Aerial Videography with a DSLR
Am about to do take some aerial footage from a helicopter with the 7D. Does anyone have any pointers or a place i can go for pointers?
My suggestion is don't do it...
Unless you have a fantastic stabilization system that will get rid of all kinds of vibrations.
I have heard that for Aerial Photography, a high shutter speed and wide angle lenses are the best suggestions for someone who does not have expensive stabilizers, but I hardly think that this would be as applicable to video.
If you don't have good stabilization that would get rid of all vibrations, then I think there may be some good pointers that could reduce the jerkiness.
1) Isolate yourself from the helicopter's vibrations as much as possible, while being as safe as possible. IDK how you're going to do this. Talk to the pilot to see what is exceptable safety wise. Maybe a small bean-bag cushion or something for you to sit on?
2) Shoot as much of a wide angle as possible. Tell your pilot to get as close as he can while being safe, and then adjust your lens to be wide. Wide shots are your friend.
3) Decide on a framerate you're wanting and then apply the 180degree shutter rule. The 7d can do overcrank in 720p at a framerate of 60fps, right? I would do that, so that the shutter can be 1/120 (or as close to that as possible). Higher shutter speed would be best, but not TOO high or you will introduce a TON of studder.
When you get back to your editor though...don't be surprised at the results. Even with all the tips everyone will give you, there's going to be something wrong with the footage. I will predict that there will be a rolling shutter issue ("jello-video"). There is software out there that can take out rolling shutter very well. Then, to make your footage MORE stable, I would use After Effects to stabilize it further.
Andrew Kramer has a great tut on this.
Egads, I'm thinking you need a stabilizer as the previous person mentioned. I've never shot aerial footage, so the previous advice might be better. I think it depends on what you're shooting. If it's lots of long shots, you will see vibrations and nothing short of a gyro setup (I'm thinking of the one mounted on the Bell helicopter at NAB last year) will help you. With a wide angle, you can "hide" the vibrations - same as for shooting with a rig mounted to a car, but you at least have shock absorbers and a decent suspension system with a car. If you are going handheld, you can make a stabilizer (or rent one, I suppose). You can use PVC, but it's too light to make it practical unless you attach some weight to it - maybe make it from steel like the $14 stabilizer. The advice with the shorter shutter makes solid sense, but if you get the shot you want sooner than later, take the time to experiment since you probably won't get to just go up anytime you want (and if you can, can I go with? ;). I'd try a variety of settings at 30-60 second intervals and just keep shooting no matter what. Maybe you can use the footage later - everyone always has neat, tidy aerial footage, try to muss it up a bit and see what happens.
If you have the opportunity to get some aerial footage whether you're paying for it or not, I'd most definitely do it and try everything in my arsenal to get some great shots - even if it's just b-roll - hell, shoot some still pix - you can do that with a long focal length and they'd be great. Can you post any of the footage when you're done? I'm interested to see what happens.
I have been shooting aerial video footage from both rotary and fixed wings for many years. Certain helicopter brands/models introduce some nasty vibrations and it's the frequency of the vibration that can make or break a handheld shot. Short of using a pro nose or door-mount(read very expensive, but very effective), I have rented gyroscopic lens adapters (less expensive and cumbersome)on occasion, but have often resorted to the little, buzzy Robinson copter. The frequency is much higher and is easier to 'filter out' with your body when going handheld. With the Robinson, it is cramped quarters, and the windblast on the front of your lens when hanging out an open side is always a factor. Larger (big lensed) broadcast cameras are so long from lens hood (if needed) to battery mount, that you really have to plan your ergonomics in advance. A DSLR with the correct 'rig' setup would be a lot shorter. Be sure to rent a minimum amount of 'test time' and go up and shoot short clips with a variety of settings to playback in your system before committing to the actual paid shoot. The clock ticks quickly when you are up there struggling to get the shot.
John D. Frey
25 Year owner/operator of two California-based production studios.
Digital West Video Productions of San Luis Obispo and Inland Images of Lake Elsinore
Thanks. You guys are the best. Will to put up the aerial shots as soon as they are done.
I'd disadvise DSLRs for arial shooting. They have massive rolling shutter problems under such circumstances, which can't be ironed out by stabilizing software – the images will look like printed on jelly…
Get a decent CCD camcorder for such a task, apart from all other stabilizing devices.
Director of the Institute of Media Research (IMF) at Braunschweig University of Arts
Just shot some footage with the 7D while flying in Piper Dakota. Did not have the jello effect and found there was a little vibration. Coper is a little different environment. Next time I will try to take care of vibration in FCP post or with a stabilizer.I shot full auto 30 fps using a 17-35mm Tamron lens. Also I set auto focus in Live View before switching to video and it held focus for most of the shots. Most of the time I was at 17 mm(28mm adjusted for crop sensor) Wide angle is the way to go. I am thinking 10 mm next time. You can see the results of this test on http://www.vimeo.com and key in "Dakota" Also used a Rode Video Mic and it was not bad for sounds. Wish I could adjust sound on the 7D like I do with my camcorders. This was the first test with the camera. Did a little post color adjustment in Color.
Hello again guys. Will probably be doing that aerial shoot in about 2 weeks. i was watching VICENT LAFORET's reverie movie that was shot on the Canon 5D. How do u think pulled the aerial footage in that with such minimal camera shake?
[Ayodele Banjo] "i was watching VICENT LAFORET's reverie movie that was shot on the Canon 5D. How do u think pulled the aerial footage in that with such minimal camera shake?"
Big time Gyroscopic stabilization. All of Vince's toys are all over his blog. I'm still wondering what this one is
Remote Follow Focus? Or 16 Million other things
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A few years ago I had to shoot the topping off ceremony for the construction of a 52 story building in NYC from a helicopter with the door removed. I used my trusty old Canon XL-1. There was absolutely no budget for any stabilizers or any specialty equipment, so I just fell back on my experience, leaning into the seat cushion to absorb vibrations and provide bracing. It all came out fine. With no budget you just have to improvise. I'd also advise against using a D-SLR, it's so much easier to control the shoot with a shoulder mount video camera.
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I had to edit some wildlife footage shot from a helicopter with an XL-1 once. It looked OK for the most part, but at a couple points it would start to oscillate from the chopper's vibrations giving a weird effect. A DSLR without stabilization would be MUCH worse, so I'd go for a big camera WITH stabilization if you can swing it.
When it comes to aerial photography/videography etc., you'll get a lot of advice from folks who had done this before. However unless they've used an aerial stabilizer system such as Cineflex, Kenyon, Wescam and a few other systems, you tend to get mixed results. Everything is based upon your budget. Since you are riding in the helicopter, I guess you would be holding the camera while capturing imagery. Here are some tips that may assist you.
1). Make sure your camera is on manual mode.
2). In contrary to the advice you may receive against using IS (Image Stabilization) lenses for DSLR videography, using IS lenses on an aerial platform will rather benefit you.
3). Explore the possibility of hiring a company or an individual who owns a RC based aerial gyro-stabilizer and experience to use it. (It is cheaper than you think).
4). Attaching the camera to a monopod and sticking it out of the helicopter is another option. (Yes this had been done and you have to see it to believe it!) [Check bottom (2) links].
The 4th alternative listed above is an option that, you have to discuss with your helicopter pilot and/or the owner/operator of the aircraft. It a safety based issue and there are FAA regulations that pilots have to abide by. Monopod/camera contraption has to be firmly attached with double if not triple redundancies.
Here are some links:
(You could do this)
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