Straight from Q's laboratory - the Snakehead aerial camera
By Kyle Sherer
May 18, 2008
May 19, 2008 There may be no “right way” to film a movie, but when the camera work makes an audience more nauseous than the horror scenes, you might want to revisit the system. SpaceCam Systems has designed a movie camera rig called the Snakehead, which is billed as the first plane-mounted, gyroscopically stabilized, fully-articulated periscope for high-resolution aerial footage. The Snakehead allows pilots to fly as aggressively as the plane allows, while preserving a stable shot that doesn’t give viewers the same lurching feeling as a fixed camera.
Traditional aerial cinematography with a fixed periscope is hindered by the often-distracting changes of angle, which force pilots to temper their movement or risk shooting lurching footage. The Snakehead maintains a level horizon, allowing the plane to tilt and swoop as needed without affecting the integrity of the shot. The rig features a 360-degree remotely controlled spherical range of view, and is compatible with various movie and HD cameras.
Designed using SolidWorks 3D CAD software, the Snakehead allows for a 3Xplus zoom in two ranges for 35m film and HD video use, which corresponds to either an 18-60mm or 28-90mm zoom on a 35mm film or Panavision Genesis HD camera. Adaptors accommodate both the small format HD cameras and the Imax 65mm cameras, with computer modeling placing the resolution capability at 180-200 lines per millimeter. The optical unit uses electrical heaters and a continuous nitrogen purge system to prevent condensation in the optics.
The Snakehead has been installed on the nose and tail of an Aerostar 700, which has a top speed of 370 km/h, and installation on the nose of a Lockheed T-33 is underway. The SpaceCam Systems Snakehead debuted on the set of the new Bond movie “Quantum of Solace”, filming two planes engaged in an aerial dogfight.
The company's other blockbuster filming credits include the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Mission Impossible 2 & 3, King Kong and Titanic.