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Helicopter shots


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#1 G McMahon

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 08:23 AM

Hello all,

ABout to shoot a promo video (digi), in a couple of weeks. Coastal shots, morning, one hour in chopper, in harness. Any suggestions?, Concerns are stability, communication to pilot, checks on camera.

Thanks all,
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#2 Daniel Sheehy

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 07:44 PM

I just finished shooting some aerials for a property developer on Monday... and I wouldn't have gotten into the chopper if he didn't have a harness for me! ;)

Communication shouldn't be a problem, you wear a 2-way headset when in a helicopter as noise is an issue even when you have the doors on... the engine is right behind your head.
The pilot will explain the procedure to you when you get on, if in doubt, ask.

Stability is always an issue with a helicopter unless you have a stabilised mount. I usually shoot with a bean-bag on my knee under the camera, its not perfect, but it works pretty well. Keeping the lens as wide as possible also helps reduce the apparent shake, keep zooms to an absolute minimum.

If you are shooting straight out the side of the chopper as it flies past, then you should pull the camera back into the doorway just a bit to keep it out of the slipstream. No amount of care will stop it shaking out there.
If the pilot is crabbing the chopper at an angle, the nose will protect you from most of the slipstream.

Talk through the shots with the pilot, he/she tell you what can be done safely, and what shouldn't be attempted. Listen to them. There a are a few guys on this site who have lost friends & workmates through filming related helicopter accidents...

Checks on camera.. not sure what you mean there. If you're talking about verifying the footage, you can take a battery powered monitor up with you. (Aircraft power is usually not compatible.. though if you ask in advance they might be able to arrange converters.) Taking a monitor would probably mean an extra person to keep an eye (and a hand ;) ) on it.
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#3 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 10:34 PM

Helicopters are one of the more dangerous things you can be involved with in the filmmaking world.

NEVER let a producer or director push the pilot to do something he is reluctant to do, EVER. NEVER fly in a helicopter whose pilot has not flown for movies before.

Always travel the flight plan with the pilot from the ground (when possible) to double check for things like power lines, etc.

Never modify a proper harness with your own stuff like rope, etc. Neil Fredericks who posted here died in a plane crash mostly because he tied himself into the plane with rope and when it crashed into the water he could not free himself. If flying over water, have a dive/ pilots knife strapped to your ankle, over your pants so that you can get to it and cut away your harness if need be.

Safety the camera in separately from you.

Do not do anything without the pilot?s permission, i.e. exiting the chopper, etc.

Trust your gut, no shot is worth dieing for. If production seems to have cut corners with the pilot or aircraft, f*ck it, it?s just not worth it. Many camera assistants I work with have a no helicopter policy, they?ll get someone to cover for them.

This topic is huge and has been discussed before; the list above is by no means complete.

Kevin Zanit
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#4 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 03:22 AM

Kevin makes great points. Choppers are great fun, but they should be respected. Also as an ex-pilot with 23 hours of training flying helicopters, I can tell you that the 99% of the shots we need from helicopters are in the so called "dead mans zone":

1. That means that they're operated too low for a safe autorotational landing should the engine fail. This can only be performed from some height. Even a twin turbine helicopter will not be able to sustain a fully loaded ship in a hover should one engine fail.

2. They're also operated hovering out of ground effect where the risk for Vortex Ring State (a case of the blades biting into it's own already "used" and turbulent air) is high. This can
cause the ship to buffer and get out of control if not recognized and avoided and can be deadly if it happens at low altitudes.

3. LTE, or Loss of Tail rotor Effectiveness is a potentially deadly state on some helicopters. Especially the Jetranger and Longranger series suffer from this (and they're the most common ones). It's basically an inability of the tail rotor to be able to deliver enough counter force to the twisting from the main rotor when the wind is from a certain angle. Many, many LA news camera ships have encountered this and it always leads to an uncontrolled spin. If you have enough height it can be solved, but at low altitudes it will crash the ship.

4. Striking objects. Enough said. Let's just say that every year helicopters crash because of striking objects - they're not easy to see.

5. Altitude/High tempereture. High altitudes and high temperatures makes the helicopter controls sloppy and inprecise and uses a lot of power - they're running at the limit here. So a simple take-off or hover up there with a fully loaded ship can be a very dangerous thing and sometimes can't even be performed. As a side note, when I heard french test pilot Didier Delsalle landed his AStar on top of Mount Everest, I was in awe. That's not an easy thing to do.
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#5 Daniel Sheehy

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 05:14 AM

http://www.aerialcin...y.com/sfty.html
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#6 G McMahon

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 08:40 PM

Thanks all
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#7 Rick Seefreid

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 10:04 AM

http://www.aerialcin...y.com/sfty.html



My policy on helicopters is..... "No Helicopters"

Rick Seefried
owner/operator HDX900*Steadicam*DP
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#8 Tony Brown

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 05:28 AM

when I heard french test pilot Didier Delsalle landed his AStar on top of Mount Everest, I was in awe. That's not an easy thing to do.


Really? I thought A Stars maxed out around 10,000 feet? Blades must have been massive
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#9 Michael Shubitz

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Posted 14 July 2007 - 03:30 AM

The pilot is actually your camera. I experienced better results putting a monitor for the pilot so he sees what you do.The good communication with the pilot make the shot better.
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#10 Tony Brown

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Posted 14 July 2007 - 03:54 AM

The pilot is actually your camera. I experienced better results putting a monitor for the pilot so he sees what you do.The good communication with the pilot make the shot better.


Can help if you're shooting Pilot side AND you know and trust the pilot. Otherwise I'd rather he just concentrate on where he's going. Monitors can be very dangerous if the Pilot isn't film savvy

Be very cautious letting Pilots have monitors, "a little bit of knowledge ......." applies here
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#11 Allan Westbrook

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 01:37 AM

I shoot alot of aerials. Everyone is right! Don't do it if your not sure. If you only have one hour, you'll probably spend the first 20 minutes just watching stuff go by!

The pilot is the key. I have flown with pilots that have and have not flown for motion picture work. It's not worth it if they haven't done it before. You'll spend all of your time explaining what you want. I am flying with one of the best right now and he makes it easy. ON THE GROUND we go over what it is we are looking for, we go up and see how it looks, tweak a little and shoot. He knows what I am seeing and can put the ship in the position it needs to be in to get the shot. I would never give a pilot a monitor. He has plenty to do without watching TV! As long as you can talk to him during the shot he can adjust just fine.

If you don't use the pilots own ship, make sure it's checked out.

Don't go up with a pilot that says, "Watch This!"

A four blade helicopter is much more stable than the traditional two bladed one.

You'll find yourself saying, "lower, lower....faster, faster!" Just make sure the pilot has a low altitude waiver so he can be down there and that you've already scoped out the location for anything to run into.

Always Respect the fact that they shouldn't really fly!
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