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Walking a circles


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#1 TobyBarraud

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 03:44 PM

Dear Operators.
I would love to hear some advice on a shot I'm doing this weekend. In this shot we see the subject head to toe, then start walking in a circle around them. This circle will be ramped up in post, then cross dissolved into the subject standing in exactly the same position in another location. The idea, which I'm sure you all get, is to show transformation.
What seems crtical about the shot is keeping the subject in the center of frame, with the same head room throughout.
I already put a call into Jamie Silverstein, who told me to try the shot walking backwards. Cheers Jamie. If anyone else has any ideas I'd love to hear them.
Thanks a lot,
Toby.
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#2 Howard J Smith

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 04:00 PM

Hi Toby

I did a scene like this on a film called "Hilary and Jackie" - it is at the end of the film and as 'Hilary'(Racheal Griffiths) is walking (crying as her sister has just pasted away - sorry to spoil the story) I circle her anti clock (I had to go backwards) and as I circle her she goes back in time, we did the shot on 4 differenet locations - over four days (It should of been motion control)- the trouble was we also shot it out of sequence and so I had my own tape I used to line up the shot.
We were super 35 so I had no side to side to play with just up and down (Head room)
I drew the key frame of the transition onto the monitor (for either the begining or the end) - as I was using the same camera and video tap is was a perfect match (for size) - the FX guys (and gals) watched the shot and the hardest part was matching the speed so as the transition happens both images are at the same speed. - I was able to have her slightly smaller but not bigger, as they could zoom in.

The other thing you can do is shoot the shot slightly wider so they can zoom in slightly and completely line up the 2 takes.

If you can get 2 video decks and a simple vision mixer this could also help - (or be a total pain...)
you can then freeze the key frame and check your playback over the 50% mixed through image.

I hope this all makes sense - if you would like more info please email me.

Good luck and it is very rewarding when it all works.
All the best

Howard J Smith MK-V
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#3 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 04:27 PM

Toby,

I had to do something similiar on a 200 mm anamorphic lens at 6 feet away.
Yeah, it was tough. But like Howard said, should of been motion control.
Personally I'd rather do the shot walking forward than backward too!

Once you find the lens size and how far away you need to be from the actor take out a tape measure and measure that distance. Say it's 10 feet away.

Then on each side of the actor place a mark (something that can maybe be photographed or at least blends into the ground) at 10 feet. Then you can walk on the outside of those marks and know you are making a 20 foot diameter (10 feet on each side of actor) circle around the actor.

As for headroom, like Howard said, go slightly wider than necessary. They can always zoom in a bit to "crop" the headroom and match it a bit better.

As for keeping the same speed, if possible, have someone count out the time it takes you to go around the circle and then they can "pace" you at each location to keep the same speed. If they're recording sound, have someone walk with you and whisper to you a "one-and-two-and-three-and-four"corresponding to "front-and-side-and-back-and-side" (every 90 degree angle around the circle around the actor).
Lastly, but less effective is to use the actors lines as guides as to where you need to be when they say a certain word. But do to fluxuation in the speed he/she may deliver each line each time, that is the least effective way.

It's a tough shot do due just perfect but just do your best. If it needed to be an absolutely perfect match on size and speed and as rock solid as it can be, then they'd need to get a motion control unit for each location to do the shot!

Again, I'd personally rather walk forward in a circle than backward.
If you are like me, more comfortable doing it that way, ask the DP and Director if you can walk forward, even if it means going in the opposite direction they had envisioned. It may not matter to them, they might have just picked one way over the other for no particular reason. However, if they absolutely need to go in the direction which would necessitate you walking backward...well then do so, you'll just need a guide to keep you on track of your circle.

Sorry so long...hope my rambling makes sense. Good luck!
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#4 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 05:45 PM

Using a doorway dolly might work. That leaves the speed of the move up to the dolly grip, as well as making sure that you stay the same distance from the actors. It also would allow the operator to concentrate more on the framing and be more accurate. Just a thought. I've never had to do that kind of matching shot, but I think I would at least try the doorway dolly first.
Good luck!
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#5 PaulEdwards

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 05:51 PM

Toby,

As the method of transition is a cross dissolve, you will probably be able to get away with a slight discrepancy between the outgoing and incoming shots but the aim obviously is to get it as spot-on as possible.

I think your biggest friend for the shot could possibly be your monitor's frame lines and cross hair. Keeping the cross hair right in the middle of the actor's torso whilst setting your top frame line (or marking your monitor) to be just resting on the top of the actor's head while framed for correct headroom, will help you with two of the critical things you need to concentrate on. You might find that the speed comes more naturally than you'd expect and I'd agree that walking forwards is much more preferable if you get the choice.

As Michael suggested, try to get marks down so that you can keep a constant distance throughout.

Hope it's a nice still day (ie zero wind) for you!

Best of luck,

Paul
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#6 RobVanGelder

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 07:19 PM

One concern that could be appearent only when editing and ramping is speed variations during the walk.
I did a similar shot once but only straight forward, ramping up in post immediately showed every footstep, something you barely noticed on normal speed.
Playback on 2-3 or more times normal speed will make the swaying and minimal variations very visible.

I think the most honest and savest is to aknowledge, as others have already said before, that this is a motion control shot that can be mimiced by a very good dolly grip and a circular track and a FIXED camera-head.

Any other variations will seriously affect the final result and will backfire on your "ability " as a Steadicam operator.

I don´t want to be negative here, just make sure you use the tools that are right for the job!
(I am a motion control operator too, so I know what people/clients expect from this kind of shots.)
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#7 RobVanGelder

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 07:38 PM

Just for information: there are very few Motion control rigs in the world that can actually do a full circle move on a subject as you discribe: a full figure person, probably on a medium sized lens?
I know that they made specially for the MATRIX 2 or 3 a system that works with curved tracks but as this is a "impossibility" for the software (though they can work around that) the movements are limited. That´s not a problem in this case.

A motorized dolly that moves by pushing/rolling a rubber wheel to the tracks could be helpful, but also here the slight variations of speed, due to more or less resistance could show up when you speedup the movement in post.
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#8 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 10:55 PM

He can't use a dolly on tracks, he pointed out that it is a head to toe shot.
The circular track would be in the shot.

And I'd hope if the surface was smooth, they'd know they could just use a dolly
with soft wheels, not track. But my guess is, since they're going to do it on Steadicam
it's in dirt or on some kind of rough surface.
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#9 Mitch Gross

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 11:23 PM

The toughest part is likely to be keeping the subject in the center of the frame. I'd get some ND or light gel and tape it to the monitor, leaving a narrow vertical window where the actor should always be framed. This way you can always see the full frame through the gel but easily see that the actor is in proper position.

I once had to keep an actress jogging in frame in a very telephoto shot with her head at exactly the right spot for a matte painting. Even though I was on tripod I chose to operate off a monitor that I blacked off except for a little window for her head. It made it easier to keep her in that little window.
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#10 RobVanGelder

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Posted 01 October 2004 - 03:49 AM

He can't use a dolly on tracks, he pointed out that it is a head to toe shot.
The circular track would be in the shot.

True, but with motion control you would do several part-runs with the clean background only, just divide it in 4 segments and shoot the opposite side.
Then composite in post.
This would also be possible with a motorized dolly, if it can get up to the exact speed of the real take.

The big problem here is that what you save in the shooting by using less appropriate equipment/technique you can easily spend that or more later in post production, with a reasonable chance that it is still not what they expected.

And this is very important for me: when you want a special effect shot like this you have to do it well, nowadays. Clients, audience, directors are very knowledgeble in what is possible, what they have seen from other movies, commercials, etc.
So if what you make is not really up to that standard, you will get into some serious discussions.
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#11 Ben Fisher

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Posted 01 October 2004 - 06:24 AM

Hi Toby,

If your shot is indoors then perhaps a fine nylon thread (clear) with a high breaking-strain (such as sea-fishing line) with one end fixed to the top of the camera/steadicam and the other to a fixing in the ceiling (nail!).

The aim is not support the camera/steadicam weight but to provide a hard reference to the rig that controls the distance to subject & the circle - the distance to subject would be a function of stabiliser height, but you will be instinctivly controlling this as part of your framing.

It would certainly be easy/cheap to test the shot in your home-surroundings.

Of course the visibility of the nylon line depends on how wide the lens is, distance to subject, ceiling height etc....

Good luck.
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#12 Ramon Engle

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Posted 01 October 2004 - 08:16 AM

Toby, you've gotten the operating juices flowing on this thread.
No doubt this shot has the potential to be problematic. Do yourself a favor and ask the editor how much control he/she can exert in post. They may or may not be limited by the system they are using, but a conversationi with them may ulliminate some preferences they have on tracking or manipulating the image that could help you on the front end.
Don't forget to dial in the sled so the framing is basically handsfree:meaning tilt is dialed in for the perfect headroom. The less you have to touch the post the better. Mitch's idea of using ND to put the talent in a box is a good one. You could use your framlines to create the box as well.
Either way it's a tuffy.

Good Luck.

Ramon Engle
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#13 Tom Schnaidt

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Posted 01 October 2004 - 11:09 AM

Another factor that may be important to keep in mind with regards to continuity of the your speed is the relationship of your subject to its Background.... meaning, the more consistent the distance of background elements are from your subject shot to shot, the more consistent the feel of your speed will be. This may all be a moot point if your locations are already determined by story points that have to be there and are connected to your move, but... also, it seems if you are in a full body shot, your bg is going to have a lot of definition and will be harder to "smear" and make a smoother transition from shot to shot...though if the story really needs to have that transition happen in that full body shot for the desired effect to really register, you wouldnt be able to go tighter, even to a waist shot? Seems that the more you are able to compress you BG, the more you might be able to smooth the transition... I hope that I havent seemed to be speaking "down" to anybody here regarding obvious focal length issues...the shot idea sounds very interesting and its fun to think up all those elements that help/hurt, make/break the shot.

Good luck with it.

Tom
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#14 TobyBarraud

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Posted 01 October 2004 - 07:59 PM

Thank you all so much.
I have a much better idea of what I need to do now: convince the director that the shot is going to look a little different than what he is imagining!
Cheers,
Toby.
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#15 JakePollock

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Posted 02 October 2004 - 01:15 AM

toby,

another thing to consider and suggest to the director is changing size throughout the circle. more like an ellipse, or do a perfect circle- but with the actor not at the centerpoint. then you can worry less about being so exact and give a more dynamic move. since you mentioned that the aim of the shot is to suggest a change in the character, this kind of move may be more dramatic. and the editor could choose to dissolve between the shots either when you are closer or farther away. the impact of the shot would be quite different. hell, maybe you guys could try both ways and see what the director likes better in post?

jake pollock
taipei, taiwan
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