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Old October 21st, 2010, 01:14 AM   #1
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Aerial Wedding Cinematography... new venture or adventure?

Well, four days ago we shot two weddings, both of which we decided to try something new. For months we have been researching aerial cinematography and have been sitting on the fence for quite some time about rather to invest in an aerial system or not. It's been very tough deciding if it would be worth it or not with the risks involved. Our main concerns where:
1. If we crashed the thing we would be out a substantial amount of money (nearly $20,000 with heli, camera, and lens, etc.)
2. Piloting... try to fly it ourselves or hire an experienced pilot?
3. Would it look good? Would we get the results we where hoping for?
4. Would it be practical for a wedding?
5. Maintenance, adjustments, etc.... it's hard enough keeping up all the camera equipment we have already.

Well, this last weekend we set out to run a few "TESTS" and I'm pretty happy with the results!


I'm only posting one of the videos for now as we are working out some kinks on the other. We learned a lot on these two weddings that will help us out a ton on the coming weddings... thinking of taking it out again this weekend. Here is what we found:
1. Crashing is no longer a concern, we are lucky to have found a world class pilot who is sponsored by many different helicopter and helicopter parts vendors and has traveled the world competing in world championships. He is remarkable and we've managed to hire him!
2. We've found it take YEARS to be good enough to fly one of these... hence we've hired a pilot.
3. It looks great! However there are a lot of kinks to work out... VIBRATION (especially with DSLR shooting and rolling shutter) is your biggest enemy and we are investing in some sophisticated equipment to give us better results.
4. It is TOTALLY practical for a wedding.... at least the wedding in this video. When we brought it up to the b+g they where all over it! The Helicopter is electric so it's pretty quite... although it is still noisy... I would put it at about as loud as a weed-wacker. We where worried about doing a low flyover during the ceremony so we waited until AFTER the kiss... we timed it so it would happen while the recessional music was cranking and people where clapping... none of the guests heard or saw it until after it had passed over them! Of course we where mobbed by guests afterwards asking questions... it was all positive and people seemed to be very excited about it.
5. There is minimal maintenance, but there is some. We've got a tech who will be taking care of this for us and doing tuneups and pre-flight checks. Along with this comes liability insurance which isn't as much as you'd think.

We're pretty excited to be offering this to our clients both wedding and corporate. I would love your feedback on the video.
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Old October 21st, 2010, 02:43 AM   #2
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This is way cool. When do we get to see a pic of the chopper, etc?

Andrew
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Old October 21st, 2010, 03:46 AM   #3
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Andrew for much of my pre-wedding video life I sat on the side of helicopters with various film, still and video cameras, I hold a private pilot's licence myself and, as if that wasn't enough our third cameraman is an experienced model plane pilot. I therefore looked at your work with great interest.

I can't boast that we've ever got to your level of development and for that I congratulate you, but we have chatted about the possibilities.

The main stumbling blocks here in the UK are legalities, permissions, insurance, to add to the common elements, lift capacity, vibration and noise.

However, may I suggest that more effective use might be made of the helo in circling shots, keeping the wedding group for example in the frame whilst the helo revolves around it. Because we never had the budget to hire gyro-controlled gear (Wescam etc) we developed techniques with our pilot which basically required me, the cameraman to make the vertical movements whilst the lateral ones would be made by the helo. To help him do that we provided a 9inch monitor in the space beside him. Since all your camera movements are controlled by the pilot the comparison is valid. It raises a question which we have to address with our radio controlled high viewpoint camera, and that is the ability to monitor the camera. Are you able to see what the camera's recording ie do you have a downlink?

I don't know to what extent your laws in California permit but other shots we found very effective were travelling shots alongside road vehicles driving at speed. The helo is at vehicle height before moving ahead of the vehicle, rising above it, turning to keep it in frame and allowing the vehicle to pass beneath it. Those shots were mainly for title sequences and were shot with buses, double and single deck on an airfield near Manchester.

The other shots we found very effective were slow vertical rises to hover. We did that in front of dock gates in Chatham, over a UK nuclear sub in Barrow, alongside trains at various points along the London - Glasgow railway line.

If you'll allow one suggestion/criticism it is that the travel was quite fast and I wonder if the shots wouldn't have been even more effective if flown more slowly. I realise the camera weight/lift capacity of the helo are factors which might have prevented this but it would have been good to see.

In general though, big congratulations.
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Old October 21st, 2010, 08:29 AM   #4
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Andrew... I'll get a photo up soon.

Philip... We are lucky I guess here in the states as there are no regulations that really restrict us in any way. The only restrictions is we have to keep it under 400 feet and have to stay away from airports.... which neither pose a problem.
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Old October 21st, 2010, 11:13 AM   #5
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Nice camerawork. Is it one person running both helicopter and camera?
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Old October 21st, 2010, 11:45 AM   #6
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I love the idea. This just takes HDM team up another notch.

If you can work out the wobbliness then it will be the talk of the town.

Shakewell
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Old October 21st, 2010, 01:52 PM   #7
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VERY cool.

I have some friends who have done kite-photography. Less control, for sure, but also less expensive.

Keep up the good work. Can't wait to see more.
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Old October 21st, 2010, 01:58 PM   #8
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Andrew, thank you so much for sharing this. I have been drooling over the idea of aerial videography for several months, but we are not up to scale yet. Is this a chopper that you built or had built, or is it available online for purchase? Is the chopper and camera controlled separately or does the camera just go along for the ride? Thanks again and I look forward to more video from the chopper.
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Old October 21st, 2010, 07:20 PM   #9
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I was just curious if anyone has done something like this with an RC blimp... It seems to me that an RC blimp would make a better plate form then RC helo's. Less vibration and slower moving. I know nothing about aerial videography, just curious.

Eitherway... Very cool and good job for making the plunge.

Steve
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Old October 21st, 2010, 07:44 PM   #10
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I've done it with a blimp and it's certainly smoother, less vibration etc but the major issues are size: blimps have to be much larger to carry the weight of the gear. And also you need a lot of helium and that's pretty expensive. Helium goes off and loses lift so you really only get one flight or a week out of the helium and it's virtually impossible to recover out of the blimp so you have to leave it setup.
The chopper idea is much better.
How about this though:
Draganflyer X8 Eight Rotor UAV Helicopter Aerial Video Platform
Stable, quiet, cool!
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 11:33 AM   #11
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What I liked most about this clip is how the aerial shots blended in with the rest of the footage. Aeial footage aside, a very nice highlight.
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 11:53 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Damian Heffernan View Post
How about this though:
Draganflyer X8 Eight Rotor UAV Helicopter Aerial Video Platform
Stable, quiet, cool!
I actually met the guy that invented that about 10 years ago when he was demonstrating a prototype. It's amazingly easy to fly, but the drawback is the payload capacity - only 1kg (2.2 lbs.) But you can get it pre-configured with a DSLR.

Oh yeah, it's about $32k!
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 12:31 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Andrew Waite View Post
We are lucky I guess here in the states as there are no regulations that really restrict us in any way. The only restrictions is we have to keep it under 400 feet and have to stay away from airports.... which neither pose a problem.
Are you sure about that? I thought that a few years ago that all commercial aerial photography with model planes & helicopters was banned by the FAA. http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/digital-...-says-faa.html Did this all fizzle out?
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 01:01 PM   #14
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The main stumbling blocks here in the UK are legalities, permissions, insurance, to add to the common elements, lift capacity, vibration and noise.
It used to be that aircraft under 7kg were pretty much unregulated but the regulations in the UK were tightened up significantly at the beginning of 2010. Flying model planes as a hobby is reasonably unregulated as long as you keep below 400 feet & away from airports but now as soon as you put a camera on-board your model aircraft it becomes a Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft & without permission from the CAA (UK equivalent of FAA) you must not fly within 50m of people & vehicles amongst many other restrictions. In addition any "Aerial Work" which includes any commercial aerial photography requires the operator to be tested & certified. In one of the documents explaining the regulations they define "Aerial Work" by saying that accepting a pint of beer is OK but accepting a whole crate of beer makes it "Aerial Work"
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 01:11 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Damian Heffernan View Post
I
How about this though:
Draganflyer X8 Eight Rotor UAV Helicopter Aerial Video Platform
Stable, quiet, cool!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Davis View Post
I actually met the guy that invented that about 10 years ago when he was demonstrating a prototype. It's amazingly easy to fly, but the drawback is the payload capacity - only 1kg (2.2 lbs.) But you can get it pre-configured with a DSLR.

Oh yeah, it's about $32k!
If you are not the military or a law enforcement agency so your budget is more modest then the Mikrokopter is worth a look. It uses the same principle of multiple rotors & clever software (Open Source in this case) to keep the machine flying level & stable. It comes in various configurations & can lift over 1kg (2.2lbs) so can carry a decent size camera. MikroKopter - Wiki: MikroKopter.de

You can get everything from a kit of parts where you solder the 'brain' yourself right up to a fully assembled system for the equivalent of about $2300 to which you just need to add a R/C transmitter & batteries.

I did a lot of investigation on this subject a few months back & was seriously interested in kitting myself out for shooting stills & video but then discovered all the rules & regulations that now govern this space. I may yet still invest in one of these beauties which are evidently much easier to fly than a regular model helicopter which by all accounts are just as difficult & challenging as a full sized one. It certainly looks to be a lot of fun.
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