Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Low Budget Heli Aerials

As a note of interest I have verified all the web links in this page & in doing so I can confirm that information is EXTREMELY interesting if you are about to conduct aerial filming of ANY kind!!!

Published : 4th August 2013

Looking for an economical best solution for a simple aerial fly by , (nose mount seems best), for a small architectural-landscape aerial shot. I spoke to a few RC Helicopter people but it was a bit out of our budget. It's an easy one hour flight once all the rigging is done.

Has anyone used a Robinson R22 or R44 with nose mounted video camera? I'm not keen on that tiny helicopter but would like to know if that's even an option. If I go with a Jet Ranger, is the Tyler the only option for a nose mount?

It's part of a larger week long shoot, but only need this one aerial shot on this shoot. Looking for options. Plan is to shoot with RED or Canon 5D. That may change if necessary.

Thanks for any help.

Steve Sanacore
www.stevesanacore.com
Photographer-Director
561-301-3228


You should contact Dan Wolfe, Wolfe Air. www.wolfeair.com 626 584 4089

Meredith Day
310.562.5696


Steve Sanacore wrote:

>>Looking for an economical best solution for a simple aerial fly by , (nose mount seems best), for a small >>architectural-landscape aerial shot. I spoke to a few RC Helicopter people but it was a bit out of our >>budget.

Unless you're willing to hand hold the camera, there's really no "economical" solution -- if that solution requires the installation of a mount.

>> It's an easy one hour flight once all the rigging is done.

The shoot may be only an hour, but unless you are fully experienced, between the rigging, sign-off, testing, shooting and de-rigging, etc., you will have tied up the helo and pilot for a good part of the day.

Look at it this way: if a client had a job that involved "shooting" for only an hour, would you charge only for that hour? As compensation for loss of the use of the helo and the attendant aggravation, most helo
operators have a minimum 3 or 4 hour charge per day for aerial work.

>>Has anyone used a Robinson R22 or R44 with nose mounted video camera? I'm not keen on that tiny >>helicopter but would like to know if that's even an option.

AFAIK, the R22 or R44 is not approved for any nose mount. Tyler does an approved R-44 side mount for video gimbol systems such as the Flir or Cineflex, but that is a significantly more expensive option.

>>If I go with a Jet Ranger, is the Tyler the only option for a nose mount?

No, but it is the most readily available, most cost effective nose mount STC'd for the Jet Ranger and other helos. Other similar mechanical as opposed to electronic nose mounts would require an FAA ATC (field approval) and are not as accessible as the Tyler, nor anywhere near as user friendly.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


It’s the subject something that would be of interest to a stock library? If so how about a profit share agreement with the aerial co?

Michael Sanders
London Based DP


In fact, hand holding with a sandbag is not a bad idea with a fixed-wing aircraft. It's hard to deal with the helicopter vibration, but if I were looking to do aerials on the cheap I would look for someone with a high-wing aircraft that could be throttled way down for slow flight.

Scott Dorsey
Kludge Audio
Williamsburg, VA


Not in the case, no stock value. Good idea though.

Steve Sanacore
www.stevesanacore.com
Photographer-Director


Steve Sanacore wrote:

>> Looking for an economical best solution for a simple aerial fly by , (nose mount seems best), for a small >>architectural-landscape aerial It's an easy one hour flight once all the rigging is done.

Steve, I have a good bit of success shooting out of a Robbie 44 with door off and a handheld cam. Wide sweepers are exactly what this set up can do. Lots to tell u so contact off list for the whole gamut. 95% of the aerial work on my site was done this way. R44 is my least fav, but it's cheap and works if u are good and understand the limits.

Steve Panariello
Dp
Florida


Most has been said by now...

Tyler is the most ubiquitous nose mount because it is approved and there are many dealers and it works.... but only on a few models of aircraft shooting out the door does not give you the straight-ahead shot of a nose mount but might give you what you need to tell your story.

If so, depending on which aircraft, there are several completely internal lightweight additions to completely hand-held.

Adding the mass and stabilization of gyros can smooth you out. Lots of us have used small Kenyans on still cameras and steadicams...

One nice solution, relatively inexpensive to rent, is the Tyler mini-gyro

http://www.tylerminigyro.com/

It may or may not do what you want but it may well do what you need if you can get your angles from the door.

I have not shot with it in anger, but I have messed with it numerous times since its prototype stage...soundly engineered, well thought out, and it has a eye to hook a safety to so you don't drop it through someone's attic or worse.

Mark Weingartner
I used to do a lot of aerial stuff, but now not so often
la based Dp
vfx


Steve,

Robinson offers an R-44 "Newscopter" with gyrostabilized Ikegami HD nose mounted.


http://www.robinsonheli.com/rhc_newscopter.html

Steve Sanacore wrote:

>>Has anyone used a Robinson R22 or R44 with nose mounted video camera?

Ten? years ago, I used Salinas, California based Verticare/Showcopters' R-44 with nose mount FLIR gyrostabilized SD Hitachi (IIRC) camera for footage used in several projects.


http://web.archive.org/web/20090329093331/http://verticare.com/aerial_photo.htm

This system was used for news, network sports (golf course layout and beauty stuff) and other types of production shots. It was also used for live "air to ground" video at airshows, with the live video displayed on big mobile displays.

Price was a major consideration for me, and jet copters out of Sacramento with nose or door mounted Tyler’s were not feasible, financially.

Shooting shoulder-mounted out of the door with gyros on the camera would not have worked either for the shots needed.

The FLIR system was integrated within Verticare's R-44... a factory option, as I recall. It provided full gimbaling, so the horizon stayed level, whereas the basic Tyler nose mount the jet choppers would have used didn't.

So, I ended up with some very smooth material, even zoomed in all the way with the 2X extender kicked in. I'm still using the footage from time to time. We kept tape rolling as we flew, getting stock footage.

The booking was offered with the flight-time, including pilot and camera operator. I paid a lower rate for the "taxi" trips from and back to Salinas than when we were actually shooting.

In looking up a web address for Verticare/Showcopters, I found that owner/pilot Jim Cheatam passed away at home in 2009. The company has apparently closed, if the website being gone is an indication. The link above is from the Archive.org Wayback machine.

Here's video of Jim and two pilot/teammates at an airshow using R-22's:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvgxBn8ms5I&feature=player_embedded

R44's near you? You don't say where you're needing to shoot, but I gather you're out of Miami.

This company:

http://www.globalairgroup.net/Aerial_Photography.html


uses an R-44. The photo shows what appears to be a side-mounted Cineflex system.

This company also has R-44's and lists aerials as a service.

http://www.fivestarhelicopters.com/Resources/2011%20Flight%20Training%20Pricing.pdf

There are quite a few Florida companies listed on Robinson's dealer/service page that also offer aerial services:

http://www.robinsonheli.com/usdlrs.xml

Goggling for "Miami: Helicopter Aerials" brings up O'Brien and several other Florida companies that fly other brands choppers for aerials.

It appears they can offer a variety of mount options, but prices for the Robinson's are likely to be noticeably lower per-hour.

Hope this is of some help and that local folks can provide recommendations.

Ted

Ted Langdell
flashscan8.us
iPhone: (530) 301-2931
Office: (530) 741-1212


Michael Sanders asked: Is the subject something that would be of interest to a stock library? If so how about a profit share agreement with the aerial co?

Steve Sanacore wrote:

>>Not in the case, no stock value. Good idea though.

The shoot I used Verticare's R-44/FLIR package for was subsidized by contacting a large single-owner automall in Chico about aerials of the dealerships. They referred me to their ad agency, which went for the package.

That paid for better than 1/4 of the total bill, but didn't take that much of the flight-time to do. We flew maybe ten minutes from one of the locations I needed covered to the automall... and then flew back to drop me off.

Perhaps there are other "buyers" that can be found to help amortize the total cost.

If you're going to be flying over/past some locations that need fresh footage (like automalls, shopping centres, theme parks, of places with money to spend) and have enough lead time to pitch it... this could turn an expense into profit... or at least a break-even.

As I mentioned earlier, while flying from point A to B to C to A again, we had tape rolling the whole time we flew, looking for useful stock footage along the way. I've used pieces of this footage in other projects, and sold footage from the day to other productions from time to time.

Steve, I notice from your reel you deal with lifestyle material.

Maybe this is a way to get HD material you can use in your own productions later, or if you are flying over some potential clients resorts or real-estate, get some video and stills to then walk in and pitch a project with.

Hope this is helpful.

Ted

Ted Langdell
flashscan8.us
iPhone: (530) 301-2931
Office: (530) 741-1212


A couple of things to note about the R-44, that may influence one's choice of the R-44 as an aerial camera platform:

R-44's have Lycoming O-540 engines that burn 100 octane Avgas (aviation gas). 100 octane Avgas is considerably more volatile than Jet fuel.

R-44s manufactured before 2010 were not factory equipped with fuel tank bladders, but were equipped with simple aluminium tanks that could -- and did -- rupture on impact, often resulting in a post crash fire. As a result, crashes that otherwise might have been easily survivable became fatal due to post crash fires, as was the case with the post crash fire that killed Mike deGruy and Andrew Wight last year.

In Dec 2010 Robinson released Service Bulletin "SB-78A" instructing owners to install a fuel bladder retrofit kit in the fuel tanks of R-44s built prior to 2010. Owners were given until Dec 31, 2014 to make the modification. As a result of the publicity surrounding the deGruy/Wight crash, that date has been moved up to Dec. 31, 2013.

However, since this is a factory Service Bulletin and not an FAA Airworthyness Directive (AD) -- which would make the retrofit mandatory -- some R-44 owners are questioning the necessity of the retrofit at all.

The reasons for the foot dragging all have to do with money. The retrofit is not cheap, and it also seems that the cost of operating an R-44 is significantly greater than the factory literature suggests. Also the safety record of the R-44 is quite different than what the factory suggests.

The following, written by an R-44 enthusiast, explains the discrepancies very well:

http://helicopterflight.net/R44.htm

The following -- from an aviation lawyer's website -- is obviously slanted, but it does contain a good deal of relevant information:

http://www.aviationlawmonitor.com/2012/02/articles/helicopters/robinson-r44-fuel-tank-design-implicated-in-filmmakers-crash

I would strongly urge that anyone considering flying in an R-44 is sure that the aircraft conforms to SB-78A.

BTW, someone is working on a nosemount for the R-44:

www.robinsonhelicopters.org/index.php?option=com_jfusion&Itemid=53&topic=1418.0

Fly safe,

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


Try using gasoline in a wick-type hurricane lamp to see the difference.

(PS - don't!)

Tim Sassoon
SFD
Santa Monica, CA