Chopperguy Takes to the Sky with AJA Ki Pro Mini
February 18, 2014
Founded in 2011 by Helicopter Pilot Reporter Bruce Haffner, Chopperguy is an Arizona-based production company specializing in HD aerial video and photography. Whether capturing footage for a live broadcast, commercial, feature film or sporting event, Haffner and his team of specialists rely on an AJA Ki Pro Mini to meet the rigorous recording demands that aerial production requires.
Having first encountered Ki Pro Mini in 2010 while researching recording devices for Chopperguy’s first helicopter build, Haffner said, “Ki Pro Mini was new to me at the time, but I thought it was the grooviest little thing; I could hold it in my hand, and it did everything I needed, but at a fraction of the size and weight of the old TV Betacam tape recorders. The icing on the cake was that it recorded full-blown HD video to CF cards.”
Over the last three years, Ki Pro Mini has become an integral part of Chopperguy’s day-to-day operations out of a Robinson R44 NewsCopter, which has been used on a wide variety of projects for clients like Speed Channel/Fox, Intel and local station KTVK TV3TV.
“Our Ki Pro Mini is incredible for everything we do; the functionality of it is amazing. It helps me get the perfect shot every time,” shared Haffner.
Throughout production, the Chopperguy team leverages the Ki Pro Mini to record live video broadcasts, as well as for the occasional in-camera edit. With a familiar interface reminiscent of a VTR, they’re able to quickly transition from shot to shot to compose each unique story.
“Ki Pro Mini allows us to easily record footage, cue up the video, prepare it to go live and “hot” roll it live on TV,” Haffner explained. “As a result, we can do in-camera editing, because we can get all of the shots we need to tell our story from establishing, to medium and close-ups. The best part is that when we’re ready to go live, so are our shots.”
Chopperguy’s NewsCopter is equipped with a compact Ikegami HDL F31 HD camera nicknamed ‘Elvis,’ and gyrostabilized gimbal mount on the nose of the aircraft housing a Canon lens. An optical block on the back of the lens is cabled into an aux box, where the camera control head is located, and HD images are fed out of the camera box to a video switcher. Completing the pipeline are three additional on-board video sources: a Toshiba HD camera angled at the on-air talent, another Toshiba HD camera mounted outside on the tail of the aircraft and the Ki Pro Mini as a fourth input to the switcher.
For live broadcasts, the team captures in 1080i or 1080p and records in ProRes 422. Data is transmitted digitally through a Nucomm TV transmitter to three mountaintop tower receive sites in Arizona. Once received, the signal is routed to a TV station, where it is decoded, sent through the electronic news gathering (ENG) department live control and transferred to sub control, where the shows are produced. A technical director, director, producer and the audio booth then collaborate to air the content through a digital switcher.
When working on projects that don’t require live broadcasts, the team typically records in ProRes 422 HQ. At the conclusion of the project, the team removes the CF cards from the Ki Pro Mini and transfers the data to a MacBook Pro via a card reader. They then connect the client’s hard drives to the computer and download the footage. Haffner backs up all footage on a portable hard drive and RAID system for additional security.
He concluded, “Overall, the Ki Pro Mini is really reliable and has made our jobs a lot easier. I haven’t seen anything out there today that is a better fit for our news chopper.”
About AJA Video Systems, Inc.
Since 1993, AJA Video has been a leading manufacturer of high-quality and cost-effective digital video interface, conversion, acquisition and desktop solutions supporting the professional broadcast and post- production markets. With headquarters in Grass Valley, California, AJA maintains an extensive sales channel of dealers and systems integrators around the world. For further information visit www.aja.com.
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