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Do I go Low Mode?...or not


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#1 Jordan Keslow

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Posted 20 February 2015 - 03:50 AM

Got home after a long shoot today and this is fresh on my mind...

Like most, after discussing the shot with the director/dp and understanding what they are visualizing I determine whether I want to be in regular or low mode depending on actor placement/foreground composition etc. In the past I would ask..."is it ok if I go low mode" Which I stopped asking after realizing they don't know the limitations of high vs low. They don't know our tools. Bottom line is they want a beautiful shot...so give them what they want right?

Lately I have had situations where I'm specifically told by the director not to go to low mode usually because they think it will take too long, or they think they will be limited in shot design. Even after telling them it will take less than 2 minutes to switch. Usually by the time I've spent convincing them it might be better in low mode is usually how fast I can already be flipped. Once they see it..they love it. I want to start getting sneaky about getting into lowmode..and faster!

I'd love to hear some feedback on modes of operation / experiences on set 

 

Jordan Keslow

 

P.S. I love LOWmode 


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#2 Jerry Holway

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Posted 20 February 2015 - 09:24 AM

Jordan -

I think you did exactly the right thing - go for the shot. Often others on the crew don't know what low mode means, how fast or slow you are flipping the rig, how good you are at it, etc. I would avoid the terms or discussion altogether, and concentrate on what they want the shot to look like - and ask questions like "where's the lens supposed to be, what do you really want to see?" and go from there, and you decide how you want to operate, high, low, long, on or off a dolly or other vehicle, whatever, using whatever resources of gear and the crew are available. It's a bit different - but not definitive - if the director or DP is a former Steadicam operator. Even his or her take on what to do or what can be done might be different than yours.


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#3 Victor Lazaro

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Posted 20 February 2015 - 10:51 AM

I'm sorry if I drift a bit from the original question, but what do you do when the director asks for the camera to be in that grey area between low and high mode where the camera can't really go (somewhere around hip height)


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#4 Jerry Holway

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Posted 20 February 2015 - 11:04 AM

handheld!

 

seriously - you have to make the choice based on what will work best for the whole shot in that specific production situation (physical, time, space, people,etc.). Can you ride something? Walk on your knees? (ouch, but it's been done!).

 

High low mode, low high mode... many ways to get the lens here, often with compromises in operating, or fighting with other parts of the sled not to hit something or perhaps fit through a doorway.


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#5 William Demeritt

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Posted 20 February 2015 - 12:16 PM

I have low-mode dialed in such that I can hit it in less than 60 seconds ("poor man's" low mode). I usually ask the director or DP where they want the camera, and don't say things like "OK, I'll swap over to low mode". If that's where they want the camera, then that's where I get the camera for them. How I achieve it should be irrelevant to them, so long as they get the shot and doesn't delay their day. IF they ask me "Are you going to low mode?" I'll quickly soothe their fears and tell them what it entails: "move my monitor, extend the post, move the gimbal a bit and attach my D-bracket... followed by a quick rebalance. Explaining it right now probably takes longer than doing it."

 

I'm sorry if I drift a bit from the original question, but what do you do when the director asks for the camera to be in that grey area between low and high mode where the camera can't really go (somewhere around hip height)

 

With my gear, I swap to low mode and put on a longer arm post. That covers the "maaaaybe aruond the hip and lower" range. If it's "maaaaaaybe around the hip and a bit higher", then I'll add the D-bracket and stay in high mode (so called "low high mode"). 


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#6 Brian Freesh

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Posted 20 February 2015 - 01:02 PM

For once in my life, I agree with Will! ;)  "Poor man's" low mode is so fast I can (and have) done it while wearing the rig, only when that's the only thing we're waiting on.  I'm usually ready before the village monitor has been flipped even if I do dock.  Just do it if it is best for the shot. Like Jerry said, don't let it be a question, let it be an answer. Sometimes if they want it low they'll say "I mean that would be great, but that's low mode, isn't it?" As if that's a problem.  Just tell them you'll get them that low if they need it, no waiting.

As to your "grey area" Victor, I've never really understood this with modern rigs.  I can get easily to just above my hip in high mode, lower with effort.  Even with a short center post I can get the camera as low as possible without hitting the ground. If that's only part of the shot it's no big deal, or if it's most of the shot I can throw on the low-mode bracket, or flip to low mode. So long as I keep a short center post I can get above my hip in low mode, but still reach my knees, higher if I add a longer arm post.  Obviously there are limitations, can't go from knee to shoulder height without rigging something to walk on.  But there is no middle ground that i cannot achieve in either regular mode or low mode.  Anyone who has a vest with adjustable socket block height has it much easier.  I have a Pro vest, so the socket block is very high all the time. Granted body shape is a factor, some have shorter legs and longer torsos, and vice versa.

To be clear, I'm using a Titan arm.  I could still do everything above with my Master arm, but it was more difficult to achieve, I imagine even more difficult with a 3A arm, etc...  Likewise, a G70 (X or no) or an Atlas arm I'm sure would make it even easier. I imagine the sled being used would also affect this.  I had more trouble with my old Flyer, but the arm had enough range to make all this possible.


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#7 Alex Kornreich

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Posted 20 February 2015 - 11:47 PM

Hi Jordan,

 

First of all, why on earth do you love lowmode?

 

Second, my strategy for lowmode is this. The DP shows me the lens height wanted, and I either say ready (because I'm already capable), or 3-5 minutes for flip. I never tell them less, even if I plan to beat it. I always build in contingency time in case something goes wrong (i.e. trouble with village monitor flipping..). It's always better to beat the time estimate, than not. If they have a problem with waiting, then they get to stay in regular mode and have a higher lens height than requested. If someone thinks that flipping to lowmode takes 60 seconds, then that same person thinks it takes 5 minutes to move and re-level 20 ft dolly track on grass, and then, frankly, who cares what they think.

 

Victor, I agree with you about the "gray area." I find hips to waist is mine. I've never had an issue with a DP giving me trouble about being an inch or two too high or low. Occasionally the lens truly does need to be at a specific height, such as running the lens along a table's edge, but that's usually something a few pancakes/qtr apples will solve, or, as Will said, adding a longer armpost to lowmode.


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#8 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 01:17 AM

"I'm usually ready before the village monitor has been flipped"

 

This brings up the need on why you do often need to announce you're doing a switch.  Some of these shows today have multiple video villages:  Director/Scripty/Producer Monitor, DP & DIT, Hair & Makeup, and sound.


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#9 Jordan Keslow

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 01:19 AM

Alex,

I love low mode because it usually means seeing more foreground and backgrounds with more depth. I hate shooting down on things. I don't like seeing the floor as my background. Of course every shot is different, but generally if people are sitting or doing things on the ground, I'll be in low mode.

"(i.e. trouble with village monitor flipping..)"

Whenever possible I have a second plate on top of the camera so when I do go to low mode I flip the camera over and then the rig. This not only makes it easier for village but its better for post too! Yes it adds 15 seconds but its better overall in my opinion...

Additionally I don't have to flip the image in my transvideo monitor which takes me more time to go through the menus along with reversing the horizon level.


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#10 Brian Freesh

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 04:56 AM

Alex, yes "Under promise, over deliver." A fantastic motto for any industry.  I usually give a non-comital "couple minutes" quote if asked a specific time for the switch to low mode.  Usually I just say I'll be ready before lighting, or costume, or make-up, or whatever we're turning over at that moment. I suppose I should protect myself a bit more, but I usually end up waiting 10 minutes for whatever else anyway...

 

Alec, before I even make a move I tell my 1st that the monitor needs to be flipped, then i start flipping the rig.  I still generally beat the monitor.  I don't think it's cause I'm so fast so much as the monitor is just cumbersome and has a bunch of cables, etc...  But the DP, Director, and the AD never have a problem with the time it takes to flip the monitor, their hang up is the time it takes to flip the rig.  As long as I can beat the monitor, they're happy.  And then we wait 10 minutes for whatever else...

 

Jordan, I agree in spirit with doing a full low mode swap, and given some prep time I'm down to do it that way. But when day-playing and getting God knows what build, I'm happier building for regular mode nice and neat, and then being able to switch modes faster should the need arise. When camera goes upside-down, so does the monitor, so there's no need to flip my own image for most low mode stuff.  For extra low mode, below the knees, I'm helped by my yoke in that my monitor remains upside-down, probably the only thing I like about having a yoke.  There's barely any re-balance.  What can I say, I like things simple. The less I have to think about what I'm doing to get it done, the better.  Also, Alexas now have image flip in the camera.

 

I agree with not shooting down on things. Hate low mode, and avoid it whenever possible, but the right set-up for the shot gets priority.

 

Below is with the Pro vest and Master arm, landing the end of my shot without digging into the ground (there's a small hill with a building on top behind the blonde anyway). With the Titan arm I no longer have to bend my knees so much or I can get a bit lower.  I did almost go low-high mode or high-low mode for this shot because it started by leading the brunette, who's all of 5' tall in those heels, but I felt good during rehearsal so I went for it and the shot came out great. I'm right about waist height here, But if more of the shot played at this height I would have set-up different.  In a different vest I could have simply lowered the socket block.

 

1622849_10100561722899997_356212232_n.jp


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#11 Alex Kornreich

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 02:28 PM

Hah I guess we have different experiences, I feel like I always hear more coming from village about why the image is upside down. And then there's always someone asking if the text will be backwards when the image is flipped in post. I now say yes, but it's ok because a lot of americans can't read properly anyway.

 

Brian, I find that when someone is sitting, staying in high mode is usually the best way to go because it's just above eye level, which I feel is a better option than just below eye level. Looking slightly down at someone is more flattering to their face than looking slightly up at them. If they're sitting on the floor, or on something shorter than regular chair height, low mode it is. You are, however, several inches taller than me, so my regular mode while someone is sitting may be more eye level than yours.

 

Jordan, I agree backgrounds above are often prettier and have more depth than the floor, however I've often been told by female actors that they prefer the camera just above eye level to avoid looking up their nose. Men are generally ok shooting from slightly below, and often prefer it. Makes them look/feel more respectable, or more intimidating. There was one female pop star that pops into my mind that would nearly freak out if she felt the lens drift below her nose. I requested she take off her 4 inch heels (that we don't see) that added to her already 5'10" height, to which she politely declined.


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#12 Brian Freesh

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 03:53 PM

Alex, I'm fascinated.

 

I've only ever heard two comments from female actors regarding lens height. Neither were on steadicam, one wasn't even my camera.  Neither actually brought up why they were concerned, and the one I was operating wasn't actually an issue anyway (she was looking down at a seated person my lens was next to).  It's DPs and Directors that have always been the ones concerned with lens height in my experience, the actors always seem oblivious or at least unconcerned.

 

I've never had a male actor criticize, question, comment, or request regarding lens height.

 

In regards to 'eye height' I find it is more a concern of where the person is looking (see the parenthetical above).  I love to tweak the lens height to be just above or below an eyeline for effect. If flattering angles is an issue, the actor, especially if female, will oblige you with a slight head tilt, sometimes without prompting if they are fairly experienced.  So it's often simple to get the best background while maintaining a flattering look, and getting an eyeline above, below, or neutral to the lens.

 

Yes, naturally I have to lower the rig more than you to get eye level with an particular seated person. But my point with the photo is that I could have achieved the same level in low-mode if I'd wanted to. To achieve it in regular mode I had to boom down and kneel.  I could have also thrown on my low-mode bracket to help and/or put a pad under her to lift her up.  In low-mode I would have left off the low-mode bracket, kept a short center post, and boomed up and/or put a longer arm post on.  My point is there really is no grey area, as there is always a way get the lens at a desired height (you mentioned walking on boxes to get higher).  The real conundrum is getting from some desired heights to others within the same shot, which is where ARs and Tango's come into play (in a steadicam world. plenty of non-steadi tools to do that as well), as well as ramps, platforms, stairs, etc... At which point time and money are generally the obstacles.

 

I'm downright baffled that people at village would question the image being upside-down.  If the image is upside-down, the monitor needs to be flipped. I suppose I've had the occasional question regarding post, but it's always solved with a 5 second explanation. You must have the patience of a saint to deal with that all the time!


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#13 RonBaldwin

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 05:52 PM

Low mode blows. You guys can have it. I do, however, try to keep the camera on the low side of high mode to ease the distortion of the sets. I have the drop down adaptor that Klassen makes for the Pro vest and LOVE it. I like my Klassen vest very much as well, and some shots are easier with it, but the winters in NY keep me in the Pro most of the time. Did I say low mode blows?
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#14 Jens Piotrowski SOC

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Posted 21 February 2015 - 09:11 PM

I 2nd Ron on the low mode unless you are hard-mounted on a dolly.....
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#15 Alex Kornreich

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 01:28 AM

Well these comments don't happen all the time! But they sometimes do, and then I remember them because my therapist says I'm self-conscious and always seeking approval from others. She also tells me to avoid lowmode as much as possible for mental health purposes.


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