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class="style16"> Helicopter Search Lights

Published : 19th September 2009


I've a job coming up which revolves around a helicopter searchlight illuminating the action. The helicopter will be in vision for a proportion of the proceedings, acting mostly as a backlight, and at other times will be really lighting the subject.


Of course the lack of control over a hovering helicopter, the expense of keeping it airborne and the issue of proximity with talent mean that as often as possible the helicopter won't be there.


My initial research hasn't turned up any good answers in terms of what a 'standard issue' police or press (twin engine) helicopter is equipped with in terms of searchlights. They always appear to be a Xenon style source but I can't even get solid info on what sort of power a helicopter puts out. I'm assuming 12/24v so I imagine the wattage of the lights they carry is 'relatively' bright but not actually all that. I suspect that a proposal to put a 'putt-putt' generator onboard and screw a 4kw Xenon to a Tyler mount will go down like the Hindenburg.


Has anyone had any similar experience that they could draw on to offer sage advice?


Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.



>>The helicopter will be in vision for a proportion of the proceedings, acting mostly as a backlight, and at >>other times will be really lighting the subject.


I had a similar situation where script called for helo in close but we were at an airport and it was *impossible* to get permission to do this...
So... We used a 4K PAR with a spot lens on an articulated lift (80'?) - with an operator using it as a follow spot. I think we had some fans with bits of debris for some of the tighter stuff. It looked great.


David Perrault, CSC



Tom Townend said :


>>I'm assuming 12/24v so I imagine the wattage of the lights they carry is 'relatively' bright but not actually all >>that.


Tom


I did a shoot many years ago on board a Squirrel helicopter in which the interior of the craft was decked out as a Disco (rotating mirror ball and all). I discovered the onboard power was actually 28 volts (and thus used un-transformed ACL lamps).


I know this information is useless as they won't give you the kick you require, but I just wanted to share the power bit of the conundrum...


George Martin
ARRI Focus
Tel: 01895 810000
Fax: 01895 257000



Tom


Helicopter xenon search lights can be bright. Typically they range from 500-1200watts and run on the helicopters 12-24volts. I would recommend asking the people supplying the helicopter to fit the largest robotic xenon available. An electrician or suitable person riding in the chopper can operate the light and communicate via walkie-talkie. It is possible to fit a hand operated xenon light in the open door, but this can eliminate some of your options and actually make it more difficult for the pilot.


4k HMI molebeams, 2 or 4k xenons spotlights and small HMIs with narrow lenses on condors are good substitutes when the chopper is unavailable.


Good Luck


Erik Messerschmidt
CLT, LA