Aerial videographer Arnie Itzkowitz shares his thoughts on landing commercial clients, transitioning to 4K, and filming New York aerial footage for VideoBlocks.
Take an aerial glance at the landscape of video, and it’s easy to see the pros and cons of having lenses and recording capabilities built into every phone, tablet, and laptop.
On one side, it’s become far easier to get started as a hobbyist or professional with equipment and tutorials so readily available and accessible; on the other, this same ease and saturation has made it easier to become complacent—and it’s no secret necessity and discomfort are common pathways toward innovation.
Breaking down barriers is, of course, a good thing; but it’s essential we continue to innovate the industry even as necessity and discomfort wane.
Meanwhile, it’s also important to recognize those leading this innovation, like 4K aerial videographer and stabilizer manufacturer Arnie Itzkowitz—who has spent much of the past few months shooting 4K New York aerial footage for Video Blocks.
Pushing the Envelope: 4K New York Aerial Footage and Beyond
A lot has changed since Arnie received his first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye, at the age of eight—and both Arnie and his work have changed in unison.
That same drive for photography that led a childhood Arnie to explore darkroom development, color processing, and videography—and, eventually, aerial videography—later led him to gyrostabilizer manufacturing and 4K production. In doing so, he makes a great case for not “staying on the ground,” metaphorically if not literally.
Initially, this means worrying less about equipment and more about practice and passion; long before he started paying $2,000 per hour for helicopter rentals, for example, Arnie spent countless hours honing his craft on the ground—an investment that not only saved him tens of thousands of dollars, but allowed for an easier entry into the specialized world of commercial aerial.
“I never had a problem getting hired as a beginner,” explains Arnie on his early days, “because I went through that stage while it was a hobby. By the time I was looking to be hired, I had good samples of my work.”
Shooting Commercially: Now Airing in Hollywood
Still, his initial samples were merely just another starting point. Arnie might shoot with an Aerial Exposures LSG-2 Gyro Stabilized Camera System, which he manufactures and ships worldwide, and a Sony F55 with a global shutter—but his success is much more attributable to his long-term approach than his bag of parts. Throw in the pilot’s license he earned in 1973 (invaluable in planning shoots and communicating with pilots) and the level of understanding it takes to develop your own line of equipment, and it’s easy to understand why he’s made a name for himself.
Following his first paid aerial video shoot for Princeton University, Arnie’s business quickly evolved in three distinct directions: aerial still photography, aerial videography (now shot in 4K), and the manufacturing of gyrostabilizers for helicopters, boats, and ground-based vehicles.
“I found the aerial video work more challenging than stills and decided to specialize in that area,” he says. “It also went along with the manufacturing.”
These days he’ll occasionally find himself shooting stabilized video from moving vehicles on the ground—but his bread and butter, roughly 99 percent of his work, remains airborne. His aerial client list—in addition, of course, to Video Blocks—includes the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel, Bravo TV, DKNY, Saturday Night Live, Sikorsky, Beechcraft, Burger King, the Empire State Building, and many more.
Up until now his footage has lent itself more toward commercials, documentaries, and television than movies; however, he expects that ratio to change given his move to 4K—a resolution that accounted for 40 percent of his shoots last year, which he’s set to eclipse in 2014.
Advice for the Upward Bound
“Aerial videography consists of having an available large stable turbine helicopter, a gyro stabilization system, a video camera that meets customers’ expectations, and lots of experience using all of it in the air,” explains Arnie.
“I believe beginners need to learn to shoot on the ground before they pay for a helicopter at $1,300 to $2,000 per hour. Getting a pilot’s license and being able to communicate with the helicopter pilot using aviation terms helps.”
In addition to a ton of new 4K New York aerial footage now available on VideoBlocks, Arnie’s newest footage can be seen in the upcoming season of NBC’s America’s Got Talent.
Meanwhile, the results of his manufacturing endeavors can be seen in the stabilized videos of aerial and ground-based videographers worldwide . . .
Matt Siegel writes about technology, leadership, and film for Video Blocks.