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Scrubs Steadicam


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#1 Afton Grant

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 08:37 AM

I've recently been watching the first season of the TV show "Scrubs" on DVD. I just wanted to comment on some consistently excellent Steadicam work done on that show. I really enjoy watching productions that use the Steadicam to not only provide smooth tracking shots, but as a device that assists in the storytelling, if that makes sense.

My admiration goes out to the operator and director (I believe he won an Emmy) for the work.

Regards,
Afton Grant
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#2 BJMcDonnell SOC

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 10:12 AM

That operator would be Charles Papert. He kicks ass!

BJ McDonnell
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#3 Charles Papert

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 11:10 AM

Thanks Afton, glad you are enjoying the DVD's!

The only Emmy nom 1st season was for casting. I agreed with many that "My Old Lady" should have been nominated. Director Marc Buckland is extremely talented and came up with some really brilliant shots in first and second seasons (I left the show after season 2 and current op Rich Davis took over).

Marc had me make a cameo once...check out "My Blind Date" (switch on the commentary track with Zach and Bill)...!

I had a great time on that show; it was a really fun environment, lots of laughs. And the camera was an Aaton 16, so not too punishing to fly every day! Although it did require a bit more attention going around corners--lack of inertia etc.

And our man BJ was toiling in the grip department back then--BJ, I remember you coming up and asking me what kind of rig you should buy. And just look at you now! You're all grows up!
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#4 Afton Grant

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 01:03 PM

The only Emmy nom 1st season was for casting. I agreed with many that "My Old Lady" should have been nominated. Director Marc Buckland is extremely talented and came up with some really brilliant shots in first and second seasons (I left the show after season 2 and current op Rich Davis took over).

Marc had me make a cameo once...check out "My Blind Date" (switch on the commentary track with Zach and Bill)...!

I had a great time on that show; it was a really fun environment, lots of laughs. And the camera was an Aaton 16, so not too punishing to fly every day! Although it did require a bit more attention going around corners--lack of inertia etc.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Charles,

It's a great pleasure to make your acquaintance. The behind the scenes footage from the show definitely reflects the fun environment which you speak of. It's the type of gig I someday hope to get myself. I really like the "no asshole" policy.

A quick check on IMDB says Marc Buckland actually was nominated for Outstanding Directing of "My Old Lady". Taking a look at it's competition for that year - Sex & The City (won), Curb Your Enthusiasm, Malcom in the Middle, and Will & Grace - I'll agree with you and the rest of the Scrubs crew that it should've won. When you really take a look at the way the entire show was produced; lighting, writing, directing, camera, effects, etc. and especially the way it left the viewer feeling after watching it, there is hardly a close second. As you said, the brilliance and innovation was great, especially coming from what is categorized as a comedy series.

And I swear, all the above opinions are not jaded in any way by the fact that I believe Zach Braff to be a long lost twin of mine....

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#5 Charles Papert

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Posted 20 July 2005 - 02:04 PM

Wow, thats...almost creepy!

BTW, the tripod usually works better with the legs extended...sorry, couldn't resist...

Incidentally, I used to ply my trade around Boston (I'm a Brookline boy) started in the biz there in the 80's and was doing a lot of shooting and operating Steadicam in the 90's.

Thanks for the correction on Marc's nomination, I guess either I forgot that or didn't know it.
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#6 Cillian

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 06:38 AM

Charles,

Great work on Scrubs. Have the Season One bos set, and love it. I have to say, it looks lovely. What stock was used? There was one really great shot (possibly two cut together?) where you track JD and Turk from outside, into the ground floor, into the lift and up onto the next floor. I'm guessing the cut, if there was one, was at the door into the hospital, or an 85A was lifted off the matte box very quickly at that point to keep it one shot. Reminded me of the Steadicam tracking shot from John Woo's "Hard Boiled". Brilliant.

Regards,

Cillian
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#7 Charles Papert

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 05:33 PM

Cheers Cillian:

For "Scrubs" we used 7246 (250D) as the primary stock (some flashbacks were shot on reversal and other stocks for the look). The ceiling flo's were all 5600K, and HMI's and daylight Kinoflos were primarily used for additional lighting. In this way no gel was needed for the windows, since the show is shot in a practical (non-functioning) hospital. It also allowed for transitions from exterior to interior without any bother, such as in the extended single shot cold open you referenced. And that was in fact a single shot--we did 27 takes, most of which were a result of Donald not making the 3-point basket at the beginning!

I recall that the worst part for me was the 3 whip pans at the very end. Take 26th was my best; I made it through the first two whips looking good, and then the monitor battery warning starting flashing--just before the home stretch, the monitor went out. I performed the end of the shot completely blind, but of course we had to do another. Watching the dailies of that take proved that "using the force" is possible (and maybe even preferable!) as I was perfectly satisfied with the blind framing! However, the performances were better in the final take, although I hated the first two whip pans.
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#8 Cillian

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Posted 02 August 2005 - 03:02 AM

Charles,

Thank you for such a detailed answer, it's a shame they don't put more of that kind of information on the DVD's!!! Although, I haven't had a chance to listen to any of the commentaries yet! And well done on 27 takes with the Aaton, I know it's alot heavier than the Arri SR16 I get to "play" with in college, and that thing does some serious work to your shoulder after a while. Unfortunately, we don't have a Steadicam in college, but I'd imagine it makes the camera seem even heavier! Thanks again, really appreciate your time in answering me.

Regards,

Cillian
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#9 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 02 August 2005 - 10:01 AM

And well done on 27 takes with the Aaton, I know it's alot heavier than the Arri SR16 I get to "play" with in college, and that thing does some serious work to your shoulder after a while.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



The Aaton is lighter then a SR.
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#10 Cillian

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Posted 02 August 2005 - 11:09 AM

Eric, i stand corrected. I should have said it looks heavier than an SR16, as I've never had the opportunity to use an Aaton, more's the pity. Still, 27 takes with any camera on a stabalizing rig is gonna hurt. I did a DV shoot 2 years ago using the small Glidecam 2000 and a Sony TRV9E (literally a no-budget film) where one 2 minute shot hit the 14 take mark, and it was not the most pleasent experience. Of course, my feelings towards it may be clouded as i was in my socks for the day since we were recording sync sound, and the house we were shoting in had mostly tiled or wooden floors. oh! The memories...
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#11 Charles Papert

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Posted 02 August 2005 - 02:10 PM

Cillian:

Big difference between a handheld stabilizer and a body-mounted one--not being able to absorb the weight on your torso can bring on the fatigue point much earlier. I can imagine your 14 takes with the GC 200 were not pleasant, as you said!

The Aaton is a pretty light camera (although Eric, I'm not entirely sure if it is empirically lighter than an SR--consider an SR1 or 2 with eyepiece tap vs an XTRPROD--obviously the SR3 is heavier) and never much of a burden. We had a fair amount of accessories on it, and my Scrubs successor, the estimable Rich Davis who took over in Season 3, has been wearing a Kinoflo Kamio in the hallways. But it still is noticeably lighter than most 35mm rigs. That alone requires a certain amount of attention; I always felt that I had to be really careful going around corners to keep the horizons level, much more so than with a Lightweight II for instance. But it's a nice comfortable setup for day in, day out use.
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#12 Cillian

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 03:09 AM

Well, Charles, my hat goes off to you. Your work on Scrubs was brilliant. And looking at these forums only increases my respect for you guys. Myself and a friend of mine are seriously considering taking a course here in Dublin based around the Steadicam Mini. It's the only one in Ireland, from what we can find. But it's a start.

Regards,

Cillian
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#13 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 03:28 PM

Myself and a friend of mine are seriously considering taking a course here in Dublin based around the Steadicam Mini. It's the only one in Ireland, from what we can find. But it's a start.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Cillian,

if you are really serious about becoming a steadicam operator then you should seriously consider the SOA workshops in the US. If they are outside your budget then Optex also run a very good steadicam workshop in the UK, run by Robin Thwaites - a very nice and aprochable man.
The course you are considering is not run by professionals and would by of little use to you or any other aspiring operator.
Hope this helps,
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#14 Cillian

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 06:19 AM

Thanks Stephen,

Appreciate the comments. Unfortunately, even travel to the U.K. is prohibited by our budget. Our thinking was more along the lines of taking the course to get a better understanding of the use and applications of Steadicams, rather than to become operators. We both want to be directors (great, another two!), and obviously have a great interest in all aspects of the filmmaking process, but we tend to lean towards the techie/equipmet end of it, i.e, the cameras, camera rigs, lighting, and editing/post production, rather than the other, more important, aspects like writing, directing the actors, as opposed to the cameras! We were hoping to be able to do this at a w/end, and expand our understandong of the rig, and hopefully take what we learned to other projects, college or otherwise, and use it to improve and enhance our films. If things are as you say, we'd be better off saving our money. It would probably be better spent on some stock. either that, or save for a nice "working holiday" in the States!!!

Regards,
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#15 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 02:37 PM

Cillian,

Theres a good book on the Steadicam by Serena Ferrara (sp?) that you can find in the IFC bookstore that will give you an idea of its history and some of its applications. Its a good place to start. You should also take some time to read through the forum archives where you'll find hundreds of posts by some of the top operators around the world, all discussing various applications of the steadicam and the moving camera. The AOL folders on the steadicamguild website are also well worth a look. Check out the archive of American Cinematographers in the IFC library and you'll find more comments/articles exploring the pros and cons of steadicam. In particular the articles by Ted Churchill in the early eighties were excellent. Ive been told on good authority that there are several other steadicam books in the works, one or two are finished by now and awaiting publication, maybe someone else online has more recent info on them?
Hope this helps,
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