Nature Trail & New Orchard

The summer and the COVID have been keeping me busy, to say the least, and I finally have something interesting worth posting about.  Today with some help from some other folks at BCC we began a project to take some videos, 360/VR videos, and pictures to document the BCC Nature Trail.

It was a rainy start to the day so the trail itself was a little damp.  When we first met for lunch it was still raining, but after some Teo’s and some patient waiting the showers disappeared and the sun came out to dry things up a bit.  We decided to do just the drone portion of the mission, the sky is not wet after all, and wait for a dryer time to do the 360/VR video.

Here’s a video from the first part of our drone mission, to capture some closeup video of some of the cliff swallow nests on the side of Hawthorne.  I don’t know much about these birds, other than BCC used to be a popular nesting spot however lately their numbers have been declining.  These nests are to attempt to encourage them to return.

After that we walked the BCC nature trail and while taking video, measured the height of the radio tower (80 feet) and some key trees in the area.  We took some low to the ground video of some interesting plants, although I’m not sure how well those will come out.

To wrap up our tasks today, the BCC Alumni Association recently planted a new orchard on campus, a collection of apple trees near the North Parking Lot.  Here’s some of the video.

We will reschedule the 360/VR video shoot to another day soon, perhaps next week.

Virtual Tour – Remote Everything

Yes, it’s been quite a while since I last posted.  A little over two months to be exact.  The grind of remote work has really been a challenge, especially since the Summer Semester began.  It’s really difficult to provide technology support remotely, especially when the individual is lacking basic computer skills.  It’s a real challenge to walk someone through changing a setting when they don’t know how to right-click.

Today is one of the first days I’m working back in my office.  The Library and Digital Commons are still closed so there’s no users in the lab.  It’s good to come here and get back in a work groove and there are several projects to be worked on.

One project is a Virtual Tour, although most of my role is done.  With help from STEM the college was able to get our hands on a Vuze VR/360 Camera.  The camera is pretty good and takes much of the work out of stitching together videos.  The video can then be edited right in Adobe Premiere, which is where the project is at now.

Last week I met with Josh from Security, Nolan from STEM, and Jonah from Marketing so that we could capture areas on campus for the virtual tour.  For about 2 hours we took 2-4 minutes of video from about 30 different locations all around campus.  Here’s a test below with 4 of the locations, outside of Hoffman, Chemistry Lab, Boland Theater, and the Digital Commons where my office is.

Marketing is now editing the final version, I’m really excited to see what they come up with!  Some of my drone video was used in the latest BCC commercial and I’m glad to see it put to good use.  There’s a shot of flying over Patterson where you can see the entire campus and also a rising shot of the nurses from a ceremony a month ago where they were outside, wearing masks and social distancing.

You will also see Jason, one of the Lab Assistants who worked in the Digital Commons as the thumbnail.  Jason went to study at UMASS I believe — I miss him and all the other Lab Assistants!

Since it’s been so long since posting I have all sorts of media and drone flights from the interim. Here’s a bonus drone video from Jones Nose on Mount Greylock!


Drones for Social Distancing

With the recent guidelines for social distancing, many folks are struggling for activities to do.  There have been several recent drone videos of major cities, such as San Francisco and Boston, with few to no people in the streets and I’m a big fan of these.

While I really wish I had a nice big drone that can fly far and fast and take 4k video, my trusty Mavic Mini is good enough to get out and fly on most decent days, and yesterday we had one of those.  Wind gusts were topping out at about 25mph, which is a little risky for a drone with a top speed of 30-35mph, but I’ve now got several hours of flight time in and lots of experience with the little Mavic Mini so I took a chance.  I chose my location, the Eugene Moran Wildlife Management Area in Windsor, MA. I did a little research on this area and saw no notes that drones were not allowed and also that most of the wildlife in this area are birds, a hazard I am very familiar with.  For the most part birds stay away, but sometimes if they swarm they can get aggressive or territorial. There was even DPW truck here when I arrived, you can see in the video, and he didn’t seem to have any issues with what I was doing and drove away without issue.  If necessary, I had and always have my FAA certification card on me to show that I know the rules and how to follow them.

The flight went very well, although I did get several high wind warnings the little Mavic Mini performed exactly as expected.  If you see any jerky movements in the video, that’s because I was reacting to the wind.  Here’s the full video for your enjoyment.

I find piloting drones to be exhilarating — it takes a great deal of focus and gives me sweaty palms.  While the actual piloting is not very relaxing, I think the results are very much so. When I’m trying to make relaxing videos I use the Cinematic flight mode which gives super smooth results.  I think that for future flights I will also do a fly through on regular GPS flight mode so the drone moves faster to more get that feeling of flying.

Tattiya, a colleague of mine at BCC, gave me a really good idea too when we were discussing image juxtaposition.  I’m going to program some GPS drone flight paths then go back and fly those paths at different seasons/weather.  Once we get a few we can juxtaposition videos!  More to come!