly and Solo will take off with the camera pointed at you, then fly back and up. When Solo reaches the peak of its flight, it will return to land right where it took off, getting an aerial zoom shot on the way back down. Now immediately save and share this unique selfie with others.


follow-meGo completely hands-free. Whether you’re taking the road less traveled with your friends, cruising your boat around the lake or just out exploring the world, Solo will automatically follow along in the air. This mode keeps the camera centered on you at all times, capturing your every move.
It’s this easy: Launch Solo and choose Follow. Now Solo is locked onto your mobile device—which must remain with your controller—and you’re ready to film all the action. And since flight and camera control are fully automated, you’re completely hands-free to focus on the activities you love as Solo captures it all.

UPDATE:DJI has added Following and POI in addition AUTOPILOT has added even more functionality to Phantoms and the INSPIRE. So looks like DJI reigns supreme in the skies again!

Indoor Flight: STILL NOT STABLE, danger , drifts considerably and not only on position but it creeps up in altitude as well.  My test was shooting a music video on a soundstage with 16' ceilings and a concrete floor painted white...It was stable at 2 ft off the ground, every foot higher the instability went exponential. At 10 ft off the ground it would drift to the right, a constant drift. Never would it correct for positioning. Challenging to say the least.

DJI's explanation, "By using the sensors on the Vision Positioning system, Inspire 1 can perform precision hovering even when no GPS is available.Follow the steps below to use Vision Positioning:

1. Toggle the switch to “P” as shown the figure to the right:

2. Place the Inspire 1 on a flat surface. Notice that the Vision Positioning system cannot work properly on surfaces without pattern variations.

3. Power on the Inspire 1. The aircraft status indicator will flash twice in green light, which indicates the Vision Positioning system is

For best results please keep the below factors in mind:

Keep the sensors clean at all times. Dirt or other debris may adversely affect the effectiveness of the sensors.
The effective hovering altitudes of the aircraft is from 0 to 2.5 meters.
Vision Positioning system may not function properly when the aircraft is flying over water.
Vision Positioning system may not be able to recognize pattern on the ground in low light conditions (less than 100lux).
Do not use other ultrasonic devices with frequency of 40 KHz when Vision Positioning system is in operation.
Vision Positioning system may not be able to stabilize the aircraft when flying close to the ground (below 0.5 meters) in fast speed.

INSPIRE:    Tested time was 14-17 min.
3DR SOLO:Tested time was actually 15-17 min.

SOLO boasts some incredible features . The biggest issues however are with the time it takes to pass all internal tests and get GPS lock. 7-12 minutes! SOLO also lacks the capability to fly from a moving surface such as a BOAT, no dynamic home, so if it is not on a level non-moving surface it fails its internal checklist and just blinks green and will not FLY in any mode.

Hmmm I think I should talk with Mr. DJI Inspire 1 spokes person Phillip Bloom and get his take as well!
Yo Phillip whats the scoop on SOLO vs INSPIRE...

Thursday, April 16, 2015


OK so some of you are seasoned drone or rather UAS pilots and by now you've pretty much experienced what's commonly called "VAPOR WARE" or "FEATURE FAILURE." The INSPIRE seemed to be the HOLY GRAIL from DJI as it feature list seemed endless. Many of us gambled on the new technology that DJI boasted about this bird! Well I would most definitely like to hear back from "Phantom to INSPIRE" owners and get your valuable input. AS for now I'll attempt to express my sentiment over the INSPIRE 1, mainly what was promised in the way of features and what the reality is today...

I will also draw some comparisons to 3DR's new SOLO coming in May. If it lives up to the feature set that they are describing than I would say the INSPIRE 1 is up for some steep competition.

Before taking a read on the dark side of the INSPIRE I do have to commend DJI on the concept and hopefully fully functional feature set that will one day become available with the INSPIRE 1. And yes of course for creating this incredible market space and products that have truly set the bar for enabling quality film making for those of us working in the entertainment field as well as the incredible data being collected for the industrial and agricultural market sectors.

Lets start out with the somewhat "lacking in function" features:

FOLLOWING: Wow this was a big one for those of us filming from moving platforms such as a car, boat, skateboard etc. Quite clearly attempting to set your RC Controller as the HOME POINT FAILS miserably. DJI's excuse, "Well the GPS antenna on your 650.00 controller is not strong enough to provide the signal to the INSPIRE...hmmm, really?

 OK here is a clear warning. NEVER TAKE YOUR EYE OFF OF THE INSPIRE for the first 2-3 minutes of flight or you can kiss it goodbye. For some reason it consistently will head to the right... REALLY! We have upgraded the firmware and this still has not been fixed. If you watch it and manually keep it in position than after about 2 minutes it will be stable. Yes it does this whether or not it has been GPS calibrated or you are flying indoors using it's built-in SONAR system.

I guess it's a bit like the Miles per Gallon sticker on those new cars you may be looking at. Strictly IDEAL conditions for a flight time of 17 min. In other words hover at 5 ft off the ground. Expect 13-14 min of flight time. Anyone out there with the larger battery please chime in on flight times.

Oh yeah that's one big reason I went to the Inspire, the ability to plot out your course and easily repeat a flight pattern especially when you are trying to get that big wide opening aerial scene for the film your working on. Sorry but not available yet. Time frame? Well no response on that from DJI

Here today gone tomorrow. Wow that was such a great offering by DJI, um where did it go...Well they are in the process of shifting to U.S. based support so suddenly the very cool chat capability from your iPad or any IOS/Android device is no longer available. Time to use the phone and call and yes hopefully the QUALITY of their support, ie training personnel, will improve.

Regarding the new PHANTOM 3 PRO version: Well I have to say I need to get my hands on one. Seems like they are competing with their own product line as this little beefed up Phantom is pretty much the INSPIRE in a smaller footprint. Yep it will fit in your carry-on luggage.