Helicopter hyperlapse tutorial

Helicopter hyperlapse photography is a niche within a niche within a niche. Let's find out how it works!

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helicopter hyperlapse tutorial

Ever wondered how to shoot a hyperlapse from a helicopter? Probably not, let's be honest. But just in case you did, here's a tutorial for you!

If you watch the video you'll see that we had to shoot this content on a bunch of phones. (for context: we were there to shoot the launch video for the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra)

This project was led by my good friend Sam Evans, creative director and travel filmmaker from Sydney, Australia.

Part of our three day shoot was a two hour long doors off helicopter flight.

I had a shot in mind that was inspired by the team over at Filmspektakel. A few years ago they published a video called A Taste Of New York. In the opening sequence you can see a fast hyperlapse around the Chrysler building in New York. Ever since I saw that shot I wanted to try it for myself.

With San Francisco on the itinerary I was obviously dreaming about the golden gate bridge and the Transamerica building (amongst others).

We found a great heli pilot with lots of film flight experience, briefed him on our goal and took off!

How to shoot a helicopter hyperlapse

I usually always shoot a hyperlapse as a series of photos. As you can read in this article, it's not about the gear, it's about the vision of the camera operator.

In this case though, because we were so short on time and time in a helicopter is very expensive I opted to shoot video. Here's what you need to do to make that work.

You want to lock your exposure settings so that the exposure doesn't fluctuate. At the time of shooting we could only lock the exposure by long pressing the screen in video mode. The added benefit of locking the exposure like this is that it shows a small yellow circle that stays in place while filming.

This small yellow circle is used to frame your subject, the goal is to keep the subject in the exact same spot. This is very hard to do from the back of a small Robinson R44 helicopter with no doors!

Now pick an element on your subject that will be in the frame for the entirety of the shot. Keep in mind that it will go out of your field of view as you orbit around it. The solution is simple: pick the top of the building.

Tell the pilot to fly as steadily as possible, and tell them to keep going after you've completed your orbit so that you have some space on both sides of the shot in case you need the extra motion for your edit.

Once you've got all your shots, it's time to head back to the airport and offload your footage.

Post processing a helicopter hyperlapse in After Effects

Grab Adobe After Effects from this affiliate link here.

Open up After Effects and import the clip you want to stabilise.

Create a composition and right click the clip in the composition then select Time > Time stretch.

Choose a percentage so you end up with about 300 frames in clip length.

Adjust the length of the composition using B and N to set in and out points.

Trim the composition by right clicking at the top of the composition and selecting Trim comp to selection.

Create a new composition from the current composition.

Apply the Warp Stabiliser effect from the effects window.

Set smoothness between 5 and 15%.

Let it analyse. If it needs more stabilising, create a new comp from the one you're working and then apply another warp stabiliser.

Export your clip and upload it to tiktok!

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