Xavier de Le Rue: How do I use my Hexo+ in the mountains ?

Filming in the mountain, moreover in wintertime, is the most challenging terrain you can find, as you get a mix of cold with snow and steep terrain.

Watch the Behind the Scene video of Episode 2 Xavier’s DIY project

 

Watch Xavier De Le Rue’s 55˚ steep Mallory Couloir

Filming in the mountain, moreover in wintertime, is the most challenging terrain you can find, as you get a mix of cold with snow and steep terrain. Before you happen to go in the mountain whether it’s to score very steep terrain, deep powder or even on slope or mellow powder tracks, make sure first to spend enough time with less constraints to be efficient when the cold, wind or who knows what else come your way.

First of all here is the kit list of things that I take with me on a normal day in the mountains when I decided to go hit a spot that is suitable to be filmed by Hexo+ and where aerial footage will give another dimension to my riding or reveal the beauty of the nature at its best.

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I usually bring:

  • One hexo+
  • One arm band to put around my forearm (I cut out the protective transparent screen to be able to see well in strong lights)
  • 3-4 batteries. That is a good number to being able to make your different shots throughout the day, I know some of you are awaiting for the spare you ordered, thanks for your patience.

To make the best out of my batteries I carry them in a small bag along with some hand warmer, I didn’t scientifically test the difference with and without but it’s known for a fact that warm battery last longer than cold one.

  • A few rubber bands that I use to tie the gimbal and the gopro and therefore be a lot quicker changing batteries and set on and off the gimbal. Make sure you get strong rubber band or use the system we provided for your GoPro as it would be a pity to lose the GoPro in case of a little tumble after a failsafe in the steep.
  • One backpack rain cover. I took an XL rain cover that I wrapped around my hexo so that I can ride all day regardless of the conditions and it helps make sure that my Hexo+ doesn’t get snowed in.

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  • 2 spare blades. It can happen to break some blades while riding with the drone on your back, or through transport, or if you touch some things and it’s good to have a few spare ones to not ruin your hexo day for that reason
  • A bunch of gopro batteries. It is quite difficult in the cold with the gopro batteries especially if you shoot in 4K and therefore I put a new gopro battery everytime I change the drone battery.  
  • One lens wipe. Very important to always wipe your lens even if it looks clean, this is not specific to Hexo, for clear shot, wipe your lens every time before switching your GoPro on.

How do I carry my hexo

I usually leave the feet up side down in the hexo, and I leave the gimbal but I take the gopro off. I then cover completely my hexo with the rain cover and strap everything to my back pack either with the board straps or with the helmet netting for the brands that have that.I leave the blades in also.
That’s the way I ride with it all day.

Procedure before I start filming

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I usually find a flat spot or compact one quickly with my board. I avoid taking off from my board because taking off on top of metal can cause problems (weird flights as compass get disturbed). I always double check that props are tighten up.
I make a little hole under the gimbal to make sure It will not trash the lens when calibrating
After that, I turn the drone on, the app on and then will take care of all the rest of my gear.
That way, it gives the time to both the phone and the Hexo to really lock their position for the GPS and have a great positioning especially if it’s the first flight of the day.

Once I am strapped in, ready to go, I off course make sure my gopro is recording and on the right setting. I usually go for a wide 4k 25 frames with Pro tune, this gives me more option for post production such as zooming in or zooming out and give even more dynamic shots.

Then I take off and on the first flight of the day the drone will do a 360 on itself to make a flight calibration. After that, I usually do a few movements like a fly out, then a 360 first to get establishing shots but also to get the idea on how accurate is the GPS on the take off spot and if there is a need for a calibrations or any interferences that could potentially give some weird behavior. Of course I stay away from any obstacle in the process.
If everything is well, for a follow downhill, I’ll place the drone in front but slightly on the side, like 45 degrees to the run if i am facing straight down. That way, the hexo will not have to spin when you pass underneath it and that gives a better image as well as a better follow. Depending on the terrain, I usually choose a position compared to me where if any fail safe happens (like battery being empty for example) , the hexo+ will land itself within an accessible zone and not above some cliffs. So if it’s a couloir, I’ll try to be as much as possible on the side but still be on top of the couloir.

If you have any behaviors not as sharp as supposed to be, it’s good to bring it back to you, land it and then starts again. I almost never happens but when flying above exposure, it’s very important to be extra careful.

A few random tips

  • I usually avoid to put the drone straight behind when riding because it can hit the ground really easily. This is easy to understand, you will find a steep part or jump a cliff and your Hexo+ located behind you will get the infos it must go lower but being behind will then hit the ground as not yet above the cliff you dropped.
  • I try to start my shots at the peak of the mountains so that you will never have GPS problems. Also it’s the perfect spot to launch some of our movements and get shots to tell the audience where you are, whether it’s a 360 selfie, some fly away, fly in, zoom in or slide sideways.
  • I fly in heavy snow and strong wind and it’s quite amazing how well it works. I make sure once back home to get the water away from the body of the drone. Motors are varnished and don’t fear the snow or water, though the electronic card inside your Hexo isn’t so make sure the water on your motors and arms doesn’t reach your Hexo+ body.
  • I always manually check that all 6 motors are good to go, what I mean by that is that at higher altitude, lower temperature it could happen than one of more motors freeze, this would not allow your Hexo+ to fly properly. Solution is to get them warm until you feel no resistance while turning them manually.
  • In exposed terrain, I usually only use a fully charged battery, even for a short flight.
  • Be careful taking the gimbal in and out as after a while you may damage the cable.(make sure you pinch the plug well before pulling). We are working on getting those little cable in our online store.
  • Altitude is also not an issue at all, I have flown at 4200 meters with 40km/h wind guts and it worked perfect. The motors are very powerful and turn at high speed so that it can be reactive no matter what the conditions are.
  • Make sure your phone (on locked mode)  is well secure when attached on your arm (I have lost a few of them). Oops I did it again isn’t as funny as it sounds 🙂
  • When the conditions are not so great, or at least not worth it for filming, it can be great to do photo flights. You just have to set up your gopro in timelapse mode and that will give you hundreds of wicked photos to choose from. If weather or spot is too challenging, just like riding, you must learn to say I’m not going and I’m not putting my Hexo+ in the air.

Voilà.

Enjoy self filming yourself in the mountains and have a great winter.

If you want to follow my self filming experiences, you will find them on hexoplus.com
Also make sure you send your best rush or edit to our video team, we’ll be pleased to release every now and then some mix from our users best videos.

Xavier

Comments/Discussions

  • Quang Tran

    Thanks for the write up Xavier. All the tips you gave are very helpful. By the way, I really enjoy watching your amazing skills on those mountain slopes, respect! 🙂

Xavier