After watching Disney's "Earth" in class I became interested in the heligimbal cameras used to shoot them. I've seen the BBC's "Planet Earth" series (actually I own it) and it is simply just amazing how they can zoom in on a subject from miles away without disturbing them and capture the scene in such great detail.
Heligimbals are cameras mounted to the bottom of a helicopter. The technology was first developed by the military and it uses a gyro-stabilized system which neutralizes the helicopters vibrations. The camera is controlled by a joystick from within the helicopter.
The BBC and Disney used the cineflex V14HD heligimbal with sony HD cameras. The system weighs about 95 lbs and is less than 15" in diameter. The gimbal is rated for wind loads up to 200 knots (230 mph) and doesn't significantly change flight characteristics. The V14 has a 360 degree continuous panning ability, 165 degree tilt, and +/- 45 degree roll. The system is designed around an integrated camera, Sony's CineAlta HCS-1500 which can achieve a resolution up to 1920 x 1080. It can utilize Canon and Fujinon's HD zoom lenses. An embedded Sony RM-B750 Remote provides access to all the cameras functions through a touch screen interface. Built in microprocessors sample data over 2500 times a second with an instantaneous feedback loop and motor control system that removes vibration. Automatic heaters warm the motors in cold environments and the system can function at 20 below and up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I couldn't find any prices for the system because the company wanted you to contact them for further information, in that regard. I did however find the costs for renting one in FL. They rent for $3,500.00 a day, $24,500.00 a week, and $98,000.00 for a month plus a $1,500.00 deposit.
Heligimbals are out of my price range, especially since I don't have a helicopter to mount it to, but I will continue to enjoy watching them at work in movies and documentaries. It is an amazing technology that can achieve things other cameras are incapable of, from views impossible to reach by any other means than in a helicopter.