Tips on mounting to reduce vibration
There are many elements to shooting stable video. Every aircraft and camera are different. Having the right tools for the job help. I often use the analogy, owning an expensive SLR camera may give you the tools to take pro pics, but it doesn’t come with the experience and knowledge of a professional photographer. Shooting video from an aircraft is no different. We can sell you the best tools for the job. Here are also some tips from years of experience mounting cameras on aircraft.
Tip 1 – A good foundation
If the base of the mount is not rigid, don’t expect the camera not to shake. Having the mount setup rigid as though it was welded to the air frame is preferable. A common mistake is adding a piece of padding under the mount. This is only going to add play (shake) to the mount. Attaching to something rigid is key. For example, a suction cup mount on a flat plexi window is going to shake regardless what mount you use. Mounting to a strut, air frame tubing, or tie down ring are some examples of rigid attach points.
Tip 2 – The wiggle test
After you get everything mounted up, grab the camera and give it a wiggle. If the entire camera mount moves, you may get vibration. Again, the more rigid the mount, the better.
An inspection cover or thin skin can oil can causing the mount to shake. Mounting to a curved skin, or near a rib or bulkhead is always better.
Plastic mount parts (ex: Gopro mounts and cases), rubber balls (ex: RAM mounts), and small bases (ex: spuds) can all cause play in your mount leading to camera vibration.
Tip 3 – Lever arm
The closer you can keep the mount to the base the better. A longer lever arm will cause more camera movement. Any time you can eliminate unneeded arms or joints from a mount decreases your lever arm and chance for flex and play. Every inch the camera is further from the aircraft can exponentially amplify camera vibration.
Close is good, but in some cases if too close the camera can touch the aircraft acting like a sound short on a submarine. Make sure the camera (and the back plate on the VibeX mount) are not touching the air frame causing a “sound short”.
Tip 4 – Air Buffet
Sometimes you get the camera right in that spot where the air is buffeting down stream of an object, or right where the air separates from a surface. I have found getting the camera right out in the undisturbed air flow is better. Or, in some cases getting the camera right down close to the surface can help too.
Tip 5 – Try Try again
When you have done all of the above and you are still not happy with the results, then sometimes moving the mount even a few inches will make a difference. Getting to know your camera and plane by experimenting and watching the video can pay off.
Tip 6 – Camera Settings
A higher frame rate is always better when dealing with vibration. Personally, 60 frames per second is my minimum. If you get vibration, you may want to reconsider shooting in 4K30. One advantage of a 4K camera is the fact you can shoot in 1080p at 120 frames per second.
Image stabilization (if your camera has it) sometimes is worse on then off. This feature is more for slow camera movements and not to combat high frequency vibration. And at the same time, the combination of a good mount (such as the VibeX mount) along with image stabilization can make the perfect combo.
Tip 7 – Prop Filter
A prop filter actually helps with vibration too. I always hear, “but I am not shooting with the prop in the shot”, or “I don’t need a prop filter on a helicopter.” Regardless of prop effect, a prop filter will increase the exposure value of the camera helping with vibration effects. The brighter the conditions, the stronger the filter should be. Note: a prop filter is a great tool, but it can degrade the video quality. During low light conditions you probably don’t want to use one at all. On a bright sunny day it can save your video.
Tip 8 – Getting to know the plane
Certain RPMs can be impossible. For example: I found on the HU16 shots at 1900 rpm cause jello in the video. The normal cruise is 1900, but when I am shooting video I bump up to 2100 and it looks great every time.
Before a big shoot on a new aircraft, a short test fight is always a plus. Note the video during takeoff power, climb, and cruise to see if there is a difference. If you want to really get good, make 100 rpm changes and rock your wings between power changes so you when you watch the video later, you can note where the change was.