This KAP session was more of a test – the sun was already low, there were some clouds and a mist announcing the arrival of a weather front, so the light was diffuse and dull. But we had to test a gift from the inimitable Sandro Macchi – SMAC, a radio controlled picavet rig.
A picavet (named after a French inventor and KAP pioneer Pierre Picavet) rig deals with one of the conundrums of kite aerial photography, namely, the problem of attaching a (bulky and heavy) camera to a kite. Until the advent of very small and light action cams it was impossible to put a camera directly on a kite, as it would mess with its aerodynamic properties and its stability. The other idea, attaching the camera on a kite line, had its own set of problems, mainly with swaying of the line that makes pointing the camera into the desired direction a sweet but rarely achievable dream.
A picavet rig elegantly solves the problem of keeping the camera horizontal and pointed at where one wants it pointed at. It consists of a rigid cross with pulleys (or eye-bolts) on each end of the arms, and a line threaded through the bolts. This line is then attached to the kite line on two points, and the contraption stays horizontal and (quite) still while the kite dances in the wind.
A radio controlled picavet goes one step further. With a regular rig you point the camera, let it fly, bring it back down, point it elsewhere, let it fly again, pull it down again etc. etc. until you die of exhaustion.
To have an option to change the tilt and pan of the camera remotely alleviates this, however the complexity and the weight of the picavet increases exponentially. It’s not just that you need servos to change the tilt and to pan the camera – and the receiver to control them from the ground … When the camera is up there you can’t see where it is pointed, so a separate video camera, aligned with the primary camera, and a video transmitter is needed to bring the live feed back down, showing you what the camera is looking at.
The whole contraption is heavy, difficult to assemble and complicated to operate – imagine having to control the pan and tilt, checki the view via video feed, and fly the kite!
But despite all this, and because our generous friend Sandro gifted us the whole rig with everything except the video camera and video transmitter, it was time to finally test it.
Since we had no video feed from above, we simply fixed the camera tilt and let the pan servo run as slowly as possible, doing a 360 degrees sweep every 20 seconds (thus making it technically an ‘auto KAP’ session) so the camera would cover every angle, giving us a nice kite aerial panorama.
We set the Insta360 to shoot in 10 second intervals and let the kite fly. Aaaaaand ….
You see the problem? We got in the damn sync!
Luckily, the servo isn’t perfect and the wind did sway the rig, so eventually the camera did shoot through the full circle. But here is a very rational thing to remember: the ratio of shooting interval time and 360 degrees pan time should be …
Kite aerial photos shot with Insta360 on the radio-controlled picavet by Sandro Macchi – SMAC, flown on The Old Blue Rokkaku and Cindy delta, both made by master Janez Vizjak of Dr.Agon kites.