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Created My First Demo-Reel; Looking For Some Feedback/Thoughts/Advice!

demo reel reel steadi-newbie newbie feedback

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#1 Joseph Robinson

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 03:34 PM

Hello Everyone,

This semester I managed to get enough footage I am happy with in order to make my first Steadicam Operating Reel. All of the footage was shot with a Steadicam Scout, without a follow focus, and for course-related purposes (including recording a live-event for a separate course). I am quite pleased as to how my operating has developed over the semester (been operating since March 14, minus the summer break, so about 6 months total in experience).

 

I have yet to work on anything outside of course work, but I was wondering if you guys would consider me ready to work as an operator (even small starting points like short films, etc.) based on my reel. A lot of the shots I did cut in the reel because I felt they would make my reel too long, so I was also considering posting those by themselves on my Vimeo account as well.

Any advice/feedback will be greatly appreciated.
 


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#2 Mitch Mommaerts

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 08:48 PM

Hey Joseph,

 

Only advice/feedback I have for you at this point is to attend a steadicam workshop(s). At your level, having used a steadicam enough to put a reel together, you'll be able to focus on the skills that will make you a great operator and allow you to critique your own work. For that reason I don't have any more feedback to give you that would be just as valuable.


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#3 Daniel Stilling DFF

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 10:53 PM

Hey Joseph,

 

When I started out, I practiced a lot. I did 2 years of non freelance work and I did a workshop before I felt comfortable taking anyones money and at that point I already had a fair experience as an operator.

From your reel I can tell that you have a few skills outside Steadicam that need some brushing up, as an operator. You should watch many different styles of movies and TV shows and analyze what the camera is doing, how the framing is chosen, headroom, looking space. Once you have that pat down (and that's not an easy feat), you can move on to the rig. It's not just about having a level horizon.

Learn, analyze and absorb as much as you can, and have patience. Not just Steadicam, but using a camera properly is an art form that takes years to master...


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#4 Shawn Wang

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Posted 02 January 2014 - 12:51 AM

I totally agree with daniel & Mitch

 

Be careful for how you use wide angles on Steadicam, the distortion on edges is gonna make your stuff look "amateur" in a sec, especially when putting faces on edges.  think about your framing first, not the moving. 

 

no offense but you should seriously consider why people choose vest + arm for serious shots, instead of sled only stuff like Glidecam HD 4000.  both have their market, but a man with 5D + HD-4000 can easily do the shots you put there and they are definitely faster than you in terms of setup time, versatility, etc (and yeah, camera + sled is cheaper than a scout). and of course, handheld stuff start to suck from 35mm and up, but steadicam shines from 35mm and up. 

 

If you love doing wides, I suggest you take a look at HD-4000 and check out devin on youtube. and yeah, your ultimate machine is MOVI of course 

 

but if you want to do steadicam for real, then you should start practicing line dance, the switch, etc, think about the story, how your moves help to develop the story, etc. and you need a focus unit, dial up your aperture, then it will give you a good starting point. 

 

Bottom line, watch your Horizon, and take a 5 day workshop. 

 

: ) 


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#5 Joseph Robinson

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Posted 03 January 2014 - 12:16 AM

Mitch: I have currently saved up enough money to be able to attend a gold workshop, but I have not seen any announced yet (I check thesteadicamworkshops.com pretty much every day).

Daniel: I have also spent a large amount of my time practicing steadicam, but something I found worked a lot better for me was practicing on actual shots rather than repeating line-dances. All of the shots (aside from the outdoors one, those were improvised) I had designed myself without any supervision in ways that I would learn from them. For example, if I wanted to practice Don Juan, I would include it in the shot design, etc. I would then do all shots at least 10 takes each. I had been shared similar feedback to what you are saying about skills outside of steadicam, and I understand and agree. That said, my biggest concern right now is that I do not own a rig, and next semester I will not have access to borrow my universities' for anything outside of practices in a small room. I understand completely what you are saying when you waited before you felt comfortable about taking peoples' money, as I started to get that feeling the other day; it's not so much as I am eager to make money, but rather scared of how the lack of work will affect me (because as mentioned, I find actual shots more helpful than line-dances, etc.). 

Shawn: I remember one time I had asked my professor probably towards the end of the semester what the average focal length was for steadicam, and I believe he told me 35mm. I was shocked; at this point I had only operated within probably 4-18mm (our camera lenses have no distinction on the ring, they only state 4mm and I think 71mm). I remember doing the box line-dance the next day with a much higher focal length. I remember attempting to include a higher focal length in some of my other shots, but because of the movements or shot design I was looking for, I could not include anything too high.

Sorry for the lengthy responses, but I think each of your pieces of feedback/advice includes something I can gain from, and I now have a better idea of different ways I can improve my operating. I will definitely wait to improve some more before I begin to work freelance, and hopefully will be able to improve my skills over time. Thank you.


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#6 Wolfgang Troescher

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Posted 03 January 2014 - 02:51 AM

35mm are applied to full format sensors (like 5D or professional cams). If your lense starts with 4mm I suppose you used a cam with a smaller sensor size. You have to consider the crop factor.

Nevertheless, it's a good idea to take a workshop. And the line-dance-practices are a good way to become familiar with your rig!
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#7 Victor Lazaro

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Posted 03 January 2014 - 12:39 PM

There are two major aspect to operating a Steadicam that you need to master.
The first is the technical aspect. You need to know your gear and know how to use it. Avoid any technical errors like shakes and slanted horizon. This can be learned by walking the line foot works and other exercises.
The second aspect is artistic, and this is the hardest to grasp. In order to understand it, You need to enrich you image vocabulary. Both my parents are painters and I grew up surrounded with paintings. In museums and galleries. I learned a lot from it, about composition, dynamic, light, color. Watch as many movies as you can and start thinking about what makes an image work. There are some standard rules (rule of third, headroom, etc) but a lot of it is more subtle than that.

Since you only have the rig for a but left, continue to train, maybe do a session with another Steadicam op and correct each other's position. Read the Steadicam operator handbook and keep on shooting. It doesn't come in a day. It's a long process. Good luck.


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#8 Charles Papert

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Posted 03 January 2014 - 08:44 PM

Joseph:

 

One of the things that I see quite a bit of in your footage is headroom issues. Most newer operators struggle with consistent headroom or chopping off heads, but in your case there are many examples of excess headroom without much visible attempt to correct, which suggests that you need to focus on your sense of composition which Victor touched on above.

 

As far as the line dances not working for you, I would suggest that your footage indicates otherwise. Making up shots that have lots of moving parts (multiple actors, complex combinations of moves) is a fantastic practice tool, and you are very lucky to have patient actors who will let you do 10 takes! But, you have to learn to walk before you can run, and the basic building blocks of Steadicam are best learned in small chunks and repeated over and over until they become muscle memory. It's like playing scales when you learn an instrument; it's boring and repetitious but it forms the basis for the good stuff to come. 

 

An example is the shot at :51 or so. Panning with the actor as he passes you is a particular exercise in reining in the inertia so the rig remains level (which didn't quite happen), and then you start pulling back at :58. As soon as this happens, there is no adjustment to headroom which just grows and grows, to the point where the victim breaks the bottom of the frame. Maintaining headroom as the camera drives in or pulls away from a subject is one of the classic line dance exercises, learning how and when to use boom vs tilt to achieve this. You can use an actor or simply tape an outline of a person at the end of the hall (or heck, prop up your roommate's blow-up doll), and walk towards then away from them keeping a close eye on headroom. Do it over and over, at different speeds (as slow as possible is an oft-overlooked way to practice and is immensely helpful for subtle footwork and finger control). Don't let yourself get bored until you can nail it every time, because that means you need to keep doing it. The next time you come up on a shot like the good old stabbing-in-a-hallway, your brain will know to activate that little chunk of knowledge.

 

Before I leave that one shot, there is a subtlety that goes beyond the technical and that is thinking about the interplay of the moving camera with the blocking of the actors. A good Steadicam operator will make suggestions and tweak the action to make the shot sing. 

At :55, you reveal the chap with the bat but he is instantly blocked by the first guy, then the camera sort of meanders in, comes to a stop and somewhat arbitrarily starts pulling away. There are many ways to fix this and the fun of operating Steadicam is coming up with the most interesting one. This may not be it but off the top of my head: when you pan Guy #1 around, have him favor the wall to his right so that you can keep the most distance between you during the pan and also this allows you to land over Guy #1's left shoulder as you complete the pan. They both rush at each other, but you maintain the same speed which allows the frame to widen a little for the grapple. Make sure they favor opposite walls so as not to block each other. As they come to a stop you are still moving, so you are effectively now pushing in on the Vulcan neck pinch or whatever #1 is doing to #2, giving it emphasis. When #2 starts to drop in the frame, you tilt down with him which gives you a great opportunity to bury coming to a stop and reversing direction to a pull back, gradually widening as #2 drops lower and lower which brings #1 back into the frame. Nicely done! Again, there are many ways to sell this same piece of action but the goal is to draw the viewer's eye to the action in an interesting, fluid and logical way, rather than just arbitrarily moving around with people just for movement's sake.

 

Keep at it--and yes, go take that workshop. But in the meantime, don't foresake the exercises, they really make a difference.


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#9 Shawn Wang

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 01:42 AM

Joseph:

 

 

At :55, you reveal the chap with the bat but he is instantly blocked by the first guy, then the camera sort of meanders in, comes to a stop and somewhat arbitrarily starts pulling away. There are many ways to fix this and the fun of operating Steadicam is coming up with the most interesting one. This may not be it but off the top of my head: when you pan Guy #1 around, have him favor the wall to his right so that you can keep the most distance between you and also this allows you to land over Guy #2's left shoulder as you complete the pan. They both rush at each other, but you maintain the same speed which allows the frame to widen a little for the grapple. Make sure they favor opposite walls so as not to block each other. As they come to a stop, you are effectively now pushing in on the Vulcan neck pinch or whatever #1 is doing to #2, giving it emphasis. When #2 starts to drop in the frame, you tilt down with him which gives you a great opportunity to bury coming to a stop and reversing direction to a pull back, gradually widening as #2 drops lower and lower which brings #1 back into the frame. Nicely done! Again, there are many ways to sell this same piece of action but the goal is to draw the viewer's eye to the action in an interesting, fluid and logical way, rather than just arbitrarily moving around with people just for movement's sake.

 

Keep at it--and yes, go take that workshop. But in the meantime, don't foresake the exercises, they really make a difference.

 

 

this reminds me of larry's shot on snake eyes 

 

http://www.steadisho...il.cfm?shotID=6

 

starts from 2:09 when Cage starts to beat down that guy. 

 

perfect example


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