Rocking the RC Heli
I wanted to give a quick shout out to my friend Tabb Firchau of Freeflycinema.
Tabb has been piloting helicopters (RC and real ones) for close to 2 decades and I’ve know him since my first HDSLR productions including "JOB First Look." We’ve worked on several productions together over the years including most recently "Mobius." You can see his reel below as well as a behind the scenes look at some of the productions he’s done. They will fly your 5D, you Epic, Scarlet, F3, AF100 an anything of that weight category without a problem.
I’m a big fan of RC helicopters (RC stands for Radio Controlled helos) for situations when you can’t get a traditional helicopter close enough to your subject or when you’re in a remote location where getting a traditional helicopter is simply not affordable (the ferry time back and forth to a distant location can be pretty substantial.) I will say that I will only work with extremely experienced pilots for both full-sized and RC helos. These are not toys and can be quite dangerous to both your gear and more importantly other people if operated by an inexperienced pilot. Even though I’ve personally flown a (real) plane and a (real) helicopter myself – I have to admit I’ve crashed a half-dozen RC helicopters within the first 2-3 flights… it’s far from easy to fly those little guys. So at the risk of sounding patronizing – please choose your pilots carefully on your productions. If you want to learn yourself – I definitely recommend you don’t hook the camera up to your RC until you’ve done a few hundred flights…
The best compliment I can pay Tabb is that he and gimble operator Hugh Bell (the gimble is the pan/tilt/roll head at the front of the RC [one person controls the helo and the other the camera for obvious reasons]) are responsible for both the opening and closing shot of "Mobius." We had a very tight schedule and I was pretty slammed during that production. I gave both of them several notes on what shots I was looking for in terms of aerial coverage of the scene and had to run over to work w/ the actors with the main unit. Tabb and Hugh did such a perfect job that they earned BOTH the opening and closing shot of the film.
As we say in French "Chapeau" – or "hats off." Having that happen is a director’s dream – it doesn’t happen unless you work with extremely talented people. Normally I pay very close attention to each shot – but with nearly 60 setups over 3 days and given that the execution scene was the first thing we shot for the film – we were very rushed to get going. I didn’t have the luxury of running the action for more than two extra takes for the aerial unit – and I think they nailed it in those two shots.
You should look to hire RC and traditional pilots not only because they are safe – but also because they understand how to make shots work and how they can be intergrated in films. Tabb and Hugh do just that and more…
You can see two behind the scenes video with the RC helo -one from Tabb first and one from Mobius below the jump.
and the behind the scenes from Mobius:
and speaking of Mobius in case you missed it – check out the opening and closing shot courtesy of Tabb, Hugh and Freeflycinema.