Aerial Specialist

What do Aerial Specialists do?

Camera Pilots fly the aircraft that carries the aerial camera crew (aerial director of photography (DoP) and aerial camera assistant). Together they shoot the aerial sequences that form part of the finished feature film. Camera Pilots are also responsible for flying any aircraft, including helicopters, planes, hot air balloons, etc., that appear as action props in finished films. This may involve performing difficult stunts requiring a high degree of expertise and experience. Camera Pilots may also perform the role of aerial unit director, responsible for realizing the director's vision for the aerial sequences; this can involve scouting for locations, working out aerial action sequences using models and storyboards, and directing these sequences (from the back of the aircraft, or while piloting). The Camera Pilot may also carry out the duties of the aerial coordinator, which includes performing more logistical tasks such as finding suitable aircraft and crew within a given budget and schedule.

If films involve large amounts of aerial photography or action sequences, Camera Pilots are hired approximately two months before shooting begins to allow for careful planning and preparation. If the aerial sequences require certain dispensations from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules, e.g., for flying under a bridge, or exceptionally low flying over densely populated conurbations, Camera Pilots must organize all clearance procedures, and liaise with police and local councils to ensure minimum disturbance and disruption. During shooting they arrive at the location early and prepare the aircraft (usually a helicopter) for its daily inspection by the safety engineer. Camera Pilots must check over and sign off the paperwork. As this is one of the few roles on a film crew that carries a serious life risk factor, strict adherence to aviation rules and regulations is essential. This is most important while flying the aircraft during filming, when Camera Pilots must work hard to achieve the director's vision without compromising safety. Camera Pilots may also watch daily rushes with the director and aerial DoP, or may be invited into the cutting room to discuss the footage with the editor.

Typical career routes:
Because this is such a highly specialized job, there is no typical career route for the role of Camera Pilot. All Camera Pilots must have extensive experience of flying a variety of aircraft, especially helicopters.

Essential knowledge and skills:
Camera Pilots must have a professional pilot's license and an excellent knowledge of aerodynamics and aviation. A thorough understanding of CAA rules and regulations and a good working knowledge of the capabilities of a wide variety of aircraft are also prerequisites. Good working knowledge of how to shoot action sequences is essential, as well as familiarity with all aerial camera systems and equipment.

Key Skills include:
ability to work creatively without compromising on safety
ability to lead a team
concentration and courage
excellent communication skills
confidence to make the right decisions under pressure
patience and an understanding of how other film crew members perform under pressure
knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures (including the handling and placing of camera equipment in aircraft, First Aid, fire fighting and other emergency procedures)

There are 101 members with the job title Aerial Specialist on Media Match

Job description sources include (but are not limited to), and wikipedia.