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Old July 21st, 2006, 01:55 PM   #1
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Need a few pointers for shooting from a plane with an XL2

I have a client who asked me to shoot an aerial vue of a stable for a project they have. They'll be renting a small plane for this. Problem is, I've never been on a plane like this, don't know what to expect in terms of turbulence, visibility or field of vue (will the plane need to tilt or rotate for me to be able to see anything?). I don't know if I'm all set with just my XL2 with stock 20x lens or if I'll need to rent some special stabilizing gear or longer lenses.

BTW if it matters, the stable is in a city so lots of fairly high buildings around.

Any pointers from people who've done this before?
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Old July 21st, 2006, 02:03 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Lach
I have a client who asked me to shoot an aerial vue of a stable for a project they have. They'll be renting a small plane for this. Problem is, I've never been on a plane like this, don't know what to expect in terms of turbulence, visibility or field of vue (will the plane need to tilt or rotate for me to be able to see anything?). I don't know if I'm all set with just my XL2 with stock 20x lens or if I'll need to rent some special stabilizing gear or longer lenses.

BTW if it matters, the stable is in a city so lots of fairly high buildings around.

Any pointers from people who've done this before?
I think this thread should help you.

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...t=aerial+shoot
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Old July 21st, 2006, 03:05 PM   #3
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David, as a private pilot I can offer some advice. But let me say first, I've only shot still images from a plane, and low quality hand held (consumer) DV from a plane.

First, and possibly the most important is to talk to the pilot about what you need. Particularly if you are over a city and/or near an airport. He has to deal with minimum/maximum altitudes, air traffic restrictions, etc, etc. Knowing what you want and where will help figure out what you can and can't do.

Second, the choice of plane is very important. A low wing plane will limit your FOV a lot, so you want a high wing plane if possible. (But again, if the site requires steep banking to get your shot, the opposite may be true)

Third, the windows on small planes are often very old, made of plastic and therefore optically ugly. If you can get a plane that can open a window, or better still remove a door so you can shoot without anything in the way, you will get better image quality. Have a look at the plane before choosing to see how you will sit and how you will need to hold the camera for the shots you need. It is easier to figure that out when you are not "on the clock".

Depending on when you are doing this, turbulance can be a factor. As mentioned in the other thread, very early morning will probably be best. Overcast and hazy days are the smoothest while clear days the most bumpy. Again, talk to the pilot, he'll know what may be best. If the conditions are good, the pilot should be able to give you a very steady platform.

Good luck, and let us know how it turns out?
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Old July 21st, 2006, 03:28 PM   #4
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Thanks for the replies and thanks for the tips Brendon. Yeah I figure it would indeed probably be best if I was to talk to the pilot. The client wanted to take care of everything as they're getting this plane through a sponsor but I think I will at the very least need to pass on the recommendations.

I didn't even know you could open a window or door in a flying plane! lol I guess I have a lot to learn before I take off. And yes those dirty windows might indeed be a problem.

An other concern was if I'd be fine with the stock zoom lens or if I'll be too high or too low to see anything. Again, I feel like a complete newbie. I have no idea what to expect. The first and last time I flew I was 10yo on a flight to Mexico.
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Old July 21st, 2006, 04:33 PM   #5
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I'd guess that the stock lens will do the job. Opening the window depends on the plane... some have none that can open, others a little "flap" about 4 inches on a side, and then only on the pilots window! Others have a bigger opening. Opening the door, in little planes, usually involves removing the door before takeoff! That is how they get the sky-divers out the plane.

Think of a little 4 seat plane as like a small car that can fly, that will give you a good idea of the space. If there are no other air space restrictions, you could get as low as 500 feet above your target. The pilot should be able to manover to give you what you want. He can "lean" the plane over to give you a good view, probably as much as 45 to 60 degrees, if you are up to the g-forces (which while not very high, can be very uncomfortable if you are not used to them). He can slow down to probably 60 mph or so, depending on the plane. as well as circle, fly past, over parallel, etc.

All in all, you should have some fun!
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Old July 21st, 2006, 08:09 PM   #6
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I'm a commercial pilot (I actually own my own air charter company)and alot of times what we do is go up in a single engine cessna with the door and front seat on the right side removed. Similar to when we have skydivers. Then we strap the photographer in with a safety belt and lanyard and we shoot that way. then we don't have to worry about small windows or anything
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Old July 21st, 2006, 10:19 PM   #7
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may i suggest a helicopter...
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Old July 21st, 2006, 10:30 PM   #8
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David, I have a great deal of experience shooting aerials, but mostly from helicopters. I have only shot once out of a fixed wing.

Brendon gave you some great suggestions and I have a few more. First do talk with the pilot and only do what he/she is comfortable with. I assume you are shooting hand held so the biggest advice is stay wide and let the plane get as close as they can. Zooming in will be of no use. Even explain the limitations to the client before going up. This will prepare them for what kind of footage they are getting.

It sounds like the object is one paticular spot so have the pilot lean in on your side and do a sort of semi-circle around the stable. This will keep you from having to try and pan too much in an unstable plane.

Keep in mind the laws of lighting still apply, sun to your back, you will notice colors pop better and contrast improves as the sun is to your back.

The last thing is don't fight the bumps and movement. The worst thing to do is try and compensate for the bumps. Let your body absorb some and the rest are what they are. With out a mount and gyro, you will have bumps. Just shoot a lot and pick the best sections.
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Old July 21st, 2006, 10:40 PM   #9
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David - Yet another pilot here. I don't know whether you have any choices on aircraft or not, but if you did, I would recommend the Cessna 175, AKA "Cardinal." It's a high-wing craft with the additional advantage for a photographer, of having no wing struts the braces that run from the bottom of the fuselage to the underside of the wings at about mid-point on the wing, and right about were your camera will be pointing.

You might also ask the local airport/s operator/s if they know of any aircraft with camera ports. Aerial photography used to be quite popular, prior to satellites taking over the job, so you may find someone with one in your location.

Finally, let me reinforce what's been said about turbulence. Fly as early a possible in the morning to avoid it. If there is any cloud cover at all, stay as far below those clouds as you can, while still high enough to get your shots and to avoid picking privet hedge out of your teeth. And be sure to use the Image Stabilizer on the XL2. Let the aircraft make the movements, rather than the camera. A remote monitor for the pilot could help with this.
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Old July 22nd, 2006, 08:46 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the replies guys that helps me a lot. I think I'm slowly getting up to speed with this aerial videography stuff. I will definitelly transmit all those pointers to the client and see what kind of choice he has as far as type of plane or even helicopters.

I was wondering if there was any way of successfully using a tripod in a plane like this. Seems to me using a tripod and letting the XL2's OIS take care of the small bumps would provide the more stable footage. Or are the severity of those bumps or the space in the plane preventing me from doing this?

Also, is there any kind of suction effect when flying with an opened door which would mean I'd have to be very carefull about securing all the gear I bring or is it no worse than a fast rolling car?
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Old July 22nd, 2006, 09:11 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Lach
I was wondering if there was any way of successfully using a tripod in a plane like this. Seems to me using a tripod and letting the XL2's OIS take care of the small bumps would provide the more stable footage. Or are the severity of those bumps or the space in the plane preventing me from doing this?
Not really. For starters, you're going to be shocked how little room there is inside a single engine plane - maybe 42 to 44" inches wide for you, the pilot and your gear. In any event, your body will provide some dampening, whereas a pod will transmit hevery jolt direct to the camera.

Quote:
Also, is there any kind of suction effect when flying with an opened door which would mean I'd have to be very carefull about securing all the gear I bring or is it no worse than a fast rolling car?
The pilot could fly as SLOW as a fast rolling car, but that's near the point where an airfoil could stall. If the aircraft needs to bank – and if it's going to circle your object on the ground, it will have to bank – then the pilot will want to fly with more power, not less. The problem won't be suction per se, since air pressure will be more or less equal inside and outside the aircraft, but it will be pretty windy and quite noisy, so you may want to film without sound. If you fly with the door removed (best option for clarity), you will want to be strapped to the pilot's seat or something, and you should similiarly secure your XL2. If you stick that big 20x out into the airstream, it's going to really pull at your hands.
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Old July 22nd, 2006, 09:30 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Lach
Also, is there any kind of suction effect when flying with an opened door which would mean I'd have to be very carefull about securing all the gear I bring or is it no worse than a fast rolling car?
Kind of like a very, very fast car with no door! Depending on what you are doing and the plane, you will probably be in the range of 60mph to 140mph. I'd personally secure my gear, remember as Kelly said, they secure the videographer! Do what you would do in the open bed of a speeding pickup truck.

As far as bumps go, it varies a lot, depending on the weather. On a very turbulent day, you can bump your head on the roof. On the other hand, it can be as smooth as silk. Often it is more of a gentle rocking motion with occasional "potholes" in the sky. Flying low, you can even predict the bumps based on what you are flying over - different color surfaces heat differently and cause columns of rising air. Talk to the pilot about a tripod. If a seat is removed, you may have space, depending on the plane. Perhaps somebody else can comment if a tripod would be good idea or if hand holding would be better for stability - I'm too new at the video game to know.
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Old July 22nd, 2006, 09:43 AM   #13
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Thanks Brendon and Jack. Yeah I was asking because I was thinking of bringing a tripod, monitor, and maybe some other stuff but frankly on 2nd thought I think I'm more comfortable with only bringing the camera, even if it meant a bit more movement. I don't want to see something unexpectedly fly out the door and since this is over a city, be charged for manslaughter if it drops on someone's head. ;-)

I think I'll use the K.I.S.S. principle on that one since it's my first time and I'll be nervous enough seeing the gaping hole with no ground to fall on right beside me. I've already talked to the client regarding the advises I got here. Good thing I did too because he had booked a low-wing craft for an end-of-day flight.
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Old July 22nd, 2006, 10:34 AM   #14
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David, I'd suggest you find some local flight instructor and ask him to take you up for a short flight prior to the real shoot. It shouldn't be very expensive and will give you a chance to understand the whole small plane thing, shoot some video (with the doors on) to get an idea of motion, etc. I'm not familiar with how the Canadian rules/procedures differ from the US, but the local small airport should have plenty of hungry flight instructors who will be more than happy to take you up for a half hour or so to get a feel for things. I did a quick google and found several introductory flight for $59 offers...
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Old July 22nd, 2006, 11:01 AM   #15
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Good idea Brendon, I'll look into it.
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