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Old September 14th, 2009, 12:12 AM   #1
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Shooting from a helicopter. Need your advice :)

Hey Everyone.

I have read through whatever threads I can find concerning helicopters and its been helpful so far.

I have access to: a DvRigPro, a HVX200, a JVC HD100 and budget enough to rent 1-2 gyro stabilizers

I'm assuming the DvRigPro would not be a good idea. Has anyone ever tried that?

I found this article by browsing the forums and it was very helpful:

Production Diary(2)Stefan Sargent , Stefan Sargent , Stefan Sargent

The picture shows him using 2 stabilizers:

http://www.dv.com/dv/magazine/2007/M...nt0507gyro.jpg

Is two recommended? The rental site seems to assume you've already used one when you've rented it. I'm assuming you hold only the gyros, so perhaps you have to own two? He also seems to have a mount that isn't included with the rental package. Can those be rented as well? Is the idea to only hold on the the gyros?

Any advice, tips, and suggestions for which combination of equipment to use would be very much appreciated. I have no problems being in helicopters, and I am a seasoned videographer, but this is a first for me and I won't have the luxury of being able to do a trial run.

Thank you very much in advance for any help you can offer.

[dan]
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Old September 14th, 2009, 12:59 AM   #2
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G'day Dan,

I've never had an opportunity to use a gyro setup when shooting from choppers, I've always done it hand held and without any stabilization. I've viewed ths said pictures with the 2 gyro set up and IF he holds the gyro as indicated would defeat the purpose by restricting the gyros action. The gyros should be free to react to any movement of the camera which should be suspended as freely as possible.

Maybe those who have had experience with gyros and chopppers will have a better idea.

Just my nickles worth.

Steve.
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Old September 14th, 2009, 01:14 AM   #3
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Steve,

Thanks for the info :) I appreciate it.

Anyone with experience care to chime in? What is the proper way to hold a camera if you have gyros. Is there an advantage to having 1 vs 2?

[dan]
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Old September 14th, 2009, 04:01 AM   #4
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My 2c worth is to make sure that 1) you can't fall out, and 2) your camera can't fall out either.

(I know a bloke who fell from a helo, as he was sitting in the doorway of an UH1D..)

Ben
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Old September 14th, 2009, 05:17 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan G. Brown View Post
Steve,

Thanks for the info :) I appreciate it.

Anyone with experience care to chime in? What is the proper way to hold a camera if you have gyros. Is there an advantage to having 1 vs 2?

[dan]
One gyro works in one axis and the second gyro works in a 90deg axis to the first.
One works against the forward and aft tilt of the camera and the second works against the L & R tilt. (Someone please tell me if i'm wrong. I never did any good at fiziks at skool.)
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Old September 14th, 2009, 07:57 AM   #6
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I agree with Steve. The gyros are mounted 90 degrees to each other, so one is for rotation along X and the other along Y. If you don't want to rent gyros, which can be expensive, just use the DvRigPro with some counterbalance in the back. Make sure that you also attach the camera to yourself, lest you drop it to hang on to the door when you hit an air pocket (true story.)
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Old September 14th, 2009, 08:44 AM   #7
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In general, the quality of your shots will depend on the chopper and the type of shots you are trying to get. I think some choppers have more vibration and more wind blast with the doors off. You will also get much better wide shots than anything tight.

My experience is shooting boat poker runs. These are always shot handheld in a low rent (piston engine) chopper like the Robinson R44. In that case you are very close to the subject and shoot a wide shot and it works out pretty good running the deshaker script.

Be sure to prepare before hand so your camera is safe and you are comfortable by rigging a sling setup of some type. Only take the bare camera and nothing else that won't fit in a shooting vest pocket. Have a spotter/assistant sit next to you in the back.

I have never seen gyros, but it would be needed for any long or "on target" style shots. I suggest getting some air time before renting anything. It's about $300-400 per hour here for a R-44.
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Old September 14th, 2009, 09:00 AM   #8
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Same here

I recently got some experience shooting from a chopper with no budget or time for gyros. I think a lot depends on the client's expectations. If you are expecting glossy, completely smooth flowing, high end production shots, well, then you have to pay for that and I likely sub-contract that out to a crew that specializes in those shots.
In my case, I shot hand held, WA, and applied a smoothcam filter and my clients were thrilled. I found that wind resistance against the camera caused the most problems. Even opening the viewfinder caused more buffeting. So, I stripped the camera bare and found an angle with the least wind resistance. I also tried to float the camera without resting my elbows on my knees or any part of the chopper that might transmit more vibration. Just something to think about when you start adding shoulder mounts, etc. I once photographed a sniper competition that included a shoot from a helo and the snipers suspended bungie cords in the door ways and rested their rifles in them. I've often wondered how that would work for video.
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Old September 14th, 2009, 11:03 AM   #9
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Exactly James.

What kind of helicopter was that you flew in?

I bet there are some high end helicopters that are great for shooting out of. Probably could never afford to use one though.

I would also reccomend a very high resolution camera like the EX-1 that holds maximum detail in WA shots. I don't have anything that nice and it still comes out pretty good though.
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Old September 14th, 2009, 03:04 PM   #10
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Thanks for the tips.

It is a shoot for a video that will be used by a county in California. They are taking the doors off of one of a helicopter, though they haven't told me what type of helicopter. They are trying to do this for as little cash as possible which is probably why they hired me instead of someone who specializes in aerial videography.

Do you think there would be any issue with trying to hold a camera, the cameras battery pack, and the gyro for an extended period of time? When you talk about having two gyros, is there some sort of mount I should get with it?

Again, you guys have been very helpful. Thanks again

[dan]
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Old September 15th, 2009, 02:40 PM   #11
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Three bladed and multi-bladed helicopters (Eurocopter, Hughes 500 etc) tend to have less vibration than twin bladed helicopters such as the Jet Ranger and Long Ranger. The bigger the helicopter the more stable it will be as a shooting platform, although having said all that the R44 is not bad considering it's size.

Never rely on the lap strap to keep you in. The simple aircraft style buckles are easily caught and opened accidentally. You should use a proper dispatchers harness with a proper quick release attachment that can be released under load. Carabiners are not really suitable as if you are in a crash and there is any tension on the attachment you cannot release it and cannot get out. Also avoid using standard climbing harnesses as these often have the attaching point at the rear which you can't reach in an emergency. Everything should be secured especially the camera, with a short tether.

The Kenyon KS4 or KS6 Gyros work very well and has been said should be mounted 90 degrees to each other. A pair of these will make a big difference to the stability of your footage. But they are very heavy. Another thing to see if you can hire would be a Tyler MiniGyro which is essentially a pair of Gyro's like the kenyons in a mount that takes some of the weight while adding a degree of vibration damping. It just sits on the seat between your legs.

Keep your shots wide, don't try and get close ups, you need a Gyron or Wescam for that. There will be some vibration and you often find that when you get into the edit suite and look at your rushes on a big screen they look soft, due to the high frequency vibration. Staying wide helps.

I've done a lot of helicopter work over the years in many countries filming motor racing, windsurfing, skiing and air to air. I really enjoy it, but have lost a good friend in a helicopter crash and been lucky enough to walk away from a crash. Don't ask the pilot to do anything he isn't used to doing, don't distract him and listen to his advice and safety briefing. And then have fun!
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Old October 27th, 2009, 12:38 AM   #12
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Dan, I hope this isn’t too late to help. I write from experience recording from helicopters over the past 20 years in the UK, Turkey, France, Spain and, relevant if your budget is critical, from microlights up to 11,000ft in France. I also realised I contributed to a similar thread here recently so somethings are repeated, sorry readers - piut it down to age!

Most of the recording was done with Beta-SP ENG kit, typically BVW507, but I also used Arriflex and Aaton film cameras and PD150 and Z1 DV and HDV cameras. Since so much of our work was from helos we invested in a super-wide lens which earned its keep many times over. The weight of the camera was a curse and a blessing; long shots were a strain without support but the weight and size gave a stability that lighter, smaller cameras would have found difficult to equal.

Most of the work was without additional support - for budgetary reasons - so I developed a way of supporting the camera across my knee as I sat on the edge of the seat with my feet on the helo skid. I always used a carabiner type harness (budget again) with an independent harness for the camera. With the film cameras (used for recording the launch of submarines including the last conventionally launch British nuclear sub) we invariably had a bungee mount fixed in the helo. I never had the luxury of Wescam and so most shots were wide with the drama coming from the angle and speed, high or low.

Much of our work was the production of programmes explaining and demonstrating the options available in large road scheme developments as part of a legal public consultation process. Invariably there was a favoured scheme which had to be subtly promoted. Whenever possible we asked for sufficient budget to rent a nose mount for the helo. As long as the horizon was kept out of shot this looked very stable but keep a watch on the monitor for stuff on the lens and be prepared to land to clean it.

The first key to the success of the shot was the pilot, not only because you need to trust the man but because he can help create the shots. I always let him do the pans with the helo while I concentrated on the tilts and keeping the camera level. In the UK ours was a former helo aerobatic instructor in the RAF and I never knew a finer one. In Turkey he was a rota pilot from the renting company who killed himself shortly after our job. It was the closest I ever came to an accident. In France I flew with a pilot who specialised on work for the electricity and TV companies installing masts and pylons on mountains. The microlight pilot was also a mountain specialist. Being a private pilot myself, albeit a fixed wing, helped because I could sit in the front of the microlight and operate the boost and brake pedals whilst having the best recording view.

The second key is to plan every shot before you take off. Our UK pilot liked to have a repeater monitor beside him so he could see what we were taking. Most helo work is short shot but occasionally we got a long shot job. For example, British Rail commissioned a complete shoot of the railway line from Euston (London) to Glasgow for the early planning of the work to straighten the line and raise the speed. It took two days and was recorded in 30 minute bursts (30 minute Beta-SP cassettes) interrupted only when we came across a train when we’d sweep round, double back and position ourselves for one of a number of camera/helo moves with the train which we’d pre-planned. Some of these were used in subsequent TV ads. It was a killer on the arms.

All our helo work was in jet aircraft, mainly single and dual engine Jet Rangers and Squirrels - the Squirrel was favourite. Obviously everything must be fastened down and all loose material like cassettes handled with extreme care. Again the pilot helped by positioning the helo to create minimum blast etc during tape changes.

You mentioned that you were happy about heights etc, in my experience when you’re hanging vertically over a cooling tower or above a mountain top 11,000 ft up there are moments when the danger becomes more apparent. My solution was to jam my eye against the eyepiece and concentrate on the picture; after all that’s what you’re there for.

Over the years I recorded for travel, news, sports, history, public transportation, road and rail planning, road building, as well as flying around mountains creating backgrounds for blue screen incorporation with models in studio and simple dramatic effect shots for documentaries and corporate programmes. If you can be more specific about your task and think I can help further please let me know.

Last edited by Philip Howells; October 27th, 2009 at 12:45 AM. Reason: apology for partial duplication with another recent thread
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Old October 27th, 2009, 01:51 AM   #13
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A note about gyros. They actually work in two axes at once. The easiest way to remember which axes they will not work on is to imagine rolling it along the ground (if it was just a simple "sausage" shape with no brackets or cables); this is the axis that is unaffected by the unit. So in the picture, the gyro on the left will affect tilt and roll but not pan, and the gyro on the right will affect tilt and pan but not roll. This means that you have 2x the effect in tilt, and 1x the effect in roll and pan. There have been some theories advanced that you can spread the effect amongst the axis by rotating the cans 45 degrees along a diagonal plane, in other words, tipping them back 45 degrees and simultaneously rotating them 45 degrees. This is sort of heady stuff, but from the Steadicam perspective their effect is much more dramatic and complicated than with handheld. Regardless of all that, it is still relevant when thinking about the initial mounting--which axis do you want double the effect in? Experimentation is important.

Another thing to know about gyros is that you are restricted in the amount that you can rotate them before they "cage" or lock up, and jump. You can't pan past a certain speed before they get wonky on you.

They are tricky little beasts...
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Old October 27th, 2009, 09:44 AM   #14
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A side note:

Although it will only work on a few select types of shoots, I am seeing some RC hellicopter footage that is really good and vibration free. It seems like the capabilities of these video mission specific helicopters is steadily increasing and is already at an amazing level of sophistication. Pan, tilt, remote monitoring of the footage, remote operation of the camera, 15 minute endurance, etc.

While they have their specific missions, of course they don't take the place of a full size helicopter.

Unfortunately there are few companies flying them and the cost is about the same as a full size helicopter.
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Old November 9th, 2009, 04:14 AM   #15
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3 questions:

when u shoot from heli u set the focus to?I guess infinity right?

u close the widescreen or u use the eyething?

Which software do u suggest to stabilize in post the shots?



thx
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