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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend

Yes, I’m still alive – despite being a bit quiet on the site this past week. Playing catchup after last week’s quick 46hr round-trip from Amsterdam to NYC and back. Add to that managing to get a bit sick the day before heading to NYC and continuing till now.  Still, here’s what I’ve been up to the last few days.

1) Back across the pond

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I kicked off the extended weekend of sorts by flying back to Amsterdam from NYC. With good tailwinds and low runway traffic at Newark, the flight only took a touch over 6 hours in the air. Not too shabby!

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I had hoped to avoid checking luggage, but bringing back a hefty sidebag of drones along with a gimbal, and a suitcase full of other products and cycling/running gear sorta squashed those plans. Plus of course my backpack with multiple laptops and plenty of other gadgets. Win some, lose some.

At least the airport was reasonably efficient and I was stepping through our front door less than an hour after the plane kissed the runway. I’ll take it!

2) Sport Testing the Mavic 2

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(See drone in mid-left side of photo above)

After a couple hours of sleep (I didn’t sleep on the plane, worked instead), I loaded up a solid backpack full of gear and headed out for a ride with The Girl. In the backpack, I had two drones + two controllers, a DSLR camera, tripod, microphone, GoPro, a crapton of batteries, and some other random gear. Light it was not, but it was only about 20KM each way to get outside of the Amsterdam no-fly zone areas, so no biggie.

My goal was to film not one, but two videos. The day prior, in NYC, I ventured out to the beaches to one of the handful of drone-legal spots to get in a few hours of testing time with the Mavic 2, but now it was time to put together some actual videos on it (actually I did shoot an entire first impressions video on the two units while at the beach, but I didn’t like how things came out, so didn’t bother to edit it). My goal was one video focused on Active Track 2.0, which is the first DJI drone to have it. It claims better tracking by significantly increasing the sensors used, while also adding more sensors for obstacle avoidance.

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In case you’re wondering, I rigged up the controller to my handlebars with just a standard iPhone Quadlock case. Oh, and two spare Garmin Edge rubber bands.

In the second video, I’d be doing a deep dive into the technical nuances between the two drones. For this video, I’d film all the talking portions back in the studio, so I just had a huge shot list of b-roll.

The shooting went well, took about 3.5 hours of testing and shooting. First, a pile of runs/tests without secondary cameras running, and then towards the end we turned on the cameras and microphones and I did the actual Active Track video.

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The Girl was riding a fair bit initially, and then I switched. If you check out the video below, you’ll see most of the intro section is actually of The Girl rockin’ it on a mixed gravel path in some crazy winds.

Good times!

3) Assembling gimbals

On Saturday The Girl headed down to Brussels for the day, while I hung around and entertained the kiddos. That meant that a long ride or run was out of the question, but during their naptime I had a bit of time to toy with some new gadgets. The most interesting of which was the Ronin-S gimbal I picked up.

Back a few weeks ago The Girl was hand-held DSLR filming some stuff helping me out. She was semi-displeased to see the resultant footage and the bit of shake in there. Certainly some I could fix in post, but she wondered what a gimbal would look like. Somehow out of the whole thing I got the request to buy a DSLR gimbal. Despite my umpteen action camera and phone gimbals, I do not yet have a DSLR gimbal in my collection.  Obviously, I didn’t ask twice after this unexpected non-chore-attached purchase approval.

Initially when the last-minute NYC trip came up I figured I’d be able to walk into B&H in NYC and pick it up. Turns out the Ronin-S is heavily backordered, ranging from 2-3 weeks to 2+ months. So that plan went out the window.  Content with this, I didn’t bother to do much other research beyond calling a few NYC area camera stores to see if they had anything – most of which quoted me October timeframes.

So then fast forward to Thursday after the DJI launch event in NYC and while I was chatting with one of the DJI guys I asked when they expected consumer availability to catch-up. He gave me a hot tip to check local area Best Buys. 60 seconds later on the Best Buy website and I found a store on the way to the airport that had them in stock. A minute or so after that I had ordered it for local pickup. #Winning

In any event, here I am, assembling the Ronin-S.

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It’s not hard to assemble. And it’s more ‘balancing’ than assembling. A set of calibration steps to get it all nice and level for the best results.  The only downside to this is that it’s kinda a pain in the butt to switch back and forth to a normal tripod setup. Perhaps I can find a tripod adapter that accepts the same quick-release plate so that I don’t have to swap quick release plates merely to tripod-mount the camera.

Also, my Nikon D500 doesn’t support follow-focus (or any other camera control) yet. The firmware update for a number of cameras is coming soon, so in the meantime it’s a non-smart gimbal, more than a fully integrated gimbal.

4) Editing videos

After all this video shooting the past few days, it was time to edit everything. Some videos are relatively straightforward. Something like a single camera with a single audio track. Easy peasy.

Then there’s drone and action camera review videos. In general, these videos are a beast to edit. For example, the Active Track video below included three concurrent camera views and two concurrent audio tracks. In theory, this would be relatively easy with multicam, but in reality it’s messy because of the latency issues between the drone video feed and the screen recording feed. So that ends up about half a second out of sync for the audio to my wired mic to another recording device.

But it’s only half a second out of sync in certain views. So each time I cut the camera I have to re-align the audio tracks. In writing this now I probably could have done it differently with audio/video tracks, but ultimately, it’s still messy stuff.  Not to mention each run we do tends to be a separate set of files, since nobody trusts the iOS screen recorder to last very long, so you hedge your bets.

Here’s the final video:

Plus, I’ve still gotta dig into the large pile of footage on my Fitbit Charge 3 video, that should be up tomorrow.

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That’s an easier video to cut because it’s single camera with b-roll, but the lighting conditions for shooting the b-roll were less than ideal. So I’ll have to spend more time repairing that in post-production. Fun times!

5) Packing the bike, once again

Sunday afternoon I had a couple of errands to run, namely moving things back down to the DCR Studio and then picking up some supplies from the hardware store. I took along a small helper:

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Sometimes she gives looks like a teenager. But in reality she was singing and smiling along the entire way. She loves the bike so much it’s silly.  Even the parts when she was squished in between an A/C unit, a gimbal box, and a bunch of other random bike parts. In fact, I think that’s the part she found most fun.

With that – thanks for reading and have a great week ahead!

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35 Comments

  1. Peter Speight

    Your child is adorable. Very cute photo for #5 of your 5 random things.

  2. Anton Peterson

    Cycling Maven also has the Robin S gimbal so will be looking forward to some crisp b-roll footage from both of you. Oh and don’t forget to get GP Lama to buy one of these. Lol

    • Yeah, looking forward to seeing how Maven handles it on the bike. As I found out, it’s a beast in weight!

      I suspect I’ll occasionally use it for getting bike-computer screen specific video bits while riding (I currently use a GoPro Karma grip + Hero 6), but I think most of it will be non-riding.

  3. Derek

    Don’t you ever have a problem having stuff stolen from your checked bags?

    • Nope. I’ve only had two cases of stolen stuff in all the years. Once in Croatia when I was forced to check a carry-on bag at the last minute, and once in Kenya with a laptop that went missing (I had a bunch of laptops on this work trip, so eventually something had to give).

      In general, if you’re looking at US and major European airports, theft is super rare since the security procedures around employees entering/exiting the secure area is so high (most are searched in both directions).

      My challenge is I take so much gear on trips that I simply can’t take it all in the cabin. In this case on my trip back I did:

      Cabin: Ronin-S case (seen in the last bike picture, the grey thing), sidebag of DJI drones, daily backpack of 2xlaptops and related gear.
      Checked: Small roller suitcase with DSLR camera, crapton of wearables, clothes/etc…

      I usually prioritize unannounced/unreleased products into my carry-on, but in this case I simply ran out of space for everything, especially boxed items that will get proper unboxings later. I was impressed with my ability to get three carry-on items through though. 🙂

    • PeterF

      Do you put all the batteries in carry-on (to the point of removing batteries from say the DSLR)? If not, did it ever cause problems leaving them in checked luggage?

      Recently we had discussion on a bike Dutch forum about possible problems when checking in a bike that has a LiON like a forumslader or Di2 inside the frameset. Just curious what people’s actual experience is with batteries in checked luggage?

    • I generally keep my DSLR batteries in my main backpack, merely as an organizational thing, so that solves that bit. And same for drone batteries.

      I don’t usually remember my eTAP batteries (which are smaller than the Di2 ones by quite a bit). I think if I remember from a briefing somewhere they were just below the limit.

      There are cases of laptop and phone batteries and such catching fire mid-flight. I don’t think I’ve heard of DSLR batteries doing so though.

  4. Chris

    To me, that look was more like: Wait a minute…Bike ride….Dad, I’m on to you. I know I’m a prop in your photo.

    Teenage looks have much more disdain and disgust (and they just wouldn’t be in the photo.)

    Signed,

    Father of 2 Teenagers,

  5. José

    By chance any update on your Vector 3? From your RV video, it sounded like you don’t have any issues with the latest firmware and new battery caps?

    Also, is the podcast dead dead?

    • Dave Lusty

      My Vector 3 still has drops with the current firmare and battery caps, as do many other people on the Garmin forums. They are certainly improved but still flawed and I don’t think there’s much that will be done on the current hardware design. Personally I’d expect a rechargeable version to appear within a year that doesn’t suffer with connection issues internally. If you need a power meter right now, go for one of the others (although I’ve not looked into whether they also have issues). I’m certain that Ray won’t be seeing issues, just like he never does with Garmin watches or bike computers – Garmin must thoroughly test one of each just for him 😉

    • I’m actually *still* on old battery caps. I know, one of these days I’ll swap them out. Eventually.

      Zero issues though. These are not pedals directly from Garmin, just via Clever Training from back in November or December.

    • PeterF

      Bought Vector3 pedals back in January. They were fine at first, although the batteries only lasted like 30 hours. Ever after the first battery change I’m having heaps of problems with dropped connections an, massive peaks. Not to mention two requests to Garmin support in Europe for new battery doors were left unanswered (for weeks), until I started complaining on the Garmin forum.

      Now I have two new battery doors and guess what? Still dropped connections and peaks in reported power.

      The rational thing would be to return them, but I also invested in a pair of road shoes to use on these pedals (normally use MTB pedals/shoes) so that would be basically 200 euros down the drain.

      Completely disgusted with Garmin to be honest. Be sure to read up on the Vector3 Garmin forum before buying these pedals!

  6. Jackson

    Ray- been following ya for years. Thanks for sharing your interests with us. I had a funny DC Rainmaker moment a week ago. I live in Alexandria VA and my family took a vacation to the Atlantic maritimes of Canada. One morning I was running in St John’s Newfoundland (if I remember from reading this blog that it’s somewhat close to the girls home) and realized I was wearing belaga socks (which you recommend) , with a Garmin 35 and I thought…this is a DC Rainmaker inspired moment! Had a great time up there. Thanks for the blog. It’s great!

    • Boom! I think even The Girl’s Mom uses a FR35 these days…

    • The Girl

      Did you enjoy Newfoundland? I didn’t get back there this summer, and I’m pretty sad about it! Next time you can send an email if you want things to do, places to go tips!

      The Girl

    • Jackson

      Thanks for writing back – Newfoundland (as you know much better then I) is just peaceful, beautiful and real. Our time there (6 days) was part of a broader trip to Nova Scotia and PEI. But we kept Newfoundland, which we didn’t know was the best, for last. We arrived in Argentia via overnight ferry and drove slowly (in good Canadian style it seems 🙂 ) to Saint Johns. Celebrated my wife’s birthday in Quidi Vidi Village at Mallard Cottage, stayed in a jellybean house, and spent the next two days at the various regional sites including Signal Hill and Cape Spear. (this is when I dived into the DC rainmaker blog and saw many of the placed you both had been as well-still impress ray biked up to the lighthouse) Then we went north and went hiking in Terra Nova NP (goodness the Canadian Park system is great) and overnighted in a wonderful fishing village of Greenspond. Talked to the locals and enjoyed small town maritime life. Then we drove to Gros Morne with a midday stop in Gander and spent three nights there in Gros Morne. Wow-wow-wow. I have been to the Rockies (American and Canadian) but our family *loved* Gros Morne. My oldest daughter was jazzed by the geology of the Table Lands and my youngest (age 6) hiked with us all in the misty rain on muddy trials for 10km on the Green Gardens trail. My wife and I loved the Western Brook Pond (which is the biggest “pond” I have ever seen) We then sadly had to leave and headed to Channel-Port aux Basques to ferry back. The whole experience was rewarding but the Newfoundland portion was the best. The seafood, the gracious people, the well-maintained roads, natural beauty, the well-groomed trails and the refined simplicity of it all was great. I know you know this well, but your island and its history was a great joy to visit and we hope to come back in a number of years!

    • The Girl

      Ohhhhh my goodness. You have seriously tugged on my heart strings!! I’m wildly impressed AND jealous that you made it over to Gros Morne! It’s always over looked by travelers! The I have been telling Ray about the Table Lands for YEARS and I am so happy to hear younger generations still love that stuff! My dad and I hiked them many years ago and had our own little picnic on a glacier in August! I have spent many many summers out in Gander, Terra Nova, Gros Morne, and beyond. I just can’t wait until my kiddos are old enough to enjoy those same misty hikes, canoe trips, and camp fires!

      You nailed the trip to St. John’s staying in a JellyBean house and seeing all the sights!

      Thank you for sharing all of those details of your trip! I’m so so happy you enjoyed Newfoundland! It makes me very proud and happy to hear not much has changed 🙂

  7. Mr. Fadeli

    Hello Ray. All your picture is very nice. Just curious what camera did you use to take all those picture?

  8. Ray, I like your videos but be aware that in The Netherlands sentiment towards drone(-pilot)s around windmills is changing. More and more windmill owners feel it is a invasion of their privacy.
    Kinderdijk (probably the most famous windmill-spot) was in the news a couple of years ago because of this:
    link to dronewatch.nl
    (sorry, in Dutch)

    • Yup, it’s a main reason I selected the middle of a weekday with nobody around. We never saw anyone at the windmill either.

      I think anyone folks fly a drone they should be mindful of what’s going on around them, especially with respect to others. I’d also note though that drone noise has dramatically decreased, especially in the last year or so. Drones of 2-4 years ago were massively louder than now.

  9. Scott Shell

    I can’t help but notice how ragged your bar tape looks. I realize it probably isn’t a huge deal but the left side visible in your handlebar photo above looks pretty rough.

    • Phil A

      I was thinking of mentioning the same thing :-p

    • Yeah, I know. New bar tape has been sitting next to my toolbox since June. Sigh.

      As I always tell The Girl, everything is ‘just one more thing’. :-/

    • JD

      Ditto here. New tape sitting in a box for months.
      My road bike is bar naked on the left side. Kinda used to it that way.

      How many miles of BEAUTIFUL canal paths like that?
      Enough for an epic gravel ride?

    • Roady

      Thought the same thing, particularly as even a loose wind of tape does my head in and I re-wrap the whole thing! Offer here to redo yours free, if you’re ever this direction!

  10. Ken

    I like the ‘tool’ in your Ronin setup shot. Makeshift screwdriver, weight to hold the instrux booklet open, or were you buttering your new gimbal? 😉

  11. Barrie Gibson

    Don’t they grow up fast. Already giving you the look . . .

  12. Giles Roadnight

    I am sure that I am telling my granny how to suck eggs but I have found that Premier Pro is pretty good at editing multiple camera angles. If you do a clapper board type thing or just make a noise that all cameras record it’s super easy to line them up. You then get a multi camera video that has all the different views lined up and is really easy to work with

    This probably won’t work if you have video from a phone screen cap mind you as there will be no noise to align to…

  13. Rainer Joswig

    > Good times!

    Indeed.

    I’ve enjoyed your Mavic 2 testing a lot. It’s such a pretty landscape.

  14. Scott Higginbotham

    I spy a hidden Mickey!