What I Learned From Just Two Attempts at Cinewhooping

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I am stretching the truth just a bit when I say I’m recording footage with a cinewhoop. I’ve been messing around with the idea of mounting my GoPro HERO5 Session on my 3” and 4” Kestrel freestyle quads, flying them slow and smooth, and running the footage through ReelSteady Go.

The biggest problem with this setup is that I don’t have prop guards. I’m thinking about designing some prop guards to fit the Kestrel, but for now, I’m happy enough to maintain a safe distance from the soft targets!

I’ve only set out to record proper cinewhoop footage on two occasions. The first attempt was following Brian Moses around a lake while he rode his Exway Riot Pro electric skateboard. A few weeks later, I attempted to follow my friend Alex while he rode his Onewheel around a parking lot.

I did some testing and tuning in my front yard before attempting to follow Brian, and I did more testing and tuning before I followed Alex. This means I’ve put more than two batteries through my cinestyle setup, so I do have a bit of practice!

My 4” Kestrel is working well, my 3” is problematic

I’ve tried a few different configurations with my 4” Kestrel and its Emax 1606 motors. I’ve tried Emax Avan 3.5x2.8x3 and 4x2.5x3 props. I’m pretty sure I get smoother footage on the 3.5” props, but I haven’t used them since my earliest tests.

I’ve tried my 4S 650 mAh freestyle batteries, an old 4S 1,300 mAh battery, and an old 3S 1,300 mAh battery. My little freestyle packs are pretty beat up, but I can manage about four minutes of skateboard follow footage with those batteries.

The two bigger batteries both work great, and they both provide similar flight times. Seven to eight minutes chasing skateboards is no problem with these packs. I think the 4” Kestrel feels better for cinewhooping on the 3S. It is easier to maintain a stable altitude, but it isn’t tremendously easier.

My 3” Kestrel with its 1306 motors and HQ 3x2.5x3 props isn’t doing well with the GoPro. It feels fine in the air, but it is transferring too much vibration to the GoPro. I haven’t gotten clean output from ReelSteady Go with the 3” build yet.

Is the gyro in my 3” Kestrel going out? My 3” Kestrel is mostly made from the original prototype parts. Those arms are weak compared to the 4” Kestrel. Maybe they’re getting a little soft with all the crashes they’ve survived. Maybe the 3” props just transfer a different frequency that resonates with something. I just don’t have the answer yet.

I’m supposed to use an extremely soft mount for the GoPro HERO5 Session

I might have lucked out with my Session 5. It is pretty beat up now, so maybe its gyro is loose enough inside the case that it is soft mounted, because I’m having very little trouble getting clean video out of ReelSteady Go.

Even in the rigid TPU mount on my 5” freestyle build, ReelSteady Go has no trouble smoothing out my cinematic footage. It only has trouble there when I fly backwards or run into propwash.

I’m excited that the built-in soft mounts on my 4” Kestrel seem to be enough to keep ReelSteady Go happy with the footage from the GoPro HERO5 Session. I just have it strapped to the top plate with a battery strap!

I’m hoping this is the fault of my Kestrel frame and not some luck I’m having with my particular GoPro!

Plan your route before shooting

When I filmed Brian on his skateboard, I told him to make laps around the pond, and I would follow him. Then I immediately proceeded to do a bad job.

I took off to late, and I didn’t really understand how fast he was moving. I flew about ¼ of the way around the pond before realizing that I would never catch up, so I turned around and landed near myself. That ate up nearly half my battery!

As you can see in the video, I did a reasonable job picking him up as he started his second lap, but I had to abort after about 90 seconds. If I kept going, I wasn’t going to make it back. In hindsight, I realized that I should have just kept going. Brian is a smart guy. If I flew ahead of him and landed in the grass next to the path, he would have recovered the drone for me!

What could we have done better at the lake?

There are so many things we could have done better! Nurk has a lot of good cinewhooping tips. Maintain a stable altitude. If your flight could be done by a guy carrying a gimbal, why are you flying? Go through obstacles that a guy on a gimbal wouldn’t be able to.

I’m better at maintaining altitude today. It took me a few batteries to get the feel for the throttle response on the 4” while carrying a GoPro!

I realized half-way through my chase that I could just as easily have been riding a skateboard and carrying a gimbal. I needed to do something a skateboard couldn’t do, so I gained a bit of altitude to get a higher shot.

With planning, we could have done so much better. I should have flown over the water. I should have flown through the covered seating next to the dock. I should have gotten a strafing shot with water between Brian and myself.

It wouldn’t have taken much to elevate my first cinewhoop chase video to the next level.

Always shoot in 4K!

I haven’t remembered to take this particular piece of advice, but I’m pretty sure it will be extremely valuable!

My old GoPro Session isn’t in the best of shape. The screen doesn’t work. The back cover is falling off. The button on the back is gone. Not only that, but it is paired to my old phone, so it is very difficult for me to change settings!

I usually leave it set to 1080p SuperView with the flat color profile. This is just fine for my freestyle footage, and it wasn’t a problem when following Brian on his skateboard.

That wide field of view and low resolution was terrible when I chased Alex’s Onewheel. Alex was quick and nimble. I had absolutely no idea which path he was going to take around the parking lot. Trying to make smooth course corrections meant I was separated from him by quite a distance most of the time.

When I was editing the video, I wound up cropping in quite a bit. I didn’t have the extra resolution available to make that look good, though. Do I want blocky, grainy video, or do I want a good view of the action? I did my best to compromise somewhere in between.

If I recorded at 4K with a tighter field of view, I wouldn’t have had to crop as much, and even if I still had to crop, I wouldn’t have given up so much quality.

I think I did a better job following Alex

I didn’t manage to stay in tight most of the time, but I think I managed to take some more interesting lines. At the start of the video, I flew over that pile of landscaping stuff. When Alex rode under the covered valet area, I took an exit over the wall where someone on a skateboard wouldn’t be able to follow.

We didn’t choreograph anything. Alex rode around, and I followed him with my cinewhoop.

Just like the flight with Brian a few weeks earlier, a little planning would have gone a long way!

I might have to pick up a GoPro HERO6 Black

There’s something different about the HERO6. I don’t know if it uses a different gyro chip, the gyro is mounted differently, or the filtering is just better, but the HERO6 Black is supposed to work just fine when strapped to a vibrating quadcopter. No need for any of this soft-mount nonsense!

I’m about to go off on a bit of a detour here. Before the GoPro HERO8 Black was released, my plan was to switch all my quads over to TPU mounts that fit the HERO7 Black. That mount will work for the 5, 6, and 7.

That would give me a lot of options. I could fly the GoPro 7 when I need hypersmooth, or when I just need to want to capture better footage. Then I could fly the GoPro 5 when I’m just knocking around the golf course for fun. Why risk smashing a $400 GoPro when you’re flying the same lines that you fly every week?

The GoPro HERO8 goofed up my plans. They changed the form factor. That means when I upgrade from my HERO5 Session, it will be time to go straight to the newest camera and just hope I don’t smash one every month!

My recent if limited cinewhoop adventures have me rethinking things. I am going to ignore the HERO8 Black for the time being. I just ordered a refurbished GoPro HERO6 Black with a two-year Asurion accidental damage protection plan. My plan is to get cinewhooping with this over the next couple of days, then figure out how I’m going to be mounting and swapping between a Session 5 and HERO6 Black on my 5” over the weekend!

I look forward to more cinewhoop shenanigans!

Cinewhooping is more fun that I expected, and I didn’t think it would be so easy to capture such amazing cinematic footage. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been putting in 10 or 20 packs per week for most of the past three years. I should be pretty good at this by now!

As I said, I ordered a HERO6 Black, and I’m excited about trying it out. I won’t be terribly surprised if that simple change smooths out the footage on my 3” Kestrel, and it will be a general upgrade for all my cinewhooping, so I’m super excited about it!

Brian wants to take another stab at recording some cool footage of his new skateboard. If the weather cooperates, we might work on that over the weekend.

I think I’m doing a pretty good job on my first few attempts at cinewhooping. What do you think? Do I need more practice? Do you agree that my footage will reach the next level by just applying what I’ve learned from these first attempts? Are you cinewhooping? Do you think I’m crazy for not using prop guards?

Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!