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Old January 16th, 2008, 04:51 PM   #1
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Helicopter shoot

Helicopter shoot

Iím planning to shoot the central Southern Alps of New Zealand from a Hughes 500 C helicopter. The owner/pilot tells me we shall take the door off and we will be about one hour in the air. I shall be well and truly harnessed in wearing warm clothing. I plan to shoot this scenic wonderland of ice and rocks using an EX1. I have zero experience with this sort of thing so Iím looking for tips. I presume I kind of lean out the side of the helicopter hanging onto the camera by the top handle and frame using the slide out LCD. Or would I be better to use the side grip and frame through the viewfinder. I have no idea. I imagine I should tie the camera to somewhere inside the chopper just in case. I would like to have a rough idea of what Iím doing before we get airborne as you might imagine. Experimenting up there is expensive.

Anyone shot out of a Hughes 500 C, or similar?

Suggestions most welcome.
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Old January 16th, 2008, 05:20 PM   #2
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You want to isolate the camera from the vibration of the helicopter as much as possible.

It'll be interesting to see how the rolling shutter of the EX1 will do in such conditions.

You don't want to have the camera past the door frame of the helicopter. The rotor wash will be really bad.

If you could get a gyro stabilizer, that would be the best bet. Otherwise try and use your arms to absorb the vibration and shake of the helicopter.

I've shot out of a bigger chopper in the past and it was allot of fun.

If you check out the site that makes the Cinesaddle, they have some aerial footage from a helicopter taken using their product.
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Old January 16th, 2008, 05:33 PM   #3
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Here's the site for the gyro stabilizers - http://www.ken-lab.com/ They have units for rent or should be able to tell you who has them for rent in your neck of the woods. Shooting some aerials from a Beaver a couple of years ago in Alaska I found exposure to be the biggest challenge as the light changed as we flew from mist to clouds and sunshine.
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Old January 16th, 2008, 11:04 PM   #4
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What I've seen done is attaching the camera to the roof or a handle on the roof of the helicopter with Octopus straps. Using about four straps will give you some buoyancy to move the camera around, absorb most of the shake and keep your arm from falling off from holding a camera for an hour.
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Old January 18th, 2008, 07:28 AM   #5
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Jealousy consumes me!

I have a major fetish for the south island (currently trying to set up a 3 month stint living in Queenstown - I normally work from home, so hopefully it'll be possible). Will you be posting any of the results? I'd love to see them.
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Old January 18th, 2008, 01:52 PM   #6
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There was a post about this subject awhile back that might provide some more answers.

http://dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=101593
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Old January 22nd, 2008, 03:13 PM   #7
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Hi John,

I have shot out of a Hughes 500 and it is an excellent helicopter. I don't mean to be harsh but with a small hand held camera like the EX1 don't spend the money unless you use at least one KS-8 (Kenyon) gyro. This is from experience. It is even better if you use 4 gyros. The pilot might have a unit you can rent. The vibration is tough on the picture and you won't be able to zoom unless it is isolated from the helicopter.

As for sitting it is best if the back seats are out and you sit on the deck with your legs out while shooting. While you are shooting the pilot should not fly fast. Do not let the harness be attached to your back. It should always be where you can reach the attachment.

Most of all have fun. For me it is by far the best way to shoot and the Hughes 500 is loaded with power so in the right hands/feet it is a great ride. And South Island well God had a very good day!

Let us know how you make out.
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Old January 22nd, 2008, 06:11 PM   #8
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Hi John.........

Hey, did you manage to track down those stabilisers mentioned in earlier posts?

I'd be interested to know who has them for future reference, just in case I luck out and get my own trip over the mountains.

When are you going exactly? Are you flying out of Franz Joseph (I know there's three or four chopper companies flying out of there)?


CS

PS.

Paul, when you mentioned using 4 gyros, do you mean in a sort of a cross formation on a special plate to which the camera is fixed? Are such rigs available commercially, or made to order? A bit of quick math gets me to the whole lot having to be suspended from the aircraft door frame on elastic bungy type thingies - heck, with 4 gyros on board the thing would practically "do it's thing" without even being touched.


PPS.

On reflection, one wonders just how you would ever pan the camera with that lot attached - it'd be like pushing the USS Nimitz away from dock single handed!


PPPS.

Even further reflection brings to mind a fast CAT induced sidestep on the part of both chopper and you, with camera, plate and gyros deciding they shan't. Not so bad if they're moving rapidly away, not so much fun if they're coming at your head at 60 mph! Hmmm.

Last edited by Chris Soucy; January 22nd, 2008 at 06:39 PM. Reason: Addition
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 01:31 AM   #9
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Thanks so much, everyone, for the excellent input. I’m checking availability of the kenyon labs gyros right now. I shall certainly use the Octopus suggestion. Don’t know when I’m going exactly, Chris. Depends very much on the weather and the availability of my second cameraman. The project is important but not urgent so I’m taking good time with the planning as we don’t really want to be fixing it when we get in the air. Yesterday I sat in the helicopter to get a feel for how to proceed. I need to re-visit and check out the sitting-on-the-deck idea which makes a lot of sense.

Paul, you advise…Do not let the harness be attached to your back! Right. I’m struggling to understand what you mean. I do need to be harnessed in, don’t I. Do you mean if I am constrained by the harness attached at my back I won’t have sufficient freedom of movement. My pilot tells me not only will I be wearing the usual harness but he will tie me in with a bit of rope or binder twine or number eight wire or something just in case I accidently snap open the buckle on the harness, which has happened, he tells me…just imagine, and no door. Do I really want to do this!

The helicopter company is Station Air Ltd. The pilot/owner is Laurie Prouting of Mesopotamia Station. Messie, as it is called locally, is located up the Rangitata River near where it begins its journey as glacier melt in the Southern Alps. Messie is one of the largest and most famous sheep stations in the New Zealand high country, third generation Proutings. We’re flying from Messie up the headwaters of the Rangitata River to the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Allah ice fields, and around and about up there. Yes indeed, God did have a very good day. I’m looking forward to the shoot, for sure.

If it works out and we make it safely home, and I have some decent footage, I shall share if I can. I’ll keep you posted. Suggestions, comments most welcome and appreciated.

Last edited by John McCully; January 23rd, 2008 at 02:20 AM. Reason: typo
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 05:06 AM   #10
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Hi John.

Don't suppose you have room for another camera, do you?

(Big grin and chuckle!)

Well, it's worth a try.

Hey, I can be up there in oh, half a day, just tell me where, like a shot.


CS
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 09:49 AM   #11
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John and Chris go to http://www.ken-lab.com/index.html and look under links for aerial exposures for their 2 - 4 gyro set up. I donít think Chris Hurd will mind the link since none of the sponsors sell the gyros and the best way to go is direct. Kenyon Labs is an excellent company with outstanding product and quality all the way.

I use the 4 gyros set up on a R44 in Rhode Island and it is mounted to the seat by the door on that helicopter. Then I also own a custom Zacuto shoulder brace where I have one gyro behind my shoulder and one under the camera. All gyros on both systems are KS-8, which are the bigger ones. You can buy KS-12 but I have never used them. When the client wonít pay for the Aerial Exposure set up which runs about $500/hr then I use mine and charge them a lot less. Also my set up works when I am in one boat shooting another boat or just need to zoom long while hand held.

Chris the panning is easy you just canít go fast since all 4 gyros are working to keep the camera steady. The system as I said is secured to the seat or deck by its base. The base has a 360-degree swivel where the two arms come up each side. Then the camera with the gyros attached hang off the arms with bungee so they can float free on a swivel shaft. Once problem with the EX1 on this system is you canít get to any controls but zoom since that is all that is offered with a remote. Since you need to keep your hands on the two handles off the gyro base and have a VERY light touch. If you reach for the iris, ND, or other controls you loose the shot until you are back on the handles. The key is to let the gyros do the work and just guide it to the shot. You do have full pan and tilt. I have had full zoom in a helicopter with this set up and used the shot. Of course the pilot makes a huge difference. Most have a monitor set up so they can see what you are shooting. Also take the time to balance the set up out of the helicopter with your camera.

There are loads of gyro formation on the units I like the following. With my two gyro set up the one under the camera is in line with the camera lens and the one in the back 88 degrees perpendicular in the same plane when calm. When rough I put the one in the back perpendicular in 90-degree plane if that makes sense. So the gyro in the back goes from underneath to vertical in the back. Why 88 degrees well the experts at Kenyon say it is better to make the two work against each other. Sounds funny but it makes a huge difference compared to 90 degrees. I tried it and was amazed.

As for the 4 gyro set up there are two in line with the camera and two on 90 degree angle frame running down from the front of the camera and back of the camera also set at 88 degrees.

John my point with the harness is always having attachment point within your reach and not on the center of your back. But it sounds like you are in great hands with Station Air Ltd. And as I said a Hughes 500 is excellent.

I am sure you will have a blast and might even get hooked on the whole deal of shooting from choppers.
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Old January 26th, 2008, 09:10 AM   #12
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Paul, about 6 months ago I flew out of Myrtle Beach on a R44 with exact same rig you described. Even though the footage was good, I feel the next time it will improve drastically. Those 4 gyros really pull and any pan is a fight. Better to lock in and have the copter make your moves (just an observation). Does Kenyon have the specs for your set-up? Also, could that work on a small Bell bubble if you took out the left seat and sat on the floor?
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Old January 26th, 2008, 09:58 AM   #13
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Jack I agree it takes time to get use to using the Aerial Exposures set up. I have no problem panning and tilting even to where I get me feet in the shot at the end. But you are correct if you fight the gyros it is a problem.

Kenyon does not have my shoulder brace set up. I did talk with Kenyon yesterday about Yaw, Roll, and Pitch setup with my two KS-8's. I will be trying other options while flying a lot next month down south. As for using my set up in a Bell Bubble yes it would work. And you would not have to take the seat out you can use it sitting in the seat just like a shoulder mount camera.
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Old January 31st, 2008, 12:08 AM   #14
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Update

Here’s an update regarding this shoot. With the kind input from all I fashioned a device on which to mount the camera loosely based on the ‘hi tech’ design described by Don DesJardin here:

http://dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=101593

I have posted photographs here:

http://www.dvinfo.net/gallery/browseimages.php?c=50

The construction is of 2.5mm slotted stainless steel 30 x 50 cm with a cradle 26 cm tall. I looked into using handlebars off a bicycle but opted instead to make individual handles over which I placed regular handlebar grips. As you might imagine this device is almost infinitely customizable. Everything can be adjusted back and forth in order to obtain the best balance. I plan to sit on the floor of the chopper with my feet dangling outside and position the handles such as to have a comfortable arms semi-outstretched position while keeping the front of the camera just out of the slipstream, hopefully, at least that’s the intent. I go for a ‘fitting’ in the chopper tomorrow.

The device may be too long in which case I shall lop a chunk off one end. I plan to experiment using a Nissan Safari with the rear doors open and the bungees attached up at the rear corners, and drive down a bumpy gravel road, very plentiful around here.

I have an eye bolt on top of the inverted u section under which the camera is mounted and I also have eye bolts on each side of the inverted u piece. Experimentation with the Nissan should enable me to determine the optimum attachment point.

Cost $250.00 Kiwis, about $195.00 US.

More as things progress. Comments and suggestions most welcome.

Chris, sorry; all seats taken very early in the game as you might imagine.

John
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Old January 31st, 2008, 02:06 AM   #15
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Funny, that...........

It being full and all, can't imagine how that happened.

Seriously, I've a bad attack of the "Green Eyed Monsters" over this but hope it's a blast for those partaking, you lucky sods.

Got to say from looking at your rig, it's a pretty typical Kiwi No. 4 baling wire design but looks like it just might do the job. Bloody well done. Most impressive.

I seriously DO hope it does the necessary on the day.

Keep us posted.

As an aside, did I bump into you in Wanaka on NY eve? There was a guy covering the entertainment down on the lake front waving around an EX 1(much to my utter astonishment) but he was working on a shoot for "someone" (hey, I was pretty well oiled so names just went in one ear and...........yep.)

I do remember him saying he had the first pre - production model in the country, so must have been popular with Sony then!

Doesn't sound like you from the little I know, and don't think he's here on DVinfo (could be completely wrong, of course) but just thought I'd check.


CS
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