Picture a close-up of a driver during a high-speed car chase down a steep and snowy ravine, shot from a torpedo-shaped camera attached to a rope hanging from a helicopter flying above. Sound crazy? Uli Krause and Christian Bernutz of Cine4Kopter are making a name for themselves when it comes to shooting epic footage. Uli Krause sat down with us to tell us more.
United Visions: You specialize in the development of new technology for aerial filming. How did this come to be?
Uli Krause: Christian Bernutz and I founded Cine4Kopter at the beginning of 2012 with the ambition to realize and enable new prospects in camera movement that were unreachable until then. Christian had a grip background and I had worked a lot as 1st AC and steadicam operator. We were often frustrated not being able to realize our visions for specific imagery, which was often due to the technical limitations of the equipment we had at our disposal, so we made a decision to get together and carry out our own ideas. We quickly realized that the individual parts for the film equipment we had thought of, would have to be manufactured on our own or produced for us directly in order to guarantee a high level of quality, but most of all safety, for the operators who would be using it. This is why we put all of our equipment on parts which we designed ourselves, and which are produced and manufactured by an engineering workshop near Regensburg.
UV: Nowadays there is a lot of competition in this field… What sets you apart?
UK: Yes, there are quite a few providers these days, but qualitatively there are big differences. Our ambition is to raise everything up to cinematic quality, to provide equipment that can carry large and heavy cameras, and to allow for film optics, which is something other providers cannot…
UV: Which invention are you particularly proud of?
That would easily be the TubeMount, our pet project, which I think is unique. The TubeMount is basically a torpedo shaped mounting suspension for a three axis stabilized remote head on which a camera is attached. The entire construction is fastened to a rope under a helicopter and guarantees spectacular footage. The idea for the TubeMount came to us as we were prepping a shoot with snowboarders for which we were faced with the challenge of how to be faster than the snowboarders without putting them in danger by crossing paths with snowmobiles. We also wanted to shoot action packed footage that was better than classic helicopter shots, which are beautiful, but often appear distanced. The TubeMount allowed us to stay close to the athletes and to use conventional camera systems (Alexa/ Epic etc…) without adding additional risks. Currently we are using the TubeMount for car chases, to fly into gorges or forest aisles, and also for a shoot with 360° cameras. The long rope that separates the TubeMount from the helicopter allows for the camera to fly extremely low without having the downwash of the helicopter whirl up the ground (snow, dust, water etc). In order to ensure maximum safety here as well, the TubeMount is outfitted with a high performance rotor on one end, which allows Chris to constantly position the TubeMount under the helicopter and avoid oscillation, while I helm the camera with help from the remote head. The lift off and landing of the TubeMount follows as the helicopter lifts and lowers the ‘Torpedo’ in and out of an undercarriage constructed for it. We call it the ‘Longline Operation.’ We mainly work with an Austrian helicopter company, but the TubeMount can be used with any helicopter as long as the pilot has the necessary experience with external load flights. We recently shipped the complete device to Saudi Arabia in order to shoot 360° footage for the Saudi Royal Family.
UV: What did you bear in mind with the development of your drone?
UK: The advantages of a drone are undisputable, besides the financial incentive, beautiful aerial shots can be made relatively easily and quickly. Our drone has a wingspan of 1.7 meters, which is quite wide, but this guarantees for a stable and safe flight and can easily carry an Epic with a normal Ultra Prime optic. It was important to us that the quality would not suffer from using an unmanned flight unit. This is why our drone is outfitted with strong motors in order to allow for a 14kg payload on a flight over 10 min or more.
UV: What are you working on now?
UK: That’s top secret! We just finished our newest invention, our new Rope Line, which can be set up and is ready for use within 30 min. The device is made of two components, the Tow Rope, the driving force so to speak, and the Gimbal, which hung from the rope, is controlled via control panel. Our new rope line runs along a single line as it is propelled by its own motor. This way, ‘aerial shots’ are possible in very sensitive or confined spaces such as interior rooms. Additionally, the camera (RED Epic) is stabilized through the three axis Gimbal and remains stable even in windy conditions. That’s another accomplishment!