The Art of Filming from a Helicopter: Challenges and Tips

There is something undeniably breathtaking about soaring through the air in a helicopter, capturing the world below from a unique perspective. The vast expanse of Greenland’s Søndre Strømfjord stretches out beneath you, devoid of trees and seemingly endless. However, obtaining usable footage from helicopter shoots is far from simple.

When filming from a helicopter, it’s important to stay calm and make sure everything is securely in place. Mistakes can happen easily amidst the excitement, leading to out-of-focus shots or excessive motion blur. To prevent this, gaffer tape becomes your best friend. Set your cameras to manual mode with a fast shutter speed (ideally faster than 1/1000th of a second) and an aperture between F4 and F5.6 to counteract the constant movement.

One common challenge when filming from a helicopter is dealing with obstructions, particularly when you cannot have an open door due to extreme weather conditions. Shooting through glass or a small side window may be your only option, but it adds complexity to the process. To minimize reflections, a fabric lens hood can be attached to the glass or, if that’s not possible, removing the standard hood can help. Additionally, mounting the camera low and to the front of the helicopter can help keep the rotors out of the frame.

Filming can also present the issue of rolling shutter, especially without specialized stabilization equipment. To mitigate the “jello” effect in footage, capturing stills using the mechanical shutter at the camera’s maximum frame rate can be a useful technique.

Despite the rise of drone usage in filming, helicopters remain indispensable in certain situations, particularly in remote and expansive locations like Greenland. The ability to have a passenger seat and capture footage from different angles makes helicopters invaluable for filmmakers.

In the end, the most important advice for filming from a helicopter is to enjoy the experience. Embrace the beauty around you and appreciate the opportunity to capture stunning scenes from the sky. There may be challenges and trade-offs, but the resulting footage is worth the effort. Remember that each shoot is a unique journey, and it’s during the moments of reflection that you truly realize the magnitude of what you’ve accomplished.

About the author: Rob Whitworth is a BAFTA-winning, Emmy-nominated filmmaker known for his remarkable flow motion works. His website and social media accounts showcase his incredible portfolio of work.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Filming from a Helicopter:

1. Why is obtaining usable footage from helicopter shoots challenging?
– Filming from a helicopter requires careful preparation to prevent mistakes such as out-of-focus shots or excessive motion blur. The constant movement can make it difficult to capture clear and steady footage.

2. What are some tips for filming from a helicopter?
– Set your cameras to manual mode with a fast shutter speed (faster than 1/1000th of a second) and an aperture between F4 and F5.6 to counteract the constant movement.
– Use gaffer tape to secure everything in place.
– Minimize reflections by attaching a fabric lens hood to the glass or removing the standard hood.
– Mount the camera low and to the front of the helicopter to keep the rotors out of the frame.

3. How can the “jello” effect in footage be mitigated?
– Without specialized stabilization equipment, capturing stills using the mechanical shutter at the camera’s maximum frame rate can help minimize the rolling shutter effect.

4. Are helicopters still important for filming despite the rise of drones?
– Yes, helicopters remain indispensable in certain situations, especially in remote and expansive locations like Greenland. Helicopters provide the advantage of a passenger seat and the ability to capture footage from different angles.

5. What is the key advice for filming from a helicopter?
– Enjoy the experience and embrace the beauty around you. Each shoot is a unique journey, and the resulting footage is worth the effort.

Definitions:
– Gaffer tape: A strong adhesive tape often used in the film and TV industry to secure equipment.
– Shutter speed: The length of time a camera’s shutter remains open to capture an image.
– Aperture: The opening of a camera lens that controls the amount of light entering and the depth of field.
– Rolling shutter: A distortion effect produced by digital cameras when capturing images with fast-moving objects.

Related Links:
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