Making an aerial video of exploding fireworks

 

If you have any questions, just post them as a comment and I’ll try to answer them. You can find me on Facebook here.

Click here for an album of iPhone photos documenting the shooting process.

For the 4th of July I wanted to make a follow-up type video to the one I did last July 4th that involved me putting tiny cameras on fireworks and launching them up into the air. This time I thought I’d put the camera up in the air and have it looking down. It ended up being more difficult than I imagined.

Here is the sketch I drew about two months ago showing my idea for the video.

Idea sketch

My plan was to buy a giant helium balloon and tie it down with two strings, the GoPro camera would be suspended below the balloon. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do this video. It wasn’t until GoPro released their Wi-Fi BacPac that I decided to go through with the idea. The Wifi BacPac allowed you to remotly control your GoPro camera and to view the video live on your iPhone or iPad. I knew this would be perfect because I’d be able to see how the shots were framed and if I was getting the fireworks on camera.

I bought the Wifi BacPac, 2 outdoor 3 foot balloons…

Giant 3 foot helium balloon

and two canisters of party balloon helium from WalMart.

Balloon helium

I also obtained a few fireworks, I stuck with mortars and the large stick fireworks. My plans were going well so far until I found out that GoPro hadn’t released the iPhone/iPad app for the $100 BacPac I purchased. Apparently they didn’t think they needed to have some text explaining that the app wasn’t out yet. Oh well, at least I’d be able to remotely turn the camera on and off with the remote.

The first attempt at filming went well, but I had a tiny problem. My balloons stopped going up in the air at a certain point. I attached about 10 party balloons to the two large 3 foot balloons, and it still stopped going up into the air. I was perplexed and frustrated. The footage I got wasn’t that good because the balloons didn’t go above the exploding fireworks, I just got a bunch of shots of the fireworks flying past.

I decided to try it again, I purchased 4 more giant balloons. Thankfully before I bought any more party balloon helium I found out that the stuff sold specifically for balloons usually has other gasses in it, so the height the balloons go is limited. I purchased a giant tank of helium from a welding supply company for about $75, which was actually cheaper than the party balloon helium at Walmart. I did have to put down a $150 deposit on the tank, but that was refunded after I returned it.

Pure helium

I switched from thick fishing rope to 20lb test fishing line. I bought one of those spools you use for kite string, took off the string that was on it, and added my fishing line onto the spool. It took a while to wind 450 yards of line, but in the end it was worth it.

This time I attached 3 balloons to the camera, just to make sure I had enough to get it up in the air. This time the balloons went up really high…but…they stopped going up. I had a small problem…wind. The balloons would be blown sideways, if I let more line out they would just go further and further away, not straight up. Not only were the balloons not high enough, but the camera was being tossed around by the wind and balloon movement. Back to the drawing board.

I decide to scrap my camera attachment method after hearing about the Picavet system. It’s a rig that when made properly will keep your camera fairly level even if what it’s attached to is moving around. My dad and I put together a pretty nice looking rig from random parts we had laying around the house. This significantly improved the stability of the camera.

Closeup on the picavet rig

Below the picavet rig

Click here to get info on making your own Picavet system. It took three more attempts at filming to find a moment where the wind had died down, but I eventually got the shots I wanted.

I’d say this video is the most difficult one I’ve done because I wasn’t expecting to have issues with wind, the camera mount, and the right type of helium. I’m not sure if I would do something like this again because it was hard to get a moment where the wind stopped moving, and even then the wind picked back up a little bit after the balloons were high enough. However, it was a fun project, and I learned a lot. Hopefully you find the resulting video amusing/enjoyable.

The aerial balloon floating in the air

Thanks to the following sites/blogs for writing/posting about this video!

CNN - http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2012/07/05/vo-slow-mow-fireworks-from-above.jeremiahwarren

Good.is/Mike Senese - http://www.good.is/post/diy-aerial-photo-rig-gets-bird-s-eye-view-of-fireworks-30daysofgood/

The Daily What - http://thedailywh.at/2012/07/04/early-bird-special-335/

BoingBoing - http://boingboing.net/2012/07/02/slow-motion-aerial-birds-eye-v.html

PetaPixel - http://www.petapixel.com/2012/07/03/slow-motion-footage-of-fireworks-exploding-from-a-birds-eye-view/

Laughing Squid - http://laughingsquid.com/slow-motion-video-of-fireworks-exploding-from-an-aerial-view/

CBS News - http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504784_162-57465979-10391705/early-start-to-the-4th-of-july-with-slow-motion-birds-eye-view-of-fireworks-exploding

Fail Blog - http://failblog.org/2012/07/04/epic-win-photos-win-fireworks-pov-win/

Viral Videos - http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2012/07/02/birds-eye-view-of-fireworks/

 

12 Comments

  • Pingback: Slow Motion Video of Fireworks Exploding from an Aerial View

  • July 3, 2012 - 4:00 PM | Permalink

    Your video is awesome! Hope that you GoPro is fine after the hit.

    • jeremiahjw
      July 3, 2012 - 7:59 PM | Permalink

      Thanks, it was fine! It was just the balloons that were hit.

  • Pingback: Slow Motion Footage of Fireworks Exploding from a Bird’s-Eye View

  • July 3, 2012 - 8:42 PM | Permalink

    Nice job. Looks like a lot of fun! Did that wifi glitch out at a certain height. I know the skew of the wide lens makes it look high. But awesome!!!

    • jeremiahjw
      July 3, 2012 - 8:49 PM | Permalink

      I only had issues with the wifi the first time I used it, the connection went out once. I never had any other problems with it.

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  • July 5, 2012 - 2:54 PM | Permalink

    There was text on the GoPro site when I bought my Wi-Fi backpack (the 1st or 2nd week it was available) that the “app is coming soon” or something to that affect. Now they are saying late July/early Aug. Will be nice when they release it, but already just using the remote has been nice :) Love the concept (of the aerial above the fireworks), definitely some good footage there, not sure what else you could have done about the wind though.

  • Michael Sonnier
    July 8, 2012 - 1:06 PM | Permalink

    Wow! Great idea and unique execution.
    Your dog seems to be enjoying it too.

    Thanks for the video, hard work and SHARING your experience.

    Looking for you to top it next year !

    Take Care –
    Michael

  • December 3, 2012 - 7:39 PM | Permalink

    I didn’t see it on the blog but how did you get the camera back down?

    • jeremiahjw
      December 3, 2012 - 8:01 PM | Permalink

      There was a string attached to the balloon.

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