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Old September 2nd, 2002, 01:56 PM   #1
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Suggestions On Shooting For Air Show

Hello everyone,

Just wanted to get some suggestions on how to set up my GL2 for an air show. The event is coming up in a few weeks in Oceana, VA and I'd like to capture some great footage if I can.

Some questions come to mind:
1. Should I use frame mode or not, considering panning speed?
2. Should I turn Image Stabilization off?
3. What settings do I use for twilight show? (after 5pm till ??)

Their schedule is posted on the web site at:
http://www.neptuneairshow.com/schedule.htm

I'm a newbie when it comes to shooting DV. Especially during "fast" action. Any other suggestions or help is most appreciated. I got my GL2 only a few weeks ago, and have not had the chance to play with it much.

Here's my equipment: Libec M20 tripod, ND3 filter, Canon wide-angle lens, Circular Polarizer filter, Black Pro mist filter #1 and a UV filter (on the camera).

Thanks to all!
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Old September 2nd, 2002, 09:01 PM   #2
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sounds like experience will teach you.

that is a toughie, and like all shoots, you will have to do it and watch your mistakes to figure out how to do it next time.
turn frame mode off!
very very few times id suggest that, but with a lot of panning, it will make you sick to watch. it makes me sick just thinking about it.
keep ois on. your image stabilizer is optical, so you don't loose any pixels with the stabilization working, the only time it will work against you is if you make really really slow camera movements. the camera can't tell you are doing a really slow pan and its job is to keep the image still so when you start panning the camera seems to not respond then it jerks the picture real quick like.
but seeing as you pry won't be shooting any super slow moving planes. . .
settings-hmmm.
i would recommend a very fast shutter speed like 1/420 or faster.
easiest way to do this, if you are newbie, use Tv exposure setting, it lets you choose a shutter speed then it adjusts the rest.
keep nd filter on if its sunny, otherwise Tv setting will choose high f number which will mess with auto focus if you use it, and being a newbie you probably will.
but you should use it till you get to know the camera.
auto focus always goes for the object that takes up half the screen, but if you shooting planes in flight the focus will always be close to infinite. if you use wide angle lens everything will be in focus most of the time anyway.
but unless wide angle lens has a sun shade you'll probably get a lot of solar flares.
you'll probably get a lot anyway tho becaue you'll be pointing the camera up.
finally, the hardest part sounds like framing the action, most tripods only pan up so high so getting overhead fly-bys sounds chiropractically dangerous.
if your in the sun, your lcd monitor will be basically useless without some sort of 'mr. visor' sun shade deally to shield your lcd. a 1 quart milk container and gaffers tape works okay tho.
so looking at your eyepiece or lcd screen during 180 degree pans can be the hardest. I'd suggest just do your best by trying not to rely on them too heavily and just stay zoomed out a little more than perhaps you'd like to and follow the action without looking at your monitor.
maybe use your tripod pedestaled up if it allows any clearence from the tripod legs, that way you might get more extreme pans and tilts without hitting the stick(s) on the tripod. keep your drag really light so the head moves easily, and after dusk all you can do is increase the gain, and use a slower shutter speed, but i'll tell you now when the light is gone, your pretty much screwed.
good luck
jason.
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Old September 2nd, 2002, 09:03 PM   #3
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one more thing

oh yeah, use the uv filter of course because you will be shooting a lot of sky, and sky is better when its blue.
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Old September 2nd, 2002, 09:14 PM   #4
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Thanks Jason... I'll have to print this out and practice during one of their flybys prior to the show. I'm not too sure about getting some shoots, because of security regulations ;) We'll just have to see! Thanks!
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Old September 2nd, 2002, 09:29 PM   #5
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You may need to "over expose" a bit because the sky can act a bit like backlighting, if you want detail of the jumpers, and low flying arircraft.

Things will tend to be at a good distrance, so wideangle will result in dots onthescreen, you will tend to shoot at a fairly higth zoom setting.

IOS OFF is good for shooting from a tripod. OIS ON is goof for handheld.

Probably no need to use frame mode with fast movement in the frames.

Practice at the previews, try several techniques and see what give the effects you desire.
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 12:18 AM   #6
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That's a fabulous air show. You should have a great time shooting it.

I just shot the Chicago Air and Water show a few weeks ago, as I do each year. This year I used my new GL-2, which did a very nice job.

General suggestions and tips:
- Know the general schedule of events and map the events you most want to shoot. Few shows run on time but it will make for a calmer and more controlled shoot overall. Also, if the event is being broadcast on radio (as Chicago's is) tune-in with a Walkman to help cue you to the show's progess and status.

- Weather conditions will determine the routines that the airborne acrobats will follow. The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, for example, each have a "high show" and a "low shot" for clear sky and low ceiling cconditions, respectively. Consequently it's nearly impossible to plan for your "stage".

- Try to bring a spotter (with good distance vision) with you, particularly for the high-speed multi-plane events. The Angels, for example, bring a 5-plane group and are together for only a few passes. A spotter gives you two more eyes to spot something coming.

- This is one situation where using Normal mode for arial coverage makes much sense. Subjects are generally moving quickly and Normal mode often works best. I use Frame mode for the b-roll footage.

- Minimize fast panning and zoom tromboning, particularly with the jets. Find your subject as early as possible. RESIST the temptation to zoom in as close as possible. Rather, frame the plane(s) with some airspace ahead of their direction then pull back just a bit and try to maintain your framing. The big mistake most amatuer shooters make is to try to shoot the planes as closely as possible, which produces two problems. First, it makes it nearly impossible to keeep the plane(s) steady in the frame. Second it makes for sickening and uninteresting footage to watch, since there's no frame of reference. Viewers need to see the planes approaching and passing in some environmental reference (ex: surrounding buildings, mountains) just as they would if they were watching it in person. In fact, a few wider, static shots where the planes move through the frame are very effective if you have some ground reference in the frame. It effectively shows the planes' speed and the overall scene.

- I recommend using manual focus for the arial shooting and Tv mode.

- If at all possible keep the sun to your back! Otherwise you'll end up with only silouettes of planes.

- When the Blue Angels come on, keep your eye out for a very low-speed 2-plane pass that they always perform to give the crown a good look at what $28 million buys. With practice you'll see this coming because they tilt the planes up and sometimes drop their gear. This is an excellent opportunity to shoot the planes close-up because your pan will be much easier to control.

- Shoot plenty of "b-roll" footage such as the crowd having a good time and reacting to the show. This is essential for making your footage more intense and interesting when it's edited together. Use events you're not planning to shoot to shoot crowd reactions. You'll be amazed at how much energy the addition of 30-60 frames of the crowd following an overhead event gives to your final product.

- When editing the show together be careful to be consistent with your "stage". That is, make sure that a clip showing planes moving from left to right also features b-roll showing the crowd's heads panning from left to right. Etc.

- Twilight shows are just plain hard. If you have a nice, golden sunset you should have little trouble. But again make particularly certain that the sun is at your back...and don't forget to shoot separate twilight b-roll.

After years of shooting this stuff I could go on forever! But, in reality, only practice will refine your technique. For lack of better practice subjects, practice on shooting seagulls. They're larger airborne subjects that generally move slow, although often erratically.

Good luck and have fun!
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 03:16 AM   #7
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Hi Ken,

Great tips!

Just wondering, what settings did you use most consistently? Did you use the built-in ND on the GL2? Any filters?

I'm thinking that digibaby may want to take advantage of her Polarizer as well, assuming that it is a blue sky day and not a hazy/ gloomy day.

- don
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Old September 3rd, 2002, 11:14 AM   #8
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Indeed, a polarizing filter is a must-have for shooting a show on a sunny day. The sky becomes a dazzling backdrop. The ND filter will also become a must-use feature of the GL-2 for daytime shooting (although your camera will probably tell you that by itself).

Re: shutter speed, I try to keep a relatively low speed (1/60-1/100) to maintain the deepest depth of focus possible. This minimizes the amount of focus fiddling I have to do on-the-fly (so to speak).
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Old September 6th, 2002, 01:04 AM   #9
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Get a good wide-angle lens and have it ready. I think you will need it, as 20X is too much for shooting an airshow, in my experience. You won't get as wide an angle as you may want with that long lens without the WA add-on. I shot a Blue Angels show with my 15X Canon L-1 and it was more zoom than I ever needed. Since the L-1 (and XL1) has a 72mm lens, it was wide-angle enough, but just barely. The next day, I shot the 2nd show with a 10X, 55mm Canon A-1 Digital (Hi-8) and it did a much better job. For some of the shots, I put on a .5X WA lens and the results were great, when they made close passes, even though the zoom was limited to 5X.

I don't know about the GL2, but every other Canon model I've used, had an over-reactive auto level control for audio. When a jet ripped closely by or some simulated bombs went off, the auto level shut the audio almost completely off for more than a second. I'd find a good, mild setting for manual audio and use that. You couldn't do that with the GL1. Most important, is to go to an airport before the show and practice all these things and review your aircraft footage, to get a handle on what works and what doesn't.
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Old September 6th, 2002, 01:43 AM   #10
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I should have added that although some people may shoot airshows from tripods, I'm not one of them. I use a shoulder-mount rig, that provides steadiness and comfort and also allows a full and quick range of motion. Using a tripod for the overhead shots is like wearing a straightjacket.

Another good twist I once added for an airshow, was to get a small, scanner-type radio and tuned it to the inter-plane communication frequency. The calls from the tower were also coming on the same channel. I used a Canon MM-200 mixing microphone and put the radio chatter onto one stereo channel and the ambient sounds onto the other.
It made the video much more interesting, hearing what the pilots and controlers were saying. I had a radio with an output that could be wired into the mixing mike. Another time, I was standing right next to someone who had such a radio and they turned up the volume at my request, so that it was picked up by my mikes, along with the aircraft sounds. This way, everything could be heard on both channels. Having the two stereo channels for the aircraft passes, adds a lot of dimension, especially if you play it on a good surround-sound system. If you use just one add-on mono mike, you'll miss this. I'd bet that the GL2's attached mike will be plenty good for the loud sounds of an airshow. When I distribute airshow tapes, I put a suggestion on them that the audio should be set very high, for the best effect. The old warbirds with big, radial engines give the best, deep-throated sounds.
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Old September 6th, 2002, 02:23 AM   #11
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You'd win that bet, Steve. The GL2's stereo mic does a good job with sound. But I opted to use an MKE100 onboard shotgun for the plane shots because, in the past with my GL1's standard mic, I was just getting too much chatter from the adjacent crowd. When shooting b-roll footage I would generally just switch to the standard mic for ambient sound. The GL2's newly introduced manual audio controls really help prevent the cut-out phenomenon you noted.

Shooting shows with a tripod, at least the aerial acts, just doesn't work. It ends up being an excercise in deep-knee bends and smooth pans...with nothing but sky in the frame ;-).

One note on your seemingly good suggestion of practicing near an airport. These days it's not a good idea to be spotted hanging around any major airport intently using a video camera. I'd suggest finding a park nearby, at best.
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Old March 13th, 2004, 11:55 PM   #12
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Take my GL2 to the El Centro Airshow to see The Blue Angels today. Its sunny day and its my first time video airshow so the resoult was not very good. One thing I notice is hard to keep my GL2 stable while tracking fast moving formation flight and AF going in and out. Any suggestion on the should type of support system for GL2 and keeping focus.

Thanks,
James
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Old March 14th, 2004, 03:09 AM   #13
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Don't try and use auto-focus. There's too little information in the frame for it to work. Set the focus to infinity - nothing is going to be that close is it?! (Use auto focus on something in the distance on the ground and lock it by switching to manual focus.)

Robin.
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Old June 13th, 2006, 01:29 AM   #14
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I'm not sure if this thread is dead or not but I'd like to add that its better to have too much zoom than too little. Interesting things happen not just at show center, but during the repositions (when the aircraft turns around after its pass). And personally I'm just a fan of actually seeing the aircraft, markings, vapor, afterburners and in some cases the pilot instead of just a loud dot in the sky. Another less subjective benefit of zoom is being able to stand further back from the showline and not have to wrench your neck panning. Some people I know film from on top of hangars or on the control tower catwalk. But before trying any of this, make sure you have a shoulder stabilizer such as what Mr. McDonald uses, or a monopod with a pan/tilt head. Tripods are good for only one thing: Tripping you while trying to pan and tilt at the angular equivalent of 800 feet per second.
As for not using autofocus, at the speed most aircraft move at, using manual focus is very difficult. The auto-focus on my Panasonic GS-35 works wonderfully in almost all aerial situations. The only thing that confuses it is when panning fast on an overcast day with an underexposed aircraft. And at some zoom ranges, leaving it at infinity still leaves some fuzz. So as long as you keep the image steady and well exposed in the viewfinder, the camera has no idea that you're panning at the speed of stink and will stay in focus.


Hope this helps anyone who's still reading this post during the 06 airshow season!

Last edited by Christopher Williams; June 13th, 2006 at 02:17 AM.
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Old June 14th, 2006, 05:26 AM   #15
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I agree about a good autofocus system being important for getting long-running and unbroken shots at airshows and many athletic events. When a pilot does a 10-min. aerobatic performance, I like to have both the audio and video be continuous. Not only is it nice for the engine sounds, but there's often interesting commentary over the loudspeakers at airshows. It makes for displeasing breaks, if sections have to be edited out to remove focusing transitions. If you only need short, edited clips for the news, manual focus is fine.

The main reason I don't use telextenders at airshows, is because of the vignetting when I'm zoomed back. And when planes come by closely, you often need to be as wide as possible.
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