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A Bit of Steadicam Philosophy


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#1 PeterAbraham

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 10:27 PM

I read this last week, in an article on Michael Carter. He is a rather infamous type face designer. He designed Verdana, which for several years was the default font for Microsoft products. ( And, in which this posting is composed.)

Anyway, a woman who was a critic of type design and art design wrote this in 1932. Her name was Beatrice Warde. It seems to me that it perfectly addresses what we strive for each time we put a rig on. This quote was used within the Carter piece, published in The New Yorker ( 12/05/2005 edition ).

" The book typographer has the job of erecting a window between the reader inside the room and that landscape which is the author's words. He might build a stained-glass window that is beautiful to look at, but is a failure as a window. The reader's mental eye should focus through type and not upon it"
( her italics ).

Is this not our goal? With each frame we compose as we stand still, move and stand still again we strive for elegant invisibility, do we not? The frames between the frames, as some of us see it. We serve the higher goal- the emotion of the moment, the dramatic fresco we are daubbing our fingers into with our rigs.

I think this woman was on to more than she knew when she wrote this.

Peter Abraham
New York
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#2 Alan Dague-Greene

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 10:06 PM

Just a very minor correction, the name of the type designer is Matthew Carter. He also designed Georgia, and countless other typefaces for print (whereas Verdana and Georgia were designed specifically for on-screen use). He is one of the most celebrated type designers (living or dead), and his work is all around us.

I hadn't heard the Beatrice Warde quote you shared, but there is another passage of hers that's quite well known in the type design community:

"Imagine that you have before you a flagon of wine. You may choose your own favorite vintage for this imaginary demonstration, so that it be a deep shimmering crimson in colour. You have two goblets before you. One is of solid gold, wrought in the most exquisite patterns. The other is of crystal-clear glass, thin as a bubble, and as transparent. Pour and drink; and according to your choice of goblet, I shall know whether or not you are a connoisseur of wine. For if you have no feelings about wine one way or the other, you will want the sensation of drinking the stuff out of a vessel that may have cost thousands of pounds; but if you are a member of that vanishing tribe, the amateurs of fine vintages, you will choose the crystal, because everything about it is calculated to reveal rather than to hide the beautiful thing which it was meant to contain."

A more verbose articulation of the same idea. It takes many years of designing type to shake off the urge to be that solid gold goblet (myself included). This reminds me of the comments made on this forum regarding Haskell Wexler's design of a pivotal shot in Road to Perdition, how he would never move the camera unless it was exactly what the shot called for.
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#3 PeterAbraham

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 10:37 PM

Oh my goodness. My apologies, yes. Matthew Carter. -sigh- Hell of a typo, eh?

:blink:

Love the quote you provided as well. Clearly a deep thinker, this woman was.
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#4 Benjamin Treplin

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 01:02 PM

This reminds me of the comments made on this forum regarding Haskell Wexler's design of a pivotal shot in Road to Perdition, how he would never move the camera unless it was exactly what the shot called for.


A minor correction too. The name of the DoP who did Road to Perdition is Conrad L. Hall.
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#5 Alan Dague-Greene

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 10:51 PM

A minor correction too. The name of the DoP who did Road to Perdition is Conrad L. Hall.


Gah! Figures I'd get that wrong. Well, they were buddies. I saw "Tell Them Who You Are" recently, and I get them mixed up in my head.
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#6 Buster Arrieta

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 09:37 AM

A minor correction too. The name of the DoP who did Road to Perdition is Conrad L. Hall.


And the Steadicam Operator was Scott Sakamoto
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#7 Mikko Wilson

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 11:12 AM

I have no corrections to make. :ph34r:
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#8 IanMcMillan

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 09:54 PM

Hi all,
Great words and philosophy indeed.

I believe the Haskell Wexler quote is "why are steadicam operators working on a different script to the rest of us?"

All the best
Macca
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#9 PeterAbraham

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 09:59 PM

THAT has me laughing right out loud. Brilliant. Haskell was there on the first day it was used on a feature film. I love that- I have to pass that quote along.
:)
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#10 thomas-english

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 11:15 AM

I agree and am humbled by the philosophy you have put forward. It is very apt for drama and features. The delicate world of rendering a story.

When it come s to promo s however..... every so often..... you are one giggling jiving roller coaster... those moments, I do really genuinely treasure.

I suppose though with thought and context, these moments are well within the boundaries of the afore mentioned steadicam philosophy.
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