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Trainorders.com owns a high quality gyro stabilized mount that can support a ten pound camera. The unit known as the ATM belts into a helicopter and does not require FAA approval. It is available for rent locally in the Los Angeles area (Santa Clarita) or weekly for areas outside Southern California. We are only 20 minutes from Whiteman Airport in the San Fernando Valley. We can ship anywhere in the United States via FedEx. The shipping weight of the system is only 32 pounds. The unit itself only weighs 16 pounds.
If you are interested in renting the unit contact us using the link to the left or telephone us at 661-600-7590. We require insurance or if you don't have that we will charge the cost of the unit to your credit card and will refund the deposit, minus the rental fee when the unit is returned intact. We also offer a Panasonic AG-HMC150 if you do not have a small camera available. This camera records in AVCHD and provides beautiful pictures comparable to a compact P2 camera.
Below is a sample video captured with the unit. We ran the footage through post production stabilization software to take out a little of the roll. This does provide a good sample of the smoothness. It has been heavily compressed for the web and your video will look better.
A wide view showing the unit mounted in a Robinson R44. This is the day we shot the train footage in the sample above. Noticed we removed the lens hood as you do not want to have any part of the camera in the slip stream around the copter. You will also want to bring a roll of gaffer's tape with you to tape down the seat belt and anything else that could come loose. We also placed tape on the unit to keep it from flopping around.
I would suggest that you place a spotter in the front seat to look out for any wires that might be in your flight path. This is a particularly important task as the pilot has a demanding task as it is flying for aerial photography is more demanding than typical transit flights.
The copter we used for this shoot was owned by Magnum Helicopter in Waterford, Michigan. The video in the sample was the first we used the mount. The first shot was captured by an experienced aerial cameraman with over 3000 hours of helicopter shooting experience. The later shots were captured by a shooter with less than 10 minutes of experience in this copter. He had previous experience with a Steadicam Jr unit years ago and reported it felt much the same. The manufacture reports that most camera people need about an hour to get up to speed on the unit.
Besides seat belting the unit into the copter, we utilized a ratchet strap without the ratchet. We further held the unit in place using gaffers tape. This kept the cords and shoulder strap from getting in the way.
For power the helicopter needs a 12 volt, 10 amp circuit to adequately power the gyros. Our unit includes a quick start inverter to get the gyros up to speed quicker as it takes about 20 minutes to get them up to speed.
The process we use to spin them up is we move a car close to the copter and plug in the cigarette adapter into the car. Spin up each gyro independently for about 10 minutes. When one is spun up, disconnect it and do the second one. Make sure the engine is running otherwise there will not be enough power. If the inverter LED is red then shut it down immediately as the car will not be able to provide enough power. Even after you unplug the gyro from the inverter it will still continue to spin for another 30 minutes.
Once the helicopter is running plug the gyros into the copter. Verify ahead of time that the copter can produce 10 amps of power otherwise the gyros will never get up to speed and the stabilization won't work correctly. It is not a big deal to upgrade the circuit if needed. It will be another 10 minutes before the gyros are up to speed and ready for shooting. These instructions concern a helicopter with a 12 volt system. For other aircraft you may need a battery power supply like an automotive jump start box. Whenever possible we recommend helicopter power as it is more reliable than battery power.
When you install the camera you want it to be pointed downward, as unless you are doing air to air, your subject will be below. You can accomplish this by moving the tripod adapter to the rear of the camera so that it is front heavy, resulting in a downward tilt.
When you operate the unit you want to lightly grasp the handles. If you snuggly hang onto them your video will not be smooth. The lighter you hold onto the handles the better the footage. If you find yourself fighting with the unit beyond its field of motion, the video will not be smooth. It will appear the unit is bouncing around, but realize it is the helicopter moving and not the camera. The gyros keep it stable.
The unit works best with a wide lens setting, but we found it acceptable to zoom into about 10x. Any shake attained while zoomed in can be fixed with post production stabilization software which is detailed below.
After your shoot you may want to run the footage through post production stabilization software to remove the roll associated with shooting. Typically, cropping the picture by 5% will be enough to remove roll.
ATM with two K8 gyros, 12 volt fast start inverter
Daily $400 (local only)
Panasonic AG-HMC150 camera (not with ATM rental)
Daily $250 (local only), Weekly $500
Wide angle lens
Daily $25, Weekly $50, Monthly $100
Audio Technique AT-8022 Stereo Microphone and Rycote wind screen
Daily $25, Weekly $50, Monthly $100
Be sure to budget for shipping charges. For the ATM budget for next day air if you need it the entire week, otherwise we can ship it FedEx 2nd day air if you are planning a one day shoot. We build in one day of padding in case of a shipping disruption. Shipping weight is 32 pounds.
We are located about 30 minutes north of Hollywood in Santa Clarita. For more information about the unit visit Helicoptercameramount.com.