From Cams to Flying Cams – The transformation of Aerial Cinematography.

1 April 2017

Camera was a significant material invention. But even more appreciable were the artistic brains that made the best use of it. As an equipment Camera can help you take photos or videos but the real essence is not in what you take. It’s in how you take it. Imagine if there was no diversity in the kind of pictures and videos delivered to us. If all the pictures or moving pictures had only one angle, which is the eye level, how boring would that be? To keep a viewer intrigued you need different kinds of visuals and thankfully we have them. 

You watch a movie and it begins with the panoramic view of the New York City. Or you see the landscape of the countryside through which our protagonist drives his car. Such sceneries immediately grab our attention because it gives us a bird like feeling! If not for cameras, it is impossible for human beings to enjoy panoramic views! Though we cannot fly on our own we can still look at things as if we were flying! Isn’t that cool. But how are such shots achieved?

Helicopters can be used for flying and for flying images one can use helicams! It is a nano era. Everything is getting narrowed down and so helicopters are joining the race too. A helicam is a remote controlled mini helicopter used to obtain aerial images. The camera mount system controlled by remote enables pan, tilt and roll movements. The live signals are relayed to the camera operator by an onboard wireless video transmitter. Two independent operators regulate the system; the camera operator and the helicam pilot. Images can be recorded on board, on the ground or both. This mini helicopter needs only 4 square metres to take off and land and thus it can be flown practically everywhere. Refuelling is very easy and can be done in seconds and it can fly continuously for 15-30 minutes. However, the latest generation of helicams use turbine engines that will improve their endurance capability. Newer versions also include electric propulsion which helps to enhance environmental impact and to reduce vibration. Additionally, the newer versions have started to develop six and eight rotor systems to enable the use of larger and heavier cameras. 

Image Courtesy: Vegashelicam

Helicams can fly anywhere. But what if you want to film some continuous footage over a specific area. This is where Spider Cams help you. A Spidercam, typically enable cameras to move vertically and horizontally over a predetermined area. This will be particularly useful to film sports and events as it can deliver quality footages from a football field, tennis court or an open concert. In Spider cams, at the base of the covered area four motorized winches are positioned and each of them controls a Kevlar Cable connected to a stabilized dolly or carrier. The dolly can reach any position in the 3D space by controlling the winding and unwinding of cables. The fiber optic cables transfer the commands to the winches after the software processes the input from Spidercam. To bring the camera’s HD signal back to the control centre, two of the Kevlar cables are attached with fiber optic cables carrying commands to the camera and remote head. The remote head which controls the pan and tilt also controls the focus and zoom. The gyro sensor in the dolly stabilises the horizon and a trained operator controls the camera. 

Image Courtesy: NASA

Another type of system that allows to capture aerial images are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Drones. As the name indicates, the UAV is an aircraft without a human pilot onboard. These flights may operate under remote control by a human operator or completely automatically by onboard computers. And most of these flights are now designed to carry high quality film and digital cameras. One of the best advantages of drone filming is their versatility. Due to their size, drones can even fly into areas that were once not possible. They can fly from a few centimeters off the ground to 400 feet in the air while panning or framing the chosen subject. They can fly in and out of a room, rotate on the same spot or move in any direction enabling aerial images a unique perspective. Additionally, drones save a lot of time as the team involved to set up a drone machine is very minimum. The opening scene in Skyfall where James Bond chases a terrorist group across a rooftop of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and most of the aerial shots in Jurassic World were shot using drones.

Image Courtesy: RetaillAwadvisor

With technology and artistic brilliance scaling new heights everyday, the diversity in images is improving too. If a bird gets to watch some of the aerial images we created, it could send him to jealousy!


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