Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Aerials - Solution For Bugs On Port

Published : 2nd November 2009


I recently did a week of aerials in Tanzania and figured that bugs on lens probably cost $5k - $8K in lost helo time. It's really aggravating to have the ideal elevation, ideal light and you can't make it work because of bugs. To add insult to injury, there were places we couldn't find a suitable LZ.


I'm wondering if the solution couldn't be some kind of low profile, robust curved windshield wiper that could mount as a unit around the port with a minimal amount of added forward area. Any type rotating glass or plex seems like it would be very problematic because of added area and wind resistance.


Michael Murray
Adrenaline Films
Orlando, FL



Mike Murray wrote:


>> I recently did a week of aerials in Tanzania and figured that bugs on lens probably cost $5k - $8K in >>lost helo time. It's really aggravating to have the ideal elevation, ideal light and you can't make it >>work because of bugs. To add insult to injury, there were places we couldn't find a suitable LZ.


In situations like that I have tried to arrange for side mounted Wescam, etc. That way you can turn the ball toward the helo and reach the ball to clean it. Of course it trades the bug frustration for a limited shooting arc.


>>I'm wondering if the solution couldn't be some kind of low profile, robust curved windshield wiper >>that could mount as a unit around the port with a minimal amount of added forward area.


We tried a wiper type device some years ago; some of those bugs are mighty sticky and will only smear, so you would also need some type of enzyme cleaning solution to dissolve the bug guts.
We are waiting till summer here to test a couple.


>> Any type rotating glass or plex seems like it would be very problematic because of added area and >>wind resistance.


Not only that, the gyroscopic forces created by a rapidly spinning device are difficult to control; if it spins slowly, you'll still see the bugs, but only as a blur.


Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



Brian Heller wrote:


>>In situations like that I have tried to arrange for side mounted Wescam, etc. That way you can turn >>the ball toward the helo and reach the ball to clean it.
>>Of course it trades the bug frustration for a limited shooting arc.


Wonder if anyone has tried to create air flow around the shooting port,
Something akin to what airplane wings have to deal with bugs?


Steven Gladstone
New York Based Cinematographer
Gladstone films
http://www.gladstonefilms.com
917-886-5858



>>Has anyone tried a high-pressure/high-velocity air jet that would deflect or eject bugs before they hit >>the lens or the glass port?


Me, I used a Hasselblad lens cap with a piece of thin nylon cord that pulled through a pulley mounted at the front of one of the skids.


It required no rigging of nozzles, no carrying of air bottles, no rigging or powering of compressors, did not affect the wetted surface of the camera, no certification (of course that was the old days) no power draw on the helicopter ship power, no fiberglass work, and, as I dimly recall across the haze of time, actually deployed successfully 100% of the time. It got us way above the insect-heavy altitude near the ground.
This camera mount did not allow for the camera to tilt in order to avoid bugs.


Bugs are gooey
Bugs at 80 knots are really gooey.


There are many many clever designs that people who have built streamlined shapes could come up with that might make for lots of fun solving this problem. The air currents under the nose of a helicopter are complicated enough that it would be fruitless to design such a device without some testing.


Testing is expensive unless you own or have cheap access to the same type of helicopter while it has a camera mount attached to it.


If anyone has an A star or TwinStar with high skids, a nose mount, and wants to donate an hour or two of flying time, I would be glad to engineer something that might help this a little bi...but I wonder how many clients we could rent it to?


This is not unlike the great number of specialty shooting platforms, like the many motorcycle platforms I have worked with, that are great fun to design and build and never turn a profit in and of themselves.... they may provide a bit of work now and again and get the owner some work for himself/herself, but they are not exactly profit centers.


Let's face it, if you are shooting on a nose mount instead of a stabilized ball mount, you are probably not a big-money job... (or you would have a ball mount) and an extra $500 for a bug-deflection system that will protect the client from 70% of the bugs is a tough sell...


I'm just saying...


If someone is interested in doing this sort of thing, I could easily build a test jig that would fit on one of my motorcycles - get up to 90mph on Rte99 through the central valley and you will find all the bugs you need to test.


Bit of trivia - Wright brothers used test rigs mounted on bicycles to test wing shapes.... there is some precedent here.


Mark H. Weingartner
LA-based VFX DP/Supervisor
http://schneiderentertainment.com/dirphoto.htm



Michael Murray wrote :


>> Any type rotating glass or plex seems like it would be very problematic because of added area and >>wind resistance.


Back in the 80's I worked for the Seven Network, Sydney who developed Racecam. Live video camera systems started out inside race cars, then moved to the outside of the cars.


The Racecam engineers came up with a clever method of clearing bugs from the camera lens. A 35 mm still camera movement with electronic frame advance was mounted in front of the 2/3" CCD camera lens. A long roll of clear 35 mm film was loaded into the movement and when the film received a bug hit, the film was advanced by a remote technician, one frame at a time to present a new clean window.

Depending on the size of the lens front element a larger film strip format such as 65 or 70 mm could be employed.


Peter Swan
Video Tech
www.videoassist.com.au
Sydney Australia



Mike Murray wrote :


>>I recently did a week of aerials in Tanzania and figured that bugs on lens probably cost $5k - $8K in >>lost helo time. It's really aggravating to have the ideal elevation, ideal light and you can't make it >>work because of bugs. To add insult to injury, there were places we couldn't find a suitable LZ.


In situations like that I have tried to arrange for side mounted Wescam, etc. That way you can turn the ball toward the helo and reach the ball to clean it. Of course it trades the bug frustration for the frustration of a limited shooting arc.


>>I'm wondering if the solution couldn't be some kind of low profile, robust curved windshield wiper >>that could mount as a unit around the port with a minimal amount of added forward area.


A wiper type device was tried some years ago; it was not very good. Some of those bugs are mighty sticky and will only smear, so you would also need some type of cleaning solution to dissolve the bug guts.


We are waiting till summer here to test a couple of enzyme type cleaning solutions.


>>Any type rotating glass or plex seems like it would be very problematic because of added area and >>wind resistance.


Not only that, the gyroscopic forces created by a rapidly spinning device are difficult to control; if the device spins slowly, you'll still see the bugs, but only as a blur.


Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



Steven Gladstone wrote :


>>Wonder if anyone has tried to create air flow around the shooting port, Something akin to what >>airplane wings have to deal with bugs?


Not that I am aware of -- and I don't think it's on Tyler's to-do list. And what do airplane wings have to do with bugs?


Dan Drasin wrote :


>>The outgoing air cushion might also neutralize any squirrely aerodynamic effects from the cone. >>Obviously the velocity of the air would have to exceed the helo's forward airspeed, but with the >>proper design I think that could probably be achieved for a depth of a few inches without resorting to >>the black arts, rocket science, or the Los Alamos National Lab's braintrust...


Gentlemen,


We anxiously await your product release dates; just as we patiently await your FAA approvals.


Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



Brian Heller wrote :


>>And what do airplane wings have to do with bugs?


Hey Brian,

Actually Dan and I are discussing along the same lines. If I recall correctly there is a "Bug Layer", and plane wings have "jets" in the front to clear off the bugs that can stick onto the leading surface of the wing disrupting airflow and lift. I saw this on some documentary channel, so I may not be remembering it well, and it may not be applicable or possible of technically or financially feasible.


Hope it makes sense now.


Steven Gladstone
New York Based Cinematographer
Gladstone films
http://www.gladstonefilms.com
917-886-5858


>> I recently did a week of aerials in Tanzania and figured that bugs on lens probably cost $5k - $8K in >>lost helo time.


I live down here in Mississippi. We have LOTS of BUGS.


Yes, it is indeed frustrating. I always have an assistant to jump out and clean the lens, so I don't have to unseat myself, monitors, controls, et all. On the Tyler Nose Mount, I just keep it pointed straight down until a few seconds before the shot. (assuming you are executing a specific shot, and not just looking for a cool one).


Same thing on the Middle Mount. Keep it out of the wind flow unless you are shooting.
Regarding cleaning . . . Bug guts don't come off easily !


BTW, I was in Tanzania last year. What an incredible place.


Jim Dollarhide
Director/Cinematographer
601-853-4252
http://www.dollarhide.net



Mark H. Weingartner writes :


>> get up to 90mph on Rte99 through the central valley and you will find all the bugs you need to test.


Fresh out of NYC in the summer of 1972, I made my first driving trip from LA to SF up Interstate 5, with a wicker trunk full of clothing tied to the roof rack. You know what I'm going to say and are probably laughing your ass off. Yeah. The bugs permeated every cubic inch of that trunk from stem to stern and it took several launderings to rid my hapless wardrobe of its newly acquired patina.


Brian Heller writes :


>>We anxiously await your product release dates; just as we patiently await your FAA approvals.


A certain Mr. Jannard has bought my patents. Now we can all sit back and await the release dates. I believe the new designs will be firmware-driven and modular, and can be accessorized to fit not only a broad range of helos and fixed-wing craft, but also RED Ones handheld by daredevil wing-walkers shooting outside loops and hammerhead stalls in the summer cumulus above Bakersfield.


Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Peter Swan wrote :


>>The Racecam engineers came up with a clever method of clearing bugs from the camera lens. A 35 >>mm still camera movement with electronic frame advance was mounted in front of the 2/3" CCD >>camera lens.


I believe the ingenious system that Peter is referring to is called "Clearview".


One problem is that Clearview cannot be easily scaled up to anything close to what is required for commercial film or video use due to the size of lenses used on current camera systems. Even 16mm film lenses would require something larger than 70mm, while some remote system "windows" are nearly 18 inches in diameter.


Another problem is that unlike racecars that generally -- hopefully -- travel only in a forward direction, the camera on a helicopter can point in nearly any direction relative to the helicopter's direction of travel.
One moment the wind forces are pushing the clear film against the lens, the next they may be trying to rip it away.


So far the solution remains elusive


Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



When I was shooting on a Nascar track with a Showscan camera, we had recurring bug and dirt problems. Our very resourceful camera wizard, Max Penner, came up with a nitrogen system that blew gas over the lens through a ring with holes drilled in the side. The camera operator (also Max) could start the system when the car began to pick up speed. We combined this with RainX applied to a clear filter.

Worked reasonably well.


Rod Paul
Dir/DP Atlanta


Not to take away from Max Penner's formidable accomplishments but we used the same idea on a Showscan film way back in 1983 or 84. DoP Jim Dickson and Key Grip Tom Conley (sp) came up with the idea to clear the lens when the camera was mounted on the front of a Coast Guard rescue ship in 20 foot waves. It worked great! Between the Rain X and the large nitrogen tank we kept the front clear in spite of the almost continual waves crashing over the boat.


Ron Raschke
Camera Operator
Ojai and Los Angeles