Cinewhoop drones enable close proximity and indoor FPV flying that was previously unachievable without taking some seriously dangerous risks. Have you seen those one-take clips through real estate or through a factory? These shots are captured by skilled FPV drone pilots flying cinewhoops.
Cinewhoop drones are first-person view (FPV) drones designed around flying close to subjects and in tight spaces. FPV drones are flown using a set of video goggles that receive a near real-time video feed from a camera on the drone, so the pilot can see from the drone’s perspective.
These drones have propeller guards or ducts to prevent spinning propellers from impacting a subject when filming and are usually compact so they can fly in small spaces and through small gaps.
Cinewhoop drones are all about filming, so we’ve set out some tips on getting started with cinewhoop drones and some tips for filming with them.
What is a Cinewhoop drone?
Cinewhoops get their name from the combination of small, ducted FPV drones, known as Tiny Whoops, and Cinematic FPV flying. Cinewhoops started out as small ducted drones with 3-inch diameter propellers carrying an action camera like a GoPro.
» MORE: Why Don’t Drones Use Ducted Fans?
Cinewhoops now come in a variety of sizes, ranging from small, 75mm propellered, tiny whoop drones carrying stripped-down action cameras, to 5-inch and larger propellered drones carrying a cinema-grade camera, such as the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Cameras.
One of the first cinewhoops was the Shendrones Squirt, which was a fully ducted cinewhoop. The ducts of this drone were designed so that the propellers dig into the wall of the ducts to keep air moving between the tips of the propeller and the wall of the duct.
This was supposed to encourage more airflow through the ducts and improve efficiency. However, for a number of design and flight performance reasons, cinewhoop designs tend not to be ducted anymore and merely have propeller guards for safety.
Cinewhoops have become increasingly popular for commercial FPV drone filming, and many drone pilots and videographers are adding FPV to their skill set utilising cinewhoops.
These drones tend to be quite durable due to their lightweight and caged design. However, these drones are also incredibly loud.
Even the DJI Avata makes a loud, shrill sound in flight. Many have tried testing different propeller configurations to try and reduce the overall sound from these drones, but this is still a problem to be solved.
What Cinewhoop should I buy?
Due to their popularity for commercial FPV drone filming, there is now a plethora of bind-and-fly (BNF, pre-built) cinewhoops on the market.
With mass/weight restrictions becoming more prevalent in drone regulations across the globe, these drones are becoming lighter and more capable, to help them come in under 250g restrictions.
The GEPRC Cinelog, iFlight Protek, and BetaFPV Pavo series of drones are all good examples of reliable BNF cinewhoop drones. For flying and filming indoors, you’ll want to go with a 3-inch propeller sized cinewhoop or smaller.
For staying under 250g mass you can try a 2.5-inch propeller sized cinewhoop or smaller.
The BNF cinewhoops currently on the market all fly quite nicely out of the box, but some may need some tuning to help with flight characteristics and efficiency.
This tuning involves adjusting a feedback loop running on the flight controller firmware, such as the PID controller in Betaflight firmware.
Many of these BNF drones come tuned for flights without a payload, for example without the weight of an action camera on board.
We won’t go into the details of tuning here, but if you have a cinewhoop that has warm motors after a short flight, or audible oscillations, then your drone could benefit from tuning, especially if you are trying to carry a heavier payload like a full-fat GoPro camera.
Cinewhoop designs haven’t evolved too much since the Shendrones squirt, but they have now started to fall into two design categories – traditional upright mounted motor designs and inverted motor designs, in a so-called pusher configuration.
A benefit of the pusher design is that the air pushed by the propellers is not being disturbed as there is nothing below the propellers to interfere with airflow.
However, this design configuration can make it difficult to take off from rough or loose ground because the propellers may catch on the surface that you’re taking off from.
Traditional upright mounted motor designs (or puller configuration?) can be easier to take off from rough ground, but the drone frame can disturb airflow from the propellers.
However, in reality, airflow improvements of pusher configuration drones do not seem to have any real benefit over puller configuration drones, and whether you choose a pusher or puller design is really down to personal preference.
So you have a Cinewhoop and want to create some epic shots?
Even with a well set up and tuned cinewhoop, pilot skill is still the key to capturing smooth footage with a cinewhoop. To create smooth cinematic shots, you’re going to need fine control over all axes of the drone.
Good throttle control is especially important to keep the drone steady in flight.
Cinewhoops are relatively heavy for their size and can be difficult to keep at a steady altitude. This can result in bobbing up and down during flight, which can’t really be filtered out from your footage by stabilization tools in post.
Like most FPV drones, you’re going to need to fly in manual or acro mode to get the smoothest flight footage.
This mode of flying offers no self-stabilisation from the drone, meaning the pilot has to constantly fine-tune the controls to hold a smooth line and follow a clear flight path while filming.
One way of making this fine control easier is to decrease the rate of the drone. Lowering the rates reduces the amount the drone moves about each axis for a given input on the controls.
If you’re familiar with DJI or other camera drones, lowering the rates on a cinewhoop, or any other FPV drone, is like switching from normal to cine mode on a DJI drone – the rate at which the drone moves when you move the sticks is a lot less.
By having lower rates, you can make much finer movements with the drone because you have more stick resolution. For example, rates on a cinewhoop for some indoor scenarios can be less than 200 degrees per second at the end of full stick range.
However, this may not suit all situations, so it is worth spending some time finding a few different rate settings for different environments.
Rates are a very personal thing, and you should experiment with finding rates that feel natural to you. That being said, we’ve provided an example rate settings panel from Betaflight that you could try as a starting point.
You can help dial in your throttle control by adding some expo component to your throttle curve (this is normally linear), but this is really only a last resort.
With your rates set up, you can then maintain sweeping turns and smooth lines by balancing roll, pitch, and yaw control inputs.
Turning the drone using more yaw input than roll input allows you to slide through turns more, whilst using more roll input compared to yaw input helps tighten up turns.
As mentioned, holding a steady altitude is key, and stabilization tools can only help with vibrations or corrections for the other control inputs; roll, pitch and yaw.
What camera should I use with my Cinewhoop?
This brings us to the cameras used with Cinewhoops and the stabilisation tools available.
The GoPro Hero 10 or GoPro 10 Bones are the go-to cameras for mounting on a Cinewhoop. However, the size and weight of the camera you can carry will depend on which cinewhoop you have.
For example, 2-inch propellered cinewhoop drones won’t be able to fly well with a full-size GoPro attached.
The GoPro 11 will likely gain popularity over the Hero 10, but many will still use GoPro 8, 9, and 10 series cameras with their cinewhoops as they are more than capable for most applications.
Even DJI Avata owners are strapping GoPro cameras to their Avata drones.
Slightly older action cameras like the GoPro Hero version 8 and 9 cameras have adequate built-in stabilisation so long as you are very smooth on the sticks and have a well set up drone.
In some cases, you may not need built-in stabilisation. Many pilots choose to film without built-in image stabilisation and use software programs like Reelsteady and Gyroflow to stabilise their footage in post.
Cameras like the GoPro Hero 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 have a gyro built in for logging vibrations. The gyro data can then be used to stabilise the footage in software.
Filming in 4:3 aspect ratio is beneficial here because you can reframe the shot in post (if exporting in 16:9) and the stabilisation tools tend to work better with taller aspect ratio video, resulting in less cropping towards the centre of the image.
The built-in stabilisation on the newer GoPro cameras like the Hero 10 is quite a step up from its predecessors. However, the same software stabilisation tools can still be applied in post to footage from these newer cameras.
Many other high-end action cameras from other manufacturers like insta360 and DJI also have built-in gyro logging and built-in stabilisation options.
Stabilising footage in post allows you to find a good balance between stabilised footage and the amount that footage is cropped. Built-in stabilisation crops the image by a fixed amount. This means less scope for reframing the shot in post.
What camera settings should I use when filming with my Cinewhoop?
Many pilots, both amateur and professional, follow the 180-degree rule for shutter angle.
This is set by shutter speed = 1/(2 times your frames per second).
If you were filming in 24 frames per second then your shutter speed would be 1/48s for 180-degree shutter angle.
Shutter angle comes from the days of recording images on film, where the mechanical shutter exposing the film was on a rotating wheel.
A 180-degree shutter angle is considered by filmmakers to provide the most natural motion blur.
However, at some frame rates and when filming very high-speed shots or very close to subjects, the amount of motion blur caused by a 180-degree shutter angle can become distracting or can affect focussing of the image.
It is worth trying 180-degree and 90-degree (1/2 the shutter speed of 180-degree) shutter angles at various frame rates to see how they affect motion blur and clarity in your footage.
In addition, some stabilisation tools struggle to cleanly stabilise footage filmed with slower shutter speeds and at lower frame rates, which can result in some blurring in footage stabilised in post.
Once your shutter angle is set, you will also want to get hold of some neutral density filters to help manage exposure at the fixed shutter speed chosen for your desired shutter angle. These filters are like sun glasses for your camera.
The particular neutral density (ND) filter you need is the one that is going to prevent parts of your footage from becoming overexposed. It is better to be slightly underexposed than overexposed.
You can buy multiple different strength ND filters in kits for a variety of cameras so you have the right amount of filtering for the lighting conditions you’re filming in.
For shots that have transitions between light and dark spaces, you can set the shutter speed to auto-adjust or maintain a fixed shutter speed and allow ISO to vary.
Now you’ve got your camera settings dialed in for the environment you want to fly around, then away you go. In flight, you need to ensure any altitude changes are smooth and purposeful, and it helps to follow a line through the space you’re filming in.
When filming with a cinewhoop you want to try and keep the quad moving forward at all times. They don’t like stalling, and that’s where you can start to bobble up and down when trying to adjust throttle control.
By exploring a space before you fly through it, you can map out a smooth, continuous line through the space in your mind. Then you can try to follow this line as best you can to ensure that you are always moving through the space.
Need to slow down your footage when flying through particular areas? Try filming in higher frame rates like 50fps and above so you can slow down footage in post without the footage becoming choppy.
Need to time shots with a moving subject? Get your spotter to give a signal to the subject as they come into the shot.
Editing your Cinewhoop footage
After you’ve recorded your awesome flight footage, you’re going to want to edit and colour grade your footage. There are plenty of applications for doing this for both mobile and PC platforms.
For best quality and efficiency, you’re going to want to process your footage on a computer using a software package like Davinci Resolve. This is free software that is used by video professionals and has all of the tools you really need.
Just want to share footage through Instagram Reels or TikTok? Apps for your camera like the GoPro Quik App and other mobile video editors are convenient and quick tools for editing and grading footage for social media.
Although the mobile apps have far fewer features compared to programs like Davinci Resolve.
In summary, cinewhoops are compact drones for filming indoors and close to people, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
There are many pre-built / BNF options out there to choose from, but the GEPRC Cinelog, iFlight Protek, and BetaFPV Pavo cinewhoops tend to be popular packages.
There are also other bespoke cinewhoop options available from specialist providers that come tuned ready to carry heavier action cameras etc.
GoPro cameras seem to be the popular choice among cinewhoop pilots, however cameras like the insta360 go 2, DJI Action 2, and BetaFPV SMO 4K are also great lightweight options if you want to keep the weight of your drone to a minimum without having to tear down a full-size GoPro.
Like most FPV drones, the learning curve for getting started with FPV flight is quite steep, and filming with cinewhoops is no exception. The fine control required for cinewhoops is quite different from flying other camera drones.
» MORE: 9 Best Drone Flight Simulators for 2022 (FPV and Commercial)
Fortunately, there are plenty of simulators available to get used to the controls in a virtual environment first before making your first real flights. That being said, cinewhoops are quite robust and can take a few bumps here and there. They’re quite beginner friendly in that respect.
Squirt V2 — ShenDrones (link)
Drone Co Productions (link)