Mi Drone: Tips’n’Tricks Part 2…

Just as with Part 1, this article isn’t going to be of much interest if you are not a new owner of the Xiaomi Mi Drone. But you never know, you might pick up an idea or two that will help you with flying whatever drone you own, or intend to own.

First; some thoughts about the Mi Drone app…

Setting Orbital or Waypoint Flights

  • Okay, there’s nothing too difficult about this, and there’s plenty of YouTube videos to show you how to do it. But there’s one important thing they forget to tell you.

    Before we get to that, you should be aware that your Mi Drone must be in the air before you create the orbit or waypoint settings. If it’s not, you will see all the options grayed-out.

    Frankly, I think this is silly.

    You are wasting precious battery time while you fiddle with the app, and tell it exactly where you want to fly.

    A waypoint flight with half a dozen points may take a minute or three to configure.

    But that aside, you will suddenly discover the one thing you can’t do is adjust the map display.

    Why? Because as soon as you touch the screen the app assumes this is a waypoint setting. That’s seriously irritating. Any app programmer should know how to differentiate between a tap and a swipe. But, it seems the Mi Drone’s app developers don’t!

    Also, as soon as you decide to do a waypoint flight, an extra window pops up for you to enter Altitude and Velocity, and this covers almost half the map. If your next waypoint is somewhere underneath this window, or it’s somewhere off the displayed map, tough!

    The moral of the story is that the whole area where you wish to fly, must be on-screen, in fact – on the left side of the screen – before you start entering the flight parameters. Grrr.

Firmware Updates. Wait!

  • Within the app’s Settings Menu you can tell it to check for a firmware update. There’s really no reason to do this as it seems to check for itself on startup, and will advise if there’s one available.

    You can see on the right that there’s a “Download Later” option, and I suggest you select this. Sometimes, updates have not been tested as thoroughly as they should, and you can introduce bugs and problems that you didn’t have before the update.

    Let other people test the update. Check online in the various forums and Facebook pages to see if there are any issues. If, after a week or so, no one is reporting problems, then you should be safe to update.

    But; one more thing… Sometimes an update will reset all your settings – without telling you. You may suddenly find you are back in Beginner Mode, and your camera’s settings are not what you wanted.

    It’s a good idea to keep a note of your preferred settings, and to check them all after an update.

Choosing A Video Resolution

  • The Mi Drone gives you lots of options. And, logically, you would choose the best: 3840×2160 pixels (better known as “4K”) at 30 frames per second. As you can see on the right, it’s the default.

    But; there are several things to consider before you choose…

    Most likely you are going to use some video software on one of your computers to edit the video from the drone. But, what resolution can your computer comfortably handle? By “comfortably” I mean displaying nice smooth video without dropping frames. You’ll need a top-end computer, graphics card and monitor to handle 4K.

    Job #1, after getting your Mi Drone in the air, is to shoot about 30 seconds of video at each of the five options, and then test them with your video software.

    But think also of your intended audience. Maybe you are shooting for someone else, and that someone cannot display 4K video. Maybe you want to put your finished video somewhere on the web, where you now need to cater for everyone. You’ll likely conclude that even if you shoot in 4K, you’ll probably make your finished product at 1080p.

    Think too about frame rates. The 100fps option I find produces shaky video. I’m not really sure what I mean by that. It just doesn’t look natural. As you can see on the right, I’ve chosen to shoot at 60fps, and I write the final video at 30fps. That gives me the option of making double-speed clips, without loss of quality, because the software simply selects every second frame.

    Maybe you’ll need a different setting for each video depending on the needs of the final product, but the bottom line is, think before you shoot.

What are the THM files?

  • When you take the microSD card out of the drone and stick it in a computer you’ll find there are more files than you expected. If you shoot one 2min video, you’ll have two files. One of the filenames will contain the characters “THM” for “thumb” or “thumbnail.”

    One other thing you’ll find is that if you shoot for more than five minutes, the main video file will be split at the 5min mark. This is normal for all drones. You didn’t lose anything. You can use your video software to stick them back together.

    The THM files contain the same video as the main file, but at a lower resolution – 768x432px to be precise. If I’m transferring video directly from the SD card to my computer, I ignore the THM files, and eventually delete them. But they can be useful if you are in the field, and want to see what you’ve shot. I have an old Android tablet, and I mean old, which will not display 1920x1080px, but will happily show me the THM files. So, they can be useful.

    Oh, and by the way, if you didn’t know, you can connect the drone’s camera directly to a computer or other device with a USB cable. No need to remove the SD card.

    And just one more thing for this article…

Can I take a photograph while filming video?

  • Simple answer – but please don’t ask me why – yes you can, so long as you are shooting at 1920x1080px at 30fps. Otherwise; no.
    • Paul

      ... is fascinated by flying, having worked in the airline industry for many years, and having flown almost two million kilometers. Flying and learning about drones is a natural extension of this interest.

      If drones fascinate you too, and you don't know where to start, then come along for the ride, because Paul doesn't know what he's doing either!

      Making top quality videos is the ultimate objective, but that will take a while.

      In the meantime, mistakes will be made and written about. Drones will crash. Drones will be lost. Foul language will ensue. But eventually everything will work out fine.

      If you're also interested in travel, you may like to read Paul's other blog - Twitterings.

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