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64mulford

Filming from a helicopter

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So, who's done it? Any tips? Looking to get some shots cityscape video shots using either my a7iii or GH5. What is the best way to keep things steady? Will the handheld + IBIS + post stabilisation be enough? Will a gimbal work (I have heard the motion of a helicopter can throw them off)?

I would appreciate any tips or advice!

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I've filmed from a moving boat, not a helicopter. I would think it's similar to a helicopter, but harder, depending on the waves.

On a boat, a gimbal is a must. If you have a good gimbal, then ibis is not so important, but definitely welcome. GH5 has a better ibis, than the a7mk3, as far as I know, haven't done a direct comparison though.

If I would have to do this, I would definitely get a good gimbal. If there really is a risk, that the gimbal might just stop working, then GH5 for sure because of the better ibis.

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my only tip is do NOT underestimate the motion and the unsteadiness of your footing

mind you ive never been in a helicopter bc im scared of them lol, but thats my experience shooting on a boat for SURE (@ReinisK), but even a slow moving train, or... really anything thats moving. maybe not a rolls royce, they promise that "magic carpet ride"

seriously tho, @64mulford, it sounds like a super cool opportunity, but if you dont mind me asking, is this just a chance to shoot from a helicopter or is it for a specific project...? just cuz, drones. they do a lot of stuff these days

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Only Helicopter I have ever flown is a a few Huey's from the Vietnam era. If you didn't have to pee when you got on it you sure as hell had to 5 minutes into the flight! And peeing out the open door of a Helicopter at 100 mph is a real treat. I don't see, pun, how the Pilots saw the gauges to fly the damn thing with their eyeballs bouncing around.

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Done it several times. Assuming you gonna shoot with the door open the crew will provide a briefing and safety wire for your gears. Beside that helicopters are pretty stables and it depends of the pilot, perhaps you should give him/her some instruction (fly not too fast). Discuss about the flight pattern, the best it to orbit around a point of interest. The main issue is the wind, it can throw off your gimbal and create stabilization problems. Again, ask the pilot to fly slowly.

If you zoom a little bit you can shoot protected from inside the cabin. The GH5 with ibis is fine.
Beside that it depens of the enviroment, mountain, city? Usually, morning flight are smoother due to the calm air. In hot environment convection (turbulence) starts late morning.
Do you know which copter you gonna ride? (R-22, R-44, Bell 205, H125)?

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I haven't flown myself, but I've seen a lot of YouTubers go up and it seems like a tough environment.  Apart from the motion of the heli I think I've also noticed that it's really windy up there?  Especially when you get the doors open and are hovering (not going with the wind) and that's the time you want to take shots!  I seem to remember the wind potentially blowing the cameras around a bit.

Maybe someone with experience can confirm?

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I have shot from small planes before.

Gimbal is a must but wind is crazy at speed and altitude, try to stay back from the door if you are going faster because of rotor wash and wind from speed.

Also if your gimbal sucks at dealing with g forces (zhiyun I'm looking at you) your horizon will take like 20s to recover from change in direction.  I think older dji gimbals were bad at this too.  I have the ronin-s and it's better than the cranes at holding the horizon but not perfect. Ronin-s is way more useable in the air.

Depending on the heli, with doors open you will likely not be allowed lens change, so keep that in mind.

24-70mm equivalent decent for landscapes, no need to go uwa as everything gets super small. Tele lens can work too for close-ups of buildings.

Helis are least efficient at hovering so they probably won't want to hover very much for you.

Also check the weather, haze can be suprisingly bad once you are off the ground.

In my experience gimbal and ibis in plane is workable just try to keep away from the wind. There is no way these smaller gimbals are going to deal with crazy wind gusts in the air.

Each vehicle has certain shots it can get and those it sucks at, talk to the pilots about what kind of shots you want beforehand.

I've only used my gh5 so far for 4k60, haven't gotten around to trying a7iii yet.

Good luck! It's fun! You can get way more shots than you can in a plane, but it also cost like 4x.

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Like some of the other guys I've done a lot of shooting from fast moving boats in rough conditions. To be honest sometimes a gimbal is more likely to get in the way. It depends if you absolutely need completely stabilised floaty footage.

I've actually found that a GH5 with a dual IBIS lens does a surprisingly good job, particularly in slow motion - 50fps and above. You can add a bit of warp stabiliser later and it will usually look great. If you're going to be using a long zoom lens then maybe a gimbal might become more useful, but again it will be a bit of a pain. Like Kaylee said, don't underestimate how difficult it can be to be in a moving, unstable environment. Don't put yourself in danger, and be prepared for shifts of gravity or balance that could make you fall into something, or out of something!

I'd also recommend taking a gopro or two to document your experience, attach it inside the heli to record you shooting, and maybe put it on the top of your camera to get a lens shooting perspective. Might not be useful for your project, but will be a great record of your experience up there!

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21 hours ago, 64mulford said:

So, who's done it? Any tips? Looking to get some shots cityscape video shots using either my a7iii or GH5. What is the best way to keep things steady? Will the handheld + IBIS + post stabilisation be enough? Will a gimbal work (I have heard the motion of a helicopter can throw them off)?

I would appreciate any tips or advice!

Work with the pilot before the shoot discussing the shots you want.  As with drones, a simple "low and slow" is always a good bet, but that really depends on the location parameters. 

Show him/her with basic models what you want to do and they'll tell you what you can do during the flight.  I've asked pilots to do gentle positive G swoops for me and they've agreed.  Positive G's pretty gives you situational stability which helps.  I did some volcano filming in a 3rd world country and they pretty much let me lean way outta the heli on a single strap to get clean framing.  Pretty sure I wouldn't do that again.  Yeah, don't do that.

I would not choose to use a consumer gimbal unless you're going to be doing some straight cruising in clean air with no buffeting.  Not sure how that would be a realistic assumption, really.  Also, any banking during the flight would wreak havoc on the gimbal. 

BTW, I also just did some plane to plane filming this summer with the GH5 and slow mo.  The GH5 IBIS worked good when the flight was decent.  Honestly, it's really all about getting smooth air during your flight.   --Which is typical on nice days if you're high enough off the ground.

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I have done it many times and I highly highly recommend a gimbal and keep it on tilt mode so you can correct with all of the motion. With the doors open you can shoot out, but there is a certain point where the wind kicks in and will grab the camera and it will be unmanageable. Hope that helps!

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8 hours ago, fuzzynormal said:

I would not choose to use a consumer gimbal unless you're going to be doing some straight cruising in clean air with no buffeting.  Not sure how that would be a realistic assumption, really.  Also, any banking during the flight would wreak havoc on the gimbal. 


There is a solid case for using instead an easyrig + with IBIS, then you'll have no gimbal going nuts on you mid flight (the worst place for that to happen!)

There is a custom accessory offered for the easyrig, specifically designed for purposes like a helicopter when you need the lower clearance 

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