Welcome to the second half of our interview with Aerial Director of Photography at Aerial Filmworks, Ron Chapple!
5. Do you have a favorite "go-to" camera and/or lens?
We have both the Fujinon 42x 9.7mm and 13x 4.5mm lens kits for our Cineflex systems. (We own 3 of the 42x lenses, and one 13x lens.) While most of our clients request the longer lens for the amazing range, I personally like the wide lens. With the wide, I can get images that feel as if they are wrapping around the helicopter. In December, I filmed in the narrow canyons of Big Bend National Park where we had less than 200 feet between 1,000 foot canyon walls. The Fujinon 13x wide was perfect!
6. You film a lot of wildlife. For example, the PBS/Nature film, "Bears of the Final Frontier" must have been a challenge. What is that like?
Our first premise is that wildlife must be filmed without any awareness of the helicopter. Having the right long lens is critical to getting the shot. If any animal is startled or intimidated by the helicopter, we immediately cease filming. The big "no no" in nature documentary work is seeing the backside of the animal running from the camera. On the "Bears…" project, we were fortunate to have a strong wind that pushed the helicopter noise away from the animals, and by using the 42x 9.7mm lens from 1,500 feet away, we were able to get really great images of the bears interacting normally.
7. What are the most significant changes in aerial filming from when you started until now?
The newest trend we are seeing is what the industry calls "Piece to Camera" where the actor or presenter looks at the Cineflex to deliver their lines. We are circling the scene zoomed in to the actor , and then pull out to full wide to reveal the whole scene. The new PBS series "America Revealed" has many of these scenes. We have filmed the host skydiving from 10,000 feet, riding along in open cockpit airplanes, standing on top of huge industrial cranes, and flying in ultralights. Last week in Costa Rica, I filmed two actors in a helicopter flying low through the rainforest!
8. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Yes! Lenses and cameras are critical hardware for any creative business. The part of this business that always is most impressive is the teamwork! Everyone in the entire process is important, from the people that make the lenses, build and design the Cineflex, to the creative director, helicopter pilot and logistics crew. We all have our unique role in bringing great images to the viewer.
1. Is there one instance you can pinpoint that turned you on to photography and cinematography?
In high school, I was always the kid that could not quite figure out the whole social scene. When I discovered photography, my whole world opened up to new ways of communicating. I could now create an image and get really interesting responses from people.
2. What do you view as emerging trends in cinematography today?
For me, creative trends are far more interesting than technology trends. In our business, we are seeing the need to have aerials, or establishing shots, in all productions from full scale nature documentary to reality shows to indie films. Aerials are unique in their power to set a place and mood for the film.
Planet Earth established the Cineflex V14HD as the "must have" camera for any nature documentary. Now, almost every "Made for TV" program needs aerials.
3. What were your FIRST and BEST experiences using the revolutionary Cineflex HD technology?
Everyday! I absolutely love exploring new landscapes and communicating the beauty of the planet with the Cineflex and Fujinon lenses. My personal favorites are The Andes mountains, glaciers, Grand Canyon, and filming volcanoes. Lately, we have been working in Latin America where the landscape is just now being explored with the Cineflex camera systems.
4. You started working mainly in fashion, annual report photography and advertising. How did you transition from that to the range of everything you do now?
I think anyone starts business with the opportunity at hand. I was based in Charlotte, NC when I started business 30 years ago. At that time, the only work was from textile mills and banks. My only business strategy was to differentiate my studio by specializing in location work rather than studio. From my start in commercial work, I then produced images for license as stock for many years before moving to aerial HD video. As a caveat, I have been shooting aerials for many years, so moving into aerial film was an easy transition. Creating aerial video is really just creating many, many still images in sequence. Every image composition must be perfect, and transition into the next image.
Stay tuned in to our blog for part two!
For more information on Aerial Filmworks visit http://www.aerialfilmwork.com/.
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