Resort invention to take film industry up, up and away

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A Queenstown-based company is launching a state-of-the-art camera to be used on major movies in New Zealand and throughout the world. 

Shotover Camera Systems has designed and produced the next-generation gyro-stabilised camera for shooting footage from helicopters – it’s expected to be a revolution for aerial filming because it’s so light. 

Created by the company’s managing director John Coyle and his engineers, the system is made from components mainly produced in New Zealand and can cost between $NZD400,000 and $1 million depending on the choice of camera, lens and other system features. 

“The use of ultra-light carbon fibre for the structure lightens the equipment, allowing the helicopter to carry a full load of passengers and fuel, when the system is attached. This is quite a significant breakthrough because all comparable systems are too large and heavy,” Coyle says. 

With an ergonomic control panel and a graphics overlayed monitor feed in the cockpit, the operator has precise control over the Shotover camera, independent of helicopter movement. 

Coyle adds: “Our system does not require a technician to be on hand like other systems and the equipment can be broken down into excess baggage size pieces. Earlier model aerial cameras have to be freighted to a location, which could take weeks, but the Shotover camera can travel with the operator to a job.” 

Coyle was the founder of Cineflex LLC in the United States, which designed and manufactured five-axis stabilised camera systems for use in aerial filming. Hundreds of these systems are used for documentaries, major sports events and feature movies. 

He moved to Queenstown in 2007 after selling Cineflex and his latest venture – focusing on smaller, lighter and more high-tech systems – has been two-and-a-half-years in the making. 

Testing on the Shotover camera began in the Queenstown area in February this year, in conjunction with Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters and aerial filming specialist pilot Alfie Speight, with immediate success. 

“The camera worked very well on day one,” Coyle says. 

“Queenstown is the hub of New Zealand aerial filming and we are fortunate to have such outstanding scenery in which to develop and test our gimbal systems.”