The New York Historical Society and Library Theater recently commissioned a documentary about New York City. “The entire production was to be about how we could use the Library’s 73-foot wide screen to the max,” says cinematographer Eugene “Buddy” Squires.
Squires and director Donna Lawrence tested several widescreen cameras, settling on the Phantom 65 Gold for the 4.71:1 format. “Then the challenge was to find the best way to take the large-format setup into the air,” said Squires. “Since the first row of seats in the large-format theaters are very close to the screen, the images had to be rock-steady to sell the shots.”
Pictorvision’s Eclipse aerial camera stabilization system for the helicopter shots helped to accomplish this. “We knew we had several different complications to deal with, when we decided to fly the heavy Phantom system,” said Squires. “Pictorvision was able to easily outfit the Eclipse with camera and lenses. What we also needed was to be able to cable to the mount so that we could cap the shutter speed needed and spin the set up 360 degrees without interference.”
Because the camera needed to black balance often, Pictorvision technicians rigged a special capping shutter at the end of the lens. The setup was basically an intervelometer with an iris that closes down fully to “black” in the air between shots. The camera team was then able to close down the external iris all the way, black balance the camera, and then open it up again to continue shooting.
It is the open architecture and powerful motors of the Eclipse that allowed the team to incorporate the size and weight of the Phantom 65, as well as the capping shutter. “In fact, we didn’t get the capping shutter until the rig day,” said Pictorvision’s Tom Hallman. “But our tech, Dave Arms, was able to integrate into the Eclipse that same day. There is no other aerial system available that can support these kinds of specialty camera requests, and still fly without limitations.”
“The set up was amazing,” said Squires. “We did wide shots low over the middle of Central Park where you can see both sides of the park and feel the texture as we rose over the green. And there were also more iconic New York City shots. In addition, we did wide angle shots at night (with a 200mm T2 on the RED) circling around the Statue of Liberty. Here the Eclipse was essential.”
“When you see it from the first row – 15 feet from the 73’x20’ screen – everything is rock steady!”
New York Story, an 18-minute, wide-screen adventure can now be seen in the newly refurbished theater. The screen width transforms from 25’ to 73’ while sectioned panels are lowered and raised to the choreography of theatrical lighting and sound cues. And the aerial images fly the audience through the environment without a shaking or jittering.