you want to learn how to fly camera but are not sure where
to start? Have you heard fellow skydivers talking about camera
equipment that is completely unknown to you? And do you wonder
what you actually do once you’ve got the camera and
This article may answer a few of these questions for you…
type of camera should I buy?
need to this about a few essentials when deciding on a video
camera for skydiving use.
• Can the focus be locked (does it have a manual focus
• If you turn the camera off then back on, does the
focus stay locked?
you cannot answer ‘yes’ to these two questions
then you may have issues using this camera to film skydiving.
The problem we have with autofocus cameras are that the camera
will focus on anything that gets on the lens, and you may
also have issues with the camera ‘looking’ for
something to focus on, for example when facing the sun.
have two different choices here – analogue or digital.
With a camera that is used for skydiving you will need a digital
will see that vast majority of skydivers use Mini DV cameras.
These tend to be small, lightweight and the most suitable
cameras around for skydiving
Digital 8 (D8) cameras are of an older style camera design
shape and tend to be larger and heavier that the Mini DV cameras.
However, it is an option for people that would like to film
skydiving using digital who are more financially restricted.
Due to their size characteristics they will usually be top
video8 or Hi8 tapes will play on a D8 camera. The D8 and Mini
dv digital qualities are equal, so you can link your camera
to your computer with a firewire cable in order to edit and
compile your skydiving footage by computer. In the same way,
it is possible to copy footage to a Mini DV camera (and the
other way around), if they are both ‘dv in’ (to
be explained further on…).
MV has been created by Sony and these cameras are very small.
The size and weight are great for skydiving but the general
consensus is that these cameras are not very good for skydiving.
They use different types of tapes so you are on the dropzone
and run out, you cannot borrow from a friend. The firewire
output on Micro MV is also different, so you won’t be
able to shared footage with your friends. There have also
been reports of people having problems editing their films
with Avid, Premier, iMovie and Final Cut Pro. It is also said
that these cameras don’t perform as well in low light
conditions and the record button is awkward to get to.
do I check the camera focus?
set the focus manually. Then turn the camera off, and then
back on. You are checking to see if the camera is still set
to your manual focus point. If it has then no problem, if
not, you may have issues in using this camera for skydiving.
For example, you will have your camera off for most of the
ride to altitude and you don’t want to be having to
reset the focus every time you turn the camera off then on.
Are there other camera buttons that you may accidentally switch
when turning the camera off and on? Will you be able to access
the on/off/record buttons when the camera is mounted?
types of feature should I avoid?
the camera is mounted it may be fiddly to remove and put back,
so cameras that can charge, remove the tape etc on the underside
of the camera may be something you would like to avoid. This
is more personal preference than anything. Some cameras also
have a charging station that you need to sit the camera in
when you charge it.
It is much easier to have a camera that you can leave mounted
to remove the tape, charge, use the sockets etc. Some mount
styles allow the video camera to be easily removed and replaced,
so it is worth thinking about what type of camera helmet you
get at the same time as the camera.
you just want to use this camera for skydiving? Many of the
video cameras on the market will have lots of great features
that you just wouldn’t use for skydiving, such as MP3
this is a useful feature to have on your video camera. This
allows you to digitally record from a different source without
any loss of quality- for example your friend’s footage
of a skydive.
You will probably also want to be able to computer edit your
footage too, in which case you will need this feature to be
able to regain the footage from the computer after it’s
a memory stick allows you to take still photo images. This
may be handy for occasions when a still photo works better
than video footage, for example ground shots.
cameras process red, green and blue separately and therefore
give a better quality of film as opposed to the one chip,
or CCD cameras. 3 chip cameras are more expensive and tend
to be bulkier and heavier. This type of camera is only really
necessary if you are planning on selling footage to television
skydivers like to use a cameye. This is an LED situated around
your sight that lights up in different colours to show you
if the camera is on, off, recording etc. You will need a LANC
socket to plug your cameye into if you want to use one.
a wide angle lens for filming skydiving has quite a few advantages.
It will stabalise the image slightly and also increased the
field of view. Each lens is numbered between zero and one,
according to how wide the lens is.
So a small numbered lens will be wider, and therefore you
will have to fly closer to your subject. Lenses screw onto
your camera and it is possible to buy conversion rings for
common sizes should the lens not fit. However, make sure when
looking at lenses to find out before you buy whether you will
need to purchase a conversion ring as well.
like to use Sony cameras because of their track record. They
are robust, are not affected by the shake of freefall and
reliable. The mini dv models that have the dv in option are
the most popular.
which camera should I buy?
has slightly different personal and financial requirements.
If you want to buy the newest models on the market then you
will pay for them. Or, if you are happy to have a camera model
from an older range then you will save money whilst still
having the camera functions that you need. As a guide, look
at the Sony PC range.
do I mount my camera?
advice from an experienced camera flyer whilst assembling
your camera set up. They will help you to get the best out
of the equipment that you have and check it over to ensure
that it is safe. As a requirement at BPA dropzones in the
UK you have to have a C licence and the CCI’s approval
to jump camera. Your set up will be checked over before you
is the possibility of a camera helmet catching your canopy
suspension lines, which is why some camera helmet manufacturers
have created a cutaway system for their camera helmets. Should
you find yourself in a situation where you need to take off
your helmet in an emergency, you need to be able to remove
it with one hand if possible. These cutaway systems allow
you to get rid of your helmet quickly and easily. There are
two different systems on the market:
open face helmets use a fabric strap that has pop studs on
it. A fabric loop with three press studs works due the force
at the chin cup being at 90 degrees to the studs. Therefore,
a firm, direct pull on the fabric will remove the helmet.
Face System or Open Face with Chin piece
seen as an option with 2k Composites helmets, this type of
cutaway system uses yellow Teflon cables and loops to disconnect
the hinged part of the helmet. The Teflon cables pass through
three closing loops which replace bolts in the hinge.
you find yourself in an emergency and you need to release
your camera helmet, or maybe the helmet comes off accidentally,
it is worthwhile to get insured. Look at whether your camera
equipment can be included as part of your skydiving equipment
insurance, or house insurance.
is important to consider your emergency and malfunction drills
and how you would deal with an emergency whilst wearing a
camera helmet- for example should you experience an entanglement.
Some people have the view that they would cutaway their helmet
before dealing with the entanglement and going through malfunction
drills. It is also worth considering if you keep your RSL
connected or disconnect it for camera jumps if you jump with
you can do to minimise the risk of any problems whilst jumping
camera are being conscientious at deployment time. Make sure
you throw the pilot chute when your arm is at full extension,
this is even more important when jumping in a camera suit
with wings due to the burble created by the extra fabric.
Keep your body symmetrical throughout the whole deployment
process and resist the temptation to look up and watch the
last stages of canopy deployment.
I mount my video camera top or side mount?
With a side mounted camera you will have the camera in line
with your eyes. A side mount is suitable for formation skydiving,
AFF and fun jump skydives. However, because of the extra bulk
on one side there is an increased chance of riser strikes.
Depending on the type of skydives that you want to film, will
affect your camera set up. For example for FS or AFF skydives
which entail more close up work, you will need a wide angle
lens and a different camera angles. Side mounted cameras give
a superior field of view for this type of work if they are
close to level with your natural eye line about 5 degrees
upwards, and angled slightly inwards.
You are less likely to suffer from riser strike with a top
mounted camera. The weight of the camera set up will be symmetrical
and in line with the rest of your body. However, on an off
heading opening they can cause more forces on your next because
the weight is further from your head. Of course you also need
to be more careful when exiting the aircraft too.
Whatever type of camera, camera helmet or type of mount you
choose, a little common sense goes a long way. Use the tripod
mount on the camera to bolt it to your helmet and wrap bungee
cord around it for extra security. Don’t use gaffer
tape, pull up cords etc… this will not be secure and
you risk losing your equipment, not to mention the damage
that the camera could cause if it struck a person on the ground.
Your camera is going to go through all of the opening shock
forces that you do, so make sure it is securely fastened.
Always go to experienced camera flyers with any questions
that you have.
To film consistently, it is recommended to use some kind of
a camera sight. This can be a Newton ring sight, or just a
stationary hole reinforcer stuck onto your goggles. However,
if you are just fun jumping then you can get away without
any kind of sight. Norman Kent suggests that if you do film
with a sight that you mount it on the left side of your helmet,
i.e the opposite side to your deployment hand.
When filming skydiving you want the camera to sit as still
and steady in the helmet on your head as possible. Wearing
a helmet with a chin cup with do this better than a normal
setting up your camera helmet will involve you drilling holes,
or cutting out sections of the helmet. Ensure that any sharp
edges are smoothed off, and any corners are rounded off. With
fibreglass or other common helmet materials a jagged edge
can encourage cracks to start to form.
mount fixings and associated pop rivets, bolts etc must be
the correct size and cut short as possible. They should also
have padding over the top to protect your head in case of
Get different opinions from experienced camera flyers. Most
people will be more than willing to shared their stories and
advice with you.
If you have a side mount camera set up, and don’t want
to jump with camera then have another helmet to wear.
Practice on the ground what you may have to do in the air.
For example, releasing the camera set up in case of emergency,
turning the camera on and off, and practice this with and
Remember to keep your head and body straight and still throughout
Stow your excess brake line to ensure it does not catch on
your camera helmet.
more information on skydiving visit www.freefalladdicts.com