JETCAM, the world’s first movie camera system for aerobatic jets

It’s the first camera system on an aerobatic jet aircraft able to capture stabilized images shot traveling at high speeds. The first examples of what it achieves are in the 2018 feature film First Man.

JETCAM, a movie camera system for aerobatic jets

Capturing stabilized images at speeds of more than 400 mph is easier now, with JETCAM,  a modified SHOTOVER camera system designed to be mounted on a jet aircraft. Was Top Gun 2 delayed to use the system?

Aerial cinematography has always been a difficult part of any film production, but the innovation from Pursuit Aviation is about to change the landscape, opening up new possibilities for filmmakers. The company recently introduce JETCAM, a breakthrough platform that pairs the SHOTOVER camera system with an aerobatic jet aircraft.

Pursuit Aviation worked in conjunction with SHOTOVER to develop this first-of-its-kind setup. The SHOTOVER F1, a 6-axis gyro-stabilized camera system, was vigorously tested and modified to develop the F1 RUSH, which allows the operator to capture stabilized images at high speeds and high G forces. The company put together a team of skilled mechanics, custom fabricators, camera technicians and pilots to achieve the goal of shooting high-speed aircraft in their natural environment.

JETCAM, a movie camera system for aerobatic jets

First Man uses JETCAM

This breakthrough technology can be seen on DVD and Blu-ray now as the first commercial use of JETCAM was in the 2018 feature film “First Man.” But the JETCAM was used previously, during Pursuit Aviation’s filming of the World Speed Record of 531.27 MPH set by Steve Hinton in 2017 and for filming the formation flights of the USAF military fighters alongside historic Warbirds at the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation annual training event. Great Big Story, an award-winning global media company owned by CNN Worldwide, released a documentary about the world speed record attempt featuring extensive footage filmed by Pursuit Aviation.

More than 3 years ago Pursuit Aviation began the development of a high-speed aerial filming platform. Utilizing a fighter jet trainer and with the help of the team at SHOTOVER Camera Systems the company was able to push the envelope for aerial cinematography. The result is JETCAM, the world’s highest performance 6-axis stabilized aerial filming platform, pushing the boundaries in every way, filming at over 400 mph and pulling more than 3 Gs. Never before have filmmakers been given such latitude combining both speed and stabilization, extending the creative horizons for directors for years to come.

JETCAM, a movie camera system for aerobatic jets

Planes and drones

“Our team has worked on this project for more than three years and to finally see JETCAM in action firsthand is extremely rewarding,” said Eric Williamson, spokesperson for Pursuit Aviation. “We believe the unique capability to mount a camera on the jet to capture stabilized images at very high speeds opens up new possibilities for filmmakers to achieve their vision and provide audiences with never before seen shots.”

Pursuit Aviation is a team of highly trained stunt pilots, aerial coordinators and cinematographers of the sky that has countless feature and television credits, and most importantly an excellent safety record. The company’s team of skilled pilots and aerial coordinators can seamlessly handle all aspects of an aerial production, start to finish.The company uses state-of-the-art equipment and is on the forefront of aerial cinematography technology, helping directors get the perfect shots from the air. Pursuit Aviation recently started working with industry stalwart XM2, a multi-platform aerial cinematography and photography company. This partnership arms Pursuit Aviation with the latest VFX and drone technologies, providing superior quality for aerial filming.

JETCAM, a movie camera system for aerobatic jets

A fleet for aerial cinematography

Often considered a “one-stop-shop” for aerial productions around the world, Pursuit Aviation offers all of the equipment needed, while also providing backup systems for redundancy should there be any issues, thus avoiding unnecessary and costly production delays. It is home to one of the largest aircraft fleets in aerial cinematography industry, including many rare vintage warbirds from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Pursuit Aviation’s available fleet includes two camera helicopters, four picture helicopters, seaplanes, corporate jets and over 35 warbird aircraft, including the P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, P-38 Lightning, F8F Bearcat, F4U Corsair, P47 Thunderbolt, Supermarine Spitfires, a F7F Tigercat, a P40 Warhawk and A1 Skyraider.

Pursuit Aviation has filmed aerial sequences for major projects, including feature films “First Man” “The Mule” “Dunkirk” “The Devil Has a Name” and “Arizona.” Popular television shows the company has worked on include “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Major Crimes,” “Lethal Weapon” and “The Gifted,” while commercial shoots include Jeep, Geico, State Farm, Honda and Hulu.

JETCAM, a movie camera system for aerobatic jets

Was Top Gun 2 delayed to use JETCAM?

It is not hard to imagine what producers of the original Top Gun – which has fantastic aerial sequences – would be able to achieve with a camera system like JETCAM. Now that it is available, one has to wonder if the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, which is due to be released in 2020 will use the system for the aerial images. The film was initially going to be released in 2019, but was delayed. According to a Paramount statement, “The extra time will give filmmakers the opportunity to work out the logistics of presenting flight sequences with new technology and planes”. Deadline also noted that the extra time will “allow the production to work out all the complex flight sequences so that the pic can be great.”

While there is no clear indication that JETCAM is being used, the truth is that Tom Cruise stated that, “Aviators are back, the need for speed. We’re going to have big, fast machines.” Cruise will, according to rumors, be “flying” a F/A-18F Super Hornet specially painted. JETCAM seems like the logical camera system to keep up with the F/A-18F Super Hornet which is, apparently going to be the key aircraft in the plot. The US Navy wide-winged F-35C may also appear, another reason to have the best tools for aerial cinematography.

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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…

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