As the owner and pilot of CineChopper, Chris Newman flies remote controlled helicopters with cameras attached to them for a living. This emerging genre is known as aerial videography and Chris elaborates a bit more on aerial videography and showcases some of his CineChopper work.
Aerial Videography in Utah
Utah is one of the best places to fly due to the diverse terrain. We have everything here! I seem to frequent Moab and the Bonneville Salt Flats the most.
RC Helicopters for Aerial Videography
The beauty of using RC helicopters for video and photos is that I can get shots that you cannot possibly get any other way. Full-sized helicopters can’t go low enough and camera jib arms/cranes aren’t quite tall enough and are very time consuming to setup and reset. Utilizing RC helicopters you can save time, money, and film very dynamic shots that were until now impossible to achieve.
Multicopters for Aerial Videography
The technical name for the helicopter that I fly is called a multicopter, which means it has multiple propellers. The specific name for the helicopter I fly is an octocopter. This means that the helicopter has eight motors. The reason for more motors is payload and redundancy. I can carry more weight and have up to two motors go out and still be able to land safely. The helicopters I fly have a payload of around 14 lbs. This allows me to fly up to a red epic with camera gimbal.
Teaming Up for Aerial Videography
It takes two people in my crew to get the most dynamic shots. I fly the helicopter while my camera operator controls the camera gimbal. He wears video goggles and can see what the camera sees from a wireless video downlink from the camera in real-time. He can rotate the camera 360 degrees and look straight down for very fluid shots. We also have a monitor for the director/DP to watch in real-time.
Aerial Videography with Devin "Super Tramp" Graham
The rope swing video was my first time working with Devin Graham AKA Devin Super Tramp. There are two things that scare me when flying—400+ foot cliffs and flying over water. If the heli goes down, it’s gone! Luckily everything went smoothly on this shoot and we were able to get an aerial view that we couldn’t get any other way. After this shoot I got so busy I was able to do aerial videography full-time. I currently fly aerials with Devin on most of his shoots.
Challenges with Aerial Videography
The rock climbing video above was definitely one of my hardest, most challenging shoots. We had to hike up the treacherous Moab landscape with the helicopter and batteries on our backs.
We also couldn’t bring a generator up so we had to make sure and get the shots as fast and as efficiently as possible. Toward the end of the video when the climbers reach the summit, there were winds upwards of 25 mph. I would fly over the cliff and the updraft would shoot the helicopter straight up 40 feet or so! Luckily we were able to get some great shots and keep everything in one piece!