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Re: Any tips for shooting from a Cessna plane?

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Diego Barraza
Re: Any tips for shooting from a Cessna plane?
on Apr 22, 2012 at 2:36:46 pm

Hello again creative bovines, sorry it has taken me a couple of weeks to get back on the subject but have been extremely busy.

Many thanks for all those of you that have been with me with their great advice and knowledge in this unorthodox approach to aerial cinematography. I have to say that all of your experiences and comments helped me greatly.

Here is the low down: The answer to all our concerns was one or many, depends on how you view it… COVERAGE.

The action was simple, a woman and companion walking a circle in the great grass expand near the cliffs of the coastline. We scheduled the shooting in two parts. In the morning we shot on location from the ground on a very cold day. Handheld, tripod, steadycam and long jib arm were used to follow the action and talent in different takes. We had all morning to get creative and the light was a flat English grey that gave us even exposure all day. I tried my best to shoot mostly tilting down on the talent to keep the horizon low and thus avoid the blown out white background.

The aerial shots were schedule for the afternoon; the airfield was very close to the location so that was ideal. From days before there were concerns on what we could get with the resources that I wrote in the back posts, ie: Cessna plane and 7D; stability and to be able to see the talent from more than 500 feet distance. There is a Spanish saying that “ he who has a friend has a treasure”, and in this occasion it certainly was. We got in contact with our friend Ben, great cameraman who had just bought and received a RED EPIC package the week before. He was more than eager to test his new baby and he said he would come along for the shoot. With the ability to shoot at 120 fps 4k footage, the RED EPIC is just a beauty of camera and he was more than happy to test it out with a flight above a dramatic location. Back in the airfield, again we set out to get as much coverage from the plane as we could. Ben rode in front window with the RED EPIC hadheld and sporting a 50mm Zeiss Ultra Prime pointing out a open window, shooting at 120Fps. I stuck a GOPro 2 to the corner of the backwindow for the wide sweeping look and handheld a Manfrotto Fig Rig with a stabilized canon 55 to 250mm Zoom glass pointing out through the plexiglass. It was gusty as hell and the little Cesnna was up and down most of the time. We were struggling with the handholding of the cameras as the plane buffeted. The pilot was a great professional and did some figure of eight turns on the marked flight path. We could see the talent in the ground no problem, the circle was marked with bird feed on the ground so you could see it from above clearly and without any environmental damage to the grassland. The ride was quite bumpy but there were lulls when the plane would glide smoothly. As we headed back to the airfield we could see the afternoon streaks of light piercing the clouds and reflecting on the sea as in the old bible films when God speaks. On landing the grassy airfield the pilots remarks were “…we have cheated death once more”. Certainly.

Upon review, I have to say that the shot does not work as long traveling aerial shot that sweeps the dramatic landscape and ends in the talent, but there are more than enough great shots within the footage to piece out a sequence with good editing. The EPIC at 120fps gets the action looking smooth as babies bum, and you can even zoom in the 4k frame and get some really good details. The 7D shooting at different zoom steps gave decent amount of detail as we got circling on top of the action in the ground, we can actually see the woman walking quite well with segments were the shot steadied out. The Gopro was brilliant at getting the wide angle of the cliffs and sea; the vibration is not that visible for 200 dollar camera stuck in the plexiglass, it delivered some very usable cutaway material. The sun rays piercing the clouds look beautiful on it.

The director was happy with all the coverage from the morning and afternoon, she is compiling the sequence and it is all working for her needs. We learned and keep on learning. Thank you again everybody for your support. For disclosure issues I will not be able to post any video.


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