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Justin Chapman of Pilot Whirly Bird Films

As CEO and model helicopter pilot with Whirly Bird Films, Justin Chapman is making a difference in how films capture the images that make them magic. His company works with everything from large film cameras to smaller HD cameras and 3D rigs.

Having originally started with a small, gas-powered helicopter that Chapman had designed, the company soon learned that the small model was not capable of producing the power they needed to complete their shoots; it also suffered from frequent and image-disturbing vibration. Consequently, Chapman found it necessary to completely redesign the original helicopter. His new model used a smaller jet engine – but after a year of testing, this method was also exposed as too unstable. Unwilling to be discouraged, Chapman went back to the drawing board. Finally, he obtained custom-made electric motors, used light materials such as Kevlar and fiberglass, and incorporated the latest in aerospace technology in order to succeed with his vision.

Chapman speaks with passion about the work his company now performs, shooting footage with cinematographers he respects. He mentions working with car companies and feature films, and shows obvious enthusiasm for his work.

“I do what I love every day – and that’s flying and designing model helicopters!”

As a company that’s continually evolving, what’s next on the boards for Whirly Bird Films? The company is investigating ways to update and improve their range – 400ft of altitude, 1500 feet of range, and speeds of over 80mph aren’t enough for this company. Throwing in references to both cinematography and technical flight and ‘copter design details, Chapman makes a strong case for his company’s ability to remain at the forefront of this developing niche in the cinematic field.

Chapman’s history stretches back to his teenage years, and his enthusiasm and knowledge of his project is clearly still strong.


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