How to film an aerobatics flight

We pulled a maximum of 4g during filming

Filming an aerobatics flight

Diani Flight is a Dutch pilot who is aspiring to build a flying career. He asked me to come along on one of his aerobatics flights at Wings over Holland. Aerobatics is its own league in flying. Loopings, barrel rolls, wingovers and more. You do a crazy ballet with your plane in the air. The aim was to share as much as possible of the intensity of the experience.

Filming inside the hangar

To capture shots of the plane inside the hangar, decided to get some low shots from the floor. To get a nice bokeh, I used a Leica 35 mm f2.0 lens. The lens is a fully manual  and I use a R to EF lens adapter on my Canon body. For focus pulls I use the Fotga DP500 Mark III Follow Focus. The  follow focus feels great on this a bit stiffer lens and has no noticeable backlash. The fixed A/B rings make it even easier to set start/end points, if you like.

On a tripod head on a new 1m Neewer Carbon Fibre Slider I wanted to get some smooth dolly like shots. It went alright. The slider is ok to use but unfortunately, I noticed quite some wiggling when I reviewed the shots; I believe this is from the wheels. I’ve done some more shots since then and i keep on noticing it – it’s really small, but it is noticeable.

I took some other outside handheld shots with the Canon L 24-105 mm f4 USM IS. The lens’ optical image stabilisation is great.

On a side note: if necessary (or wanted), I stabilise shots in post production using Adobe After Effects. Editing happens in Final Cut Pro X but the stabilisation and tracking options in After Effects are much more powerful.

Setting up the cockpit for our aerobatics flight

With the intro shots done it was time to prep the plane. Our plane, a Fuji FA-200 Aero Subaru from Wings over Holland was outfitted with fixed go pro mounts Unfortunately, my Sony system is not compatible, so we had to do with one outside camera, which we could borrow from the front desk (thanks again!) and one of mine inside. The bigger camera stayed on the ground: no loose objects in the cockpit during flight.

The aerobatics flight

Filming and flying aerobatics was amazing. I was happy we had the two cameras and would have loved even more outside and inside the plane. It would have given me more options in editing. Nevertheless, it was great to do loopings, wingovers, barrel rolls and more.

Editing and post-production

Editing always means parting with a lot of your shots. It can be hard but I try to not forget the poor people that have to watch my stuff. Hardly anyone will want to sit through a 12 minute ‘artistic’ intro. I wanted to keep it short and fun.

I used After Effects to make the intro, stabilise some shots, and add some text effects. To make the overall look I already shot slightly over exposed (of course this was intentionally… or was it?), so I only had to slightly tweak the image with color correction in Final Cut Pro X.

 

Gear I used

  • Canon 650D
  • Leica 35 mm f2.0 lens
  • Leica R to Canon EF Adapter Ring
  • Canon L 24-105 f4 USM IS
  • Neewer Carbon Fibre Slider, 100cm
  • Fotga DP500 Mark III Follow Focus
  • Tarion 15 mm Base Plate
  • Manfrotto 502 HD Video Head
  • Old Manfrotto photo tripod legs
  • Sony AS-200
  • GoPro Hero 3
  • Duct tape

 

We pulled a maximum of 4g during our manoeuvres during 'how to film an aerobatics flight'
I’m not fully used to this: the g-meter showed we pulled up to 4g during some manoeuvres.