With Tyler Type mounts, practice is crucial. Assistants often learn the mount riding the chopper to location. They can also learn communication with the pilot.

Some tricks. A stationary micro switch and bumps taped to the zoom ring can warn the operator when the zoom is almost at its wide and tight limits and know when to taper the zoom to a stop. The switch can ring a buzzer in the operator's headset. Also in the headset can be a metronome earpiece for timing shots for commercials. Set the metronome at 60 beats per second, the operator can count beats. In-the-ear headphones with a splitter work for 2 sources.

A slate with large numbers on stiff cardboard on a large key ring can make slating easier by the operator.

Dramamine is good insurance. Our bodies act differently at different times. Heavy boots, jacket and windproof pants are helpful when it's cooler, absolutely necessary when cold.

Checking out the shot with a video camera and monitor and some miniature props can get the operator, pilot and director in sync. Choppers fly best with the least weight, without a director, especially at higher altitude.

Telling a pilot how to modify the last move to improve it is often better than describing a whole new move. Working with the same pilot seems to get better, than trying a lot of different ones.

Time spent tuning the blades is well spent. Don't expect a crop duster to have a very smooth ship.

I have had pilots take me for a thrill ride up very narrow canyons in Hawaii on the way home. I don't like that. They can do that for the tourists.

I find that pilots are aware of compass directions, altitudes, clock directions, but have had local pilots get lost. Study the maps and watch for landmarks that you have seen from the ground. Some pilots also like to chat and sometimes are not watching where they are going. LEARN HOW TO READ MAPS AND BRING YOUR OWN.

Respect for the people and animals on the ground is an issue. Try to get your shots with the least noise and disruption possible. You may not be back to the area again, but others will. Some diplomacy before shooting on the ground with locals can help. Pilots are responsible for following FAA and other rules and they can loose their license. You will have to negotiate with them what is possible. Local film pilots will have a better sense of what areas are sensitive. A Hollywood pilot might ask the locals for advice.

There are also restricted areas for flying that have to be considered. Flying around or through them can be problems.

I got scared after a rash of accidents and got other operators to shoot for me. They always gave me the shot I asked for, but not the shot that I would have shot if I was there and saw the parameters. I also would have had it hard to live with some other operator getting killed on my job that I was too chicken to shoot. I was always apprehensive until buckling up, but once committed I enjoyed the shoot.

Rarely have non-film-trained pilots been easy to work with. Many out of town helicopter companies will only let their own pilots fly their ships. Some let Hollywood pilots fly after a check ride or fly with your pilot. Often you will save airtime and money bringing in a chopper from a distance with a film trained pilot over using a local pilot and ship. They can give you the best shots in the less time. Some companies give good airtime breaks for ferry time.

Consider refuel time too. Of course think about a fuel truck close by.

If you don't shoot yourself, get the best operator. They will usually save you money in getting the shot in fewer attempts.

Don't ever trust a homemade "as good as a Tyler" mount.

In an emergency for some wide-angle shots (see The Horse Collar) Most any other mount need FAA approval and might be dangerous.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.