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Old May 20th, 2009, 12:08 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: St. Louis, MO
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Helicopter Shooting

I've recently been hired to produce a short video for a helicopter tour company. It is fairly low budget so we can't use any fancy stabilizing mounts. It's a small helicopter (r44 for those of you who care) and movement is limited. Really I'm just wondering if anyone has any advice or tricks for getting the most stable shots possible. We went up and shot some test footage handheld with the doors off. Some is useable but quite difficult to maintain a steady shot.

My only thought is to shoot HDV and steady footage in AE. This should work alright since final delivery will be SD. However, I'm really hoping to hear shooting tips although post tips welcome too.

Thanks all
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Old May 24th, 2009, 03:20 PM   #2
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don't use a rolling shutter, that is devastating, I saw a test shot whit an HV20 from an helicopter, the picture was like jelly.
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Old May 24th, 2009, 03:41 PM   #3
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wide angle and isolation are the keys here. The damn things vibrate like mad so even a rubber suction mount transmits a lot of vibration. A friend swears by a plastic inflatable beach ball, that is part inflated with a small lightweight tripod on the top. He uses it in power boats where the water is rock hard in terms of bumps. he sits the tripod and camera on top of the 'soggy' ball, and it just takes the weight of the camera, he uses his outstretched arms to keep it upright and 'point' it. The squigy ball soaks up lots of the vibration. I've no idea if this would work in a helicopter, but could be worth a try if you can experiment a little?
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Old May 25th, 2009, 11:38 AM   #4
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Patrick start by doing a search for "helicopter" in this forum beginning with;

The real trick to shooting from a chopper is skill. Besides the use of a gyrozoom or professional camera mount there aren't any shortcuts.

BTW if you take beach ball with you the pilot will bounce you off the flight line.
"The good thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not." Neil deGrasse Tyson http://nautilusproductions.com
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Old May 26th, 2009, 02:48 AM   #5
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Hi Patrick

You don’t say which camera you’re using although you mention HDV so I will try to give you a close comparison. I have shot from an R44 with a JVC101 with standard lens set to wide (infinity mark).

1: The door was removed (Pilot side)
2: I strapped a pillow filled with foam rubber to my leg (dense foam acts as a good
vibration killer (we spent a number of years developing foam mounts for Radio Control
camera mounts and found certain types of foam better than others)
3: I was strapped in and the camera had a strap through the handle and around my body
(just enough for free movement but would stop the camera leaving my hands in any
sudden movements)
4: The camera was allowed to rest on the pillow and I used the flip-out monitor to get
general viewing.
5: I gently held the back of the camera (battery brick) and pivoted the camera when
needing to frame up my subject.
6: I wore a padded jacket which helped reduce vibration to my upper body although this
did not touch the camera.
7: Lens set to infinity – I was shooting 720 25p
8: Fitted a high quality UV filter to the lens
9: Used the standard rubber hood and not a matte-box
10: I sometimes wear surgical gloves to keep my hands from freezing up.
11: I kept just inside so as keep the worst of the wind drag hitting the camera, particularly
when we were chasing racing cars.
12: Because of the footage needed that day (6 hours work) I had an assistant in the front
of the chopper who had an HD field monitor strapped to him – this he positioned so I
could easily see this, and it helped enormously with framing racing cars which we were
tracking at very close quarters.
13: These helicopters get bounced around easily so you need to pick your day to get
smooth shots - work out what you want to achieve with the pilot.
14: We used Apple shake to take out lumpy bits on some of the very long tracking shots –
works perfect – seen it on large presentation screens and it looks perfect.

As I am sure you are already aware – safety, safety safety – check that everything is secure and don’t have unnecessary bits of kit lying about in the cab.

Best… Stu
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