I love remote camera work. I also like shooting video with a bunch of mounted cameras, just doing their thing.
However, I do expect equipment failures from time-to-time when working with multiple devices and situations. Over the years, no matter how well I’ve planned for a remote camera’s success, something unexpected usually occurs. So I plan for contingencies. Sort of a backup camera for the backup plan.
In the case of the historic B-25 bomber “Maid in the Shade” that was visiting Yakima this week. I planned for four video cameras: three inside of the noisy, hot and full of bad vibrations (for cameras) bomber fuselage and one in my hands on the ground.
HV20 in the B-25 after it failed to recognize the tape.
I selected three different cameras to go inside the plane because a variety of known issues that could disable either at any time during the takeoff, flight or landing. I also chose cameras based on their size — the smallest possible. (A common misconception exists about bombers like the B-25. If it’s a huge aircraft outside, it would be equally spacious inside. It’s actually very tiny. Two coach seats in a 737 is bigger than most areas of the B-25.)
Of the three cameras I mounted inside the B-25, two functioned well and one failed because of an unplanned variable — heat.
Cameras: I used 1 Canon HV20 (HDV tape based video camera with wide angle lens), 1 PowerShot 4000 IS point and shoot camera that shoots 1280 HD video (uses a solid state memory card), and 1 iPhone 3GS (it is a solid state hard drive that can shoot standard definition video for about two hours, depending on the battery.) I used these three because they were available and I thought they could overcome known issues below.
#1 Vibrations: Excess vibrations can disable video recorders that are tape and hard drive based cameras. Vibrations can also disable a camera that is attempting to use it’s built-in image stabilization and it cuts out intermittently. This B-25 was smooth in comparison with other WWII aircraft because it was recently restored, but it does shakes aggressively. So much so that the crew explained how a bomb instrument mount needed to be re-welded a couple of times in the past year because of the in cabin shake.
Result: the two solid state cameras, (iPhone and the PowerShot) handled the aircraft vibration admirably.
#2 People: People are curious and if a camera is mounted in arms reach, good chance it’s going to get fiddled with or worse. This B-25 was packed with pilots, crew and donor ridealongs. With passengers getting up and around during the flight to look out through windows, there was a good chance the cameras would be compromised.
Result: I worked with the crew and talked with folks in the cabin before takeoff to enlist as camera monitors to ensure they did not get touched and/or if they came off because of excessive vibrations.
#3 Mount points with a view: You would assume there are plenty of great vantage points in a bomber to see part of the plane, crew, and the outside in one shot. Well that depends on #1 and 2. If your camera has a great vantage point, but is in the way or may come off in flight, then it’s not a good candidate.
Result: With the mounts I had on me, I was able to mount three cameras that I felt would get the shot and not hit the flight deck.
The iPhone 3GS and Powershot SD 1400 IS that survived the flight.
So everything should have worked well because I had the primary issues taken care of before the flight. The one thing I did not take into account, that ended up killing the HV20 was HEAT. It was over 100 degrees on the airport tarmac and inside of the aluminum skinned airframe it was sweltering. Of the three cameras, the solid state memory cameras handled the temperatures very well. The tape camera… well… the tape got a bit elastic and wouldn’t spool to record. It gave me a blinky red warning saying the tape was toast.
I learned a lot about the tools that the YH-R has and what I can expect from them in this quick turnaround video. I have embedded the final video that includes video from the ground based Canon 7D, the iPhone 3gs in the rear gunner position and the PowerShot 1400 IS. The HV20 video never even took off after getting baked.