Kite Photography/Video
June 26, 2013 6:06 PM   Subscribe

I have one of the last Flip videos made. I want to send it up as high as I can on a kite, and while I'd prefer it not plummet to Earth and smash this isn't really that great of a concern (especially if I could still get the footage off this).

I want to do something like this: Pioneer took images in 1900s with cameras attached to kites (warning Daily Mail link), but using this kite and a couple spools of this string (and obviously video).

My questions: How high you think I could get this kite and still get it back down within the allotted filming time? What should I use as a mount to get the best videos? Anything else I should be considering?
posted by cjorgensen to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you want to get fancy, you can look into motorized camera gimbals to keep the camera level or to give you the ability to tilt & pan. I've seen a simple, unmotorized sling that could keep a camera level but can't find it at the moment.
posted by jjwiseman at 6:31 PM on June 26, 2013

Oh, wikipedia has information on a couple stabilization rigs for kites.
posted by jjwiseman at 6:32 PM on June 26, 2013

Have you flown a kite lately? Just fly one without the video rig first and take a look at the mechanics of it. We have this easy flyer, which is 46" wide and comes with 300' of line. I estimate that I got it about 200' up and it stopped looking like a frog, if I had 500' it would have been a tiny little speck up far up in the air. Granted the stock winder on the easy flyer is not so easy as a spool, but I easily spent a good 10 minutes winding in 200' of rope (on a handle that I should probably replace, but still). This was also in a fairly strong breeze where I had time to relatively slowly wind the kite in without worrying about the kite crashing in the meantime and getting tangled on people or objects. In a lighter breeze, I struggled to get the kite back in quickly enough to avoid getting caught on other beach goers.

I think a 30" kite is not big enough for this task. At 500' you will hardly be able to see it, let alone the 1000'-2000' indicated in those photos. I think you need a bigger kite. The Wikipedia article suggests a Parafoil design and looking at some parafoil kites, they seem a lot better suited for your needs.

If the Amazon review on the flip is correct and you have only 30-45 min of battery life for shooting, even with a big kite you might not be able to make 1000'. It takes some luck and a bit of time to get a kite up that high.
posted by crazycanuck at 3:56 AM on June 27, 2013

Also at those heights I would look into a motorized assist or a good hand crank to reel in the line.
posted by crazycanuck at 3:59 AM on June 27, 2013

That kite is probably OK, but would likely be quite unstable. A better kite for KAP is a rokkaku. It is a 6 sided kite that does not require a tail, flies very steadily. As far as a rig, look at the AKA KAP sight. Look at Broox's site.

As to how do you get the kite up high enough and fast enough: Do a long launch. It requires two people. One to steady the kite on the ground and the other to let out as much line as space permits, then tug on the line to get the kite airborne.
posted by Gungho at 7:58 AM on June 27, 2013

Kite photography seems to have fallen out of favor in lieu of mounting cameras on model airplanes and helicopters/multi-rotors. If your interest is really more in aerial photography than kite photography, I'd suggest you look into this. If you specifically want to do kite photography, you're going to want a big kite to support the weight of the camera and the line you're going to need to get it up high. I think the kite you linked is not really going to be big or stable enough. If I wanted to do this, I'd be looking at kiteboarding trainer kites.

Frankly, if you want to get any pictures that are interesting to look at, you're going to be investing a lot more than $30 in equipment.

mult-irotor video example.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:28 AM on June 27, 2013

If I wanted to do this, I'd be looking at kiteboarding trainer kites.

No. Trust me. (I do KAP) Either a rokkaku or a roller. Rokkakus are more plentiful and cheaper. a decent 6 ft Rok could cost you $65.00 to $75.00 look at Premier or NewTech kites. For a 6 ft rok you will also need 150#, to 200# kite line. In high winds a 6ft kite generates a lot of pull.
posted by Gungho at 10:28 AM on June 27, 2013

I took most of these photos with a simple 6-foot delta kite much like this one.

I used an older canon powershot, with an even shorter shooting life than your flip camera, with a rubberband and a rock holding down the trigger in continuous-shooting mode (this was one version too old to be supported by CHDK). My rigging was simple: a piece of cardboard folded around the camera, with some strings extruding from it to a keyring (the split-ring kind). about 5-10 meters down the main kite string from the kite itself, i tied a double figure-8 loop.

I sent the kite up in the air a little way, and once it was stable, started the camera, and hooked the rig's split ring into the double-figure-8 loop on the kite string. then let the kite continue rising. The thing spun like crazy but it still got a lot of good pictures.

you can do this much more high-tech and stabilized if you want to, but i just wanted to encourage you to go ahead and get started -- this is a very rewarding project even if you do it in a low-tech/low-fi way.
posted by dkg at 4:45 PM on June 27, 2013

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