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Old August 29th, 2013, 12:35 PM   #16
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

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Originally Posted by Martyn Moore View Post
Any advice you can give me to either improve this footage in post (I use Premiere Pro and After Effects CS5 - no Warp Stabilizer) or improve my footage next trip will be most welcome.
Find someone who has CS6 or above and tryout the warp stabilizer. Or just use the 30 day trial of CC and try it yourself. Might be enough to get you where you want to go. Or not. Only way to know is to try it.

I would imagine that warp stabilizer won't work well with zoom. It might be that you can't zoom under these circumstances. But again, try it and see.

If it makes you feel any better, your footage is better than I was expecting.
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Old August 29th, 2013, 12:50 PM   #17
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

I'm curious, did you try the technique I outlined?

I have more than 2000 hours in helicopters and I've shot with a lot of different systems and I prefer the method for shooting aerial footage that I told you about. People use all kinds of stabilized mounts, and some of them are amazing (expensive), but unless your going to be zooming into an ants ass on a window sill that's a couple of miles away those types of stabilizers aren't necessary. All of the footage in the example video was handheld.

If you didn't try the method I mentioned above then I suggest you do. One of the great things about it is that you don't need a helicopter to test it out, a mini van or truck will work just fine, I've even done this shooting off the back of a motorcycle.

If you did try it and that was the result then ask questions, I'm more than happy to answer them. Basically what you need to do is fly the camera inside something that's flying, so you have to isolated all the forces that effect the helicopter from the camera. I'm not familiar with the camera you used but a light weight camera can be harder to use, a slightly heavier camera that you can "create zero buoyancy" with the bungee is better. Also, you need to test how the OIS works in your particular camera or lens, often times its better to turn that off completely. In a similar way that you should turn it off when shooting from a tripod because without inertia the OIS does't know how to respond, in a helicopter it really doesn't know how to react.

If your going to shoot a lot of aerial or theres considerable value in the aerial your shooting you should consider upgrading to AE7(CC), image stabilization for aerial footage is like what sharpening is for RAW still images, anyone who says they don't do it is either a liar or a fool. Having said that your footage has both vertical and horizontal vibrations which usually results in "Jello". You can post stabilize one or the other but not both.
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Old August 29th, 2013, 01:38 PM   #18
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

Thanks Bruce. Your closing remark did cheer me up. And I've shown you the worst in that sequence. I have footage of the country park that I think will be usable and I only need a handful of 2-3 second clips.

Chuck, I'm embarrassed to say that I did not try the bungee trick. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude by ignoring your advice but the pilot was squeezing me in before a lesson and his student was already waiting. I only had time to pack and check one camera and decided to try to hand-hold unaided.

You're right, this is a no-budget job. The park is run by a charity and I'm working for next-to-nothing to create films to take to potential sponsors.

If you think that suspending the camera from a bungee will eliminate the R22's rocking motion, I will surely give it a try on my next flight. Aerial footage has never featured in my work before and I don't see it becoming vital to my business (certainly not if I don't improve!). But I am keen to see what is possible on a shoestring, and now an elasticated band.

As a keen motorcyclist (Triumph Speed Triple) I have plenty of bungee cords. But tell me, Chuck, where did you hook it to on a bike, to 'hang' the camera from the cord?
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Old August 29th, 2013, 02:56 PM   #19
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

Perhaps you can ask the pilot to fly a bit slower. In my (limited) experience, the stuff I shot when cooking along in the chopper had a lot more rolling shutter "jello" effect than the slower moving or hovering footage.

Also, when I used the stabilization effect included with Final Cut Pro X, the results were horrible. But when I used the 3rd party plugin called Lock & Load X, the footy looked like butter.

I think your camera and settings looked good. I bet you'd have more issues with a lighter camera versus the EA50.

Like the Microsoft XP setup music too... :)
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Old August 29th, 2013, 05:00 PM   #20
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

A couple of years ago I was asked to shoot some aerial footage from a helicopter. I only had about an hours notice so had no time to research techniques. I used a Canon XA10, handheld.

It was an extremely windy day and the helicopter was tiny, so it was a bumpy ride. I stuck the camera on auto because I couldn't change my grip on it for fear that it would fly out the door.

When I got the footage back home I was really disappointed with it. Exposure was pretty terrible. But after a bit of playing around in post, I got some usable footage. Not great footage, maybe not even good, but usable.

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Old August 30th, 2013, 12:58 AM   #21
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

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Originally Posted by Martyn Moore View Post
Thanks Bruce. Your closing remark did cheer me up. And I've shown you the worst in that sequence. I have footage of the country park that I think will be usable and I only need a handful of 2-3 second clips.

Chuck, I'm embarrassed to say that I did not try the bungee trick. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude by ignoring your advice but the pilot was squeezing me in before a lesson and his student was already waiting. I only had time to pack and check one camera and decided to try to hand-hold unaided.

You're right, this is a no-budget job. The park is run by a charity and I'm working for next-to-nothing to create films to take to potential sponsors.

If you think that suspending the camera from a bungee will eliminate the R22's rocking motion, I will surely give it a try on my next flight. Aerial footage has never featured in my work before and I don't see it becoming vital to my business (certainly not if I don't improve!). But I am keen to see what is possible on a shoestring, and now an elasticated band.

As a keen motorcyclist (Triumph Speed Triple) I have plenty of bungee cords. But tell me, Chuck, where did you hook it to on a bike, to 'hang' the camera from the cord?
Please don't be embarrassed and don't apologize, you weren't rude, I just feel your pain. I know how it is to work on both big budget and low budget aerial shoots and I much prefer the low budget shoots.

I strongly recommend you try what I suggested, not so much because I suggested it but because you won't believe how well it works and after you've practiced a bit you won't believe how easy it is to setup and use. I know this sounds like an informercial but it isn't. Most first time DP's can't believe it when I show up to the helicopter for the shoot and whip out my little purple piece of yarn. It makes me laugh when they finally get the courage to ask me if I'm sure that will work..

Anyway, the best part of this is that you can practice it without the helicopter, once you figure out the right length and strength for the bungee, and as long as you support the bungee in the same way it will work exactly the same whether in a car or helicopter. I have different bungees for different camera and lens configurations, sometimes all I need to "tune" the balance is to add or remove a knot in the bungee. Once you start to get a feel for doing this its surprisingly easy to adjust it. You can take off in the morning shoot some aerial footage and then go up again after lunch without changing anything and it will be different because the density altitude has changed and that will effect the vibrations.

As Jody mentioned talk to the pilot, especially if your using the same pilot. Helicopter pilots are very familiar with the the different types of vibrations and sometimes if it has a vertical putting into a slight banking turn will soften it, if it has a horizontal putting it into a shallow descent can dampen it, each aircraft is different and like I said changes in temperature also make a difference. After you've done this a bit you'll even start to hear when its smoothing out before you feel it. The hardest thing about doing this is figuring out how to rig it. I went to the FBO where the helicopters were being rented and spent a couple of days figuring out ways to rig this. They were a bit reluctant at first but after watching me for about an hour they got into it and helped me. Now I can usually be done rigging before they're done pre-flighting.

A lot of the video of this car moving was shot off the back of a Yamaha FJR1300. I used an old, thick piece of leather that covered the back half of the seat like a saddle that I sat on, it had a 36" rod bolted to it and then a grip head with an additional 24" that the bungee was attached to. I could adjust the hight by changing the angle of the grip head. I tried it with the rod running up the front but it worked better with it running up my back through a strap that kept it standing straight up. I also did it by attaching a single suction cup mount on each saddle bag that attached to the upright rod to form a triangle behind me and then hung the 24" rod over the front. It worked pretty well, however I wasn't able to figure out a way to mount some sort of foot rest and I burnt the crap out of my left leg. If you look at the shots, we never got going that fast, not because of the stability of the camera but because it felt really unsafe.

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Old August 30th, 2013, 04:35 AM   #22
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

Nice film, Chuck. I bet the rig would have the health and safety advocates running for cover!

It obviously works. I should set up something similar to film my 1972 Jaguar XJ6. I'd need somebody to drive it, though. Do you think the woman in the Lambo is available?

I'd also need somebody to ride my bike. I could do that if you and your scary rods are planning a trip to the UK sometime.

Thanks for the helpful posts. You obviously put a lot of time and effort into things, Chuck. I really appreciate it.
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Old September 10th, 2013, 09:53 AM   #23
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

It's late to the party, but I just found information about the Kenyon Labs. Gyro Stabilizers. Aimed right at the OP's application. Attaches to the camera using the tripod mount screw thread.

Posting this just in case someone searching for this needs it. Probably too late for the OP. Sigh...
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Old September 10th, 2013, 11:04 AM   #24
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

Those Gyro's are quite expensive and when you add the power supply quite bulky to use, they work well though.

Interestingly one of the pictures on their home page shows someone using a DSLR with one of their gyros attached suspended with two straps. Replace the straps with bungees, lose the gyros and you have what I described without the $4500 gyro.

Interesting that in the picture the guy uses two small suction cups to attach the straps to the outside of the helicopter, not sure I'd do it that way:

Gyro $2500
Camera and lens $4000
Cost of camera falling from 1000 feet and killing someone, priceless.

If you were shooting air-to-air or zoomed into and following from air-to-ground these gyros would certainly improve your chances of getting a great shot but for the occasional aerial landscape you probably don't need the additional expense, weight and bulkiness.
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Old September 10th, 2013, 11:54 AM   #25
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

Stabilize the camera
Do not move the camera
The helicopter does the only moving

You ask the pilot to follow the direction lines which you have pre planned out based on what side
of the helicopter the camera has been rigged.

You have pre planned out which wide angle lens you will use based
on the field of view from a helicopter at the height of flight you have predetermined
including what exposure you will use on different types of days.

Hourly rates for helicopters are very high so preplan everything
and just go with your plans
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Old September 10th, 2013, 11:52 PM   #26
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

I loved your demo for the park Martyn. I did a stills job from a helicopter about a year and a half ago and just grabbed some footage as a bonus for the company for whom I was then working. The one thing I can tell you about shooting video from and R22 is DON'T use an iPhone!

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Old October 10th, 2013, 10:27 AM   #27
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

Hi everybody

Thanks again to everybody who posted advice. I'm definitely going to give Chuck's method a try. In the excitement of finishing the film I forgot to come back and thank you all. Although I'm not totally happy with the result, the client is delighted. I can now concentrate on making the next one better. Here's the link:

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Old October 11th, 2013, 01:55 AM   #28
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

For using online the aerial footage looked great. [That's not to say that it wouldn't look good on a 50" plasma but that's not how I viewed it].

Good work.
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Old October 11th, 2013, 03:20 PM   #29
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck Spaulding View Post
Those Gyro's are quite expensive and when you add the power supply quite bulky to use, they work well though.

Interestingly one of the pictures on their home page shows someone using a DSLR with one of their gyros attached suspended with two straps. Replace the straps with bungees, lose the gyros and you have what I described without the $4500 gyro.

Interesting that in the picture the guy uses two small suction cups to attach the straps to the outside of the helicopter, not sure I'd do it that way:

Gyro $2500
Camera and lens $4000
Cost of camera falling from 1000 feet and killing someone, priceless.

If you were shooting air-to-air or zoomed into and following from air-to-ground these gyros would certainly improve your chances of getting a great shot but for the occasional aerial landscape you probably don't need the additional expense, weight and bulkiness.
The gyros rent for about $300 per week :) And suspending from bungees (mounted on proper points of the heli) they work incredibly well. I've shot on a Cineflex rig in an A-Star and that's like 10 times the hourly rate and I didn't feel the end result was that much better stability or IQ-wise.
BUT I did the gyro thing in an R-44 not the 22. Worlds of difference there.
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Old October 11th, 2013, 10:45 PM   #30
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Re: Advice on shooting from a helicopter

Chuck, would you mind terribly posting a photo of your bungee set up? I'd like to see what it looks like...
Thanks in advance!
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