Sweet Octocopter Takes The RED Epic To New Heights


So you’ve got a $40k+ RED Epic video camera and you need to get it from all the way down here to all the way up there. Sure, you could rent an expensive crane and take your shots from above that way, but why bother with that when you can fly instead?

German video effects company OMStudios decided that it was up to the task of finding a crane alternative, so they built a crazy octocopter drone to get the camera up to where they needed it. Figuring that if four rotors is good eight is even better, the group’s octocopter lifts the camera to heights of up to 150 meters, which is pretty impressive considering the weight of its payload.

While we might be a little hesitant to trust such an expensive camera to a glorified RC helicopter, it actually looks pretty solid from the video. Besides, we’re pretty sure these guys know what they are doing since they have a RED camera in the first place.

[via Engadget]

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/30255067 w=470]

25 thoughts on “Sweet Octocopter Takes The RED Epic To New Heights

    1. It’s actually very cheap for a digital cinema camera – Sony’s F35 would set you back over $100,000, and it only shoots 1080p! Even Arri’s Alexa (shoots 3K but most people use the ProRes output that is 2K) costs over $65,000.

      But EPIC has a higher resolution sensor, better workflow, shoots higher frame rates, has the same amount of dynamic range as the Alexa (which is considered excellent) plus can get extra DR using a HDR technique. Which is pretty much why so many major motion picture projects are shooting on it – like the new Spiderman, The Hobbit, Contagion, etc.

      The first point of difference is the resolution. In cinema terminology, resolution is measured in a ‘K’ value, as multiples of 1024, which is the horizontal resolution (TV uses vertical resolution). So 1080p, at 1920×1080 comes out to about 1.75K (2.1 megapixel). 2K is what motion pictures are generally released at, then there is 4K, which is twice as wide and tall (giving you four times as many pixels as 2K, ending up around 9 megapixels).

      EPIC, though, is 5K resolution. 5120 by 2560 pixels, giving 13.1 megapixels of resolution. We’re starting to talk an IMAX kind of image here. Even downscaled to 1080p it looks miles ahead of other cameras.

      Next thing is frame rates. Apart from the standard 24fps speed, it can shoot anything you want from 1 frame per second, to 96 frames per second. Which, at 13.1 megapixels per frame is about 1.258 gigapixels/second of image data (seriously – do the math). Most other cameras that can shoot this volume of data (that is, high speed cameras like the Phantom) generally need massive RAID units and external processing to be able to handle it, but RED have designed a bunch of silicon to do all that heavy lifting onboard, encoding it into RED”s amazing REDCODE wavelet compression. It records onto SSD modules a little bigger than a 2.5″ hard drive.

      That’s just some of the reasons it costs what it does. The fact that the cameras are built and assembled in California probably bumps it up a little too.

  1. What is so amazing about them is the resulting RED camera footage. Even the raw uncorrected footage played back on the monitor between takes looks very beautiful The RED camera produces a remarkably beautiful look. It looks so good that it is way beyond being a substitute for film; it is very much its own look and I find it exceedingly appealing. It has none of the appalling ugliness of all the HD cameras that were the only alternative to film in high-and production before the RED camera was invented. RED camera footage has a beautiful texture and a delightful softness, thanks to the absence of electronic sharpness enhancement. When used with high-quality prime lenses, the quality of the footage is absolutely superlative. Before the RED camera, independent filmmakers had to choose between the appalling costs associated with shooting on film and the intolerable ugliness of even the most high-end HD cameras. This issue is now definitively resolved and the RED camera provides a truly viable alternative to shooting on film; indeed, its uniquely appealing look might be outright preferable in many circumstances. <– my 2 Cents

  2. From here it looks like the noise and instability would make this impractical for most cinematography.

    All the footage from the copter was slowed down perhaps to compensate for the instabilities of the platform?

    1. Nah, they just slowed it down because they could. Notice in some parts they speed it up. Someone wanted to do the starty-stopey thing in after effects.

      Audio can be done in post. Takes can be mixed… movie magic, etc.

  3. This would be awesome combined with an auto follow system for vehicles. You do the audio of the conversation while the camera tracks the car through town automatically. No chase truck needed.

    As for stability: I am sure now that proof of concept has been shown a stabilization system (a gimble and plumb weight would be a good start) could be mounted as well.

  4. Having spent a lot of time on the RCgroups forum, I suppose I’ll chime in.

    Almost all aerial photography copters use 8 motors because of their ability to continue flying when a motor dies.

    You always need an even number rotors turning, half CW and half CCW, to balance out the gyroscopic effect of propellers. If you lose one motor, you have to shut off its counter-rotating pair to balance things out.

    With only 4 rotors you don’t have the ability to lose any rotors. With 6, you have some leeway but only if you are lucky and have the failed motor in a certain position on the copter.

    With 8 you can lose any motor and have the ability to shut off its pair while maintaining sufficient control to land properly.

  5. It looks like that they use the mikrokopter platform including the GPS module for automated waypoint flying and “keep position”/hover function. (http://www.mikrokopter.de/ucwiki/MikroKopter)

    I too fly a Mikrokopter, but in a 6 motor configuration. Its true things thing shakes the camera quite a bit. With CMOS chip you get all sorts of problems. I mostly use a GoPro with a nick stabilized camera mount and it is sometimes usable.
    one of the first tests flying the GoPro … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0kObWGFU0w

    But overall you need to practice flying this thing for quite sometime before you should even think to mount a expensive camera. I learned the hard way after i destroyed my canon S90 in a quite painful to watch crash. :(

  6. It’d be interesting to know what the battery life is. I suspect that because it’s capable of lifting a hefty payload, hooking up a power cable would dramatically increase endurance at the cost of agility. By taking the batteries off board, it shouldn’t make too much of a difference to weight.

  7. One of you above posted about mechanical failure. I set up a TREX helicopter rig for my Canon 7D. I had practiced flying it for months with a weight shaped similar to the camera. I was finally confident to fly the thing… in CALM conditions mind you. So i flew it and got some footage. Tons of issues in the footage as you can imagine with rolling shutter. But with Flame and some other in hours post production tools i was able to clean it up and stabilize it.


    One day i was flying another test of a busy car partaking lot for a shot to replace some vehicles with a commercial bread truck. (spot for tv) and one of the blades popped off in mid flight send the blade 100 yards into the hood of a parked car near by and the copter fell like a dead bird into the top of another car. Demolished the chopper completely. Destroyed my canon lens. But the rig protected the body of the camera. i still have it and its working. The denting of the car hood must have took some of the impact….. ANYWAY… the point of my story…. THESE THINGS ARE FRIGGEN DANGEROUS. even an expert can have problems of EPIC proportions. Seriously… i rented a 2 man chopper from my local airport with a custom gimble for just a fraction of the price of this RC rig i built. And i got to fly the real helicopter as well. So keep that in mind people. If you out in the middle of no where… use a real chopper when possible from your local small helicopter school. its cheaper!

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