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Old April 6th, 2009, 04:39 PM   #1
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Shooting from an Helicopter

Hi guys in a few days i'll go in a small helicopter to shoot with my Z1.Maybe this time i won't have the door opened so my worries are the reflection of the camcorder on the windows.I was thinking to bring with me a black towel to avoid this issue.What do you guys think and what are your suggestions?
thx
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Old April 7th, 2009, 08:44 PM   #2
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i won't have the door opened so my worries are the reflection of the camcorder on the windows.I was thinking to bring with me a black towel to avoid this issue.
Good idea. Putting a polarizing filter on the lens would also be a good idea. Best of luck with the shoot!
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Old April 8th, 2009, 09:01 AM   #3
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What's up Mike, the polarizer won't be useful cause the windows are in plastic material and the won't prevent the reflections!Tried by my colleagues.
I wanted to know about the black towel(unfortunately i won't have the chanche to get in an helicopter before a few days), do you think is a good idea?

thx a lot buddy
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Old April 8th, 2009, 10:31 AM   #4
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Any time I've filmed from a helicopter the door has always been removed, it's an automatic thing with the helicopter pilots. The only reason why they wouldn't is if it's normal passenger flight that you're piggy backing rather than a photographic flight.

I doubt black towels would be practical, you'd need to rig these and there mightn't be suitable attachments. Although you might just get away with it in the back of a Jet Ranger, but if it's a R22 I can't see you being allowed by the pilot because you'd be obscuring his vision in the direction you're filming.

I'd check this stuff out in advance with the helicopter operator so there aren't any surprises.
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Old April 29th, 2009, 09:37 PM   #5
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I agree with Brian about the R22, but can't speak for the Jet Ranger. The R22 has barely enough room for you and your camera. I don't think rigging up a towel will be a good idea because it will obscure your view and the pilot's.

Doors off is much better in the 22. You really have to lean out a bit in that aircraft to get good shots, and with the doors on it'd be really uncomfortable to try to contort your body to get the camera in a shooting position. Unless there's a good reason, I'd go doors off.
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Old May 1st, 2009, 05:41 AM   #6
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Hi Marcus,

I have shot from a chopper with a Z1 before. Like the others said doors off is really a must to get good footage. I also used a shoulder mount attachment for the Z1 which had a gun handle - this was really really helpful and I think would be really difficult without it. The footage I got was fantastic and I could track objects on the ground really well against the centrafugal force of the camera when the chopper was banking. Sometimes you have to use all your strength with both hands and your shoulder if the chopper banks hard so with no support I think the footage would just be really shakey. Best of luck and have fun!
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Old May 1st, 2009, 09:45 AM   #7
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Maybe this time i won't have the door opened so my worries are the reflection of the camcorder on the windows.I was thinking to bring with me a black towel to avoid this issue.What do you guys think and what are your suggestions?
thx
If you're doing aerials you need to shoot with the doors OFF unless you are renting a chopper with windows that are designed for aerial shooting and optically perfect (which I doubt). If you shoot through the chopper windows you'll get reflections, flare, scratches on the window and the edges of the door and it's fittings will continually bounce into view. If you can shoot from a Jet Ranger do it. I hate shooting from the Robinson's because they are not as smooth and not nearly as powerful which translates into more problems with crosswinds. The towel trick will interfere with your camera control and also could be a safety hazard in the cockpit if it gets loose.
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Old May 1st, 2009, 07:14 PM   #8
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What about bringing a MErlin in the chopper?I think it would be useful!Thanks
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Old May 2nd, 2009, 07:48 AM   #9
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What about bringing a MErlin in the chopper?I think it would be useful!Thanks
NOT! The inside of a helicopter is a dynamic place and buffeted by wind gusts when the doors are off, g-forces in turns, etc. A Merlin will get blown around by the wind, you'll bump into parts of the aircraft and yourself with the rig and besides you will be shooting down most of the time - a position that doesn't work for Merlin's.

As with most video skills "It's the Indian not the arrow."
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Old May 10th, 2009, 09:51 PM   #10
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Steadicams and helicopters are a very dangerous mix; many operators have lost their lives attempting this. Consider renting an aerial rig or at least hardmounting to the chopper.
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Old May 11th, 2009, 12:07 PM   #11
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Like the others have mentioned, it is without a doubt far better with the door off ( it is sometimes possible to obtain some footage through windows the quality will generally not be very good).

The biggest problem is usually the buffeting winds. If the pilot can bank while you maintain position with the camera just inside the open doorway you should be able to get decent footage.

I like to lean out if I can, so it is a good idea to wear an extra safety harness with longer straps attached to the helicopter so that it offers a bit more movement than the seat harness alone.

If you must lean out for some filming then I've often found it better to point the lens to the rear of the chopper instead of forward because it offers less resistance to the wind; this rule is also holds true when shooting from microlights.

I've worked a lot from bushplanes, and again, it is wise to team up with a good pilot who will remove the door prior to take off. This rule also holds true for shooting stills with SLR or DSLR cameras.

If the Z1 is your only cam then obviously there will be no lens or camera changes, but if you are using a second camera or XL camcorder then try to take a friend/assistant with you to hold on to any extra bags and equipment, so that it makes it easier to smoothly change lenses during the flight.
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Old May 11th, 2009, 02:10 PM   #12
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What about bringing a MErlin in the chopper?I think it would be useful!Thanks
I wouldn't, there isn't much space inside a helicopter and any wind will jar a Steadicam. Following the other Steadicam comments, the scariest helicopter ride I had was with a Steadicam. Although your rig would a lot smaller than the 35mm job we were using, you'll find using it pretty limiting in the type of shots you can get.
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Old June 7th, 2009, 03:37 AM   #13
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If you're flying doors off, put a single wrap of gaffer tape around the seatbelt release. It'll prevent it from being lifted and disengaged accidentally, but it will yield easily if you need to remove the belt in an emergency.

Another camera stabilization aide is the KenLab gyros.
Kenyon Labs stabilizers
Gyro Stabilized Video Film Camera Mount Platform Stabilized Video Film Camera Mount Gyro Stabilizer Video Film

Personally, I won't fly in R-22s and neither will some other cameramen in Hawaii. The R-22's had an airworthiness directive placed on them by the FAA after a couple of them went down here. Part of the blame was placed on the helicopter's main rotor blade striking the tail boom when operating at higher speed in turbulent air. There's usually a fair amount of turbulence in the mountains, and the speed restriction of 60 knots is too easy to exceed when you're trying to meet a schedule. The AD is rather complex and is tied into surface wind speeds/gusts and pilot's experience.

I'd rather spend the money and be assured of a safe flight than pinch pennies and risk wrecking my camera. Oh yeah, getting killed or crippled would be almost as bad! :-)
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Old June 7th, 2009, 05:15 AM   #14
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Hey Marcus !
I agree with everything that has been posted here. I've used a Z1 from both a Jetranger and R44 and it is important to have the door(s) removed if possible. I prefer to shoot from the back, either behind the pilot or opposite side, depending on which direction I need to shoot from. Sometimes I sit on the floor with legs outside, but you have to use a harness for this. Other times I can sit side ways on the back seat, using just the normal seat belt, but again be carefull of the buckle. Try to keep the camera just inside the cabin to prevent buffeting by the rotor downwash and any forward airflow. Remove any items on the camera thay may be blown off, if using a shotgun mike, I mount that in the opposite direction (facing backward) to minimize wind noise. AND ALWAYS have the camera tethered to either yourself or part of the helicopter (just incase you drop it). Oh.. and keep your shots wide.

That's my 20c worth. Lots of luck and have fun.
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Old June 12th, 2009, 02:13 PM   #15
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tyler Mount

For the best mount intergrated into various choppers, google tyler mount. I filmed a lot in the middle east on a three year project with one of these - got stupendous footage in 35mm. Don't forget to bring your checkbook for this bad boy.
I should add that this was at least 15 year ago, but I assume they are still around.
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