The 360 Degree video industry and technology has been changing at a fair pace over the last few months, more so within the aerial drone industry. We are starting to see more professional off the shelf hardware now coming through.
Like most commercial 360 video providers, we started with 6 and 10 GoPro camera pods mounted on fixed poles to our standard drones, and we quickly found this was a compromise, typically most aerial 360 to date in the pro space has been done with GoPro’s of one form or another.
Compared to GoPro Omni
When the GoPro Omni was released we quickly ordered one, we were amazed at how much it simplified our workflow and post production. Don’t underestimate how easy a GenLocked rig makes your life, or how well GoPro have integrated the Omni into the Kolor suite, it saved us days in uploading, syncing and initial stitching. The downside of the Omni is that it is heavy, coming in around 1kg, which in itself is not bad and lighter compared to our normal camera setup, Zenmuse and a GH4. But the real downside of the Omni on a drone is there is no easy way to gimbal it due to the design, you need to use counterweights to balance the camera on a gimbal which results in an overall weight of around nearly 4kg.
This payload is not an issue for heavy lift drones, but it pushes the cost of the drone up, reduces the flight times, but more importantly in the UK we cannot fly this setup in congested areas due to the CAA limit of 7kg, total mass without an additional safety case in urban areas. Also when flying over 7kg drones in controlled airspace we have to apply for permission which can take up to 28 days.
Drone Stabilization Options
On a nice calm day, no wind, flying the Omni on a fixed pole and the drone in atti mode you can get good results that don’t need need too much stabilisation in MochaVR or Mettle, but for the most part we were spending far too much time trying to stabilise 360 video, for every 3mins it was taking us nearly a day. We therefore needed a lightweight gimbal solution for 360 video on our drone which we would fly under 7kg. (See examples of MochaVR Stabilization Tools or Mettle Stabilization Tools)
There are a few gimbals for 360 starting to appear on the market in the last few months, the Konovo was probably one of the first, (see the NS VR360 review), and we did consider it. In Dec 2017 Stablizer-Pro also offered a new 360 drone gimbal manufactured by “Accsoon” , the TG20 360VR Gimbal. On paper it weighs roughly the same as the Konovo, fully configured with cameras around 2kg. The Konovo gimbal was more expensive than the TG20 even with the default 6 GoPro setup, but with 10 GoPro’s it was significantly more expensive. In real life the TG20 was also a lot lighter (from data supplied from one of its users), one of the reasons for this is that the Konovo uses counter weights depending on the number of cameras.
We ordered an early production unit of the TG20, and it was delivered in mid Jan 2017. Since then there has been some additional features and upgrades added to the gimbal.
The TG20 is a three axis gimbal, roll, pan tilt, the motors are encoded and the controller is a 32bit unit, normally used on large handheld gimbals for Reds etc, the motors are over specified and it has some great features.
Pole Length & Fitting
The TG 20 was supplied with two 300mm poles which could be bolted together to make 600mm, but we found the shorter config was too short on the S900 and the long option generated too much pendulum. Through testing we have upgraded this to a single 400mm pole. Our earlier version was also was not supplied with a quick release plate which the current versions have now, so we added one for ease of use. The pole is attached using a simple wire isolator, at first we were not sure this is required, but it can save you damaging the mount if you are using a platform to land or take off, so we have kept it.
Powering the Gimbal
The TG20 is powered using a 12v UBEC from the drones 6s lipos, so no extra battery to keep the weight down. The connection is via an XT 60 plug.
Cameras and Mounting
As supplied the TG20 has mounts for 9 cameras, with an option for a second downward facing camera making 10 which we would recommend. We have also fitted an extra GoPro on the top plate of the S900 for patching in the Sky, but we find the NADIR hole that small it is not really required as it is easy to patch.
The gimbal was supplied with a “Zenmuse style” isolation plate and dampers, but the S900 already has these fitted so we discarded this and bolted the plate directly to the rails. We also added and additional battery plate so the gimbal could be mounted in the CG. (WARNING DO NO MOUNT A 360 CAMERA GIMBAL ON A LONG POLE OFF CENTRE, IT WILL END IN TEARS).
We are using GoPro 4 Black cameras on the gimbal with Omni Firmware, but you can use, 3, 3+, 4 or 5’s if you want, the gimbal will also work with the Kodak SP 360 cams, micro 4/3 cameras as well as many others due to its design, this was a factor in our buying decision as we wanted some future proofing.
Powering the Cameras
Although we have not got our GoPro’s currently powered, on the latest version of the TG20 this is an option, this does require a separate cable which does not run through the slip ring unfortunately.
A nice feature is a connector near the IMU that runs through the slip ring to the controller which allows you to take a video feed from one of the Cameras. We find this very useful as it allows us to flick between the FPV camera and the downward facing camera for positioning by using an iOSD.
A production assistant can configure the gimbal with software. Although you don’t need to tweak, because it already comes configured for you. Micro USB cable is required and installation of the relevant USB drivers. The software is by far the simplest I have used, if you have used Alexmos, this one could be used by a 2 year old child in comparison.
Gimbal Controller & Motors
The controller is a 32bit unit, and has inputs for roll, tilt and pan if required. Although, we don’t see any need for this. There are two pan roll and two tilt motors although two are only currently used, this allows for upgrades in the future for heavier cameras. There is also a single pan motor. All motors feature magnetic encoders for rock steady stabilization.
The TG20 has blown away our expectations, we have been very impressed. First of all with the stability and also the build quality of the gimbal. The support from the manufacturer has been excellent. Although, to be honest we have not really needed it for the most part. They have also added several upgrades and features to the Gimbal. Our early production unit didn’t have those options, ie: quick release, GoPro power etc so its even better.
Downside for us is lack of GenLock on the GoPro’s compared to the Omni, so more work in post to sync etc, but Upside is more than made up for by the lack of stabilization in post that is no longer required, so overall it has really has cut down our post production time and improved the quality of our content.
Stabilizer-Pro also makes gimbals for the GoPro Omni, if you have a heavy lift. But, as stated for the UK, we really wanted to keep the weight sub 7kg. This way we could work easily in congested areas and controlled airspace without additional permissions and admin.
We are starting to look at moving away from GoPro’s and the TG20 enables us to build this roadmap. It can also accommodate other cameras such as M43’s. We are also now using the Gimbal on our 1/5 scale RC car in inverted mode. The TG20 is not limited to drone use. It can be used handheld, RC car, dolly or vehicle mounted. We are probably looking forward to trying all of them in the next few months.
For more information on the TG20 have a look at Stabilizer-Pro’s website. The TG20 is manufactured and designed by “Accsoon”
Aerial filming is perfect for the TG20 360VR Stabilizer Gimbal. Turn it upside down to easily converted it and change the working mode. It also can be mounted on monopod, tripod, jib-line, robot dolly, RC cars or handheld. The built in magnetic encoders in motors ensure accuracy of positioning. Additional to extreme stability to solve the vibrations while moving. While in motion, the accuracy is less than 0.05 degree.
The receiver can control yaw axis during flying.
TG20 can support 5/6/8/9/10 GoPro Hero3, 3+/4, the version for GoPro Hero5 is coming soon.
Stabilizer Weight (with cameras): 1.9kg
Stabilizer Weight (without cameras): 1.1kg
Carbon Fibre Tube Length: 60cm (2 x 30cm)
Battery Type Required: 3-6cell lipo battery
Output Current: @ 4A
Operating Temperature: -10degree to 45 degree
Battery Duration: 3-6hours (eg: 4S 1300mAh, operating temperature: 20degree, Voltage: 16V )
Support Cameas: GoPro Hero3/3+/4
Support Camera Qty: 5/6/8/9/10 Pcs GoPro cameras
Receiver: Optional 2 Channel PWM
Maximum Controllable Speed: PAN Axis 100 degree/second
Controllable Angle Of Each Axis: PAN 360 degree
Roll +-30 degree
Pitch +-30 degree
Safe Distance (parallax)
5 Gopro mode: Horizontal 50CM, Vertical 100CM
6 Gopro mode: Horizontal 50CM, Vertical 70CM
8 Gopro mode: Horizontal 50CM, Vertical 30CM
9 Gopro mode: Horizontal 30CM, Vertical 50CM
10 Gopro mode: Horizontal 30CM, Vertical 30CM
PS: GoPro setting should be 170 degree wide, 4:3 shooting mode (GoPro Omni Firmware works ok, 1440p)
1, TG20 Stabilizer x1
2, GoPro Camera Holder x10
3, Carbon Fiber Tube x2 (30cm/pcs)
4, Vibration Damper Plate x1
Info from serifwebresources.