Getting Into Cinewhoops | Cinematic FPV Drones
In this guide we're going to learn all about Cinewhoops. It is a relatively new style of drone created to provide smaller and safer option while flying in various environments. We'll go over the pre build options and suggest a few tips to get the best cinematic footage.
What is a cinewhoop and who is it for?
Cinewhoops are drones specifically designed for capturing chrisp, stable, high-definition video that DJI drones can’t capture. They are small, stable and much safer than your 5” FPV drone. They usually run 3” propellers that are protected in ducts that give them more lift*.
Cinematic whoops fly quite different from a regular 5” FPV drone. The power to weight ratio is much lower, hover/cruise is at around 40% throttle (depending on the HD camera), that doesn't leave much room for correction or throttle punches.
Since they fly slow and steady it’s pretty easy to fly in and around objects, since the props are protected you can fly with more confidence around your subject and get those amazing close up shots you always wanted to do.
Cinewhoop FPV platform design
There are a few factors that make a 3” ducted drone compelling. The first one is obviously the ducts. While the ducts act more of a bumper than a real airfoil duct. Learn more.
Clearance between the duct and the prop is much bigger than NASA described in their research. The ducted design doesn't add much thrust to an already underpowered drone, making the ducts obsolete in performance aspect but give an unbeatable advantage compared to a open prop design, SAFETY!
The ducts can offer some performance boost but only with a custom made and balanced prop. Since most of the BNF options ship with a slightly larger than 3” duct set you cant use 3” props since they must have 0-1% clearance to get any performance boost.
So why do we need the ducts then? Newer designs of the cinewhoop follow a trend of adding foam to the sides making them bounce off obstacles and protecting the frame. These designs make them almost impossible to break since they don't fly that fast.
Classic duct design
This design was made popular by Andy Shen with the shendrones Squirt and his TPU ducts. His idea was to print 3” ducts out of TPU and custom cut props to fit the ducts. The props were a few mm bigger than the duct so they would dig into the TPU and get that clearance for extra thrust.
This design has shaped the cinewhoop scene and provides one of the best platform for cinematic flying. This design allows the Squirt to carry a lot of weight and be really smooth.
One thing that the Squirt lacks is durability, since the ducts are TPU when you bump stuff it takes the hit but also damages the duct since the props are made to fit just barely and you lose some of the performance and often brake a prop. This problem is solved with the second design trend.
Foam bumper ducts
Where this design came from is disputed, the earliest design we found was the Bumper Frame from Armattan Quads. This design was made more popular with the Bee-Bumper from Laurent Athenol (Frame-Concept). It takes what is good from the classic Squirt and improves durability and fun factor since you can bump stuff and not damage anything.
For a more casual flyer this is the way to go, designs like this don't utilise the duct thrust gains and go with a more mainstream road. There are 2 BNF options on the market right now but more will come really soon.
iFlight has actually partnered with Frame-Concept and made the BumbleBee hence the name. While the Diatone Tycan “borrowed the design” it improves on the gripes of the Bee-bumper and BumbleBee like maintenance arm replacement.
Best Cinewhoop RTF BNF OPTIONS
There are dozens of BNF cinewhoops on the market, all of them have their quirks and advantages. There are 2 main design trends designers follow, foam bumpers that are getting so popular these days and the classic duct design.
“What if you take our popular MegaBee frame and optimize it in every detail? You get the BumbleBee!” The BumbleBee is a collaboration between iFlight and Laurent Athenol who is the maker of the BeeBumper frame. This BNF has received mixed reviews from reviewers being outperformed by most of the competition while at a higher price. We have a tuning guide on this cinewhoop making it a cinematic beast in just a few simple steps.
The BNF version is about 209$ and that is a damn good price for something like this, although it isn’t the best flying cinewhoop out there you really can’t complain for the price point. With great flight time, it is possibly the best cinewhoop for what it is.
Top of the line
Godfather of slow super proximity cinematic flying
The Squirt was originally conceived to fly slow and stable, but in the hands of great pilots, it got pushed way beyond its original intent.
While at first it was just a frame, you can buy the BNF with the DJI system only. This is one of the drones that made cinewhoops popular, it is the most tested and supported platform of them all. If you want professional grade performance this is it, but at a professional price point. Note: No electronics included (camera, antenna, motors, etc.)
The Megabee V2.1 is an upgraded iFight cinewhoop borrowing a lot from the Squirt. It has iFlight components and performs on par if not better than the BNF competition.
Tune and rates for flying smooth
Cinewhoops can seem quite unstable at times. since they have such low power to weight ratio they too often rely on ground effect which makes unwanted air vortexes and make the air coming into the prop “dirty” resorting in wobble and unstable hover.
That's why the tune is the most important thing when flying a cinewhoop without ReelSteady. Since they are quite heavy the P and the I have to be raised, in our iFlight BumbleBee quick setup guide we explain the nuances of tuning a cinewhoop, and share our tune for the drone, taking it from unflyable out of the box to a cinematic beast able to do freestyle without propwash with stock props. SEE iFlight BumbleBee GUIDE
Wind can be a huge factor in flight performance, since cinewhoops have ducts the wind has much more surface area to push the drone in unwanted direction. What you do with the sticks is going to help you alot in combating these problems.
Cinewhoop pilots often describe flying the cinewhoop like flowing with the drone instead of fighting it and making jitters and more movement, with cinewhoops less is always more.
To get super smooth footage you must give in and let the drone do the work for you, let the drone drift in a controlled manner and when doing corrections make them as slow and small as possible, cinewhoops are small and bounceable so don't stress too much if you hit something. Confidence is key!
Cinewhoop Camera options
Cinematic whoops usually have a GoPro mount, while there are a lot of cheap options it is always recommended to go with a GoPro rather than any of the alternatives.
With the Hero 7 black and Hero 8 having software stabilisation like hypersmooth and hypersmooth 2.0 they are some of the more compelling options for shooting smooth and stable shots and skipping over the reelsteady stabilisation step in the production workflow.
You might think that stabilisation is cheating but keep in mind that cinewhoops are not made for freestyle and showing of your skill of how smooth your drone can fly, but capturing the subject or shot as smooth as possible.
To get the best footage possible out of the camera use protune settings in your GoPro. Frame rate, shutter speed and ISO are parameters that you want to lock down in your protune settings to get good results. Your ISO should always be locked to as low as possible. High ISO numbers make your footage grainy and generally bad looking. Lock it to 100 and go from there, if you are using a GoPro with a screen you can just look at the image and check if its properly exposed.
If you are using a Session you can use the App to set protune settings. If your image is overexposed or all blown out white, you need an ND filter which we cover in a guide as well. SEE DIY ND Filters
If you want to learn more about camera settings and how to get professional footage to youtube SEE OUR "HOW TO GET GOOD FOOTAGE GUIDE"
Plan your shoot
Even if you are just flying for fun, always first look at your surroundings before taking off. Make note of any obstacles you can fly trough be creative in the way you present your shot.
Cinewhoops offer something that no other camera system can do, go trough stuff and change elevation, make sure your shots have some kind of story don't just orbit around and expect to get good footage, since this kind of filming is pretty new you can get away with more mistakes than you think you can, just make sure you fill up your frame with something interesting and just have fun!
A good and fun practice shot is to go through a tree canopy, this is possible because of ducts soo branches and leaves wont go into the props and take you out. Just make sure there isn't anyone below when you fly, cinewhoops are safe but they are really heavy.
By going through tight spaces you will learn to avoid and go through obstacles, practice going in a spiral up and down a tree, you will get the hang of it and get really cool footage. Have fun!