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#1 Tom Wills

Tom Wills

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 12:26 PM

I just worked on a little job this Sunday which tested me quite a bit.

It was a super-small job, with the entire crew consisting of the DP, a 2nd camera operator (who worked as my AC with the BFD), and me as a grip/boom op/Steadicam op. However, we had an SAG actor on it, and the director was a local guy who I've worked with a few times, and who is a really great storyteller. So, for me, there was a lot of pressure. After about half a day of booming, gripping, and watching over our PAs, we finally got to the first Steadicam shot of the day.

Now, to preface this, I had never done a Steadicam shot for this DP (who gives me a good 75% of my work) since I had bought my new rig. So, the pressure was on. It was a relatively simple shot, just tracking across a group of people sitting in chairs. The issue was that it was in this no-mans-land of lens height, where it needed to be too low for high mode, and too high for low mode. So, I popped my sled into low mode, framed it up (around 60mm on a 7D - not the most forgiving shot), and proceeded to struggle my way through it. I know I'm the most critical person of my operating on set, so it wasn't surprising that I wasn't happy, but I knew that the DP wasn't happy either. On a few takes, you could see every one of my footsteps in the shot. Decidedly no good.

At this point, I could have (and in some situations might have) just thrown in the towel, and forgotten about the shot. But I knew I had to prove myself - I had to show them why I was here, and why I had just spent over to $20,000 on a Steadicam. Since I had worked with the director before, I was able to talk him into another shot. He had been thinking about doing it on the Steadicam, but the DP wasn't sure. The DP just cared about how quickly I could get it done - I said 10 minutes, he gave me the OK.

Cue me and the PAs running down the hall to get my rig. We set up the shot - a pretty simple preceding of an actor, until he bolts through a door, and we come in to a CU on the door frame as it closes. Not too bad for me or the AC. We did a take, played it back. Suddenly those expressions of frustration melted off of the faces of the DP and the director. Did another take - even better, caught the timing just right. Did a third - I believe the director's phrase was "Money."

So I talked the Director into letting me do a third shot. The director decided to go a little nuts with the blocking on this one. What was supposed to be a stationary handheld shot turned into an Over the Shoulder of a character, accelerating past him, catching another character around a corner, doing a 360 around her, and ending in an over the shoulder of her as the first character walked off. According to the PAs, it was a hilarious picture - me, the AC, and the DP (holding the boom, and the audio recorder), all running around this poor girl while trying to keep from getting in the shot or running into anything. And, apart from a few issues with timing of the actor's lines, we had it in the bag. Last take of the day, and I have the director and DP patting me on the back.

Not a bad end to a day that could have turned out totally differently. Once I've got some clips, I'll post them up.
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#2 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 10:36 PM

Congrats!!, It's always good to be driving home knowing your job moved the story along in an interesting way. Here's to you!
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#3 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 01:44 PM

With a bit more experience you may be able to get good results from that first shot but I would say that your experience really shows the advantages of using the right tool for the job. Steadicam is great for Steadicam shots but often for the sake of time and money we are also asked to do what would be simple dolly shots but happen to be rather difficult steadicam shots (long lenses, lock offs, slow moves, etc). Most of the time these shots arent a problem but every once in a while I find a DP or director who seems to not understand that a steadicam just isnt able to achieve the same level of precision on some shots as a dolly.

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