Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Aerial Shoot

Published : 4th June 2012

I'm doing some aerials next week with an F900 and Tyler Middle Mount. Numerous people have mentioned vibration issues with the camera. Are they electrical issues, physical issues or gyro and recording head interference issues?

I think we're shooting from a Bell Jet Ranger, out of an airport in Florida. Advice?

Jeff Baustert
Santa Monica, CA


A Tyler Middle mount does a nice job of isolating the camera from the vibrations of the airframe. That's what the various side mounts do. Gyros added to a middle mount or a Major mount allow you to control the camera more smoothly and give you better results with longer lenses. How tight do you need to go? Are you shooting beautiful vistas and establishing shots or do you need to push in to the lipstick in the hand of the blonde in the
passenger seat of the sports car?

Mark H. Weingartner
LA based


Dear Jeff,

The camera is not the issue ... vibration is caused by the type of rotor aircraft and the skill of the pilot to compensate. However, there is no total, 100% elimination of camera vibration if the aircraft and/or pilot are not up-to-snuff.

I have shot hundreds of hours in many aircraft, primarily helicopters. I have shot in both various generations of the Bell Jet Ranger. These aircraft shake, more than other manufacturer's aircraft. I have found that the French "A-Star" has minimal vibration, to such an extent that I rarely use a Tyler or other mount, I simply sit on the floor with the door open and should hand-held. Yes, even with big cameras such as the F900.

Another variable is the skill of the cameraman. I sense from your posting that you have not shot aerials before. If you had, you would know about the vibration issues. I'm not trying to be rude, I'm just stating facts. Vibration and aircraft - especially rotor aircraft - are an inherent part of filming from them.

My suggestion is to hire an experienced aerial cameraman and make sure the pilot is VERY experienced shooting for TV and film. If I can be of any further service, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,
Porter Versfelt III - DP/Lighting Cameraman
678.469.6224


Jeff Baustert wrote:

>> I'm doing some aerials next week with an F900 and Tyler Middle Mount. Numerous people have mentioned >>vibration issues with the camera.

What Mark Weingartner wrote: There are no vibration issues when using a Tyler Middle Mount.

In order to facilitate properly balancing the camera, you should use an Anton Bauer "Brick" rather than a lithium battery. Make sure the camera is properly balanced. If you've never done this, either find someone who has, or find out how to do it yourself. Tyler has a video explaining the process.

If your using the gyros -- highly recommended -- allow plenty of time for the gyros to spool up. It can take 15 minutes or more depending on the power source.

>> I think we're shooting from a Bell Jet Ranger, out of an airport in Florida. Advice?

There is a great deal of excellent advice in the archives. It's only difficult because you as the operator will have to do a lot of things yourself that you might not be used to doing on the ground -- zoom, focus, communicating with the pilot, communicating with the ground, and so on. None of these things is inherently difficult, but trying to do them all at the same time can be.

If you haven't done much aerial work, avoid trying to do too much -- because aerial work is so expensive, producers are tempted to try to cram as much as possible into the alloted air time. Take your
time, and prioritize your shots. Have fun.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


I might be a little late on this reply, but here it goes anyway...

For the Helicopter:


My Helicopter knowledge is a little rustier than I'd like to admit anymore, but I do know the Bell Jet Rangers (5 seaters) and Long Rangers (7 seaters) were very good aircraft in the 1980's and early 1990's, actually for their price range they were top-notch. Quite dependable, and not prone to be very "squirrely", as so many others
were. Of course, they are an older craft design by this point and there are probably many newer and better aircraft out there by now...

For Shooting out of a helicopter:


I did some shooting out of a small puddle jumper last year (a robinson). There was no budget for any decent rigs, so I had the unfortunate opportunity to do it all hand held.

I shot both film and HD over the course of two hours. With the film camera, I used a 50mm and a 75mm with a Konvas 1M (Turret). I rolled off close to 800ft (we had to land for a Magazine change, since I only had 400' mags, and had no room in the robinson to do the change). I also shot another 23 minutes of HD footage with a Sony Z1U. It was jerky in a few places, but only a few clips were getting used here and there. Zooming in was not an option on either camera, due to the robinson's prone to blow with the smallest gusts of wind, so we had to fly low to get the closer shots... Overall the footage was quite useable.

A few quick notes:


#1 The heavier the helicopter, the smoother the ride and usually the easier it is to hover.
#2 Don't be afraid to ask the pilot to go back around for a 2nd or
3rd take if needed, or even slow down. A good pilot can hover in one place for quite a while. If you can, get the pilot with the most experience.
#3 The gustier the wind, the shakier the craft (obviously). Try to go up when it's calmer - if I remember correctly, that's usually in the morning (ask the pilot his opinion, and let them know you want an ultra smooth ride).

Strap yourself in tight and enjoy!

Adam Frey
Director/Cinematographer
[Crimson] Chain Productions
http://crimsonchainproductions.com


Everyone chasing this thread has left out one of the most important pieces of advice. Structure your shot so that the helicopter is either flying into the wind or facing it. Helicopters are a lot like weather vanes. Face them into the wind with the tail boom acting like a rudder and they're very stable. If you get the wind "up your rear" that tail boom will swing left and right and the shot will be shaky. If that means you have to shoot out the right for one shot and left for another so be it.

Marty Mullin
DP
Los Angeles


Porter Versfelt III wrote:

>> I have shot hundreds of hours in many aircraft, primarily helicopters. I have shot in both various >>generations of the Bell Jet Ranger.

I beg to differ. There is no way to generalize about helicopter vibration. Any given Jet Ranger may have less vibration than any given Eurocopter, or vice-versa. Proper maintenance is the key to minimal vibration, and you won't find out about it until you're flying.

The smoothest rotorcraft of any type that I have ever flown in was a well maintained Bell Long Ranger L-1 made in 1980. I flew in it in two years ago.

BTW, the humble Bell Jet Ranger has the best safety record of any aircraft in service -- fixed or rotary wing.

>> Everyone chasing this thread has left out one of the most important pieces of advice. Structure your shot so >>that the helicopter is either flying into the wind or facing it.

That's good advice, but if you're shooting on a MiddleMount in a Jet ranger, you can only shoot out of the right side, no matter which way the wind is blowing.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


Brian Heller wrote:

>> I beg to differ. There is no way to generalize about helicopter vibration.

And Brian should know -- he's a renowned aerial cinematographer, and even owns his own Tyler mount!

Jeff "trying to find a suitable Boston/Aerosmith/Tyler joke, but
failing miserably" Kreines


A (one of many) key thing about operating a Tyler mount - is don't operate. Unless you're doing something with fast cuts - an action sequence, a pacy car spot (where the Tyler can be great), where you're doing your best merely to hold onto the thing, your input should be minimal. Operate from the shoulders/diaphragm. If you want to pan, ask the pilot to do it, and if the Tyler's well-balanced, it should follow with only a hint of help from you.
It's all down to the pilot really, think of him as a grip dealing with a dolly.

The other point about wind direction was absolutely correct, helicopters are not great flying downwind (esp if heavy/underpowered/in hot conditions/high).

Heavier the helicopter - more stable - not necessarily so. The less weight the machine is obliged to carry (the more empty it is) the better. That way the pilot's got more power to play with so you can get that jib-up effect
etc etc.

Other points about types of heli/vibration, absolutely true - some machines, like their pilots, are tuned for cruising with VIPs at 120kts. And some may be only a couple of hours away from a major inspection so the pilot's got used to a vibration you may think is awful.

Keep an eye on your horizon, it's all too easy to tilt up on the piss.

If you or your director are expecting majestic, graceful and grandiose stuff - or simply long-focal length (above 75mm in 35mm terms), get a Stab-C, Cineflex or Wescam. Much more expensive up-front, but much nicer to
edit. That said, Nelson Tyler did amazing stuff in the '60's and that was without gyros.

Don't forget you're shooting for a subject. All your plans will go out of the window (hope not, might get in the tail rotor) with the lack of communication (always) and excitement, and all your shots will look great when you play them back in the field - but you still have to begin and end shots and someone has to edit them...

Above all, make sure the pilot doesn't get carried away with enthusiasm, don't push it if he starts getting worried about the weight, or anything.

Be safe.

Even better, get an experienced film pilot and operator to do it!

All the best

Jim Swanson
Aerial/tracking cameraman
UK/Europe


Many thanks to all for input on my request for advice. Things went very well today and I used much of what was posted.

My specific question went unanswered, though. A couple of people I spoke with recently said they had heard about(but not experienced first hand)a problem with the F900 shooting aerials and having vibration problems. I was concerned that something in the recording mechanism was affected by this "problem" but, in reviewing our material, I saw nothing.

Has anyone experienced a situation unique to the F900 in shooting aerials? Is this another production urban legend I'm helping spread?

Thanks again for all the input.

Jeff Baustert


Jeff Baustert wrote:

>> My specific question went unanswered, though. A couple of people I spoke with recently said they had >>heard about(but not experienced first hand) a problem with the F900 shooting aerials and having vibration >>problems.

Many people have had and continue to have vibration problems in shooting aerials. However, it is nearly exclusively a video problem due to the less robust construction of the typical Beta type camcorderand video zoom lens. Vibration problems can affect any video system and are by no means limited to the F-900, although any vibration problem will be more readily visible in an HD system.

Vibration problems are also usually limited to Nose Mounts, where the camera is rigidly attached to the helo's airframe and where the camera is exposed to wind forces which can,under the right circumstances, cause the tape to lift from the recording head. A two piece system can obviate this problem, but HD field decks were in very limited supply.

Tyler has greatly improved their video zoom lens support system the B mount is a major source of problems as are loose lens elements, which are not uncommon in video zooms.

Again the archives should contain a great deal of info on this and related aerial subjects.

And IMHO, when it comes to Nose Mounts, the humble Bell Jet Ranger or Long Ranger have all other types beat.
For openers, the operator can see the camera and lens through the chin bubble.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


F900 and Aerial alone are pretty loose terms:-) There are some situations with some Tyler Nose Mounts on some rotocraft where, depending on how knowledgable the installer, there MIGHT be a situation where the camera might suffer from vibration issues...especially with a heavy zoom lens cantilevered out there...I say MIGHT because a skilled Tyler Mount Installer will know how to nullify or minimize these sorts of things.

Vibration issues, like car accidents, are rarely the result of one factor, but rather the unfortunate confluence of several factors.I would emphatically NOT want to give a bad name to a particular camera or combination of camera and mount based on one or two occurances that might have been easily preventable if qualified people were involved......and what looks horrible at one focal length might look a lot better a bit looser.

When working with a properly installed and set up middle mount or major mount, vibration is not an issue... there are issues, of course, but vibration ain't one of them

Mark Weingartner
LA based


Hi Jeff


I have shot a considerable amount of aerial material on the F900 with a Tyler Side Mount ( and am looking down the barrel of 50 days next year for cinema with a F900R) and have never noticed any problem indingenous to either the mount or the camera . There are all sorts of elements in individual situations, especially the balance of the rotor blades, which can create actually create vibration problems, but if these elements are controlled I dont believe there are inheirent problems in either the mount or the camera. My personal opinion is that the more blades there are above you, the more stable and vibration free the aircraft is likely to be.

Laurie K. Gilbert s.o.c.
Film & HD Cinematographer

L'IMAGE CINEMATOGRAPHY
www.limage.tv
www.ukscreen.com/crew/laurie
www.aerialcinematography.com


Hello,


I did not see the E-mail that Mark was replying to about vibration with the F 900 and a helicopter mount. I suspect what it was that the image was vibrating due a zoom lens on a Video camera when the lens was anything but wide angle.

If that what this is about the problem is that all the video cameras have a lens mount made out of thin aluminum and this attached to an even thinner magnesium plate giving the lens very little support. This was made this way to keep the cameras as light as possible when as is done with the HD cameras cousins the ENG cameras.

Go to www.clairmont.com, go to catalog, click on digital cameras, click on Clairmont modified F 900, and see how Clairmont Camera has solved that problem by making a special Stainless steel lens mount, thicker aircraft aluminum front plate, and supports that are installed inside of the cameras. Also the new carrying handle ties all this together. The same has been with Panasonic 27 F and the 27 H.

This solves the vibration problems and back focus changing with temperature problems.

Denny Clairmont


>> Go to www.clairmont.com, go to catalog, click on digital cameras, click on Clairmont modified F 900, and see >>how Clairmont Camera has solved that problem by making a special Stainless steel lens mount, thicker >>aircraft aluminum front plate, and supports that (to solve vibration and back-focus problem)

This is another example of a privately-owned business solving a serious problem which has vexed most HD camera operators - the back-focus issue.

Sad to think that Panasonic and Sony, with all of their resources and money couldn't or wouldn't fix this problem. Thanks to Denny (and Terry) Clairmont for having the common sense and initiative to correct this issue.

Jerry Murrel
1st AC, Los Angeles


Regarding shooting video with a Tyler Nose Mount:

Clairmont's lens mount for their F-900's -- fantastic -- if you can get a camera with it.

Tyler's newish video lens support system also works well, and it works with a variety of video cameras, not just the F900.

A good installer is also a good idea, but installing a camera on a nose mount is not all that difficult.

However, neither a Clairmont camera, nor a good installer nor a helo with any number of blades can solve all of the potential problems that one may encounterwhen using a video camera on a Tyler Nose Mount. (BTW, the only aircraft options that the Tyler Nose Mount is certified are two or three blades -- Bell 206/207or Eurocopter 350/355.) Whether or not these problems can ascribed to "vibration" or other forces of flight, the end result can be problems.

IMHO, when shooting video with a Nose Mount it is a very good idea to check the actual recording at regular intervals to be sure you are getting what you think you're getting.Tyler now recommends that a separate VTR be used when shooting video with a Nose Mount. They also recommend that the deck be put on the seat
cushion on the rear seat. They don't make this suggestion lightly.

Also people who are not accustomed to flying in a helicopter, especially when the helo is manuevering, cannot be depended upon to accurately evaluate what is being recorded.It is best to land and make any evaluations away from the helo and in a more controlled situation.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


Just a note about the Tyler video lens support and the B4 mount in general.

I ran into a vibration issue on a shoot with a A-star , Tyler nose mount and a Varicam. There was a wide angle video zoom on the camera (Fuji 10 x 5.2 I think). We saw severe vibration issues as soon as we took off. We landed and blamed the problems on the rigidity of the camera lens mount. The lens was firmly fixed to the foam of the Tyler lens support. When we shook the lens the helicopter moved. We could see the B4 mount on the camera flexing when we shook the lens- this of course looked really bad. We tightened all the screws on the camera body around the lens mount and added extra tie downs to the body and and lens but still we saw the flex.I called the rental house's tech who explained to me that this flex is normal and shouldn't be seen as a problem. According to him the prism and chip block flex with the lens as a unit in these cameras (basically
all 3 chip ENG-style cameras) so that back focus doesn't have to be dependent on a very rigid B4 mount. This freaked me out as I had always assumed that the mount was very rigid but in an ENG world (where much of
the camera's weight is being thrown around by a grip mounted on the lens) I can see the reasoning. I'd love if someone could explain this further.


As I understand the lens, prism and CCDs were basically soft mounted into the camera body. Clairmont's ruggedized mounts are probably much better for supporting heavy cine-style lenses and their mass and steel
composition would avoid a lot of the temperature related back focus issues but I expect we would have seen the same vibration in one of their bodies.... because it wasn't a mount issue.


Feeling an impatient client looking up his list of other DPs I calmly dialed Panavision who put me in touch with Mr. Tyler himself driving on the highway in LA. While negotiating traffic he talked me through the setup and upon hearing that the top of our video lens support was wrapped with foam he instructed me to "cut it off" and go metal to metal between the lens and the support. Apparently this lens support has been updated since but if you run into an old one this may be a problem.


Thank you Mr. Tyler.
This did the trick- the footage now smooth our delay pushed us right into magic hour and the angels sang.


Ian Kerr csc
Cinematographer
Vancouver Canada


Ian Kerr csc wrote:

>> While negotiating traffic he (Nelson Tyler) talked me through the setup and upon hearing that the top of >>our video lens support was wrapped with foam he instructed me to "cut it off" and go metal
>>to metal between the lens and the support.

Yes, you had the old support designed for BetaCams. The new support completely surrounds the lens and by means of a series of different diameter inserts it can rigidly support just about any diameter lens.

>> This did the trick- the footage now smooth our delay pushed us right into magic hour and the angels sang.

Sometimes you get to bite the bear.

Other cameras do not fare so well. For instance, even though the Sony Z1-U has a stabilized lens, and you might think that would help, the Sony Z1-Ucannot be used on a nose mount. The stabilizing circuitry does not
respond rapidly enough to the types of vibration encountered; when the circuitry isdisabled, the lens elements are not 'locked" or parked, so the problem gets even worse.

Also, traditional video zooms are designed for ENG use and not designed for aerial use. More than once, we have had elements loosen during flight.This can be very difficult to see because the problem may be intermittent or transient, depending on the attitude of the nose mount and the helo.

It may be visible on a WFM, but only if you're watching for it and not watching the shot

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


Not flip-flopping...I just wanted to mention that I didn't think all problems could be solved with a good ship and a good installer, just that I didn't want to categorically condemn a particular configuration out of hand.

The "whisper whisper" aspect of the industry can easily cause people to reject one particular shooting configuration (say, an F900 on a middle mount) due to a misunderstanding of a reported problem with a different configuration(F900 on a nose mount)

There are some EW oscillation issues with some nose mounts on some aircraft that can be solved with the judicious use of non-documented foam strategically compressed, for instance......and there are some other issues that have come up with RF (radio frequency) interference with the recording...

There are lots of variables, including, but not limited to placement and orientation of external antennae on particular helicopters and shielding issues when running cables up to the deck from the camera etc etc etc that
can cause problems.

Anyone who has shot with any HandyCam or Handy Looky with an on-board recorder anywhere near broadcast transmitting antennae has probably been bitten by RF interference at one time or another... in spite of good
quality double-shielded BNC cables etc. A scope makes it much easier to see.

One thing that Brian's and other posts points to, however, is the reality that aerial shooting, like ANY shooting involving rigs on vehicles, is inherently more complicated than plonking a camera on a dolly or a jib arm, and in spite of various vendors' or crew-members' or producers' assertions, one should not assume that everything will go together perfectly and work the first time. As soon as you are spending "all that money" on hiring a helicopter and a pilot, you should push hard for enough prep time to ensure that you end up with usable footage. The ship costs a lot of money when the turbine is spinning - but it doesn't cost that much more to have it at hand early enough to get it rigged properly and off the ground for a quick test out of ground-effect to make sure that everything is working properly before the sun gets close to the horizon, or the cruise ship gets close to the harbor, or whatever. As the DP, it is often up to you to advise Production as to the advisability of doing this - they will not always realize it on their own.

If you have relatively little aerial experience yourself, a little test time for the equipment will also give you a chance to sort out where you are going to tie your spotmeter, where to adjust your seat (or the mount post)
or whatever so that you can concentrate on getting the shot when it comes time to get the shot.

Mark Weingartner
LA


Mark H. Weingartner wrote:

>> As soon as you are spending "all that money" on hiring a helicopter and a pilot, you should push hard for >>enough prep time to ensure that you end up with usable footage.

Excellent advice.

Also, if you do not have a lot of aerial experience, tell the pilot -- don't try to BS him. The pilot can be a great help to you; he can get you the time you need to get the job done right. Remember, he wants the
shoot to go well just as you do.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP