During Boogie One, Pete Harries, camera flyer at Skydive Langar and videographer for national championship winning team Chimera, hosted the first Coach the Cameraflyer workshop, focusing on how to film for bigway FS. This post is a write up of that talk, and also contains a video of his presentation plus the presentation slides themselves. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to contact us or stop by the portacabin for camera advice.
None of this is a brief for any of the specific types of camera or equipment you might use. If you do want to film, please come and see us for help with your specific set up.
Video vs Video Plus Stills
It’s great to have a stills camera if you can to capture high quality images which people can enjoy and share. These days, it doesn’t have to be a traditional stills camera; a high quality GoPro, for example, can be good enough for stills by taking screen grabs when filming on 4k.
On the other hand, proper stills cameras will enable you to get more artistic shots and try different lenses and different settings to create more interesting photos and print worthy shots.
It’s great to have a backup camera if you can. This means that you have something there in case your first camera doesn’t work; remember, if you’re filming for the free slot, you’ll need to ensure you get the footage for the groups to be able to debrief.
Ringsights are great, especially if you want to look like a pirate… but also to help you judge distance for framing!
The ring sight will be set up specifically for you, so you know, through testing yourself, what the picture looks like in the ring sight when you have the correct framing – and when you don’t. You’ll want some help setting up your ringsight for your camera setup; stop by the portacabin at Langar and we’ll be happy to help.
The ring sight is useful not just for smaller groups, but for bigways, too. If you want to be sure of getting the right shot, a ring sight is a great addition to your set up.
The downsides to ring sights include price and the additional snag hazard – so it’s up to you to decide what you might want to use yourself.
Camera wings are another common addition to a skydiver’s tool kit when filming. There are many benefits to having the wings, including increasing drag and enabling you to get a steeper angle for tandem filming.
The benefits typically fall into one of two categories:
- Body position
One of the biggest benefits of camera wings is body position. When we’re flying without wings, we would slow fall with our arms in front of us, our head down… it wouldn’t make for a good photo/video!
Instead, we’re able to use our wings by putting our arms out to the side; we can get a good fall rate without interrupting our footage.
Wearing wings will slow down our fall rate, but can also give us the ability to move around much more. We can increase our fall rate, safe in the knowledge we can decrease it again to get back above a group as needed, and for creativity.
We can also avoid the danger of the burble and we’re less affected. This doesn’t mean we must wear wings, as we don’t have to be using them even when they’re on, but having them enables us to have a greater range.
Exiting as a camera flyer
As a camera flyer, you’ll typically be going from the camera step. The benefit to this is that you’ll be able to film the whole exit and when done well, this enables the organiser/coach to provide a good debrief to the group and help them improve their exits.
The main consideration here is that there will be people taking the air in front of you. For that reason, it’s important to think about where you want to be to have clear air to use.
You have three main options:
- Staying close to the plane
While it’s very difficult to go fully under the plane, you can find some space close to the fuselage, but know that it’s likely you’ll end up colliding with the rear float at some point as you work to find the line!
2. Super float / early
Going very early on the count gives you the space behind the rear float. This means you have plenty of your own air and you’ll need to maintain good awareness of the group to capture all of their exits, too.
3. Push out
Your third option is to push way out to your left as you leave, into the space not occupied by the rear floaters. This can be a good option, especially when combined with leaving early, as you’re most likely to get the space you need. If necessary, you can also guide the other skydivers away from you.
If you miss the exit count, it can be worth choosing to ‘peel’ (where we go after the jumpers) instead of trying to ‘lead’ (where we go before the jumpers).
Of course, staying safe is the main priority.
What to do at break off
It’s very unusual to do anything other than pulling immediately on break off. The only exceptions to this would be on a pre-planned scenario where the group and the camera flyer are all super experienced.
For the purposes of getting started, always pull immediately.
This is so important because you do not know what the people below you will do. A poor track can end up in devastating consequences if you end up conflicting with that person. Instead, pulling immediately will put you into safe space – this is another reason why tracking off immediately as one of the participants in the formation is so important; you have to get out of the way should the cameraflyer have a problem, such as a malfunction which would send them back into freefall.
Pulling immediately will also put you into the right place in the canopy stack, meaning you’ll be above everyone else and expect to land last.
In a situation where you’ve got multiple camera flyers, there may be an agreement that the main cameraflyer pulls immediately while the other continues to fall and creates vertical separation. Again, this is reserved for super experienced camera flyers.
Safety before cameras! This is so important; make sure you are safe above all else.
You may need to unclip your wings to do things like reaching your toggles, so do this before thinking about turning off cameras and other distractions.
Speaking of distractions, be conscious of how everyone else might respond to you under canopy. It may be that other skydivers want to get a photo of themselves with their parachute and they come flying near to you to facilitate that. Or the other way round – you might be keen to take photos under canopy too. In either situation, exercise caution; safety above all else.
Watch the debrief
Pro tip! Watch the debrief. Your job as a bigway camera flyer is to provide footage from which the jumpers can be debriefed. By watching that debrief, you’ll see how the LO is using your footage and get tips on how to improve it for the future. Also, seek out debriefs for yourself. Stop by the portacabin and we’re happy to help.
Want to know more about our expectations for camera flyers? Take a look at this document or stop by the portacabin.