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Old May 28th, 2011, 10:15 PM   #1
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Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
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Difficulty with airshow shoot

Last weekend I took out my new NX5 to record the annual airshow. It was a rather frustrating day. The wife had a good giggle at my clumsiness:

- I had great difficulty in picking up the flying aircraft. I tried using both, the flip out screen as well as the EVF. Many potentially great shots were lost because I couldn't get the aircraft into picture in time and only got the tail end of the flyby. Of the lightning quick Czech jets I got nothing! In another thread here Richard Harris enquires about an aiming system. Ditto that.

- I used the new Manfrotto 504/546 tripod. (what a great piece of equipment !). When tracking/panning a flyby the motion would reach a point where I had to climb over the tripod leg. This spoiled the shot. In addition, even with the aircraft in picture I found it difficult to keep the the aircraft steady in the screen. Is there a technique that can be applied?

- The day was very bright with cloudless but hazy sky. Using the N3 filter, as the NX5 kept prompting, produced somewhat dark, ugly footage. Gain was set at 0 and the iris on auto. Is it better to use filter N2 as a max? Are there additional screw-on filters for this shooting environment?

At one stage I went to the small Sony XR500 and got better results all round. Last year I shot the same airshow exclusively with the XR500 and was able to produce a really good video, except that it was a bit shaky because I did not use a tripod. It seems that the NX5 is simply not built for run-n-gun shooting. It has crossed my mind to sell the NX5 and get the the CX700 when Sony launches it here. However, I love the freedom of the full manual functionality, that the NX5 offers, too much to give it up just yet. There is still much to learn.

Some advice, tips and tricks how to handle the above problems will be appreciated.
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Old May 28th, 2011, 11:18 PM   #2
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Mesa, AZ
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Re: Difficulty with airshow shoot

I feel your pain!
I am heavily involved with the Commemorative Air Force and have been filming events for them for a few years now. Last Nov we did a huge event with about a dozen vintage aircraft. I was able to secure a fantastic piece of gear...an A-Star with a Cineflex system throwing around Sony's flagship 1500 cinema camera.
We had five other cameras shooting everywhere from ends of the runway to a catwalk at the top of the control tower.
So out of a 7 hour day of filming with six camera, I edited down to an hour of usable total footage. What I learned is even with the 6 million dollar heli the tendency is to push too close to the aircraft.
Yeah we all really want to see the pilots eyes as the plane zips by but that's an impossible task.
Since noticing this, I have reminded myself that we are viewing in HD and don't need to fill the frame with the plane to get good shots.
Tripods are great tools but limited in motion for following aircraft. My best shots were taking my xf300 and rigging it to my dslr shoulder mount. This gives full range of motion and speed. The reality is it takes practice to get it smooth. No short cuts!
The cineflex system, which I am now trained to use, also has the framing blind issue. Takes a lot if practice but it can be done...fun part is there's no autofocus so as you have full 3 axis control, you also have to focus manually. Because the lens is so long and has a doubler, it is possible to get that eyeball shot and the gyro stabilizer allows it to be perfect. Problem is, you can't see outside of what the camera sees so shots can be ruined by obstacles at any second. Even the skids of the heli can ruin a shot.
Handheld, as you've mentioned is not terrible but the shakiness is the battle.
I'd recommend trying the shoulder mount and if you can make it work, use the evf too. This gives you several points of contact to stabilize the camera. It also allows the other eye to get a visual on the subject. Tendency is to zoom all the way in the minute you acquire the plane but don't do it! Start wider and slowly zoom in not worrying about filling the frame. Also practice giving the plane enough lead sonyou don't chase and overshoot then chase then overshoot. Kinda like shooting trap or skeet.
A great place to practice and try techniques is your local RC flying field. An airshow every weekend!
Hope some of this info helps
My passion is shooting aircraft and I'm fairly new to it (about 4years) more I do it the more I realize it's all about practice.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 12:36 AM   #3
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Re: Difficulty with airshow shoot

Yes, going handheld with a stabilizer/shoulder rig makes a lot of sense. In addition, there is a RC flying club nearby where I shall go for some shooting practice.

Robert, thanks for the pointers.
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Old May 29th, 2011, 06:47 PM   #4
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Re: Difficulty with airshow shoot


I just shot a airshow with my NX5 and a shoulder rig I put together. Here is the post with pictures.http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/sony-nxc...der-mount.html
I found the Hoodman help to see better. Also the first day I used a polarized filter witch made the NX5 hunt for focus. Make sure the lens is spotless, will help focusing.

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Old May 30th, 2011, 12:00 AM   #5
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Re: Difficulty with airshow shoot


Thanks for the advice. It is now clear that a shoulder rig is essential for this camera. I shall search to find out what is available here.
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Old May 30th, 2011, 04:33 AM   #6
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Re: Difficulty with airshow shoot

Shooting flying displays is hard work and a skill that needs to be learned. I've been doing it for 15 years now and it still takes a couple of shows each season to get back into the swing of it. It's all about a good tripod with good support and plenty of fluid drag and trying to anticipate where the aircraft is going to fly.

I've used lots of very experienced camera operators on air shows and very few of them pick it up quickly.

Some examples here YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.
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Old May 30th, 2011, 05:12 AM   #7
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Re: Difficulty with airshow shoot


I am a very inexperienced videographer. Although I just bought the new Manfrotto 504/546, which has a true fluid head, I am unsure how to use it. On the weekend I had set it up more or less in a way that felt comfortable using it. Is there perhaps a guide how to set up the tripod i.e the height in relation to my own height, also how much drag to apply etc?

I recently saw an airshow video by Philip Bloom and it looked really great. He used an EX3 and tripod for that shoot. I shall have a look at the link you provided tonight.

Thanks for the response.
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Old May 30th, 2011, 09:27 AM   #8
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Re: Difficulty with airshow shoot

Everyone preceding has pretty much covered it. Scale aircraft can be harder to track than the real thing so if you can build skill to aquire and hold them, the practice should help you manage the fullscale thing.

I make no claims to being good at this. I can affirm the fact mentioned above that as a skill, if you don't use it you lose it.

My personal preference is an old heavy Miller fluid head. It is not spring balanced and seems more predictable than a newer spring balanced fluid head I have tried. Another preference is for the viewfinder or LCD screen to be near to the pivot point of the tripod to minimise you having to stretch up and crouch down.

I have also used two cameras on the one head, one as a sighting camera, one for the closer view.The wide-view camera also records wider images as a fallback when I lose the closer view. Both cameras are harmonised to each other, so that the wide-end view on one takes over from the long end view of the other with a little overlap.




I also use two tilt-pan handles on the Miller head, one rearwards, one forwards and try to use whole body movement when working the follows in a sort of see-saw action. I also find I need this in order to smoothly overpower the friction of the older Miller which is firm.

I also set the legs close in order to be able to step around without tripping or kicking the legs. You may find you need to tie the centre of the tripod down to a firmly driven tiedown in the ground to assist you not to pull it over in a hard follow against the friction of the head.

No doubt you already know but with any fluid head it is good practice to store your fluid heads with the friction screws backed off so that the lube is not extruded. When you set up, you should give the head time to warm up a bit. You should also exercise the head with the frictions backed off so that the lube is evenly distributed and refills voids where it has become extruded.

Last edited by Bob Hart; May 30th, 2011 at 09:30 AM. Reason: error
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