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A Revelation

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#1 Afton Grant

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Posted 21 December 2005 - 12:21 PM

I finished a shoot this past weekend. I'd say I'm, at most, satisfied with my work. It was two days of shooting; one exterior, one interior. The location was here in New Hampshire, which is not the most pleasant this time of year.

The first day of exteriors was cold and windy. The ground was covered in slush, snow, and ice. There was no storyboard or shot plan and no time for rehearsals. We pretty much figured everything out as we got there. We eventually got the shots, but I'm sure I lost my framing and horizons once or twice. Again, a merely satisfactory day.

The second day of interiors was on a sound stage. The lighting looked great for all shots on tripod, however, the DP didn't have a good deal of experience with Steadicam so when it was time for me to go, I was unable to move the camera more than a foot or two without catching some equipment or a nasty flare in the shot, or I'd be casting a shadow of some sort. My movement was so restricted, we decided to simply go back to tripod, since that's pretty much what I was shooting anyway.

As I was headed home, I was thinking about the entire shoot. I am still a very fresh new operator in the grand scheme of things. I've been studying the stabilization equipment and operators for about two years, but it's only been the last 6 months or so that I've been using a big rig. Because of that, I think a lot about the advice I receive and read from many of you, the more experienced operators: Rehearse your moves. If it's windy, get someone to block it. Safety is paramount. Keep the lights high. ..and so on. My initial reaction was to blame my dissatisfaction with the shooting on the conditions I mentioned above, and the fact that the limitations of the production didn't allow any of that advice to be executed.

It was then that I had a bit of a revelation. I thought back on all the past shoots with which I'd been involved. I'd thought about all the times I wanted to blame something else for a poor shot. Now, granted, there are occasions where something can legitimately be blamed for a ruined shot, but I realized that's just the nature of productions. There is no such thing as a perfect production. I will NEVER get my "advice wish list" fully checked off. No matter how successful I become, no matter how large the crew, budget, etc, there are always challenges that will need to be overcome.

That's when I realized what separates operators from great operators. It is how I will deal with circumstances that are less than ideal that will determine my successes and the success of the shots. The sooner I can adopt that philosophy, the sooner I can condition myself to be ready for anything, rather than wishing for something that is not available.

It was a bit of a positive moment for me. I've studied martial arts and attended tournaments for quite some time now, and one piece of advice that often seems backward is that it is sometimes good to lose. It is good to be beaten. It is then that you learn the most. I'm looking forward to taking experiences such as this past weekend and using them to make the next time a little bit better....and then the time after that...and then........

So it's onward and upward from here, I suppose. At the end of each year, I like to look back and make sure I'm a little smarter, wiser, more successful than I was one year ago. I'd have to say this is one of the larger years of growth for myself in a long time. Can't wait until the next one.

Wishing you all great holidays,
Afton Grant
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#2 Kenn Ferro SOC

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 02:03 PM


Sounds like you moved to the next level. A great operator once told me, "That I have been doing this so long that I know how the day is going to end before it starts. I know when they are going to start cutting shots, pulling pages, etc." The more time you do steadicam the more things go into your "bag of tricks". You start to see the pitfalls before they become unfixable due to time pressures. Or at very least you can point them out to the "powers that be" so they know what you are up against. The process never ends though, sometimes you have to learn a lesson several times over the years to finally make it stick. The important thing as an ambassador of Steadicam, is to always work towards improvement.
All the best,

Kenn Ferro
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#3 Stephen Press

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 04:13 PM

The other thing to remember is that learning to work within a set of limitations can sometimes be a positive. One of the most useful things I have done is learning to light with only one light. I was forced to do it at first when the tight assed company I was working for would only provide one light. I hated it and was damned if I would compromise my standards so I tried to work with it to get results I was proud of. Latter I was working on another short film project and suddenly realised that I only needed half the lights I did before to get a better result. Necessity had made me better at lighting.
That said I won?t compromise on safety and I won?t kill myself trying to fix the unfixable. The trick is telling the difference between a challenge and the unsalvageable. :D
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