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The Overhead City Shot


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#1 warner brown

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 11:35 PM

As a low-low budget starting filmmaker, this one got me stumped and is probably just overambitious.

The shot in mind is the semi-bird's eye view over a city, tracking over the streets. The tracking halts perfectly over an intersection, (people walking are seen below) this freeze pauses for 2-3 seconds. Then, (as if bored) the camera continues tracking forward over the city.

CGI is out of the question. above street level trains aren't high enough, and jvc-cam equipped parasailors don't have brakes.

I thought of maybe contacting a local helicopter tours company, getting on one of their little flights for free, but I'd have to be hanging the camera out of the helicopter and directing the pilot when to stop, go, etc. This is realistically ridiculously unrealistic.

I just saw the 1st 6 minutes of "The Dark Knight" online. If you've seen it, the first shot is a similar rig/shot, with the camera tracking over buildings. How much would a shot like the one I described above cost to shoot? I may just scrap this one for now, but how do you think it could be done on a superlow-budget?
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#2 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 12:08 AM

There are companies you can hire that have miniature RC helicopters that have camera mounts on them. I don't know how well that would work in a city, however, because the operators need line-of-sight at all times, and also there might be legal issues regarding city airspace. A helicopter tour almost certainly wouldn't be allowed to fly where you want it to. The sort of precision you seem to be talking about would be very difficult in a helicopter anyway. If you had a lot of money, a cablecam rig might be more what you're looking for.
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#3 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 02:44 AM

How much would a shot like the one I described above cost to shoot? I may just scrap this one for now, but how do you think it could be done on a superlow-budget?


A suitable helicopter which would be an A-Star or Bell Long Ranger with a film pilot will run you about $1200 an HOUR plus about $500 an hour for the pilot. Add the cost of a Tyler nose mount at around $900-$1200 per DAY. The more sophisticated mounts like Gyron and WesCam will set you back about $4000-$6000 per day for the mount plus the transportation/shipping and techs to set it up. And the helicopter company will likely charge a minimum since you're tying up their aircraft for the set up and removal. If you've never done a shot like this before you'd be better off hiring an aerial cinematographer to nail it for you.

Unless you are city/location specific or depending on the city there is likely a stock shot out there that will work for you.

Robert Starling, SOC
Las Vegas
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#4 John Sprung

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 02:23 PM

Ok, ultra low budget idea:

Start with Google Earth. You can get a zoom/fly in from way out in space to any street in any town most anywhere. Of course you'd have to check with them about rights. But they sell really nice stuff to the TV news people.

Overlay some clouds on the Google Earth stuff, so that you get out of it by flying down into a cloud.

Come out of the cloud transition with a quick dissolve to a high crane with a wide angle lens, and keep going.

I know that's not exactly what you wanted. But one thing you learn on low budgets is where to compromise.




-- J.S.
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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 03:52 PM

What about building a miniature city to scale with Matchbox cars? Elaborate and time-consuming, but if done just well enough, it could save a lot of money and get the shot.
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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 04:46 PM

What about building a miniature city to scale with Matchbox cars? Elaborate and time-consuming, but if done just well enough, it could save a lot of money and get the shot.

Good idea -- and you could tie it to the real location by shooting the real world first. Start your crane shot with a swish past the wall of a building, and build a matching wall in the miniature. End the model shot on the same swish, and hide a 4 frame dissolve between them.




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#7 warner brown

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 04:39 AM

Ok, ultra low budget idea:

Start with Google Earth. You can get a zoom/fly in from way out in space to any street in any town most anywhere. Of course you'd have to check with them about rights. But they sell really nice stuff to the TV news people.

Overlay some clouds on the Google Earth stuff, so that you get out of it by flying down into a cloud.

Come out of the cloud transition with a quick dissolve to a high crane with a wide angle lens, and keep going.

I know that's not exactly what you wanted. But one thing you learn on low budgets is where to compromise.




-- J.S.


Funny you mention that, for a music video contest I did the same thing. Let google earth slowly run over a town (renders slow, so the slower the cam pans, the better) and then shot the screen with my little digital.
though it's not what I'm going for, your right, it's a temporary compromise to get it (in high resolution/raw) and maybe if its high res enough, I could always key in people walking around a street below for a stationary shot, but that would be very hard in terms of realism.
thanks for the reply
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#8 warner brown

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 04:41 AM

A suitable helicopter which would be an A-Star or Bell Long Ranger with a film pilot will run you about $1200 an HOUR plus about $500 an hour for the pilot. Add the cost of a Tyler nose mount at around $900-$1200 per DAY. The more sophisticated mounts like Gyron and WesCam will set you back about $4000-$6000 per day for the mount plus the transportation/shipping and techs to set it up. And the helicopter company will likely charge a minimum since you're tying up their aircraft for the set up and removal. If you've never done a shot like this before you'd be better off hiring an aerial cinematographer to nail it for you.

Unless you are city/location specific or depending on the city there is likely a stock shot out there that will work for you.

Robert Starling, SOC
Las Vegas


Robert,
Thanks alot for the valuable info!
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#9 RANDY RADZAVICH

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 01:28 PM

As a low-low budget starting filmmaker, this one got me stumped and is probably just overambitious.

The shot in mind is the semi-bird's eye view over a city, tracking over the streets. The tracking halts perfectly over an intersection, (people walking are seen below) this freeze pauses for 2-3 seconds. Then, (as if bored) the camera continues tracking forward over the city.

CGI is out of the question. above street level trains aren't high enough, and jvc-cam equipped parasailors don't have brakes.

I thought of maybe contacting a local helicopter tours company, getting on one of their little flights for free, but I'd have to be hanging the camera out of the helicopter and directing the pilot when to stop, go, etc. This is realistically ridiculously unrealistic.

I just saw the 1st 6 minutes of "The Dark Knight" online. If you've seen it, the first shot is a similar rig/shot, with the camera tracking over buildings. How much would a shot like the one I described above cost to shoot? I may just scrap this one for now, but how do you think it could be done on a superlow-budget?


You can also talk to Tom Miller of Blue Sky Aerials. He is located in Antioch, Ca. He has everything that you need to get that type of shot. Look him up on the web.
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#10 Alex Ellerman

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 04:50 PM

As a low budget filmmaker, you can also ask yourself: why am i including this omniscient shot in my film? is it really appropriate? I can't remember who it was, but some well known filmmaker said he would never include a shot like that b/c it wasn't anyone's POV... I'm sure this opinion might get eviscerated on a cinematography message board, but it made me think about story vs. style.
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Visual Products

Tai Audio

Opal

Technodolly

Abel Cine

Glidecam

The Slider

CineLab

FJS International, LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Willys Widgets

Rig Wheels Passport

CineTape

Aerial Filmworks

Ritter Battery

Wooden Camera