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shooting from a helicopter

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Don Walker
shooting from a helicopter
on Jun 23, 2009 at 2:56:59 pm

About 3 weeks ago, i went on shoot in a Helicopter to shoot some scenics for a indie film we are shooting. The pilot insisted on using a borrowed Sony Z-7u which was mounted in his pan tilt unit on the front of the JetRancger. (I wanted to use my Panasonic HMC-150, because it would more closely match the HPX-170 we're shooting the majority of the footage with. I set up the camera to shoot at 720 24p. The results looked terrible with a high frequency jitter in the picture. The pilot recorded a 488i feed of the composite out of the camera, onto a Sony deck, and he says the footage looks gourgeous. Bottom line, the pilot says the issue is the 720 24p, and that I should have shot it at 1080 60i. Is there any truth to this?
Don Walker


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Todd Terry
Re: shooting from a helicopter
on Jun 23, 2009 at 3:05:09 pm

[Don Walker] "Bottom line, the pilot says the issue is the 720 24p, and that I should have shot it at 1080 60i. Is there any truth to this?"

Maybe, maybe not. Unless shooting with a known and tested flawless system and a Tyler mount helicopter footage is notoriously difficult, and there are countless tales of all kinds of quirks, judders, and flickers working their way into video footage... for no apparent reason.

BUT... while the pilot might have thought he was giving you helpful technical advice, he was also inadvertently giving you aesthetic advice as well... your housepainter can tell you want kind of brushes he wants to use, and suggest a brand of paint, but he can't dictate what color he wants to paint your house. 60i looks nothing like 24p, and if it's not the look you wanted, then it's not the look you wanted. Same for the camera, and its ability to match your other footage. Those things are your calls to make... not the pilot's.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Mark D'Agostino
Re: shooting from a helicopter
on Jun 23, 2009 at 6:51:48 pm

We've shot a lot of footage over the years both SD and HD with the Tyler mount. We have found that HD seems to be more prone to "jitters" and that different lenses can increase the effect.The physically shorter in length the lens is the better. It's also important to have all the proper Tyler lens mount supports correctly installed. I could be wrong but I'd think something more robust than the Z-7u would help, (We use the Panasonic HDX900). As you notice I use words like "seems" and "I think". Bottom-line is as Todd stated, you always need to factor in time to test your rig even if you're using the same gear you may have used on a previous flight.

Regarding the 24p problem. I have tested 24p in flight and it looks nice but I have ended up shooting 30p with a half shutter for sharpness due to less blur. You surely should not have needed to go to 60i.

Mark D'Agostino
http://www.synergeticproductions.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: shooting from a helicopter
on Jun 23, 2009 at 9:32:52 pm

He never stated categorically it was shot with a Tyler mount... I have done gigs where we gaffed a lipstick cam with a wide angle lens to the NiteSun steerable spotlight on the chopper's belly, and got "pan/tilt control"...

Just sayin', maybe it wasn't really a *stabilized* mount. Some helis are better-balanced than others and a camera hanging out front is on a longer moment arm than one mounted in the doorway. A wide lens is always better for helicopter work; you treat the aircraft like it's the dolly holding a cam with a prime lens, and move the aircraft in and out instead of zooming the lens.


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Todd Terry
Re: shooting from a helicopter
on Jun 23, 2009 at 9:35:23 pm

I think my post led to some of that confusion.

I always assumed that Don did not shoot with a Tyler mount... and my original post suggested that unless one does use the mount, often times some unexpected jitters etc. have been known to come into play.

Great footage, of course, can be had without the uber-expensive (and hard-to-find, depending on your market) mounts... but I've found that the quality of footage to be wildly variable.

I'll fully confess though that I've never shot video with a helicopter-mounted camera... only 35mm (and a little 16mm). I'd be interested to know how much of the "jitters" is attributable to the HD format, which would not be seen on actual film.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Don Walker
Re: shooting from a helicopter
on Jun 23, 2009 at 11:27:10 pm

Sorry Guys,
I've been away from my e-mail all day.... I did shoot from a Tyler mount by the way. As far as quality level of the camera, you did see the part of my post that said "indie film" and all associated budget issues. ( I wanted to shoot with RED Ha ha Ha.) I was really trying to find out if 24p was the kiss of death as far as helicopter shooting goes, and I what i get out of you guys is no, this is not "the" killer factor. I had another friend who shot on either the same or similarily equipped aircraft (There are at least 2 and maybe 4 Tyler mount Jet Rangers in Texarkana, USA) with a HMC-150 and got great footage, but he probably was shooting at 1080 60i
Thanks for your responses, and any other input would be greatly appreciated.
Don Walker

John 3:16


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Steve Wargo
Re: shooting from a helicopter
on Jun 24, 2009 at 4:38:53 am

We shot a few hours with our F-900 using a Tyler nose mount at 23.98 and it looked pretty normal. It was a Bell Ranger 500 which has a two bladed rotor. I've shot a lot on my shoulder, sitting in the doorway and that was good also. the smoothest by far was in an A-Star which is a three bladed machine. We recently stabilized some shoulder mount stuff in Final Cut and it looked fantastic.

Too bad it would be so expensive, Don, for you to take the same camera and try some different frame rates to see where the problem came from.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .


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Tim Kolb
Re: shooting from a helicopter
on Jun 24, 2009 at 1:40:45 pm

With balance...a Jet Ranger should be relatively OK...it's not like you can get a way with operating a helicopter with an out-of-balance rotor for long like a car with an unbalanced tire (the engine is a turbine, so it's not like it needs to be "timed" or tuned to be smooth)

Any of us who have shot out of a piston driven helicopter like the Bell Ranger ancestor to the Jet Ranger, or these small Robinsons and Rotorways do appreciate the turbine powerplant.

I have a feeling that the camcorder's conversion from 1080 (the sensor's native res) to 720 may have contributed to the problem. You may have been better off to have the camera shoot 1080/24 and then scale down in your NLE.

There was probably some vibration...and the camcorder doesn't have much mass to dampen it, but I'd bet the reason why the 480 downconvert looks better has to do with the camcorder's ability to do a better job to 480i-keep in mind that this camera has interlace sensors...they're not the full 1920x1080 progressive Exmors in an EX1/EX3.



TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,


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Mark D'Agostino
Re: shooting from a helicopter
on Jun 24, 2009 at 1:33:55 pm

Sorry if my post seemed to assume Tyler mount. I just related my experience as an example of how even when using time tested tools the reults can still be problematic and that testing is crucial. On one job, after testing with HD and seeing the micro-vibes,I did mount our SD camera, Sony550, to the Tyler to see if micro vibrations we were seeing were isolated to the HD camera. The SD stuff played back with the jitter dramatically reduced...same copter, same mount, same day. Fortunately we had budgeted for testing that covered the extra hour of flight time and camera swapping. We still had to shoot that day with HD so we did and then stabilized in FCP and that, while time consuming, worked beautifully.

Mark D'Agostino
http://www.synergeticproductions.com


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