Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Best Film Camera For Aerial Shooting In A Balloon


Dear Cinematographers,

I would like to know your recommendation about camera and film for a two weeks shooting on a balloon in the desert of Chile (-10 to +110F/ 0 to 45C). We will be shooting ancient graphic signs made on hills and planes of the Chilean desert only in the mornings on a balloon (2-3 crew) due to wind and light conditions on South American desert summer. We'll be traveling by road and will be camping. i was considering the MOS ARRI 235 with Fuji film.

Thanks in advance,


Indy Filmmaker

Hi Jorge's

I have done a lot of shooting from balloons and the 235 would work extremely well. For convenience sake I would take 400 ft mags which allow more shooting and less loading. An Aaton would also be suitable.

Balloons are smooth on take off, smooth flying but if you have wind when you are landing, can be a bit rough as you touch down and in a worst case scenario, you may actually get dragged a short distance.

For this reason you need to have camera gear and magazines well protected for landing - small custom Pelican cases would be better than hard cases because these will not endanger life and limb on impact and during dragging as much as a conventional hard case would .

This is the reason the balloon baskets are made of wicker so they absorb hard landings better.

The longer you want to stay up, the more gas cylinders you need in the basket. the more gas cylinders you have in the basket, the more dangerous the landing in strong winds because you may tip over and these empty cylinders are flying everywhere.

If it looks like you are in this situation, ask the pilot to jettison the cylinders just before you land to be collected afterwards - they can easily smash a camera with no problems!

You may be able to suspend the camera from aluminum crosspieces above your head in the basket with either rope or a bungy and if you wanted to use longer lenses, a rented Ken-Lab Gyro attached to the camera would give you a more stable shot.

In 1988 I flew across Australia from Perth to Sydney with 76 hot air balloon - truly amazing trip. Take a stills camera with you!

Laurie Gilbert

> We'll be traveling by road and will be camping. i was considering the >MOS ARRI 235 with Fuji film.

I have made about 20 or 30 balloon flights with a SRII.

The smallest camera would most certainly be helpful - but here's a tip I think is more important.

The Mount - A tripod in hot air balloon basket is a headache. But the biggest drawback is that often, the best shot is shooting straight down.

I built a mount - had it machined at a local machine shop. It was basically
a large Clamp, that clamped onto the basket side, and had a plate on top
that would allow a small tripod head to be mounted slightly beyond the edge of the basket. (we used a Sachtler Panorama head that is similar to their DV heads currently offered). Check and look for a head that allows 90 degree tilt down (so you can shoot straight down).

A few more tips: Try to shoot between propane burns, it shakes the basket.

Don't try a lot of panning or tilting - the simple movement of the balloon is quite graceful and unique. Preach to the pilot about body movement - when you ask them to be still while rolling - many of them just don't Get It
- still means NO MOVEMENT.

Jim Dollarhide

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