VFX RED MONSTRO helicopter RIG
310 degree vfx setup for helikopter and boat crane mount
End 2018 we got asked to fly our drone with a multi-camera setup for a VFX experience where we needed a minimum of 310 degrees of horizontal FOV. After a lot of preparation and technical measuring we came to the conclusion that a drone could not meet the requirements to fly the needed setup as we needed to fly at high speed through clouds and big city’s at low altitude. Next to that there was a resolution needed of 20K+ horizontally. This is where after long discussions and lots of measuring we decided to go for a RED MONSTRO setup underneath a helicopter. With three RED MONSTRO cameras we could reach the required FOV and resolution needed for this project.
In this Kiwi blog you can read everything about the technical- and productional challenges we faced for this massive assignment!
Drawing the VFX 360 helicopter RIG
Before we started drawing the RIG’s we had to make sure we would meet all requirement for the maximum load of the Cineflex arm and helicopter but also see if the aerodynamics would be sufficient. We had six weeks from start to first helicopter test that would also be our first shooting day as they wanted to capture the tulip fields in their full glory. We had to take care of high frequency vibrations that would cause rolling shutter problems.
As we needed three identical camera’s with identical lenses this was sometimes hard to get as most rentel camera’s didn’t have three red Monstro’s lying around. Testing with a a helicopter also required the whole setup to be available for a minimum of three days for camera checking, calibrating lenses, build the camera’s into the rig and mount the whole thing on to the helicopter. Next to that we had to make sure all camera’s had a perfect sync and genlock to eliminate stitching problems.
Vertical vs Horizontal RIG
We built two different rigs, onze horizontal and one vertical. Because of the nature of the shoot we needed to make transitions between the helicopter and “ground” shots to go through bridges etc. where the helicopter wasn’t allowed to go.
This is the point where there is no perspective changes if the camera/lens is turned around this point. On the horizontal rig we had a offset of 40cm horizontally between the nodel points. This gave a perspective offset that was relatively big. This offset was not a big problem from the helicopter as objects would be relatively far away and so the perspective difference would be small. For the boat shots however we had objects much closer to the camera. This is why we also made the vertical rig. The vertical rig has a horizontal offset of 1cm and a vertical offset of 8cm. This makes stitching the footage with a lot of object close to the camera’s much easier. Our first idea was to only make the vertical rig to use it under the helicopter. But due to the complex outher shell, we where not able to do this within the given timeframe of the project.
Low Altitude permits
Besides all the technical challenges it also was a great challenge to get the needed helicopter permits. The shots we had to make required low altitude flights above the citys of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. We also had to fly 20m above the water in one of the worlds biggest harbors, the harbor of Rotterdam and fly over the Eastern Scheldt barrier in the South of the Netherlands. Our helicopter partner HeliAir played a big part in getting these airspace exemptions. Next to the official exemption of the ministry we also had to get permission and signatures of the Rotterdam mayor Aboutaleb and Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema. All together it took a lot of meetings and paperwork but eventually we got all the needed exemptions!
Helicopter PRODUCTION days
Setting up the production itself was a big contradiction. On one side it was a lot of work to get all equipment and people ready to go, on the other hand it was one big waiting game for getting the right weather conditions. Eventually it took about a month before we could finally make our first official flight. As we were still not certain enough about the weather conditions we had to cut the helicopter production in two separate days.
The first shot we made was in Amsterdam. We had a permit to make two flights at around 40m above the Amstel canal. As we only had permission to make the flightpath twice, there was a lot of pressure and as the weather conditions were getting worse by the minute we really had to push our limits to get the right shot at the first time. Everything worked perfectly and after watching the shots back at office we were trilled with the result.
The second production day was one with four locations. With a lot of people on the callsheet, this ment a pretty exact time schedule. Next to to shots that were made from the helicopter we also had a ground team of VFX people taking photos and video material for post-production information. Also, after every location the helicopter had to land to clean the lenses off the camera RIG and insert new memorie cards as the used cards were picked up for immediate transportation and making copies. Half way the shoot we also had to land to refuel the helicopter and as we had to do this on a location with no heliport nearby, we had to bring the fuel to the helicopter in a piece of grassland just north of Rotterdam.
All together the whole day was a hectic one but trully a big succes! Although we started the day with terrible weather, because of a delay at the heliport, we eventually made our first shot above the barrier when the weather was just perfect!
Boat shoot PRODUCTION
After the helicopter shoot there was an immediate new challenge ahead, the boat shoot. As we needed no direct permits to make these shots we had more freedom to setup a shooting date. Besides that, we did had to work with a complete new camera rig that had to work exactly the same as the helicopter rig. The production of the boat shoot therefore also required some serious testing after which we had a long production day sailing through Rotterdam in the early morning and through Amsterdam to capture the city lights at night.
Too bad we can’t tell you YET, for who the production was and where the footage will be shown when the whole post-production process is done. We can asure you we will let you know when the whole thing is live and you can enjoy 22K footage on an awesome big screen. For now, we want to thank the partners we worked with to make this all happen and wish post-panic all the best with the insane post-production challenge!
Interested in our custom Kiwi Aerial Shots services? We would love to hear about your challenging project so we can have a though about what we can do for you. You can contact us through the contact information on our contact page that you can find by clicking the orange button below.