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'Poor Mans' Low Mode


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#1 Jamie McIntyre

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 10:42 PM

Hey guys,

Today was my first step into the world of 'real jobs'. No more line dances in my apartment!

It was a real estate job, with most of the shots being in tango and tracking in front of a house along the sidewalk/road.

The director wanted a shot to be low so we switched to 'poor mans' low mode to save time as the light was disappearing. I have an archer 2s so I just lowered the gimbal as far as it could go.

When I tried to operate the shot, (still tango tracking sideways - me walking forward) the camera would just pendulum and it almost looked like handheld.

I could not figure out why? I was really in a mess. My arm didn't seem to be right, I could barely see the monitor and it seemed 10x more physically demanding.

What would cause the camera to pendulum in such an aggressive way? We were shooting on the RED, 18mm, with two hard drives(one used to balance)

Any tips, advice?

Thanks

Jamie McIntyre
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#2 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 11:47 PM

I just lowered the gimbal as far as it could go.


What would cause the camera to pendulum in such an aggressive way?



That's what caused it to pendulum. you still have to set the gimbal for a proper drop time.

"Poor mans" lo mode involves inverting the rig, flipping the monitor up and then adjusting the gimbal to get the proper drop
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#3 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 12:14 AM

most of the shots being in tango



And what may I ask is "Being in Tango"?

Missionary and Don Juan I know, but Tango?
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#4 Erwin Landau

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 01:01 AM

It takes two to tango... That's what I do with my wife when we go Ballroom dancing... (Astor Piazzolla, he is the man, check out his music) not really getting where you are going with that... Please elaborate on that one.

As Eric stated, Poor mans Low-mode is when you invert the whole rig without physically inverting the camera to save on time as the rig is more or less already balanced. Some don't even invert the whole monitor as it sits now nicely in-front of your face and just flip the image invert switch on the monitor. You later have to invert the image in post. But it gets you instantaneously 2-4 feet lower as the lens is were your batts where... add a J or D-Bracket and you are golden.

Don't compromise your balance or manageability of your rig to force and get a shot that will look bad... that's how you get fired/not called back. You still have to keep the integrity of your job even under pressure... a minute or 2 will not hurt the company... reshooting the shot because it looks like dodo... will cost them and you. I was never refused a minute to make the set up nicer/safer/better balanced/etc... sometimes you just go and muscle through it... but only do it if you can bullshit your way through that shot and it still looks good.

I guess you put the Gimbal all the way up to the camera stage and operated with the arm boomed all the way down... thereby compromising and pushing the machine to the limit of it's workable ability and it looked like the security guy shot it...
The rig was out of balance, to much post below the Gimbal there for you created a pendulum. The arm bottoming out at the lowest point.... there we go: Glorified handheld... (But I must say I know some guys that put most Steadicam Ops to shame with there handheld... )
You tried to please them and shot yourself in the foot...

If it doesn't feel right, it usually will directly show up on screen and if not then for sure later in the dailies.

I always loved the Orson Wells approach, He used to sit very close to the camera during principal and when he didn't like what he saw he would "accidently" knock the camera way over so that the studio couldn't use the take...

Same here the moment you tilt the camera to the ground or the sky it's over and they have to go for a new take... apologize profoundly, walk to one or to your stand and quickly, while everybody has to reset, make it right... the shot will feel better it wont be as painful to operate and the company gets the shot they were looking for... and you will be back for another day to screw up on something else... welcome to the exiting world of camera operating.

Don't let the Production push you into mediocracy... or even worse "Good Enough".


BTW: Jerry Holway has a great book out that you should spend the $45.- bucks on... To get the terminology and the lingo down.... it will also answer a ton of questions... and if you are lucky, even throw up some new ones.


Good Luck.
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#5 Jamie McIntyre

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 11:18 AM

Sorry for using the wrong terminology, I guess a better way of describing it would be in missionary and shooting to the side. (I'm walking along the sidewalk with the lens towards the house) -A sideways tracking shot(Page 145 of Jerry's Book) When flying the rig in 'normal mode' I was doing good, took a couple of takes but we got it done. Just switching to low mode was the killer, it really dented my pride and I felt like such a noob that I couldn't get the shot off.

When i said 'I dropped the gimbal as far as it could go' I meant that I could not get the gimbal any further down the post due the post extension bracket being in the way. I had a limit as to how far the gimbal could drop down the post, so there was a lot of post between the gimbal and the stage. I did the right thing as to just flipping the camera, I didn't need to invert the image on the monitor as it was upside down too, so the image was flipped on the monitor already (because the camera was upside down).

Would the gimbal need to be closer to the stage in low mode to avoid the pendulum effect?

As for the 'good enough' aspect of things, that's kind of what happened. It was my first job yesterday and I didn't want to seem as if I was taking more time than needed to sort things with the rig so I just sort of rushed things to keep everyone happy. I guess I will learn to take a few more minutes in the future - to get things right.

Appreciate your replies guys,

Jamie Mc
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#6 Charles Papert

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 01:35 PM

Jamie, as you pointed out you could barely see the monitor, so the solution would likely have been to invert it and remount it closer to the gimbal to get a better siteline (and then you would have had to flip the image).

I think the most critical question posed was whether you did make sure the rig was properly balanced once you flipped over and adjusted the gimbal; i.e. did you extend the center post to get the batteries higher and ultimately get back to the proper drop time? While the weight distribution is different in low mode, the basic "rules" still apply and proper balance is just as critical. Think of it just the same as high mode--you wouldn't just arbitrarily raise or lower the gimbal without compensating with the telescope function of the center post.

Hopefully you also had a J or F bracket handy and were using that also?

Glad to hear you survived the shoot though!
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#7 Yousheng Tang

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 04:24 PM

Hey Jamie, congrats on your new rig and job. There's a low mode section in Jerry's book that I referred to when I had a gig doing low mode, just to brush up on what I had learned at the workshop. It saved the day for me. Keep me posted on your progress.
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#8 Jamie McIntyre

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 09:02 PM

Just got back from the 2nd day's shooting. And with everyone's advice I felt a lot more confident flying the rig and getting the shots the director wanted. Hearing 'Thats beautiful' rather than 'That works' was a big confidence boost for me. I took an extra 10 minutes fine tuning the balance in the morning and it made a HUGE difference!

I drove home from the shoot thinking 'Yeah, That was good' Which is such a great feeling.

Thanks guys!
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#9 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 09:28 PM

That's great Jamie - congratulations! Confidence is SUCH a big part of what we do.

FYI, Tango is a term that gets throw around some times; I noticed that Peter Abraham was using it at the last Flyer workshop that I stopped by at. It indeed refers to the shooting style you are referring to, so you are not crazy (although don't be surprised that Eric and Erwin have never heard of it because its not really part of the traditional Lexicon).

Ten plus minutes on balancing (in addition to build time) would be considered a bit much in some circles, but don't worry; keep at it and you'll get the time down. You've learned first hand what an out of balance rig can do to you!

Keep at it and enjoy!
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#10 RobinThwaites

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 03:55 AM

Hi Jamie

Glad it worked out in the end. If you are doing the quick and dirty low mode you will probably not need to move the gimbal by more than half an inch, maybe less. If you need to get the camera lower from that point you can a) make the camera lighter - not usually an option B) add weight to the bottom of the sled possibly just by re-configuring c) extend the post. Time taken to use the F-bracket is worthwhile, either that or surgery to shorten your legs.

Give me a call sometime if you need more info.

Robin
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