Q&A With Ron Chapple, Aerial Director of Photography at Aerial Filmworks: Part Two
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.