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Evil Genius: Cameras of Mass Destruction

Adam and Eve

No, not that Eve. I mean the one before the new year. Today is New Year’s Eve 2013 and it’s my neighbor’s birthday. Happy birthday, Patrick.

So who’s Adam? He is Patrick’s daughter’s husband’s brother’s son. Confusing, isn’t it? Adam is 17 and the geekiest geek you’ve ever met.

Adam has been flying my DJI Quadcopter all day; now, at night, my precious baby has her top unscrewed and Adam is performing brain surgery.

“The motors need tuning. You really should do this all the time. It’s flying much better.”

Cameras of mass destruction: leftovers from three Sony AS100s.

I Want to Shoot Aerials in 3D

I really do. I’m making a 3D stereoscopic documentary and I want every shot in 3D.

My lightest 3D camera, a Sony HDR-TD30, weighs in at just over 1 pound. I race next door and bring mine back to show Adam.

“No problem. A DJI S800 could easily lift that. It would fit into the Sony NEX-7 gimbal. I could build it for you. That would be fun.”

And in a moment of madness, I say, “Yes. Let’s do it! Send me a shopping list.”

Sunday Bloody Sunday

It’s spring break and Adam is with us for a week. On Sunday, he flies the S800 over the nearby marina. Seagulls take flight, boat owners complain, people walking their dogs lose control. Disaster.

Monday is even worse. We are inside the shipyard tent. On takeoff, the S800 kicks up thick clouds of sawdust. The noise attracts curious folk from nowhere. One of the carpenters is directly underneath and taking flash photos. Richard, number two in charge, is making rude signs and coughing from the dust.

Total, total failure. You can’t fly an S800 indoors. Now I know.

Flexible Friend

No more S800; the idea now is to mount two GoPros on the lightweight Phantom 2 quadcopter. Not possible; the GoPros are bulky and too heavy. Let’s try the lighter, sleeker Sony POV Action Cam (HDR-AS100).

I buy two and Adam attempts to mount them parallel, side by side. Nope, they’re too long for the gimbal.

“Can I experiment? I’d have to completely rebuild the cameras.”

“They’re $299 each—yeah, go smash ’em up.”

My DJI Phantom 2 fitted with RageCams 5.4mm lenses on two Sony AS100s

He works through the night. By morning he has stripped the cameras bare and mounted them back to back—and here’s the genius trick: he has removed the lenses and their flexible cables and bent the cables around a full 90°. The result is two forward-facing lenses. Brilliant!

You Must Destroy to Create

And destroy is right. In the process of creation, one of the flexible cables gives its all. A wire is broken. No matter. A quick trip to Best Buy, $299 on the card and we have a third Sony AS100 to smash up.

Adam opens it and unplugs the lens cable. A spot of Super Glue here and there. It works!

We go back to the shipyard and take amazing 3D aerial footage, which you can see (in boring 2D) here:

Adam, you are a 17-year-old evil genius. What will you do next?