The Smart Shot to rule all shots: Multipoint Cable cam gives you even more confidence and creative control over your shots — control you simply can’t get with any other drone. Read on to learn the basics of using Multipoint Cable cam, then how to crack it open and set up jawbreaking shots and scenes, like the video above from Weston Reel.
How to start it up
First, MPCC is not a new Smart Shot; it’s simply the new version of Cable cam. We’ve essentially just enhanced the original Cable cam Smart Shot: Instead of two keyframes you can now set unlimited keyframes. Nothing new in the Smart Shots menu — “Cable cam” is now more extensible. No name change: To use multipoint, just select Cable cam.
To get this functionality — available in the recently announced 2.0 release — just tap the box in the upper corner of the main screen that says “update available.” (It’s the first screen you see when you open the app.) The app will automatically update everything that needs updating.
How to set it up
“Multipoint” works just like the original Cable cam. (Well, almost identically — we’ll get to the minutiae later.) Take your time to fly to where you want to set your first keyframe, at any point in space, looking any direction you want. Position the copter and the camera to get that first frame perfect. Press A on the controller to save the keyframe. The onboard computer essentially has a photographic memory: It takes an internal “snapshot” of each keyframe you set, memorizing not just the position in the air, but the camera position as well, so Solo will nail that frame.
After you set your first frame, take your time to fly (doesn’t have to be a straight line) to where you want to create the next one; repeat the process for as many keyframes as you need. To set the last frame, instead of pressing A you’ll press B. Your app screen will then tell you the cable is set — Solo has connected all of those frames with straight virtual cables between them.
Solo automatically adds curves to the cable at each keyframe. This makes your entry and exit for each frame feel smooth and polished.
Importantly, Solo saves every cable you create, so you can return to fly your favorites or quickly and easily switch between shots at the same location. Just open “saved shots” on the Smart Shots menu and select the cable you want to fly. You’ll see a map come up with a blue dot for Solo, and another bigger blue circle, which is your target for the first frame. Fly into the circle and the app guides you to the right altitude; Solo will lock into the first frame from there, and you’re good to go.
How to use it
Now that your cable and frames are set you’ve got a bunch of options. Just as you could with Cable cam 1.0, you can now engage Solo in a few ways.
1) Virtual two-pilot system. You and Solo: You fly the copter while Solo handles the camerawork. Use the right stick to send Solo up and down the cable. This lets you control the speed and direction of flight. As you go, Solo will automatically and smoothly guide the camera from one frame to the next — you can change direction and adjust speed at any time. You don’t need to press “play”; just push the stick and you’re off.
2) Virtual two-pilot system. You and Solo again: You control the camera, looking around and changing tilt however you want, while Solo flies. When you’ve got your cable set, press “play” and Solo begins its flight along the cable from frame to frame. To take control of the camera, just use the left stick for everything. Press the stick to the right, and Solo will rotate to its right; to the left and Solo rotates left. Look up and down by moving the left stick up and down. You can even adjust the tilt while you rotate Solo for some simply crazy camera action. If you want to change the direction Solo flies, press just the directional arrow on your app screen at any time.
3) All Solo. Solo controls the flight and the camerawork at the same time. To do this, just tap “play,” sit back and watch Solo go. Solo flies itself along the cable and interpolates the camera smoothly from one frame to the next. Change direction at any time by pressing the directional arrow on your app screen.
4) All you (basically). More personal control, but a higher level of difficulty: You control the copter and camera along the cable. This is a combination of number one and two above. Just as you would in number one, use the right stick to control Solo’s direction and speed along the cable. At the same time, you can use the left stick to control the camera, looking anywhere you want. No matter what you do, though, Solo keeps itself locked onto that cable, so you’ll always know where you’re headed (hence the “basically” qualifier above).
Tips and tricks
Clear line of flight. Always double-check that the straight line between each frame doesn’t pass through any objects. It’s easy to overlook this because you can take any flight path to set your keyframes; while setting your next frame you might fly around or over an object and not be aware that the straight line between the frames actually passes through the object. Make sure the line of flight between frames is well clear of any objects.
Fly the cable manually. Before you fly your cable for your actual take, you might want to fly it manually. Not only will this give you a good idea of how your video will look, it will also give you a good feel for where those automatically added curves are, and for the course that Solo and the camera will take around them. Lastly, it also helps you get a feel for the GPS lock at each frame. Because Solo uses GPS to set frames and cables, they won’t be exact every time; GPS approximates position well, but it’s not a precision navigation system. You’ll want to take this into account when you fly.
Cable cam options. The Cable cam options menu lets you further adjust and customize your shots. (To access the options menu, tap the icon that looks like “…” on your Cable cam screen.) As with the original Cable cam, the options menu allows you to adjust the speed at which Solo flies the Cable, with one difference: Instead of a slider between “fast” and “slow,” the new slider measures your speed in the time it takes to complete your Cable. This gives you precise control when coordinating a scene.
Toggling the Time Lapse feature (an icon in the options screen) allows you to set Solo to fly at incredibly slow speeds — down to about 10 cm/second. Flying manually at precise and invariable slow speeds — with cinematic grace — is nearly impossible, but with Solo it’s as easy as a tap. Note: Time Lapse doesn’t do anything to the camera; it just controls the copter’s speed. If you like, you can ramp up your videos in post.
Tilt presets. Don’t sleep on the right paddle! You can use it to save two gimbal angle presets, then toggle between them as you fly. You can adjust the speed of the tilt movement using the wheel between the two preset buttons. This allows you to use automated camera tilt while you fly your Cable, a combination that not only lets you create or improvise some really interesting and surprising shot dynamics, but it allows you to do it without the pressure of controlling the tilt manually. When you’re comfortable flying multipoint, definitely experiment with this extra dimension!
Shooting a scene. Because you can repeat Cables as many times as you want (in the allotted battery life), you can shoot multiple takes. This means you’ll always know exactly where the camera will be. Once you’ve got your cable set how you want it, you can turn your attention to directing your scene or making sure that all elements hit their marks right on time. Need another take? Fly back to your start point. Need the camera to move faster or slower? Adjust the speed in the Cable cam options menu. Need to change speed mid-cable? Just use the right stick. Want to switch between different Cable shots to compare, or to have multiple angles on the same scene? Just set your Cables and then switch between them by finding them in “saved shots.”
Prep. It’s good practice to prep for every shot you take, regardless, but with Cable cam it has even more value. Before you get up in the air, pre-visualize exactly the shot you want to set up and capture. This saves battery life when it’s time to shoot, and it also allows you to plan and coordinate a scene before you shoot it.
Because Cable cam saves every shot, it offers another specific and valuable way to prep your shot. If you want shoot a scene at a particular time of day (for instance, in the “golden hour” before twilight), you can take your time getting your cable set and perfectly tuned ahead of time. Then when it’s go time you can maximize your shooting time, with minimal setup — just load that saved Cable and press play. In fact, perfect any shot ahead of time and open it up when you’re on set and ready to roll. You’ll spend that much less time setting the camera, and you’ll know exactly when and where it will be so you can coordinate the scene.