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.
“As they will see in the Bond film, the Snakehead puts moviegoers in the middle of the action instead of just observing, or worse, being virtually tossed around in the theater,” said McClintock. “The Snakehead is by far the most challenging design I’ve ever attempted. SolidWorks software’s efficiency made the work so much easier than it could have been. SolidWorks let us design a better product by cycling through dozens of iterations and working with flexible subassemblies. We had many original crazy and weird-looking parts that, thanks in large part to SolidWorks, went together seamlessly the first time. The Snakehead exceeded our expectations.”
In the Bond filming, a Piper Aerostar 700 with Snakeheads on the nose and tail filmed two planes in a 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).
“What I like most about SolidWorks is the flexibility,” said Walt Caldwell, vice president of production and operations for Ballista. “Whenever you start a project with nothing but an idea you wind up in a different place than you thought you would, constantly making multiple iterations with major changes. SolidWorks lets us quickly change a component and replace it with a new one, and all the mates and parent/child relationships are intact. SolidWorks makes major changes easy, without having to start the model all over again.”
“The Snakehead is a revolutionary product,” said Rainer Gawlick, vice president of worldwide marketing for SolidWorks Corporation. “It’s inspiring to see our software help launch an innovation that will have a resounding impact on cinematography and entertainment.”
Ballista and SpaceCam rely on authorized SolidWorks reseller GoEngineer for ongoing software training, implementation, and support.
SpaceCam Systems, Inc. is the leader and industry standard in aerial and specialized gyro-stabilized cinematography. Its office, design, and manufacturing facility is located in Westlake Village, Calif. SpaceCam Systems provides: gyro-stabilized camera equipment services to the film, television, large format, and commercial industry; SpaceCam camera systems; specialized helicopter bracketry; and Snakehead camera systems for fixed-wing applications. A variety of camera options are available, including 35mm-4 perf, 35mm-8 perf, 65mm-5 perf, 65mm-15 perf, and numerous HD cameras. For more information visit www.spacecam.com or call 818 889-6060.
Ron Goodman, the president of SpaceCam, was the chief engineer and inventor of the Snakehead. His career-long commitment and dedication is to the advancement and betterment of gyro-stabilized image capturing.
About Ballista, Inc.
Ballista is a privately owned company that specializes in the
development of display products, medical devices, and illumination-based
systems. Its offices and manufacturing facilities are located in
Westlake Village, Calif. Ballista provides custom product development
and manufacturing services for the assembly and test of optical systems.
Included in these services is the qualification and management of
suppliers and warehousing of finished goods and order fulfillment
services. Current products include high-performance display systems and
light delivery systems for medical, scientific, and entertainment
applications. For more information, contact:
Email Contact ,
(805) 497-6541 Ext. 222.