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class="style8" Aerial Shots

>Published – 4th February 2005

>Hi everyone:

>I been asked to make aerial shots of cruise ships (like the love boat) "parked" beside the peer. And I have a few questions.

>My tools are an ULTRALIGHT airplane and an ECLAIR NPR camera. I know, worst of both worlds but there is no budget for a bell or something like that and Tyler a mount.

>I am thinking to rent at least an ARRI SR2 evolution with a set of primes.

>The shots are a wide, wide shot of the bay, than closer shots of the boats and last but not least a low approach over the water and "boom up" over the boat making a top shot and a few passes with the boat leaving.

>I am not sure about lens or frame rates to shoot this, is there any advice I can take?

>Thanks

>Miguel del Valle Prieto Sarmiento.
DP-Exec Producer and Pilot for this one.
Dos38 media Producciones (Vapsa)
México DF.


>Miguel Del Valle P. wrote :

class="style9">>I am not sure about lens or frame rates to shoot this, is there any advice >I can take?

>I've never flown in an Ultralight, and the only aerial filming I've done has been from inside a helicopter through the window of the closed door.

>So my question would be, while you are shooting and framing, who will be flying the Ultralight? Will you be hand holding, or will the camera be attached to the air frame? How will you start and stop the camera if it is attached to the air frame? Makes me think of the time I was safetied into a wheel chair and pushed down hill to get P.O.V. chasing a ball, can you just see where this is going?

>Seguridad primero, Miguel.

>The shots do not sound worthy of you losing your life.

>Have you considered Stock footage?

>Steven Gladstone
New York Based D.P.
www.gladstonefilms.com
East Coast CML List administrator


>Steven Gladstone wrote :

class="style9">>I've never flown in an Ultralight, and the only aerial filming I've done has >been from inside a helicopter through the window of the closed door.

>Yikes! That makes it tough to stay with your subject. I shoot door off (WX permitting) seatbelt on (double locks please) and stay out of the air stream. I also taped down my iris as much as possible once I set exposure. Oh and don't forget to remove your lens shade!

>Somewhere over Bayou Manchac Swamp a alligator is munching on a Canon lens shade with UV filter...

>Tom McDonnell
Dir/DP
New Orleans, La


class="style9">>The shots are a wide, wide shot of the bay, than closer shots of the >boats and last but not least a low approach over the water and "boom >up" over the boat making a top shot and a few passes with the boat >leaving.

>Miguel, I've never filmed from an Ultralight but I have filmed a lot from single engine planes. Invariably I have a hard time keeping wheels, wings, struts out of frame, particularly with a wide angle lense. Using a tighter lense usually produces vibrating pictures without the sense of "smooth motion" (tm) a wide lense can give you. In this kind of aircraft, you usually have to find one angle that works for you and then have the pilot frame for you by manoeuvring.

>The approach of the boat would require that the camera face forward without getting the prop in frame and then pan down. This is difficult even with a helicopter with side mount you mention. Forward facing shots invariably require remote heads (if anyone knows an different way to do this I would like to know about it!).

>If you have to use the Ultralight, I recommend you sit in it on the ground beforehand and find which angles are available to you. If you are doing it handheld, there will likely be only one angle available without parts of the plane in frame. Make sure the pilot realizes this since he will have to put the boat in that frame, you will have very little correction available.

>I suppose it can be done like the people who did that documentary on the
migrating birds filmed from Ultralights, but it probably took some very serious rigging.

>Bruce Douglas, DP
Sao Paulo, Brazil


>Bruce, I am rigging with a "nose mount", the prop is behind the plane so I am not particularly worried about the framing.

>The UL is almost the same as the one they used for the Birds doc. but one thing is for sure about UL, they are very safe but they do move with the wind, if the day is unstable there is not much to do and its rain season, even if the day is sunny the conditions are not the smoothest, that is why I though about higher frame rate and wider than 16mm lens but I am not sure how much is to much for his shots.

>I am afraid of loosing the film sensation of 24 fps and achieving a "funny" unreal look of a wider lens.

>The approach on the top shot of the boat, obviously is not going to be like a shot made with an helicopter, I think that the easiest way is to follow a straight line without loosing or winning altitude and make a straight shot over and the side.

>My head spins all day searching the way to build a rig that can pan the camera down, without the use of a hot head or engines that may be to heavy for the plane, but that will be for the future, I am sure that the birds doc planes didn’t have anything too complex since drag is an issue here.

>Shooting from an UL has the advantage of speed, this planes can fly around 30 mph or less safely, and if you don’t have any wind it can be like silk.

>Miguel Del Valle P
DOP. E.P.
Dos38media
Mexico City Acapulco.


>Hi

>The camera is attached to the nose of the plane, its an aluminium tube holding a camera plate. There is a small TFT monitor that is rigged to the control bar of the UL, so the one who flies the plane makes the shots. The on/off process is made connecting and disconnecting the battery cable (not sure if this is the best way to do this) from the belt.

>The idea of shooting this is that there is NO stock footage available for this city and my idea is to create it. The danger is an engine stop but we are flying with floats on the plane!.

>I have done this kind of shoot but it was only a pass over a road following a bus. I received an email from production company saying that the stock was very good but I never seen that shots. I did them at 30 fps with a 32 lens on a Submarine (BL 35).

>No sunshade for this one Tom, better flair than sorry.

>Miguel Del Valle P
DOP. E.P.
Dos38media
Mexico City Acapulco.


>Bruce Douglas writes:

class="style9">>The approach of the boat would require that the camera face forward >without getting the prop in frame

>Most classic Ultralights have pusher props (rear-mounted), don't have much structure in front of the pilot, and don't fly very fast (hence have less of a relative-wind problem than standard planes), so this might work out well.

>Much as I dislike the NPR, I think it would probably be a good tool for this application because of its low profile. If you can mount two small primes (say, a 15mm and a 25mm) on its turret instead of a zoom, you might gain some additional stability, too. 10mm might be a bit too wide, and anything over 25mm might be too shaky. (This is just a guess.). Just make sure your T-stops are matched and locked down on both lenses. You might also lock focus at or near infinity. Also make sure the camera is tethered to the plane and can't impede your exit from it in an emergency (i.e., by a tangled power cord, etc.)

>Good luck!

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>Dan,

>Many thanks.

>I am afraid of loosing sharpness due to vibration, the turret of the NPR doesn’t hold too tight, I had once a soft focus shot because the turret wasn’t perfectly placed, but you could bet that was ok. That is why I rather use a lightweight rock solid steady SR2.

>15mm is my choice! many thanks

>Miguel Del Valle P
DOP. E.P.
Dos38media
Mexico City Acapulco.


>Hi

>Thanks everyone for the posts on this subject.

>The shot was done last Friday and it was a success. Finally it was made with the Ultralight airplane and the NPR camera. The only thing that I miss is the look of a better lens since that zoom is something like terrible, but It is better than anything and the transfer was done with a good colorist. There are of course some parts that are not useful since I couldn’t keep some parts of the plane (wires, wings, wheels, and prop) out of the frame all the time, but the important shots are great and clean, finally shot at 24fps. I will design with time a rig for that matter.

>The impossible shot that we discussed was made hand holding the camera. The UL made a low pass (about the height of the main deck of the boat, maybe 20 to 25 meters) tracing a straight line beside the boat. Than, when it was close to the boat the UL gained height and I tilted down the camera until I've got a few seconds of a straight TOP shot until the movement made me see a wheel and my right foot. It is incredible although I couldn’t complete de shot until I finished with just water in the frame, but its great anyway. I should turn the focus ring in time to sell the shot to Reebok, who knows!.

>I did shot reversal 35mm stills and digitals too.

>Ohhh man, what a lovely stock is E100VS. I am in love with this pictures.

>The digitals?, mmmmm I am sure there is a use for digital 6.3 megapixel stills but If you ask, E100VS is my new religion.

>I can send a digital pix if someone wants to see them.

>Thanks a lot.

>Miguel Del Valle P
DOP. E.P.
Dos38media
Mexico City.


>Miguel,

>Congrats on the shoot-and the NPR has a nice feature-variable shutter...

>I too shot 100VS, great stock(I can imagine how amazing it must be in medium or large format come to think of it) I too got some nice aerials of the Everglades(but a bit shaky)from a Cessna 172, shooting through the open window (loud!)and would love to try it from an UL or sailplane/glider (no room though).

>John Babl
Miami


>I just tried to think about 100VS as a 35mm motion picture stock, shot with a set of Cookes, mmm its fair to dream.

>I know that shooting landscapes is safer (shooting hand held) than shooting something like a building in that style but are your shots too shaky? What about shooting the same way but from a helicopter?.

>Shooting from a UL has its own things, it has its pros and cons but proved safe, fun and fine for shooting. I recommend to use a TRIKE type rather than a fixed wing aircraft I think it is less shaky and more easy to fly and the prop is in the back of the plane, and of course its cheaper than a Cessna or a Helicopter.

>Sailplanes or gliders maybe the best as a smooth medium to move the camera but hey, I don’t think there is space for the pilot, let alone the operator and the camera.

>Miguel Del Valle P
DOP. E.P.
Dos38media
Mexico City


>If you really want really smooth aerials then nothing beats a hot air balloon. Of course, you may not go exactly where you want to but the slow moving ultra smooth shots look like nothing else.

>Paul Hicks


class="style9">>If you really want really smooth aerials then nothing beats a hot air >balloon.

>Yes, nice and easy but very difficult to frame the shot and the worst part, moving the balloon to the location, that may be more expensive than a Helicopter.

>Miguel Del Valle P
DOP. E.P.
Dos38media
Mexico City.


class="style9">>Yes, nice and easy but very difficult to frame the shot and the worst part, >moving the balloon to the location, that may be more expensive than a >helicopter.

>I've tried this maybe 20 times or so. (Hot Air Balloons) I even built a clamp-on basket mount which allowed me to shoot straight down.

>True, it is very smooth, except during and just after the propane burner ignition - which makes the basket sway a bit. You have to ask the pilot to literally be motionless and practically hold his breath (you too) because the basket will move if there is any movement by the occupants.

>It makes for unusual footage, if you are just seeking to shoot sunrise and sunset (the only time they fly) beauty shots of countryside or aimless floating over a city. The slow speed, low altitude, and early/late light, makes for some very scenic material.

>But it is difficult to keep a shot framed. Forget trying to "plan" your wind direction to get a shot of a particular site (building, etc). And you only get about a 15 - 20 minute flight. And you never get a second take.

>All of this relates to the smaller hot air balloons that people use in typical hot air balloon festivals and competition. I know they make larger balloons / baskets that will hold up to four passengers, but I have no experience with those.

>Have fun and be ready for the Set Down (can be a little hairy if there's a good wind -- you can be drug along the ground with the basket horizontal for a hundred yards or so -- so you should use the smallest camera you can get.

>Jim Dollarhide
Director/Cinematographer