Chris Tuazon of DJI and Loren Moss of Cognitive Business News. (Credit: Liliana Padierna)

Interview: Chris Tuazon of DJI Breaks Down the Company’s Inspire 3 Cinematography Drone

While smartphone cameras have changed the entire industry, there remains a major market for high-end video and photography gear. Especially in the commercial world. And anyone who has spent any time looking for new, cutting-edge products is already familiar with DJI.

Particularly when it comes to drones, they have helped truly changed the whole game. 

To learn even more about one of the company’s latest offerings, Cognitive Business News Executive Editor Loren Moss sat down to speak with Chris Tuazon, communications manager at DJI, about the company’s Inspire 3 drone released earlier this year for the enterprise sector.

Photo: Chris Tuazon of DJI and Loren Moss of Cognitive Business News. (Credit: Liliana Padierna)

Loren Moss: Can you tell me about your cinematography drone?

Chris Tuazon: What we have here is the Inspire 3, our latest full cinematography drone — our premier cinematography drone. Inspire 3 is the third and latest of our Inspire series. Our latest one before that, Inspire 2, came out in 2016. So, this is seven years in the making.

We’re really proud of this piece of equipment. One thing that you’ll notice right away is the propeller arms can go up and down. Do you have any idea why that is?

Loren Moss: I was going to ask you why in my next question!

Chris Tuazon: When you fly with the drone — even our consumer drones like the DJI Mini or the Mavic 2 — because of the way that the gimbal camera sits in relation to the drone, the propellers are going to get in the way. It’ll get in the shot. You’ll see it in the corners or on the sides — which for most people is not a huge deal. If you’re talking about a full blockbuster cinematography solution, however, you don’t want that.

To account for this, many drones crop into the sensor but that reduces the resolution and overall quality. But we are solving that problem with the Inspire series by having the arms transformable in this position.

What this means is that the gimbal camera can go full 360 degrees with zero propellers appearing on camera. You can also tilt the arms down, so that way the camera can look up to 80 degrees. Again, you get a clear view without the propellers. And then a third position is straight away so that way you can stow it into our case — nice and compact.

Loren Moss: Can you tell me about the camera? The optics, resolution, and other specs.

Chris Tuazon: As a cinematography camera, it’s a full-frame 8K sensor, and we have our own proprietary technology for the gimbal camera, the Zenmuse X9 Air. It’s the aerial version of the X9 that we have on our Ronin 4D, which is our full cinematography solution.

Also installed in there is our proprietary DL mounts for lenses and our own lenses. They’re all f/2.8. We have them in 18 mm, 24 mm, 35 mm, and 50 mm. They’re all prime lenses that tou can switch and swap, and they’re all really light.

Loren Moss: What is the MSRP?

Chris Tuazon: The drone plus the lens would be would set you about $18,000. And you get a lot of value.

One of the solutions that we’re creating with this drone is to be able to replace a dolly. In order to get a smooth take or a smooth motion take, one of the solutions that the industry uses are dollies or a robotic arm to be able to repeat the motion of the camera.

What the Inspire 3 does is that, inside of the drone, we have an RTK unit. RTK stands for Real Time Kinematics, and this is a technology that we use in our enterprise drones to be able to map out, for example, a building with centimeter-level position. So we can map the exact height of a floor, the exact circumference of a pillar. We can even take a look at which parts of the building are weak points that we need to fix.

For the Inspire 3 series, the reason why we did that is that it lets you create a flight path that’s at the centimeter level. So you can do it wherever you want. You can do that choreographed shot, and you can create a flight path as complicated you want it to be, and it’ll do whenever you want.

In order to do that, the RTK unit connects with the local RTK network if there’s already one installed. But if you’re filming in the forest, or in an old building that doesn’t have any network signals, then you can create one yourself on the flight with our own RTK unit that basically outputs the RTK signal to create that network that connects to the drone.

Loren Moss: So, like, your own local GPS, right?

Chris Tuazon: Yeah, essentially. Better than GPS, right? Because it’s centimeter-level precision. Now, the other thing that we want to explain about the Inspire series is… As a professional solution, most of these film solutions should have multiple operators, and that’s when we accommodate for that. So you can film by yourself.

But if you want to work as a team, you can have one operator filming. You can have one operator controlling the drone itself, and you have one operator controlling the camera. For the drone operator at the far end — the front of the drone — there is an FPV-wide camera. The reason why we have that is so that the drone operator can get a full wide view of all the surroundings to be able to navigate the drone.

Loren Moss: And take care of safety and protection.

Chris Tuazon: Exactly. With the Inspire 3, we use RC Pro, and you get a nice wide view to be able to see all the surroundings. What we like to call this is the DJI ecosystem. What we mean is that there are different ways to control different products with the same preference. While the drone operator is operating the drone, the gimbal operator can control the camera. On this one, we’re using DJI Transmission, as well as the hand grips. So I can control the camera and gimbal in this direction, and I can also control its focus with this wheel.

Loren Moss: And how much is this control unit?

Chris Tuazon: DJI Master is $9,500, and basically what it means is there’s a multitude of ways to control the gimbal camera, apart from the drone. Again, a perfect solution for a two-operator system: one controlling the drone to be able to see what the drone sees and fly safely, and then another to see what the camera sees, so you know exactly what the shots going to look like.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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