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Old July 5th, 2007, 07:57 AM   #1
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HD100 &...Helicopters.

Hi all,

I may have a job next week which entails shooting over a large area from a helicopter - this will be for, I presume, a regeneration project or building development (have not as yet had the brief).
Aside from by minor fear of flying (somehow developed over the past couple of years) I'm a little unsure over the technical aspects of this project.
Once I'm up (and I'm guessing these helicopter rides ain't cheap) I have to make sure there is very little margin of error...I won't get a second chance on this one.
Once this UK weatherwrong has passed and blue skies are unveiled for the first time this summer (!!) then I should get the call out.

First off I've been asked if there is a way of ensuring the camera is steady i.e. any vibrations from the 'chopper' (and I'd bet there are fairy evident?) may effect impede on the footage...tripod out then? If this is the case the I presume I have to rent out a small steadicam system (yet to shop around...I could actually do with one of these in my itiniary)? Some kind of harness?

When that has been investigated I need to work out what the best format for this type of filming will suit best.
At this stage I'm thinking that 25p (SD) might not work best, due to speed/the 'low temperal' when shooting from a fast moving helicopter?
But I really don't know. I've shot 25p for this client before and it fits in much better than the 50i format (at least in parts). So 50i might also be an option. Other than that I've never really tried SD HDV50, so perhaps that might give a decent look but slightly more stable than SD25p?

I have missed out HDV for these projects purely because they have to be delivered in 4:3 (the video footage will be embedded in after effects/3D visualisation presentations)...although (and I think David Knaggs mentioned this) the client could 'zoom' into HDV footage to fill a 4:3 frame and still have superior footage even though many lines of resolution have been lost.

If anyone out here as carried out such a job I'd really appreciate any tips.

Many thanks...I guess I'll have too much on with the camera to worry about flying in one of those things...mind you, 'celeb's do it all the time right? :)

Cheers.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 09:49 AM   #2
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I'm sure plenty of people will disagree but in my experience the only way to get a decent shot from a helicopter is to use dedicated hardware - specifically a gyro-mounted camera. There are specialist companies for this. The chances are huge that you will be disappointed with the results if you try to do it hand-held or on a tripod out of the window or open door. And then there's the safety factor. As it happens, I've directed quite a bit of filming from helicopters for property developers... Get onto a specialist company. If the client can afford to hire a helicopter, they can afford to pay a bit more for the right camera hardware.

And any professional editor should know very well how to handle basic aspect ratio conversion from 16:9 HD or 16:9 SD (FHA) to straight 4:3. But if the client insist on shooting 4:3 DV, what can you do?
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Old July 5th, 2007, 09:55 AM   #3
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This is an excellent page of discussions on this subject.

http://www.cinematography.net/Pages%...helicopter.htm

To be honest it's slightly scared me off a little. I'm not really sure I'd be happy hanging out of a chopper, the door open and just a safety harness between me and 1000 foot.
Perhaps sat in the seat with the camera cushioned somehow on my shoulder it would ease my concerns a little. I'm grateful I've been asked and I'm sure everything would be professionally run (the discussions on the site above relate to more intense and 'crazy' films shoots) but I'd have to know more about what I'm doing/how I intend to do it.

On a technical note 'overcranking' is mentioned a fair bit.

Yours, (thinking I was a bit hasty in jumping in and agreeing)
Dave!
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Old July 5th, 2007, 09:59 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Antony Michael Wilson View Post
I'm sure plenty of people will disagree but in my experience the only way to get a decent shot from a helicopter is to use dedicated hardware - specifically a gyro-mounted camera. There are specialist companies for this. The chances are huge that you will be disappointed with the results if you try to do it hand-held or on a tripod out of the window or open door. And then there's the safety factor. As it happens, I've directed quite a bit of filming from helicopters for property developers... Get onto a specialist company. If the client can afford to hire a helicopter, they can afford to pay a bit more for the right camera hardware.

And any professional editor should know very well how to handle basic aspect ratio conversion from 16:9 HD or 16:9 SD (FHA) to straight 4:3. But if the client insist on shooting 4:3 DV, what can you do?
Sorry Michael, I posted before yours was added.
Indeed. Initially quite exciting, but I'd hate to bear the brunt of red mist due to the footage not being so fantastic...and I really don't see myself hanging out of a open doored chopper, I've lost that 'climbing trees and enjoying it' I had as a kid.

Yes - this is ultimately for propery developers. I wouldn't even know of such a specialist company, but honored as I am to be asked surely this might be better in the hands of such a dedicated company?

Thanks.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 10:17 AM   #5
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I've done several shoots hanging out of helicopters with my camera on my shoulder, and the video tends to be a bit jumpy. With the vibration of the helicopter, the wind rushing by and the extreme distance you have to shoot, there's no escaping it. I know you'll mostly shoot wide, but there will be instances when you just have to zoom in for a closer shot, and the vibration really becomes noticable then. Personally, I enjoy the rush of shooting out of open choppers.
I used a gyro mount for a shoot once. I never had set up the mount before, and the chopper arrived without anyone who knew how to set it up. So, I had to do it all myself. The results weren't the best as they could have been.
I do concur with Antony that the best way to shoot really smooth video is to go with a dedicated helicopter platform. Let the client foot the bill, if they want the video that bad.
And you should be able to enlarge HD video to make an acceptable 4:3 DV image.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 10:17 AM   #6
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You're pretty limited in what you can do shooting hand held. Basically, all you can do is shoot using a wide angle lens otherwise you get a lot of vibration.

You can get helicopter mounts which aren't gyro stabilized and these are very good. These have to be fitted by a qualified, CAA (or FAA) licensed person and the mounts are certified. However, you might find that the HD 100 is a bit light for mounts designed for heavier cameras. The gyro stabilized mounts give the best results and are provided by specialist aerial filming companies.

For best results and for safety you need an experienced film pilot. These will clear the flight and be aware of the Aviation laws.

I wouldn't use a Steadicam in a helicopter. Also, you can't mount anything onto the helicopter that hasn't been cleared by the CAA or FAA.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 10:33 AM   #7
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Quote:
I do concur with Antony that the best way to shoot really smooth video is to go with a dedicated helicopter platform.
As in an 'all in' package - experience pilot and experienced helicopter/plane cameraman?
I too concur. The initial rush has sobered up a little now. Of course, I hate to make up excuses and can't really at this stage afford to turn anything down.
However, I dread to think of the cost of sending up a chopper and for me (unexperienced in this particular field) to go and screw it up...not sure if I'd recover from that!

Quote:
And you should be able to enlarge HD video to make an acceptable 4:3 DV image.
Having not tried this I wondered if HDV 720p25 zoomed to 4:3 ratio would still look much 'better' than SD 576p25 shot at 4:3.

Cheers Glen.

Quote:
You can get helicopter mounts which aren't gyro stabilized and these are very good.
I've been searching for the past 30 mins but I'm struggling to find a UK hire place for this...I guess I can cut out the steadicam from my searches now.

Quote:
I wouldn't use a Steadicam in a helicopter. Also, you can't mount anything onto the helicopter that hasn't been cleared by the CAA or FAA.
Sorry Brian - the helicopter and pilot has to be cleared or that [B[any[/B] type of mount must be cleared before hand?

I've shot handheld zoomed in on very steady ground and it shakes like weak jelly so I can well imagine what the footage would look like in a chopper...hot air balloon would make more sense to me?
Thanks.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 10:49 AM   #8
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All commercial helicopter pilots hold a license - don't let a PPL doing a favour for his mate fly the helicopter.

Any helicopter mounts need to have a certificate and be fitted by a qualified person. Basically, you can't turn up with a camera mount that you've thrown together and bolt it onto a helicopter.

The pilot will clear the flight with the appropriate authorities.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 11:06 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale View Post
All commercial helicopter pilots hold a license - don't let a PPL doing a favour for his mate fly the helicopter.

Any helicopter mounts need to have a certificate and be fitted by a qualified person. Basically, you can't turn up with a camera mount that you've thrown together and bolt it onto a helicopter.

The pilot will clear the flight with the appropriate authorities.
That's what I suspected.
Basically then, I only really have the option of handholding/shoulder mounting this camera then (if steadicam's are to be disounted - and there's enough horror stories of things flying off/'copter apparatus being knocked etc), never having used a camera mount I'd also leave me open to lack of experience.
So quite possibly may amount to not very good footage considering the cost of these choppers. Perhaps a couple of runs up as an assistant would be hold me in good stead but other than that this is not sounding that wise.
Thanks for your comments.
My general feeling is that I'd be turning work down/saying no to something, which I kind of didn't really want to do.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 11:42 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by David Scattergood View Post
First off I've been asked if there is a way of ensuring the camera is steady i.e. any vibrations from the 'chopper' (and I'd bet there are fairy evident?) may effect impede on the footage...
To me, this sounds a little suspicious.

I believe there is a possibility that the people asking for the job know more than they are letting on. I think very possibly they've already looked into helicopter shooting and are trying to get something on the cheap.

I think there are more reasons to be concerned than just steady shots.

Are you saying that the real estate people are setting up the shoot and you are going to be called when the weather clears, jump over and get strapped in then get great video (your first time out) that is better than the video from someone setting up their own shoot, with a lot of experience behind them, and charging a lot more money?

I'm very suspicious.

My approach would be to get every last detail about what is needed, how it will be set up, etc. etc. etc. And money talk needs to be part of this from the beginning -- both for the aircraft, the pilot, the equipment and you. I think that if you approach this in a methodical, thorough (and professional) way, the whole thing will fall apart quickly.

I may be wrong, but I think the people are trying to sneak out something for nothing.

On a side note... if I were starting a video shooting business, I would concentrate on what I could do better than others and stay away from anything that... at the best... would be worse quality than is standard fare for the professionals that do that type of shooting.

Finally, to my mind there is no difference between a big feature shoot and and local real estate shoot for the guy hanging out the open door with a camera while the helicopter is on a 60 degree bank in rough air... if that is how it's being shot.

In any case, I'm suspicious of this one.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 01:46 PM   #11
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To me, this sounds a little suspicious.

I believe there is a possibility that the people asking for the job know more than they are letting on. I think very possibly they've already looked into helicopter shooting and are trying to get something on the cheap.

I think there are more reasons to be concerned than just steady shots.

Are you saying that the real estate people are setting up the shoot and you are going to be called when the weather clears, jump over and get strapped in then get great video (your first time out) that is better than the video from someone setting up their own shoot, with a lot of experience behind them, and charging a lot more money?

I'm very suspicious.

My approach would be to get every last detail about what is needed, how it will be set up, etc. etc. etc. And money talk needs to be part of this from the beginning -- both for the aircraft, the pilot, the equipment and you. I think that if you approach this in a methodical, thorough (and professional) way, the whole thing will fall apart quickly.

I may be wrong, but I think the people are trying to sneak out something for nothing.

On a side note... if I were starting a video shooting business, I would concentrate on what I could do better than others and stay away from anything that... at the best... would be worse quality than is standard fare for the professionals that do that type of shooting.

Finally, to my mind there is no difference between a big feature shoot and and local real estate shoot for the guy hanging out the open door with a camera while the helicopter is on a 60 degree bank in rough air... if that is how it's being shot.

In any case, I'm suspicious of this one.
Perfectly succint Jack.
I started this thread for tips and advice on how I might best approach this...but after a few replys and a bit more digging I was driving right up to your exact viewpoint.
The client (who in turn is doing the presentation for the property developers/real estate) has put a lot of work my way and as I was starting out had helped me build experience and confidence...so I feel bad that it's looking likely I'll have to turn this down.
Your last but one point really makes it mark: I intended to approach this business from a more artistic approach (short films etc) and I've really enjoyed the more documentary/commercial style footage (vibrant street scene/city scapes etc) even for the corporate footage, because this has given me a discipline and skillset it might of taken longer for me to acquire (you learn faster with deadlines and sharp demands!)...of course with huge help from these boards.
For example over the past couple of weeks I've shot and edited together (producing final DVD's) a few theatre performances...and I achieved great satisfaction from doing this (again with a new wealth of techniques).

Many thanks.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 02:13 PM   #12
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Choppers

Anybody that wants something for nothing doesn't have any idea what the hourly rate is for a chopper. I have done a lot of shooting from choppers both handheld and from mounts. Mounts are obviously better, but depending on the job you can get by handheld. If you are shooting real estate then you can probably get by shooting handheld since they probably don't need close ups. If it is a fairly smooth day and you don't zoom in you can get acceptable even good results. Buy a climbing harness some nylon webbing and locking caribeners (sp?). Have the pilot take the rear door on his side of the aircraft off and use a caribener to tie your harness into a seatbelt attachment point. Before you take off have a plan and go over it with the pilot, communications in the air can be difficult even with headsets. In the air try and keep the camera out of the air stream as it can cause vibrations. Fly low and slow don't zoom in and you should get pretty good results. You might even fine it fun.

Good luck.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 02:25 PM   #13
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I've shot many hours from helicopters with an HD100. You can get good results but nothing even comparable with what can be achieved with a proper Wescam or similar system. Last time I asked, it was £1400/hour for standard Helo (fitted with harnesses etc), £1900/hour for Helo, Wescam and operator.

Best way to sell the Wescam is to say it is cheaper, because you can get the shots much faster and not have to keep reshooting with the wrong kit.

If you do have to shoot handheld:

1) Safety first!!!! Be totally secure but able to exit quickly in case of ditching on water etc. An assistant in the helicopter is handy if possible.

2) If you can't get proper mounts (like Tyler mounts), handheld is the only other option. Steadicam is not the right tool! You must isolate the camera from the helo using you body. It is best if you sit up so that only your bum touches the seat as this will allow your body to absorb more movement.

3) Secure the camera to yourself or the helicopter and gaffer on anything detachable like batteries.

4) Make sure the pilot is experienced. The advice given to me was 2000 hours minimum.

5) I use a KS8 gyro when shooting handheld from any moving platform. It isn't perfect for vibration but does help with lower frequency movement (better on boats).

6) Consider hiring a stabilized lens like a Schwem. It won't fit the HD100, so a 2/3" camera would be needed too. A Schem is also a long lens so may not be perfect for what you need.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 02:50 PM   #14
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Buy a climbing harness some nylon webbing and locking caribeners (sp?). Have the pilot take the rear door on his side of the aircraft off and use a caribener to tie your harness into a seatbelt attachment point.
Good luck.
Recently there was a big debate about this issue on CML and it came down to don't use anything that will prevent you from escaping from the helicopter in a hurry after an accident. This included harnesses and taping the seat belts.

Low flying is the most dangerous part, check that there's no risk of a ground strike, downdrafts or visual disorientation. An experienced pilot is a must for low level work.
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Old July 5th, 2007, 03:09 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by David Scattergood View Post
This is an excellent page of discussions on this subject.

http://www.cinematography.net/Pages%...helicopter.htm

To be honest it's slightly scared me off a little. I'm not really sure I'd be happy hanging out of a chopper, the door open and just a safety harness between me and 1000 foot.
Perhaps sat in the seat with the camera cushioned somehow on my shoulder it would ease my concerns a little. I'm grateful I've been asked and I'm sure everything would be professionally run (the discussions on the site above relate to more intense and 'crazy' films shoots) but I'd have to know more about what I'm doing/how I intend to do it.

On a technical note 'overcranking' is mentioned a fair bit.

Yours, (thinking I was a bit hasty in jumping in and agreeing)
Dave!
David,

There are many different ways to get good aerial footage using planes, helicopters and even remote controlled helicopters or airships. There's pretty much something for every budget level. You don't necessarily need a gyroscopic mount when a bun-gee cord and safety harness will do the trick.

But, the easiest way for you to get great footage is to put a producers hat on and simply hire in the talent. That way you can keep your client happy whilst learning a trick or two.

You need to remember three things; aerial shooting is extremely dangerous, very expensive and if your pilot has combat experience get out of the helicopter, pronto.

Hope that helps,

Liam.
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