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Lateral traveling

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#1 Matt Mouraud

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Posted 18 May 2007 - 09:51 AM

Hi all,

I've been working on a short, shot HD (F900 with primes) in the old Casablanca slaughterhouse. Yes it's even creepier than I thought, but Shirin Neshat has a great vision and use of this place.
Anyhow, I've been doing a lot of lateral traveling with the 5mm Fuji prime and while it looks great all these straight lines are a killer for horizon control.
The rig is a Pro 2 with XCS gimbal and Steadyrig arm.
I was wondering how you seasoned operators were doing it : pushing the rig ahead with the gimbal handle perpendicular to the rig or with the gimbal handle at about a 45° angle ? I found it to be a great exercise anyhow, I've learned a lot during these days but I would love to have you guys opinion. ;)
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#2 Charles Papert

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Posted 18 May 2007 - 12:44 PM


For me, the angle of the gimbal has much to do with the boom height of the rig, as I will turn the handle so as to optimize my view of the monitor. When looking under the gimbal, I usually have it more of a 45 degree angle, but when over the gimbal I crank it towards me. This would be for the camera panned right ("normal" operating side, as opposed to goofy foot). For camera panned left, I think I keep it at a 45. I say "I think" because its so instinctual, I'd have to put the rig on to know for sure. Probably everything I'm saying is the reverse of what I actually do!
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#3 PeterAbraham


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Posted 20 May 2007 - 10:59 AM

That's certainly how I interpret what Charles says. ;)

When doing a linear tracking shot where the lens is moving perpendicular to the line of the shot I tend to move the handle away from my body a wee bit because the centerpost sits directly in front of the vest center spar. There is no compelling reason to ever do a shot like this with the centerpost flying off the left hip as it does when we work front or back view.

The reason I move my right hand/handle away a smidgen is that if I maintain the identical angle, my hand will press against the vest a bit. Think about it. When we do missionary or don juan, our torso has been slightly rotated to the left to achieve a decent flying posture. When I do a linear tracking shot and have the monitor and lens aimed off to the left and the battery off to the right, my body is - for once- facing dead forwards. There is no reason to rotate my torso slightly because ALL of the very good reasons we do that have been removed.

1. Clearance of battery/magazine. Not an issue when aiming to the side.
2. Good view of monitor. Ditto.
3. Ease of right hand reaching the handle of the yoke without undue stress. No longer an issue.
4. Good "flying posture" because the weight and placement- in front slightly and to the left- predicate a posture leaning back a smidgen and off to the right. When flying aimed to the side, I don't have to lean to the right at all because I've drawn the mass right in front of my vest's center spar.

I do not know the exact angle but I do know that if I maintain a comfortable right arm and relaxed straight forearm/wrist position when grasping the handle, in that position it isn't 45 degrees. More like... 30 perhaps? This shifts moment to moment, of course, because as we operate our way through shots we are constantly switching around in modes.

It is valid to say that there are some Steadicam Operators whose entire weeks are filled ( more than 90% ) with only this type of linear tracking shot. These are Ops working on live t.v. in a studio setting with anchors/hosts/guests siting around a set or desk. The typical layout involves several pedestal cameras, aimed at each talent as a single shot. The Steadicam is used for bumps in, bumps out, and slow arc shots that show the group as the camera moves around. I spent years doing these on live events. Walk forward, camera aimed off to the left. When moving back the other way, I would not switch because it would make the monitor live under the arm sections. Instead, I back up. Even in a cable-festooned studio setting, backing up is simple work.

There is one other aspect of the linear tracking shot that is worth considering and it addresses the comment that Matt made in his OP. When we start and stop we use our hand grip to control the head room problem. Almost all of us have some kind of drop time, and so starting and stopping involves removing the pendular effect, right? When aimed to the side, the headroom is no longer an issue- horizon is the issue. The same fixes that work for headroom when starting and stopping work to control horizon when doing that type of a shot.

To me, headroom deserves the same care as horizon so which way the lens is pointed is irrelevant- the shot must be controlled throughout.


Peter Abraham
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#4 Matt Mouraud

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 08:23 AM

Charles, Peter,

Thank you so much for your input. Horizon control on 100ft+ long shots is really critical and I didn't have much time experimenting. I found that with the handle perpendicular the horizon control was more difficult. The DP was happy with the shots, though, but I felt they could've been better.
On one particular shot, I also had to maintain a perfect headroom along with a perfect horizon which got me into a serious sweat. It worked after a few tries... I was thinking about Ted Churchill's manual of style the whole time....
It worked.
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#5 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 04:53 PM

On one particular shot, I also had to maintain a perfect headroom along with a perfect horizon which got me into a serious sweat.

Aren't you trying to maintain perfect headroom and horizons all the time? I'm not trying to be argumentative, but that's operating 101, is it not? Not that every shot will always be perfect, but we're always trying to make them all perfect. Maybe I'm misreading the post. My apologies if I am.
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#6 Matt Mouraud

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 04:00 AM

Yes I guess I wasn't clear on that previous one. I'll post some footage that will give a better description of what I was intending to explain. I agree though, that's operating 101 :lol:
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