Helicopter Film Services reaches new heights

Europe’s leading aerial filming business, Helicopter Film Services, reaches new heights, adding Large Format, Aerial LiDA and Drone Training to its list of capabilities.

Europe’s leading aerial filming business, Helicopter Film Services (HFS), continues to collaborate with VFX houses to bring even better visual effects possibilities to makers of VFX-laden productions. In an innovative move, HFS’s helicopters and drones can now combine Lidar technology and photogrammetry from the air. This aerial capture, combined with ground level Lidar scanning, is particularly advantageous for sequences involving large scale environments and architecture because it provides all-encompassing detail under one umbrella. HFS provide aerial photogrammetry on many large and indi cinematic productions, generating images that would be impossible to capture otherwise.

Angela Barson, Co-Founder of the VFX facility, Blue Bolt, explains: “The progression of VFX has created a parallel demand for maximising data on a grander scale. Combining the technology of aerial and terrestrial Lidar with photogrammetry elicits new possibilities to meet this demand” 
Aerial DoP, Jeremy Braben, who is CEO at HFS, explains his approach: “We always aim to go one step beyond what’s been done before to give producers and directors more effective tools for the job. Combining aerial and terrestrial photogrammetry and Lidar does just this by providing exceptional information with accuracy and continuity.”

Braben and his team work closely with manufacturers to take advantage of new innovations that lend themselves to ever greater aerial sequences: “Advancements in battery and drone technology allow larger camera and sensor packages to be flown for longer, with more accuracy and seamless integration into production.” He adds, “We pride ourselves on being flexible and really listening closely to provide what Production needs. Our combined services of helicopter and drone mean we can offer un-biased and knowledgeable production advice. As ever, we’re excited about offering enormous choice: we are one of the only companies that can fly large format packages such as the ARRI Alexa 65 and new LF, The Sony Venice and Panavision DXL, in addition to the 8K offerings from RED. All of this means Production can capture what they desire, creatively and practically speaking.”

Upskilling the next generation of Drone User
That said, it’s not just the kit, it’s the user that counts! In 2018, HFS Group acquired one of the most established drone academies in the UK, Commercial UAV Academy (formerly known as Cambridge UAV Academy) which continues to upskill camera operators, as well as professionals from other industries including engineering, construction, military and police. The academy is run by Alan Perrin who has 20 years’ experience in this niche. In 2018, he noticed a change in who was applying for its 2-day course plus practical flight test. “We noticed a paradigm shift in terms of who we are training. Companies are now investing in upskilling their own staff to ensure they have in-house drone capability for deploying wherever and whenever needed. We’re proud to be training the next generation of drone user as part of HFS Group.”

Recent productions Jeremy and his crew worked on include: Wonder Woman 2, Fantastic Beasts – Crimes of Grindelwald, Spiderman – Far from Home, Men In Black – International, Aladdin, Dumbo, The Girl In A Spider’s Web, The Kid Who Would Be King, Wonder Woman, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Avengers: Infinity War, Ready Player One, Johnny English 3, Entebbe, Tomb Raider, Peter Rabbit, Paddington 2, The Crown, Darkest Hour, Assassin’s Creed, Spectre, Ex-Machina, Justice League and Captain America: Civil War.