Quantum of Solace

A breakthrough film camera system called the Snakehead is immersing viewers more deeply than ever in hair-raising aerial action.


With the Snakehead, pilots can, for the first time, fly as aggressively as they dare without sacrificing the drama of a shot. SpaceCam Systems 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 360o remotely controlled spherical range of view, the patented Snakehead is the first plane-mounted gyroscopically stabilised periscope that is compatible with various movie and HD cameras.


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 stabilisation to convey its manoeuvers.


‘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 theatre,’ said McClintock.


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 of Westlake Village, California, which engineered the optics.


The Snakehead posed several significant design challenges for the combined team, including battering from weather and debris, mechanical rotation, and image inversion.