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First Shoot!


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#1 Ian Blewitt

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Posted 11 November 2009 - 09:32 AM

Hey everyone,
This is my first post, so I want to say Hello first and foremost.

Next, I will be on my first shoot as a dp/operator coming up in December. It will be a hectic schedule as we are flying to Australia to shoot a 30 min festival piece near Brisbane. We have one week prior to do last minute planning, and one week with the actors and some of the expensive rented props (blank firing weapons) to shoot. I am wondering if you guys could give me any advice for the Steadicam shots, as I am still new to it.

The setup will be this:

Steadicam Flyer
HVX-200 with Matte box
Bartech Remote Follow Focus
Titan transmitter kit for the director's monitor
Sennheiser wireless audio


I am literally brand new to Steadicam, and right now I have access to the Flyer and HVX, both of which my school owns. I have been practicing walking and following people every week for the past few weeks and intend to continue to do so until shooting.

Will the matte box and follow focus change a lot or will it be pretty much the same as what I'm using now? (of course the weight difference but will that change anything but initial balancing?)


Thanks so much in advance for your help guys. I'm really excited to learn this fascinating new art.

Ian
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#2 Brian Freesh

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Posted 11 November 2009 - 10:26 AM

Hi Ian,

Assuming you find places to mount everything, I think you're really gonna like the additional weight. Since you did not list a lens adapter or 35mm lenses, I assume you're using the plastic adapter on the HVX's focus ring. Be careful with the BFD, you can easily overpower the focus ring. When you calibrate the BFD, do it very carefully, slowly. Don't put the stop on the Bartech at the actual stop of the lens, but just before it.

If you have a stock Flyer, you only have one power output and none on the camera. I assume the audio receiver is battery powered, but then you still have the BFD reciever and Titan transmitter. Do you have a power splitter out of the rig?

I dunno what your shot list entails, but you should practice more than just following people around. If you haven't already, get "The Steadicam Operator's Handbook" still advertised on the right side of this page.

Good luck and have fun! When you get back, take the first workshop you can!

Brian |-)~
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#3 Ian Blewitt

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Posted 11 November 2009 - 11:40 PM

Brian,
Thanks for the advice!
I am currently in a workshop at my school before I go. :]
Also looking into getting that book right now!

I am using the plastic adapter, so I will definitely take the overpowering into consideration while calibrating it.

The company we are renting from (Lemac in Brisbane) said they would provide everything I needed to make this work, so I'm assuming that includes the power splitter. The audio is indeed battery powered.

The shot list is almost completely steadicam as it is a "war" movie, so we wanted a more "handheld" feel to it, so I think it will be perfect for my first real Steadicam shoot, since it won't matter if everything is a perfectly fluid movement. I think the only shots that aren't Steadicam shots are the closeups for dialoge and establishing shots.

I know I am in for a very intense workout during this shoot, since I am doing all the camera work, not just the Steadicam shots, and we're shooting a 30 minute film in one week! Our "scheduler" has been a miracle worker!
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#4 Brian Freesh

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 01:45 AM

The shot list is almost completely steadicam as it is a "war" movie, so we wanted a more "handheld" feel to it,


Blunt, but not insulting (hopefully :S): Then shoot it hand held.

The way to get a "handheld" feel is to shoot hand held. Steadicam is for when you want the frame to be steady, that is it's purpose. Hand held is a totally different beast. Now, there is an aesthetic to purposefully "unsteady" Steadicam, and it can be used if that's the look you're going for, I guess... But by and large "Steady" hand held get the same effect.

Based on your posts, it sounds like you are attempting Steadicam but won't sweat it if it isn't smooth. That's not in any way gonna get you a "handheld" feel.

Admittedly, there may be more to the story than what you said here, and I may be reading into your words more than intended. But I've been asked (as I'm sure many here have) to "make it look more hand held." After exaggerating for a minute "trying" to get that look, we take the camera off the rig and hand hold it. Attempting to make a Steadicam give you a hand held shot defeats the purpose of Steadicam and in a way that makes the intended shot more work to achieve, even if you get the shot, cause you could have just held the camera!

Steadicam is a great tool, and I encourage you to learn it and use it. But only use it when it's the right tool for the shot.

</rant>

Happy travels, and have a great shoot! |-)~
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#5 chris fawcett

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 04:01 AM

Hi Brian,

That's an interesting point you raise. When shooting Children of Men, the cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki apparently wanted to use Steadicam, but was overruled by the director, Alfonso Cuarón, who wanted the handheld feel. Under the same circumstances, I'd feel the same way as Lubezki, and want to compress my rig as much as possible into a 'running' configuration. I like the sudden spatial translations of 'handheld' without the angular ones, and think Children of Men would have been benefitted from following the cinematographer's advice. Having said that, the quality of the handheld in that film is masterful.

Have a great shoot, Ian, and make getting yourself to a professional workshop a priority.

All the best,

Chris
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#6 Brian Freesh

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 11:39 AM

That's interesting, back when Children of Men came out I can't tell you how many people I talked to who would ask me how I liked that long "steadicam" shot at the end! Steadicam has become so synonymous with oners that people don't even pay attention to how steady the shot is. And fair enough, at that point in the story if you are consciously aware of how stable the frame is, something's wrong, cause you aren't paying attention to the story! I would tend to agree with you about the use of Steadicam vs. hand held in that film, though I do agree that the hand held was excellently executed. it may even be along the lines of what Ian is looking for in his film. As opposed to the, say, "Bourne Ultimatum" look. Both largely hand held, different looks.

Brian |-)~
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#7 chris fawcett

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 12:25 PM

Agreed,

I recoil from the Bourne look, though it undoubtedly saves on acting, sets, props, narrative—everything but dramamine. I was recently asked for it by a director who also kept asking me to pan up so we could get some capacious headroom too.

Chris
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#8 Brian Freesh

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 01:23 PM

Those directors are the best! }-S
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#9 Ian Blewitt

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 12:48 PM

Thanks everyone,
I guess I may have phrased that wrong, or at least should tell you a little bit about myself and what I meant.

Basically, I am trained as a compositor/digital artist. Post production is where my education lies. Only relatively recently did I take my love for photography and combine it with my love for cinema. I sometimes think "well, I could add it in post." The director (who is also my best friend) wants more of a hand held type look, but I would rather it be smooth steadicam, in order to please us both on this (as we are both sometimes very stubborn,) I decided that I will shoot it smooth, because it is a lot easier to add a little camera shake than stabilize shaky footage (at least I think it is.)

If I can get internet access I may try and do like a little "newbie case study" for everyone.

I will surely post a link once we have our final piece :]

Ian
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#10 Mike Germond SOC

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 01:57 PM

That's almost an insult to an operator. "Hey pretend like you're taking your first workshop, and then shoot like that"

That's essentially what they're asking for..
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#11 Brian Freesh

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 09:44 PM

Again, just pointing out the obvious, but the director wants a hand held look, so it seems to me like it should be hand held. There does not appear to be a logical reason to shoot any Steadicam, except perhaps for specific shots. Certainly not 90% Steadicam!

I see what you plan to do, but I don't see what that will accomplish that simply shooting hand held will not. And if you just shoot hand held, you'll save a lot of time and effort in both production and post-production.

That said, I've always believed the place to experiment is film school!
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