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Shooting aerial video from a helicopter

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Alex Ojeda
Shooting aerial video from a helicopter
on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:14:01 am
Last Edited By Alex Ojeda on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:15:26 am

Hi,


I will be shooting some aerial footage in a few weeks from now from a manned helicopter. This would be my first time shooting from it, so any tips, suggestions, do's and dont's would be greatly appreciated to any of you that have experience in this field.

Im not sure if I should shoot at a minimum shutter speed to get sharp footage, as maybe the helicopter movement and motor and air vibrations might blur it if not at certain shutter speed?

I havnt made up my mind yet, but I will be shooting either with a Canon XF300 or Blackmagic production camera at 1080p.

Many thanks for your help!

Alex

Alex Ojeda
http://www.alexojeda.com


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Bill Davis
Re: Shooting aerial video from a helicopter
on Apr 24, 2014 at 6:19:42 am

Too many variables in play.

What type of helicopter? A small Robinson is a different thing than a Jet Ranger or MD-520n.

What are you shooting? Landscapes? Real Estate? Scenics?

Generally the only universal rule is this.

#1 the Pilot is in charge.
#2 the Pilot is in charge.
#3 the Pilot answers to the FAA.
#4 the Pilot is in charge.

Which means you ASK the pilot if it's OK to do anything and everything. Where to fly. How close to fly. If a move is possible. The pilot makes the rules. Ask well in advance how the aircraft can be configured - whether doors can be opened/removed - or not. Its great if they can - because the lexan/acrylic stuff of aircraft windows is often kinda ugly and scarred to shoot through.

DO NOT bring grip gear and expect to clamp or mount anything to the helicopter's exterior. It's a waste of time since generally anything exterior mounted requires FAA prior approval and inspection.

Plan to safety tether EVERYTHING you have with you, from your camera itself to your spare cards/drives to your eyeglasses and wallet - certainly if you're shooting open cabin. Talk with your pilot in advance about this stuff. And if you are shooting open - Do NOT bring a bag of accessory stuff to toss onto the floor thinking you can grab filters, batteries, etc as you shoot. No intelligent photo pilot will allow you to have a bag of batteries or unused Mafer clamps sitting on the floor that can spill and fall through the doorway a mile to the ground to potentially kill people.

Obviously Wide shots will be steadier than pushed in stuff. But you can expect most modern NLE's to have shot steadying functions so just do the best you can if you need to zoom in.

That's it off the top of my head.

I've only done a little of this stuff in my career. But I've LOVED every second of it.

Maybe the folks here with more experience can chime in.

Really, just listen to your pilot and try to relax and have fun.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Alex Ojeda
Re: Shooting aerial video from a helicopter
on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:47:47 pm

Hi, Bill,

Many thanks for the info! I have an appointment with them today, so I'll find out what type of helicopter is it and let you know. I will be shooting urbanscape, downtown and old district buildings. So we will be flying over the city.

DO you know if I should shoot with a minimum shutter speed? What shutter speed you used? I read somewhere that I shouldn't shoot below 1/1250, what is your input on this?

Many thanks, again!

Alex

Alex Ojeda
http://www.alexojeda.com


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Bill Davis
Re: Shooting aerial video from a helicopter
on Apr 24, 2014 at 7:35:29 pm

[Alex Ojeda] "DO you know if I should shoot with a minimum shutter speed? What shutter speed you used? I read somewhere that I shouldn't shoot below 1/1250, what is your input on this?
"


What camera?

And what's the expected use for the footage?

For example, if you're shooting a large sensor, it's not unusual for clients to want you to pull stills as well as video - and if so, then a high shutter speed will help a LOT.

Slow shutter speeds will blur the rotors if you're shooting high - but that may or may not be in play.

The sad trite os that often, modern client's have no CLUE what they want or need. They just want pretty pictures. Then they come up with "requirements" for things you'd never expect after the fact.

Such is life.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Alex Ojeda
Re: Shooting aerial video from a helicopter
on Apr 24, 2014 at 7:55:17 pm

Hi, Bill,

Many thanks again for your help.

I have two cameras I could use, still haven't made up my mind which I will use for this footage. I have a Canon XF300, which has three 1/3 sensors, or I could use a Black Magic 4K production camera, which has a super 35 image sensor. I'd shoot at 1080p in either.

Its a commercial-informative video for the internet, big screen conference room style presentations, and big screen larger auditorium presentations. They haven't mentioned wanting to pull stills, but its a good point. And you're absolutely right, after the facts requirements seem like a high probability.

I was told this morning we would be using a Bell D06 Helicopter.

Many thanks for your help,

Alex

Alex Ojeda
http://www.alexojeda.com


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Chris Tompkins
Re: Shooting aerial video from a helicopter
on Apr 24, 2014 at 8:12:34 pm

shoot with the higher quality cam.
shutter at double the frame rate and you'll be fine.

Do you have a gyro mount?
Hand-held?

Chris


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Alex Ojeda
Re: Shooting aerial video from a helicopter
on Apr 24, 2014 at 8:20:44 pm

Hi, Chris,

Many thanks for the input.

With the Canon XF 300 (3 x 1/3 sensors) I can control the shutter speed. The Blackmagic (super 35 sensor) doesn't have shutter speed controls. So its either one of 3840 x 2160p: 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30; 1920 x 1080p: 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30; 1920 x 1080i: 50, 59.94.

I don't have a gyro mount. I can shoot hand held or have a steady cam vest and arm and stabilizer, not sure if this would be appropriate for helicopter use.

Many thanks!

Alex

Alex Ojeda
http://www.alexojeda.com


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Bill Davis
Re: Shooting aerial video from a helicopter
on Apr 29, 2014 at 1:48:44 am

[Alex Ojeda] "I was told this morning we would be using a Bell D06 Helicopte"

To the best of my knowledge, D-06 is not Bell helicopter model number.

The 206 variants - is the really common Jet Ranger series. Maybe they meant that?

That's a large cabin model with quite a bit of room to maneuver in the cabin.

That would be great for you. Much easier to shoot from than something small like a Robinson or another 2 seat small airframe.

Honestly, don't over think this. Take the camera you're MOST comfortable operating. It's better to try to stay IN THE MOMENT and not be fiddling with your controls more than necessary.

And remember if you are shooting on one of the higher rez cameras, you can both apply decent stabilization and even do basic digital zooming in post to get closer shots if needed. So don't stint on the wide end of your available zoom. Reduced jumpiness is going to be more valuable to you than super close ups in post.

Heck, just have fun.

The more relaxed you are, the better your results will be.

Oh, and don't forget to breath. At least between your hero shots!

Good luck.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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