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03/07/2015

2015: The Year Of The Drone

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As a UAV film service operator we have noticed a sharp rise this year in interest coming from drama and features, much of which is down to ARRI developing a version of their iconic ALEXA camera in miniature that's a perfect fit for a gimbal, admits The Helicopter Girls.

We started flying aerials rigs for television in 2012. At the time, the heaviest payload we could carry was a Canon 5D and it took many hours of balancing and tuning to get decent, stable footage from the gimbals. Three years on, multi-rotor technology has exploded, the invention of brushless gimbals like Freefly's MōVI means smooth stable footage is easy to achieve without the old headaches, and we're able to efficiently carry heavy cameras like the Sony FS7 and the RED with lens control. ARRI's announcement in February of this year was the final piece in the quality puzzle. The ALEXA Mini has been specifically engineered to work perfectly on a multi-rotor and for any drone operator into their cameras it is big news.

We took delivery of our camera at the beginning of June and it is everything it promised to be. It has the same ARRI ALEV III CMOS sensor as the ALEXA; the image is beautiful and the camera is intuitive to use.

For aerial and gimbal work, the weight and shape make it easy to balance and tune. For such a powerhouse it is pretty lightweight, due in part to the carbon housing but more importantly to ARRI's clever design. Unlike any other camera, the ALEXA Mini sensor carrier sits at the centre and acts like a hub, which everything else, camera body, lens, and accessory mounting points hangs off. That means means very little clutter in and around the camera and a form factor that's compact with weight distribution perfect for gimbal balancing. A bare set up mounted on a MōVI 15 gimbal with a Zeiss CP2 and Teradek Bolt 2000 Pro transmitter the all up weight of the gimbal is just 6.5kg.

Keeping it lightweight we power the camera with Lipo batteries in the air but Bebob have made a really nice V-Mount Battery Adapter for the Mini, which is a great solution for handheld MoVI work.

Camera control works in a variety of ways. You can hook up the ALEXA Mini Electronic View Finder which gives you full control over camera menus and settings but for a more streamlined ground gimbal set up we use the two SDI connectors to link to an external monitor and HD downlink and then control the camera remotely with an iPhone. In the air, the ARRI WCU-4 hand unit will give full camera and lens motor control via wifi. What we don't know until we test is the range we'll be able to get on this.

In just a few weeks we have shot with it in a variety of scenarios, putting it through its paces in some challenging locations and from start to finish the ALEXA Mini is a perfect fit for what we do.

www.thehelicoptergirls.com
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