Flying RC heli for New Balance commercial

Somewhat out of the norm for me, this project allowed me to mix my personal hobby with business. Normally I would be behind the video camera on similar shoots, but for this project I was in front of the camera. Well, sort of. I was contacted by Red Tree Productions, who were working with Arnold Worldwide for a television commercial for New Balance. Part of the commercial called for a radio controlled helicopter for various stunts. They ended up finding me through my RC club affiliation, and not through the typical channels I advertise in or use for networking.

Here is one part of the finished commercial.

After performing independent testing a few days ahead of time, just to be sure we could accomplish the stated goals, the helicopter needed to be prepared on the day of the shoot. This involved masking over the painted graphics, logos, etc, that were already present on the heli. Graphic artists tape was used in matching colors to hide the New York City Police decal, N number registration, and RC helicopter manufacturer logos.

A small High Def camera was then mounted under the fuselage such that it could capture video at multiple angles during the several flights we would make. After seeing the footage from the camera, we ended up purchasing one for our own projects. The camera, GoPro HD, shown below, is very small, enclosed in a waterproof case, can be virtually mounted anywhere, and delivered high quality HD footage. Once everything was checked out, angles selected, test footage was recorded, it was time to head out for actual shooting.

The shoot location was in a parking lot adjacent to the New Balance headquarters in downtown Lawrence, MA. As a shooting location goes, it was just another outdoor shoot location. Not the best, not the worst. As an RC flying area, thats another story. It was very challenging to say the least. If the location wasn’t challenging enough all by itself, a few other challenges were thrown in to keep me on my toes.

High winds. Down drafts and turbulence coming off the top of the building 6 or 7 stories up, and around the clock tower they wanted me to hover in front of. An electrical sub-station next door with possible electrical interference, which didn’t show up in the initial location scouting. Cold temps to keep my thumbs shaking and add further instability, and also challenge the batteries capacity. Ok, I thought, I can still handle this. I’ve flown in worse, just not in a small parking lot, in the city, surrounded by buildings, with a crew of people focused on my flying skills. I’ll need to really focus, but I can still handle it.

Oh yea, and one more challenge! I need to take off and land on a 2.5′ x 4′ table. Ouch. Ok, now that made it really hard.

In the shot above, you can see the size of the take off and landing area! It also shows the flying area we had available, including the flag pole right dab in the middle, building in the background, cars and tractor trailers in close proximity, a terrible approach and take off angle based on the angle required for the shot and the suns direction. With the wind, tight location, etc, an autorotation would be very difficult at best should I have an engine or mechanical issue.

While the crew in the background attend to the ‘cargo’, we are preparing the helicopter for a few more flights. All in all, we flew about 6 or 7 flights in order to get the shots we needed. For each shot, we needed to close the parking and building entrances from vehicle and foot traffic, and have all the crew behind a nearby chain link fence for safety.

From a piloting standpoint, it was challenging with the high winds, turbulence off the building and clock tower, and the small take off and landing area, if you want to call it that. I’m really glad I took the challenge, worked through the issues, and had successful and safe flights and overall shoot. Sometimes its really easy to look at a situation, and talk yourself out of it even before you take the time to see if it can’t be done successfully. I’m glad I didn’t, as this was a very fun and rewarding experience.

Once the commercial is released, I can reveal more details about the shoot, but for now I can only provide some behind the scenes images.

Here is a link to the final video, just posted a few weeks ago on YouTube.

Low light test images with the Olympus E-P1 micro 4/3 camera

Olympus E-P1, 14-42mm Zukio lens, 1/5th, f5.6, ISO 1600, IS1.

While taking my wife and daughter out to dinner before dropping my daughter off at college, I took some quick test exposures in low light conditions with the Olympus E-P1.

This image was shot hand held at 1/5th, 5.6, and ISO 1600, which shows the image stabilization works very well in this camera. Almost all the exposures I took this evening were in the 1/4 to 1/15th range due to the slow kit lens and night lighting, yet all were sharp. I attribute this to the stabilization system since I wasn’t doing anything special with regards to steadying the camera.

With the faster 1.7 and 2.8 lenses, I’ll gain another few stops and further enhance the usefulness of this camera in low light. Not bad for a very compact camera that sits between P&S and DSLR performance. There may be a lot to be desired in this format for a photographer that is looking for excellent image quality in a very small package.

Olympus-E-P1 w/ 14-42mm 3.5/5.6 Zukio Digital, with optional optical viewfinder.

The camera also has a nostalgic feel to it for those that have shot with rangefinder cameras. In fact with an adapter it will even take Leica M mount lenses to further enhance that feel. Adapters are also available for many other lens mounts, so there is a lot of room for creative play with the characteristics of these lenses. With a fast ‘pancake’ lens such as the Lumix 20mm f1.7, it is very compact, light, and easy to carry just about anywhere. An excellent package for low light social gatherings or night street shooting.

And best of all, it’s just plain fun to shoot with!

Simple talent on white background

It’s been a while since I’ve posted due to workload. But here are some quick behind the scenes images from one of this weeks shoots. Technically a fairly simple shoot, but important enough to get a half dozen people to fly in from all around the country. The image was a simple talent shot on white with a few basic props, which will then be composited with a an appropriate background. We needed to match the lighting on set with that of the background, as well as the perspective, focal length, and location of props to fit into the background.

A very simple setup, talent against white background. Lighting was accomplished with two medium softboxes, 2:1 ratio, with a beauty dish carefully aimed to provide some added pop to the talent. Background was lit by two overlapping strobes with std reflectors.
Reviewing images on the monitors between takes. Images were captured via Capture One on a laptop and fed to a separate 22" monitor for client review.

The images are for an beverage advertising campaign featuring a celebrity talent, and will be used for print, point of sale, etc. I can’t show the images from the actual shoot to respect the clients promotional goals, but will update this post with before and after images once the campaign is underway. Or you can pop into your local liquor store and see it there😉

Credits; 1st Assistant: Mike Slurzberg. Prod Asst/Stylist: Terry Wheaton. Makeup/Hair: Lisa Roch. 2nd Assistant: Tina Gianos. Behind the Scenes images; Tina Gianos, Canon G10. Boston commercial photographer,