In my former life as a dolly grip, crane operator and camera technician in the motion picture business I gained an appreciation for innovative and unique camera shots to assist in telling a story. Now, I am always on the lookout for the latest and greatest tools that can add to a commercial production or video.
In the past, getting a dramatic high angle sweeping shot relied on using camera cranes, such as the Shotmaker-Pegasus Crane. I actually used this particular camera crane for many years while working on feature films. I remember my first shot in St. Petersburg, Russia on the film Anna Karenina. Our director of photography, Dayrn Okada, told us the first shot for the day was going to be in the middle of a birch forest that was a half a mile away. Of course, he wanted to use the Pegasus Crane. Well, that was easier said than done! After several hours of moving crane parts and heavy 45-pound counter balance weights through the snowy and water soaked forest, our job had just begun. We still had to build a solid and well-balanced surface for the crane and then put all the parts together. After building the crane, we began adding the counter balance weights that would have to support two camera personnel, a large camera and all the accessories, which rounded out to approximately 550 pounds. Once we were set, we were able to get a dramatic sweeping shot that included several hunters and a pack of wolves running through the forest. It was very beautiful and well received by the director and crew. After the accolades were over, we still had to break down all the parts, pull the weights and take them back to the grip truck. All of that was for a 10-15 shot in the movie!
All the heavy work and manpower the cranes required has given me a great appreciation for a smaller and much less expensive tool that is now available to accomplish similar results. A mini-copter would have been very helpful in the large Russian forest! The mini-copters can be helpful staying within budget, and achieve the goal of having beautiful sweeping and/or aerial shots. The RC Helicopter or the Vulcan Multicrane-lift copter can be provided for a reasonable rental price, and still create the beautiful and dramatic shots desired. Of course, full size helicopters still have their place and I’ve used Tyler mounts on past productions. But, if you are looking for a more cost efficient option the mini-copters can provide excellent results for the right project.
Production companies aren’t the only people interested in the capabilities of the mini-copter. Even sport teams have gotten in on the act. The University of Tennessee football video production team has been using this technology in football practice. The video department uses the mini copter to capture a bird’s eye view of the players running plays. This is a new way to see the players in practice to make sure they’re doing their job correctly.