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Old July 22nd, 2006, 01:37 PM   #16
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Well the client has booked a plane already, apparently it was his only choice given the short notice time frame.

It's a 4-seated Cessna 172. There will be 2 pilots, one to handle communications with Air Traffic Control because we'll be flying in controlled airspace and the other to fly the plane smoothly. We won't be allowed to open a window nor remove a door so through-the-glass view is all I'll be getting unfortunatelly.

We'll apparently be requesting clearance to fly at 1000 feet (is that too high, too low?). Don't know yet if I'll sit in the back or front, apparently this is a decision I can still take after take off.

Not ideal conditions, but the choices were limited and since I'm not the one booking the plane, I don't have much say here. Shooting will be on Monday weather permiting at around 5:00PM. I'll let everybody know if it went well or not.
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Old July 23rd, 2006, 07:29 AM   #17
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David, it will help if you remove the mic and the sunshade. Also, make sure the windows are clean. Have fun. Bob
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Old August 11th, 2006, 05:19 PM   #18
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Ok, hereís a little update on the shooting, if it may help anyone in the future.

The shooting got postponed 3 times because of conflicting schedules, weather and plane availability, but it finally got done yesterday. The flight per say went really well. It was quite a fun ride actually. The shooting, different story.

The main problem was the stability or lack of it I should say. I was shooting from the back seat of a 4-place Cessna. We were granted permission to open the windows on both sides, which were in the front. But I had to lean forward to be able to shoot through them and to do this I had to keep the XL2 away from my body and at an angle. Well for those who think the XL2 is poorly balanced when shoulder mounted, just you try this funny little trick. This combined with the unstability of the plane itself made it impossible to get any kind of smooth footage. The best I got is still a little bumpy, news footage like. The worst is like an earthquake of a civilization ending magnitude.

The reasoning behind sitting in the back, which in retrospect appears flawed, is that I wasn't sure about the wind factor and sitting in the front next to the pilot had me positioned in a weird and uncomfortable way for shooting. And since the viewfinder was on the wrong side, I then had to pass the lens of the XL2 through the window and I didnít think I would have been able to remain steady while fighting all this wind on the lens.

Furthermore, I thought I would get better options, being able to shoot through the windows on both sides, the ones opened as well as the fixed ones. But the problem is, having to lean forward to shoot out the opened windows had me off balance, and the closed windows in the back were just a mess. I can now confirm, there is no way you can get good looking footage out of those cheap, scratched, tinted plastic windows. And thatís too bad really because everything I shot through those is the only footage that was somewhat stable.

To make matters worse, I had to cope with constantly changing light conditions. We were shooting at 6:00PM (had no choice on that one) and the sun would just keep coming in and out of the clouds. So when it was hitting the plastic window directly, it would just amplify all those little scractches and imperfections as well as flare and create a haze that diminished visibility.

The last problem I had was that we were flying too high. To get any chance of success, we probably should have been at about 500ft from the ground, but because we were over a city, we didnít have permission to go bellow 1000ft. Even that was pushing it because in this area, you normally have to be at least 1000ft above the highest building in a 2000ft radius. So that meant I had to zoom in to shoot our targets and this accentuated the motion even more.

The client canít really be mad or disapointed as I clearly stated before the shoot that I had no prior experience doing this, the conditions were far from ideal and it could turn out unusable, so Iím not too concerned with his reaction, but Iím just disapointed it turned out that way. I think if he can get the plane a 2nd time Iíll ask about doing an other pass while sitting in the front. Canít be much worse than it was sitting in the back.

Anyways, I will file this under live and learn, and I had fun if nothing else, so all is not lost.

Iím joining a sample video of a couple shots from the day. They are not the best nor the worse, just an average of what I was able to get. Some are through the opened window, some through the glass, you shouldnít have much difficulty differenciating the two. Itís nothing fancy, I just threw a bunch of shots on the timeline. I also used a stabilizing plugin (2d3 SteadyMove pro) on one shot, I was curious to see if I could salvage some of the footage that way. I put both the original and stabilized shots in the sample video. This was shot 4:3 and 60i as per the clientís requirements, so I de-interlaced it to minimize artifacts. Obviously it is also heavily compressed to keep it at a Web friendly size. Other than that, I didnít alter the original footage in any way.

link (20MB file)

I want to thank you all again for your help. Even though the footage didnít quite turn out the way I hoped, I think with the pointers I got here and this first experience, I now have a pretty good idea of how to achieve the best results next time around (which will probably imply sitting in front with the side door removed). Plus there are still some shots in there that can be used, just not the amount I was looking for.
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Old August 11th, 2006, 11:41 PM   #19
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David,
I'm a former skydiver with 2500 jumps on my back, 1000 of these as a free fall videophotographer.
I know how hard this can be. To shot good aerial shoots from inside a small Cessna is almost impossible. I must say that your footage was impressive if this was your first time!
My advise to you is that you should try to fly with the door removed. The small Cessna's with the door in front, will be your best choice, sitting beside the pilot, you can communicate better, you should also wear a intercom headset. In that case you can talk to him even in the noicy environment flying a small airplane without a door can be!
The pre-flight breafing is very important. Make sure you and your pilot understand each other perfectly before take-off. Make sure that you planning your flight-route accurate. Shoot your target from several directions. I think the best time for shooting will be early morning, where the horisontal and vertical visibility can be very clear.
Shooting at the wide end of the lense will be your best choice, this mean that you should shoot below 1000 feet, 500 feet would be better, but I know the restrictions!
Make sure you practise your position in the seat with your camera on the ground before take-off. Try different positions. Ask the pilot to practise with the engine started, but still on the ground, so you can feel some of the air-pressure you will experience from the open door.
If this is your first flight sitting in a seat with the door removed just inches from you, you should consider to take a small practise flight just to get used to it. It can be a little scaring the first time you do it!

Wish you good luck and a happy flight!
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Old August 12th, 2006, 03:41 AM   #20
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Hand held aerial work is one of the most difficult things to get right, as you now know. You'll already know about the problems with getting a clear, unrestricted view that's reflection free, judder free and in any way useable.

The best stuff you'll see nowadays is shot using a gyro stabilised mount, generally slung on the underside of the aircraft (normally a chopper) and operated from the inside using a PBIS (pan bar imitator system) or similar system. Not very cheap to hire unfortunately, but if you make some enquiries with the local news broadcaster in your area, there may be some footage in their library that you can 'rent' for your production. I seem to recall seeing some kind of service offered with a remote control model helicopter too ???

I did a chopper job once, where I was sat in a cradle, strapped in at the side door and the camera mounted in a rig which was half in and half out the aircraft. I was tasked with following a new oil rig from it's construction yard, down river to the sea. I think the pilot had just got back from 'Nam' ? What can I say, one of the most important accessories for this kind of work is a pair of 'brown trowsers' !!!
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Old August 12th, 2006, 03:47 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Allen McLaughlin
What can I say, one of the most important accessories for this kind of work is a pair of 'brown trowsers' !!!
LOL! remindes me about my first free-fall jump ;-)
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Old August 13th, 2006, 08:39 AM   #22
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Yes I am now convinced I will not bother going back to any of those high altitude jobs unless I can ride alongside the pilot with the door removed. It's the only way I can both be balanced and steady while shooting and have a good clear field of view to look at (still wondering if a tripod would have worked though, there was enough room as far as I can tell and that combined with the lens stabilizer might have been enough to get decent footage out of it).

I'm sure I wouldn't get better results than what I got if I was to re-do it the same way a thousand times simply because it is impossible to hold the camera off balance and try to shoot through a small window while the plane is jumping around and constantly changing its angle. You need to yourself be steady and have a clear field of view to at least have a chance.

I don't know if it would be difficult to have permission to fly lower than 1000ft. Probably impossible in this case.

Anybody has a ballpark idea of how much it could cost to rent a gyro camera mounted plane/helicopter?
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