Aerial cinematography often encompasses more than air-to-air photography of other aircraft. Sometimes the aerial cinematographer is called upon to facilitate photography from the ground and within the aircraft itself. Aircraft used in aerial cinematography are designated by the Aerial Cinematographer and Aerial Coordinator as either a camera ship or story ship.
Helicopters are the aircraft of choice for the majority of aerial cinematography duties as they offer the most in versatility. The ability for multidirectional flight gives the aerial cinematographer control and finesse over the movement of the camera much like the director of photography would do with any ground-based camera dolly.
In addition, each helicopter has its own maximum airspeed limitations (expressed as VNE - velocity never to exceed) which will be further reduced by the installation of any camera mounting system. There are definite reasons for these limitations and under no circumstances should they ever be exceeded. Number of people on board factors into the aircraft gross weight which will affect performance, particularly at altitude or during hover. Increased weight aside, with certain camera mounts there quite frankly will not be enough room left, beyond the pilot and operator, to accommodate any more passengers other than maybe the director.
Consult all aspects of the shot with the Aerial Cinematographer, Aerial Coordinator and Camera Ship Pilot will ensure a safe and intelligent choice of helicopter for all camera ship duties on the production. Safety for all cast and crew members actively involved in the film production is the number one priority for the aerial cinematographer, aerial coordinator and the aerial filming unit. Working around aircraft can prove to be hazardous if sufficient care is not taken to ensure personal safety. Those individuals who make their primary living in aerial cinematography know all too well the dangers involved and strive to maintain a safe working environment in the air and on the ground for themselves and their colleagues.
Helicopter or Fixed-Wing
Choice of system depends entirely on the nature of the shot. No one filming system is superior over another. Rather it boils down to suitability to task. It's common to employ any combination of these mounts during a film production. For budgetary reasons, consult the aerial cinematographer on the demands of the shot to ensure the correct choice of mount.
As a cross section example of the aerial cinematography technology, I will describe the services of a well known helicopter aerial cinematography company and some the features they offer to the rotor, fixed wing and telescopic crane market for air, dry land and maritime uses.
The Originator of the Gyro-Stabilized Camera
The Pictorvision eclipse features XR Motion Management technology that enables the highest level of stability, unmatched precise and responsive steering, Geo steering, will not topple, absolute level horizon and faster start-ups and resets.
Wescam RED One
A First for Aerial Cinematography Pictorvision is the first aerial stabilization company to use the revolutionary RED ONE digital cinema camera in aerial shooting. Capitalizing on their expertise in camera stabilization technology, the team at Pictorvision can quickly make modifications necessary to successfully stabilize and accurately integrate the RED ONE camera package into our Wescam Film/HD System. The modular design of the Wescam Film System makes the integration very simple. Our multi-format, HD ready operator’s monitor (standard equipment with the system) makes monitoring the HD-SDI output from the camera effortless for our technicians. Pictorvision customers can immediately make reservations for the company’s proprietary RED ONE aerial stabilization and precision control turnkey package or integrate their own RED ONE camera.
The Most Stable Ground Camera System for the Most Challenging Environments Pictorvision provides customers with the most stable and versatile gyro-stabilized remote head in the industry. The XR has exceeded expectations on some of the largest productions and is recognized for its stabilization performance and reliability in the most challenging of environments.The XR was the first system to utilize Pictorvision's patented XR Motion Management technology, setting new industry standards for pushing creative limits.
Dave Arms, Aerial Operator and Technician showcasing at
CINEGEAR 2009 the new PictorFX 3D scanning and modeling system.
Set Design Visualization
pre-visualization with virtualsets: Plan and test camera and lighting angles, plan and test camera moves, pre-plan shooting and equipment logistics, set extensions , composites, topography to ground characters feet, accurate shadow casting, match moving virtual camera to live-action camera
For more info:
Courtesy of Aerial Cinematography
Photo courtesy of Airborne Images and Aaron Fitzgerald
Watch a video clip, click -ON DEMAND- and choose Pictorvision