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Bitten by Steadicam... but Questions about Career

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#1 Rhys Cartwright

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 09:29 AM

Hi All,

 

I'm so glad i found this forum. It seem's to have a huge community of people who really want to help out and discuss your industry.

 

I'm a mature student in the UK studying Film Production. I have previous experience in photography, specifically Fashion and Editorial, but i quit my job and moved back to the UK to try and make the step into film. Whilst making shorts, i was introduced to a Glidecam rig, and i really enjoyed using it and the potential it gave me for my films.

 

Obviously, i've only used it a few times so i'm in no position to know if it's something i could do as a career. Additionally whilst i have some on-set experience as a runner and Cam Assist, i lack intimate knowledge of the working environment over and above these entry level positions.

 

If i posted up some of my concerns and questions about this area of flim-making, would anybody be able to give me their perspective?

 

I always knew i'd be aiming for Cam Op, i just love cameras and using them, creating something beautiful... but the steadicam just opened my mind to a specialised and skilled area that i hadnt considered before.

 

Huge thanks to the community for all the already available information here. I know what i'll be doing all day :(

 

Rhys


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#2 Evrim KAYA

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 10:10 AM

Hello Rhys and welcome to the community.

 

I personally, gladly, will try and answer your questions about our profession. So will other operators. But beware of not asking the same questions already answered. We have different sections for every part of our job as well as a newbie section. Go ahead and search and browse. You will find very helpful tips and tricks also the answers to most of your initial questions.

 

If you feel stuck at something you can always ask for our help.

 

And let me be the first to say. Buy and read steadicam operator’s handbook cover to cover and also take a week long workshop when you can from a reputable source (NOT FROM GLIDECAM but from Tiffen, SOA, PRO-GPI, MK-V, or Robert Starling SOC’s stabilizer workshops etc…)


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#3 Rhys Cartwright

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 06:17 PM

Hi

 

Thanks for the welcome and reply. i'm going to take a look around the forum over the next few days (shooting at the moment so not lots of spare time) and i'll pop back to this thread for some mixed opinions about various aspects!

 

Thanks so much, looking forward to learning :)


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#4 Rhys Cartwright

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 12:46 PM

Hi again

 

Ive been doing a lot of reading, mainly in the newbie section but also out and about in other places. Ive ordered the operators handbook but it'll be a while before i recieve it.

In the mean-time, i wondered if i dumped a few questions here, if people could have a stab at them?

I was hoping for people's personal takes on it, because the one thing ive noticed a lot of here is professional disagreements. Different people have different experiences and this just seems like the perfect place to ask.

 

Questions about you:

*What made you want to be in the film industry?

*Was steadicam something you aimed for specifically, or did you discover it through work?

*Is owning your own kit the primary entry to the industry for steadicam?

*How do you find the experience of working with a new crew on each new production?

 

Questions about the industry:

* I saw a a few pages from an  operators manual and it contained a lot of maths and equations, in terms of balance and similar. Is this something you'd say was vital to know beforehand? Or did you pick it up as you go along?

* In terms of body types, ive seen all shapes and sizes operate Steadicam rigs. How large a part of operation do you feel upper body strength is? Some say its crucial, others say it's irrelevent.

* as a steadicam operator, you appear to be seperated from the other Cam Ops. how does this work in terms of a hierachy? Do you op without the steadicam for the scenes that dont require it?

*What are the main differences between working on a short film, and a feature? How does

that change what you need to bring to the crew in terms of skill?

*Do you get to "switch off" after a day's shoot, prior to Day 2? Or are you constantly considering the following day and how you will approach it? IE: Do you take your work home with you?

 

Sorry if this seems kinda clerical, but if i met one of you in person these are the things i'd really want to ask!

Looking in to the 2 day workshops over the summer :)


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#5 Evrim KAYA

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 02:13 PM

Hello Rhys,

All excellent questions! I hope you’ll get plenty of answers so we all get the chance of hearing other operators take on these.

 

*What made you want to be in the film industry?

Since very little I was facinated with photography. My 10 year birthday present was an old soviet Zenith SLR camera. Years past and i felt somewhat limited by static images that a photo camera produced and added an old 8mm camera to my toys. Also i was a huge film buff. İ started the first cinema club at my middle scool. İn high school it was very clear in my head that i wanted to be in this magical business.

 

*Was steadicam something you aimed for specifically, or did you discover it through work?

Since i starded my professional life in film industry as a camera assistant, i knew someday/somehow i’ll be operating with a steadicam. İmages created by moving the camera via steadicam was magic to me and i prepared myself professionnaly in order to smoothly do the transition from AC to steaciam operator.

 

*Is owning your own kit the primary entry to the industry for steadicam?

Not at all. Buying a rig is a big decision; financially as well as mentally. As i started i borrowed old model IIIa from my mentor or rented the appopriete rigs for the job at hand. Only after i felt safe about my career and capabilities i decided to buy my own rig. Also, as a starter, only by trying out different hardwares/configurations you’ll be able to know what do you need in order to work in your market.

 

*How do you find the experience of working with a new crew on each new production?

İt’s a blast! I love working with different people on every job. That is what separetes us from 9to5 people.   

 

Questions about the industry:

* I saw a a few pages from an  operators manual and it contained a lot of maths and equations, in terms of balance and similar. Is this something you'd say was vital to know beforehand? Or did you pick it up as you go along?

All that math is there to make you understand the logic behind the things we do. But on the set balancing(either static or dynamic) is done by the feel, not with a calculator. İn one point, you will find yourself banging your head agins the wall in order to understand the dynamic balance math. Then, somehow, you’ll get the logic behind and it wont seem so hard or complicated anymore.

 

* In terms of body types, ive seen all shapes and sizes operate Steadicam rigs. How large a part of operation do you feel upper body strength is? Some say its crucial, others say it's irrelevent.

Old arms like model  III seeked the float point very strongly which made booming up or down a upper body workout. But now most of the high quality arms are very easy to boom up or down. After a long and hard day, my upper body is the only part of my body not tired. Legs and lower back however is another story.

 

* as a steadicam operator, you appear to be seperated from the other Cam Ops. how does this work in terms of a hierachy? Do you op without the steadicam for the scenes that dont require it?

All depends on the deal you made before hand. The production or the DP will tell you what they need you to do and you either accept or decline. İt’s that simple.

 

*What are the main differences between working on a short film, and a feature? How does

that change what you need to bring to the crew in terms of skill?

İ think the lenght of the movie you shoot isn’t that relevant. What is relevant is the nature of the job. İs it a professional job or an amateur one. The professional job is simple. Everybody knows what to do and expect everybody around them to do the same. The amateur jobs however are a little chaotic. You may find yourself helping the AD or the grips or the electricians. That is if you want to. Be careful not to step on anybody’s toes by doing their job but also avoid your “help” becoming your “duty”.  

 

*Do you get to "switch off" after a day's shoot, prior to Day 2? Or are you constantly considering the following day and how you will approach it? IE: Do you take your work home with you?

I try to do all my preparations (either technical or artistic or logistic) beforehand. For me, being a little control freak means a goodnight sleep before the workday. But sometimes you just don’t have enough time between getting the call and working. In these instances you do whatever you can and rely on your experiences and back-up hardware to solve anything unforeseen. Panic never helps.


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#6 Victor Lazaro

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 03:40 PM

Questions about you:

*What made you want to be in the film industry?

- When I was 6, I borrowed the family camcorder and in this year I make a stop motion short film (20 seconds of my toy soldiers being devoured by a "giant" rubber spider) and a short film (basically Hocus Pocus re-enacted by 6 yo, I ended up being the cameraman (a mother who worked on french TV fr2 did the editing if I remember correctly), all this was in Hi8. Since I did film school if france ESRA (I'm french) and in New York. I have been working as camera op in france and the us for about 6 years now....

*Was steadicam something you aimed for specifically, or did you discover it through work?

- ... I discovered Steadicam at a party when a friend of mine who owns a RED Epic showed me he bought a Steadicam Zephyr. Tried it with a few beer in and felt good in it. A few more researches later (sake researches you are doing now) I came back and started training. Did a 2 days workshop (wish I did a longer one though) and started operating on Music videos with the rig. Fast forward a year later, (now) I just bought the rig back from my friend and are still training and shooting. I don't think I planned on being a steadicam operator at first, but my aesthetic for shots and the overall fact that I felt confortable using the rig from day one pushed me there. I know I still have a loooong way to go, but I'm willing to take the ride.

*Is owning your own kit the primary entry to the industry for steadicam?

- At first doing a workshop is more important than owning your rig. The issue I encountered is that it is not as easy to rent just a steadicam like you would rent a camera, plus you want to train on it quite extensively before your first shoot.  if you find someone who can rent you a rig, do it, you will ultimately feel the need of getting our own though.

*How do you find the experience of working with a new crew on each new production?

- Love it.  It does require you to be more independent than your average AC. You will need to have all your needed parts, cables and accessories to fit most cameras and camera setups (power cable for Alexa, RED, Sony, Panavision...) Your own batteries (if you are Anton Bauer and the camera uses V-Mount or else...) But I love the idea of being ready for any eventuality and having a pieve of gear that you keep in your package and never use until that one day where it saves the shot.

 

Questions about the industry:

* I saw a a few pages from an  operators manual and it contained a lot of maths and equations, in terms of balance and similar. Is this something you'd say was vital to know beforehand? Or did you pick it up as you go along?

- This is the physics behind the tool. Understanding the general idea is crutial but being able to solve the math isn't. it's like optics for the lens, good to know what refraction and a focal point is, but in the end all you have to do is turning the wheel until it's sharp.  Knowing why it's sharp can help sometimes. Same with steadicam and gravity calculations.

* In terms of body types, ive seen all shapes and sizes operate Steadicam rigs. How large a part of operation do you feel upper body strength is? Some say its crucial, others say it's irrelevent.

- You can't be sloppy with your body, keep yourself in good shape.

* as a steadicam operator, you appear to be seperated from the other Cam Ops. how does this work in terms of a hierachy? Do you op without the steadicam for the scenes that dont require it?

- depends on the job. 

*What are the main differences between working on a short film, and a feature? How does

that change what you need to bring to the crew in terms of skill?

- I'll be doing my first feature (Bollywood film) as steadicam soon, so I can't tell you yet..

*Do you get to "switch off" after a day's shoot, prior to Day 2? Or are you constantly considering the following day and how you will approach it? IE: Do you take your work home with you?

- I try not to, but I should try harder...


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#7 Rhys Cartwright

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 06:16 PM

Thanks guys, even with 2 it's interesting the differences in opinion or experiences :)


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