Takeshi’s Chopper

Having given up all, or least most, pretence of following any sort of ‘normal’ sleep cycle recently, TV can sometimes work as a fairly effective mind-numbing tool to despatch one to the Land of Nod for a short break. This means catching shows you might not otherwise have given a second look, and one the surprising finds has been a run of the UK version of Takeshi’s Castle. Absolutely daft, it can raise a smile and laugh without the dross that most of today’s dribbling comedian offer in fear of PC (Political Correctness), or if trying to be ‘Alternative’.

The UK screening’s are dated 2003, but I knew the look of things suggested this was not the actual date of the original productions, and a check showed that the series aired from 1986 to 1989. This made the reason for including the menttion all the more interesting.

The shows all ended with a final assault on the castle, which took on various formats, however the usual battle was between guards and contestants, both driving modified buggies around the courtyard in a Final Showdown. This was filmed using assorted ground-based cameras, together with others that were clearly located on aerial platforms, providing an overview of the Final Showdown.

However, my attention was caught on one occasion when the view appeared to have been shot from a helicopter. The show clearly had a significant budget, so could afford it, but even so it seemed excessive given the size of the courtyard. Sure enough, I was right, and the ground shot showed that they actually had a Radio-Controlled Helicopter taking the shots. Given the time the programmes were made, this was quite an achievement with the equipment available at the time, although it has to be said that Japan is always a few years ahead of he UK for any sort of electronic fun like this. Even so, this was an area I was active in at the time (both RC helis and Amateur TV), and although we looked at the possibility of a chopper mounted camera, the size of the camera, transmitter (from the heli to ground base) and batteries were just too much of an overhead for what we had at the time, as a large enough heli to carry the gear was itself rather heavy.

That said, the Takeshi-Cam was no tiny lightweight, and I would say it came from the same school as the few RC heli-cams we had here around the same time. Due to the size and weight, these were generally put together by specialist modellers, with deep pocket, or business sponsors who would use them in situations where the ability to get a camera airborne without the costs associated with full size aircraft made the cost of the custom built model acceptable.

How things have changed. Although they lack the true control of a proper RC heli, one can now buy small, electric helis for £40, capable of having a small webcam and miniature transmitter attached for less than £100. You can’t really control them and have them fly to a point and hover, but for the money, and some careful trimming, it can be made to work. Compare to the cost of proper RC Heli, a proper Radio (both in the hundreds of £s) and you’d want to spend more than a few £ on cheap webcam to do the whole thing justice.

The wallet starts to feel ill just thinking about it.

Maybe just go for one of the little RC cars they brought out a few years back. Fitted with a camera, it sent pics back to the RC handset, which had a built-on LCD screen so the operator could see where the car was going, with the whole kit selling for around the £100 mark.


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