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Old July 24th, 2009, 09:05 PM   #1
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EX3 & Helicopters

I'm getting a bit forgetful and cannot remember if I used the image stabilizer in the EX3 last time I shot from a helicopter.
I was on a Tyler nose mount then. This time I'll be shooting with the door off setting the camera on a bean-bag type pillow on my lap (poor man's Cine Saddle).
I hope to have a test run and shoot at either 1080/60i or 1080/30p unless someone thinks otherwise.
I hope it's a sunny day and I can use a faster shutter setting like 125 or 250 or ?

I hope to utilize Final Cut Smoothcam feature as well.

Any suggestions?


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Old July 24th, 2009, 10:28 PM   #2
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G'day Paul,
Hows life in WI ? I have friends in Burlington WI.
First of all i wouldn't be resting the camera on anything. This will only increase the amount of movement and vibration from the helicopter. If you are using the camera hand held then the best bet is to hold the camera lightly, but firmly with both hands. Try and keep you shot wide as tele shots will amplify any movement.
Do you know what type of aircraft you will be shooting from ?
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Old July 25th, 2009, 05:54 AM   #3
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Hi Steve. I'm in a MD500- so I know it has less vibration than helicopters with 4 or 3 blades.
I've flown several times and with a DigiBeta or F900 I had no real issues with vibration setting the camera on my lap on a beanbag-micro bead pillow. Maybe the weight of the camera helped smooth things out.
I will shoot with my EX3 which of course has the CMOS chips, and am looking for shutter/settings advice.
No chance for a gyro on this budget.

I have shot this camera from a car rig I made by bolting a carrier (the kind which slide into the towing hitch) to the front of my truck. I put my tripod on a softpad and got some great shots driving alongside the object vehicle.
I did not notice any problems with aliasing after I toned down the detail settings.

I can always handhold and try to "float" the camera but I will have some downdraft from the blades as I sit just inside with the door off.
Question is will my hands transfer more vibration or would a pillow on my lap?
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Old July 25th, 2009, 07:15 AM   #4
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I've handheld full sized cameras from the side door of bell jet rangers. no issue with downdraft from the blades.
handholding the EX is harder than a shoulder style camera. I have rigged bungie cords as a poor mans camera mount. that would take the weight off your arms.

are you securing the beanbag in case it slips out?
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Old July 25th, 2009, 07:27 AM   #5
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When budget restrictions did not allow for a gyro system, I attached these (forget what they are called) "rubberbands with metal hooks on the ends" into the doorframe and suspend the camera from these. this might be useful if you want to film downwards, which could be a bit tricky with the EX3 sitting on a beanbag... But - I haven't used the EX3 in a helicopter. Let us know how it went. Concerning steadyshot - I don't know, totally hate it anyway. As for the shutter, its really up to what you want your pictures to look like.
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Old July 25th, 2009, 08:27 AM   #6
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Yes, I have a suggestion . . . do not shoot out of helicopters. I have two friends that did, and both were involved in crashes. One lived through it. The other one was not so lucky. He died a very young age.
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Old July 25th, 2009, 09:30 AM   #7
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I have a just a bit of experience shooting from choppers...first as a door gunner for 13 months in Nam as well as producing films and video doing a lot of stuff shot from 58's (Jet Rangers).

I second the motion on setting up a bungee rig..it does really isolate from the vibration. In my first job I had the gun on both bungees and pintle mounts and the bungee had less vibration - meaning better sighting (not like I was taking my time to really sight things in!).

If you're doing straight and level, air to air shooting the beanbag idea should do OK as well. Give it a try do a playback and see how it looks...but if you have to follow a subject then the bungee may be the way to go. Also consider mounting the camera on a piece of wood and then creating a 4 point bungee connection to the wood. Easier to control things

Rotor wash should not be a problem unless you are out on the skids and even then it's not really that bad. Make sure you monkey chain yourself and your camera to the chopper's tie down hard points just for safety.

And...as far as not shooting from choppers because they crash...so do cars. I've lost friends as well...didn't stop us from flying.
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Old July 25th, 2009, 02:30 PM   #8
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Thanks for the suggestions. Sorry to hear about your friend's deaths.

I myself have no problem flying in copters or much anything for that matter.

Bungie cords may help. Yes I will anchor the bean bag should I use it. Stuff really can fly around inside those things if you let them.

I'll demo it both ways if possible, land and check video.
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Old July 25th, 2009, 03:28 PM   #9
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I have a lot of experience shooting from choppers with all sorts of cameras and stabilizers and rigs over the years. Earlier this year I shot from a Eurocopter out the side, with an EX3 handheld. I was shooting wide shots with the Sony stabilizer turned on, cradling the camera out in front of me and with the viewfinder flipped up. The results were excellent. Much much better than they should have been! I was very impressed and for these type of shots I would recommend it.
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Old July 25th, 2009, 06:13 PM   #10
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Ben-Thank you!

Always good to hear from someone who actually has used this camera handheld in this situation.

I did have good results with the Tyler Nose mount EX3 stabilizer on.

Be well.
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Old July 25th, 2009, 06:47 PM   #11
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Paul, I hope you'll give us a peek at any tests you might do!

Would the bungies be a way to get a smooth(er) night time-lapse from inside a car? Or is there a better solution?
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Old July 25th, 2009, 09:55 PM   #12
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I'll echo Ben's comments, but suggest that if you're using the EX3 you remove the viewfinder magnifier all together. Anything that can flap around should come off. I recently shot two hours from a helicopter with my EX3 on Kauai. Once handheld and once handheld with a small gyro attached. The gyro helps greatly on anything that is zoomed in at all. It's worth the $250 for rental from Kenyan Labs.

A few other tips:

Use a leash from the camera to some fixed point in the cockpit behind you. Dropping the camera out of the helicopter would seriously suck.

Take at least a half hour to go over what you plan to shoot with your pilot. The helicopter is your tripod, dolly and jib all in one. You don't want to have to pan the camera, you want the pilot to move the helicopter around your subject. Take the time to draw out some diagrams of what you want and agree on a vocabulary. It will be frustrating if you don't.

Stay mostly WIDE with the camera. Have the helicopter get as close as safely possible to your subject. It's more stable and more dramatic.

Shoot straight out the side is not as impressive as shooting off the nose as the helicopter moves forward. If you want to simulate a nose mount, see if your pilot can fly sideways for a bit. The wind will have to be in your favor.

If you will have human subjects on the ground, it's a great idea to get them a handheld aviation radio so that you can communicate with them. Be sure you both know what frequency your pilot will transmit on. We were shooting an outrigger canoe on the ocean and this was super helpful for us to be able to direct them to reposition so that we could make the most of the sun.

Have fun!!
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Old July 26th, 2009, 04:10 AM   #13
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I regularly shoot out of helicopters and second the suggestion of a gyro, the bigger the better. I own the KS8 but they have released a bigger one now I believe. KS6 minimum.

You really need a minimum of 2 to stabilize all 3 axis, but one still helps a lot and will screw directly onto the bottom of the camera (make sure you have the correct screw thread).

Isolate the camera as much as possible from your body and the movement of the heli. An EX1 would be better in that respect as it is easier to support with just your arms. I have used full size cameras in helis and much prefer a decent handheld. Shoulder mount can also be annoying with the chunky headsets.

Take note of what Brian said - helicopters are potentially lethal, make sure you have an experienced pilot and don't push them into doing stupid things. Make sure you and your kit and properly secured and if you are over water, make sure you can release yourself in a hurry in case you ditch. Talk through what you need with the pilot before take off so you can discuss any likely problems.
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Old July 26th, 2009, 08:25 AM   #14
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Hi Paul,

I used the EX3 handheld out of several helicopters in Spring. Depending on your output format you have in Post-Production some possibilities to fix shaking for example with the Smoothcam filter of Final Cut Pro, when filming in FullHD HQ.
I have had stunning results with that. But be careful to hold the camera away from vibrating heli parts (rolling shutter).

Good luck,
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Old July 26th, 2009, 10:32 AM   #15
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Thanks for all the suggestions.
The helicopter is a late add to a busy shoot schedule.
I will not be able to rig much of anything. I always strip the camera down as far as possible to minimize downdraft buffeting. Everything will be safety strapped so I won't lose anything.

I'll be wide nearly all the time over a huge (miles long) construction site. The pilot should be able to track at an angle for me. I will add a 8" HDSDI LCD monitor for him to see what I am shooting.
One good thing is that it's a 5 blade helicopter and the pilot has done this many times.
I am sure the post house will use FCP SmoothCam for this footage.
They rescued unusable footage with SmoothCam when the gyro batteries failed on a shoot. Amazing what that software can do.
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