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BMCC via Helicopter?

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  • BMCC via Helicopter?

    I have a helicopter tour setup to shoot in the upcoming weeks and am preparing the best logical setup for shooting. If you have experience shooting from a helicopter, I look forward to your advice!

    I plan on using either my 5Diii or BMCC on a glidecam 4000, shooting wide to MED shots of landscape. I know wind might be a big factor as well and might have to resort to securing it to my body. I understand the vibrations are too much to stabilize free hand/tripod/monopod.

    Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated as I can rent gear for the shoot. Thanks!

  • #2
    I guess you mean "can't rent gear" If you can rent a Gyro rig preferably with 2 or 3 Gyros for as many different axis as poss....

    Or with what you've got -

    Make sure the camera/lens/glidecam aren't touching anything just you, your body is a fairly good shock absorber when relaxed... Which may present a problem with a heavy BMCC your muscles will have to tense up more and you may find that you transmit more vibrations.
    If you have an EF mount BMCC and still want to use it try and get a lens with IS, this will of course also work on the 5Diii...but most IS lenses aren't especially wide on the BMCC. Maybe a 17-55mm EF/s 2.8 would be the best bet.
    If you shoot out of an open door obviously make sure your secure But also make sure cameras/lenses/bags etc are all safe... consider that if you put a strap on your camera/glidecam and attach it to the heli it will act like a flail if heaven forbid you do get into trouble.

    Last one is a note on pilots, your probably going to be shooting out the side, which means the pilot has to be solid if your going to do any shots 'dollying in/out' so to speak. Not all pilots are practiced in performing such manoeuvres, some will try it to keep you happy... this all goes triple if your working over water (if you are please be in a twin engine!)
    Bottom line talk to the pilot beforehand and run through what your hoping to achieve and see what he thinks, in flight try and stick to whats planned and don't push for shots if the pilot is unsure.


    • #3
      Hi Tom,

      Good advice from Dale.

      I would skip the glidecam route and use a shoulder support. I tried the glidecam route a couple times, simply does not work. I would also go wide as possible for a lens. The Sigma 8-16mm works great. Be aware that stuff in the air gets on the lense easily so every once and a while give a good wipe to the lense.

      The type of heli makes a big difference as well. The last one I was in was an Astar - was very smooth. My final advice, is take some gravol. I get motion sick looking at the screen or viewfinder while flying. This was unexpected on my first shoot and ended up being extremely sick which is not fun on an expensive heli rental.

      Here is a recent shot of myself with the BMCC and a short clip from a project for Parks Canada.

      Last edited by wyatt; 10-08-2013, 03:42 AM.


      • #4
        I used to shoot out of a Robinson 44. A lot of vibration. I used to take a large hot water heating pad, the old fashion red ones, and strap it to my shoulder. It helped but it was cumbersome. The hand held gyros are the way to go. Smooth flying with no wind shear is a great start. Has anyone tried a Movi? I currently fly a GoPro on a DJI Phantom with Zenmuse H4 and it's as smooth as it gets. The Movi is just a larger version of this. Hope this helps.
        Bryant Mock
        MockSpeed Media


        • #5
          I did a day of heli shooting on grand cayman last fall... big turbo "tourist touring" machine with the side doors removed. Things I learned:

          There are no gyros for rent in the caribbean;

          Between the wind and the sort of high-frequency "pogo" oscillations you get, it's hard to stay stable. I used a Panasonic AC-130 and the Stabilization really surprised me. (We were shooting a wheelchair racer and "chased" him up and down hills, etc...). Plan on some After Effects/whatever in post.

          I ended up with one foot on a skid, one on the seat support in front of me, pushed myself really hard back into my seat, and used the viewfinder. Having the VF to press against my head was a huge help. I don't think I could have focused looking at the screen - we were over the ocean and it was really a vibrate-y experience. (And I needed telephoto shots... really a bitch of a day).

          I've read forum reports of guys making a big "X" of bungee cords in the door frame as a stabilizer. Might be worth a try?

          Seat-belt your bag down, and keep a spare battery in a pocket or somewhere safe but handy. I attached a short strap and wrapped my camera around one wrist as well. Better safe than sorry, may not be needed for a more mellow flight, ours was a little extreme.

          Wyatt's footage is gorgeous, but personally? I hate seeing the shadow of the copter - to me those sort of shots are sort of "god's eye view" and that takes the mystery right out, really hugely distracting. So consider sun angles. An app like "Mr. Sun" can help you plan, there's several phone apps along those lines.

          Make sure you have functioning headset communication with the pilot;

          If hanging half-out an open door high in the sky is going to freak you out... the viewfinder is a huge help. You can convince yourself you're just "watching a movie". It took me a good 10 minutes to get used to having a foot on the skid and the ground rolling by below. It can be kinda scary, especially when the pilot banks a turn so you're just hanging over the surf... some folks have zero issues, heights take some getting used to for me. And I used to be a rock climber a lifetime ago!