CONCORD, Mass.– A breakthrough movie camera system called the Snakehead, designed entirely in SolidWorks® 3D CAD software, is resetting the boundaries of cinematography, immersing viewers more deeply than ever in hair-raising aerial action.
With the Snakehead, pilots for the first time can fly as aggressively as they dare without sacrificing the drama of the shot. SpaceCam Systems, Inc. of Los Angeles debuted the Snakehead last month in the canyons of Baja, Mexico, for the upcoming James Bond film “Quantum of Solace.” The month-long shoot was “wildly successful,” according to veteran aerial cinematographer Dwayne McClintock, also a mechanical engineer who co-designed the system. “We shot some astonishing footage, like nothing you’ve seen before,” he said. The Snakehead also worked “flawlessly” on a TV commercial in which a Jeep rolled out the door of a cargo plane 10,000 feet above the desert sand.
With a 360-degree remotely controlled spherical range of view, the patented Snakehead is the first plane-mounted gyroscopically stabilized periscope, compatible with various movie and HD cameras and providing super high quality resolution. The lens system maintains a level horizon, solidifying a frame of reference to keep viewers in the story. Traditional aerial cinematography approaches — for example, a fixed periscope on a Lear jet — distract and sometimes sicken viewers by depicting a seemingly lurching horizon. If the filming plane needs to adopt the point of view of a chasing aircraft, however, Snakehead operators can turn off the stabilization to convey its maneuvers.
In the Bond filming, a Piper Aerostar 700 with Snakeheads on the nose and tail filmed two planes in an aerial chase sequence and dogfight.
SpaceCam collaborated on the design with engineers at Ballista Inc. of Westlake Village, Calif., which engineered the optics, also using SolidWorks software. The Snakehead posed several significant design challenges for the combined team, including battering from weather and debris, mechanical rotation, and image inversion (Ballista used SolidWorks to create a fourth, “derotation” prism to keep the filmed image upright in the periscope).
Filed Under: 3D CAD, Software, Vision • machine vision • cameras + lenses • frame grabbers • optical filters