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Stabilizer vs Dolly + Jib for dramatic shoot


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#1 Bob Woodhead

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 05:07 AM

We've got a dramatic shoot coming up (sort of a "Hallmark Movie" thing), and I'm debating about using a stabilized rig versus a dolly (with jib). Low budget, so time is critical. Interiors & exteriors. Interior will be an old house (might be tight for dolly, etc).
Question: is it reasonable to expect to use a stabilized rig in place of a dolly/jib during a 7-10 day shoot and work faster? Keep in mind the movie's a tear-jerker, not action, etc, so it's about people & emotions. Or am I totally missing the boat on my question?

FWIW, 15 lb. HD camera (HPX500 w/o VF mounted (also has LCD)).

Edited by Bob Woodhead, 28 October 2007 - 05:09 AM.

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#2 Adrien RADICI

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 06:06 AM

Hi Bob.

Cinema is a langage with his grammar and his vocabulary.
Even if some great steadicam operators are doing amazing very slow shots, you can replace a dolly/jib with a steadicam. Maybe you have to do some compromises. If you think the house might be tight for a dolly (take some measurements with your dolly grip) so call a steadicam op but don't expect to have exactly the same shots. I think that if it's about people and emotions, you gona use long lenses with very slow dolly push. same shot with a steadicam doesn't mean the same thing. A lot of people think that they could work faster with the steadicam but i think it's a big mistake (exept for some situations). You have to think about what is the best for the movie and make compromises.

More and more often young directors telling me to do some dolly shots. Sometimes i explain that it is not possible, sometimes i do it. If you choose to use steadicam you have to discuss with the operator what is possible and what is not.


regard
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#3 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 01:23 PM

I'd add to that statement. There are some shots that can only be done with a steadicam, some that can only be done with a dolly and jib, some that can only be done hand held, et. The flip side is that many shots can be done with either set up. It also depends on your crew. A fantastic dolly grip can do amazing stuff with a dolly and or a jib arm. The same is true for a steadicam operator. I high end steadicam operator can do almost any shot (within the physical limits of the rig and the operator) and make it look awesome.

A good steadicam operator and or a good key grip should be able to tell you where and when the various tools are best used.

Based on the short description of your job, id say go with a good steadicam operator and know that at some point your either going to need a dolly and jib for the day or your going to have to adjust your (and the director's) plans for the specific shot.

my 2 cents.....

mm.
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#4 Charles Papert

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 01:39 PM

Bob:

It's pretty unlikely that you would want to shoot basic lockoffs on Steadicam for several pages of dialogue (with maybe one little move in the middle), although it is done (stupidly) even in the biggest movies sometimes. As an alternative, you'd be forced onto sticks and it's my belief that for most dramatic work, having to work this way for seemingly non-moving shots usually ends up taking longer as the small adjustments that a dolly provides allows masters and close-ups to continue while you would have to break shots up if you did not have the adjustability. That, and lining shots up is usually quicker on the dolly also. Having a single piece of 4x8 ply to act as a dance floor will allow you enough movement for the dolly to make it worthwhile, and chances are you can make this work in any kind of house (I guess if it was REALLY old and the floor was cascading downhill radically it would need some cribbing and wedgework to be functional, which adds time). With this approach, you can still use Steadicam for shots that require it but not be locked into it, and have the best of both worlds.

If you must do it all on Steadicam, the ultimate success of this approach will fall entirely in the hands of your operator. The better he/she is at lockoffs and slow moves, obviously the more likely your strategy will work. If you don't already have such an individual in mind, make sure that the prospective op's reel contains exactly what you are looking for (i.e. dolly-like slow moves, not just high-energy zinging around). Even if they don't have a reel, they should be able to point you towards a complete project they have shot that incorporates this sort of coverage.

I'm guessing that the budget of your project is not exactly earth-shattering so this may be a tough fit--most operators that have mastered the art of standing still (!) command a commensurately impressive day rate, so ultimately this approach may not prove to be cost-effective versus the dolly after all.

Good luck with the show!
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#5 Bob Woodhead

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 04:16 PM

Thanks for the superb replies all! After reading the comments, I see that slow sweet moves are the domain of good pros, and we won't have the budget to keep a truly seasoned vet with lots of slow experience on call every day.

So I'm thinking it'd be best to try to have a smaller stab rig to fly a HVX200 when needed (the 200 matches the 500 well), and pull off the majority of the work the traditional way.

Edited by Bob Woodhead, 28 October 2007 - 04:17 PM.

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#6 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 11:00 AM

A Chapman PeeWee dolly can get in very tight places so unless you are wanting long complex moves it can work well even for tight interiors. The dance floor suggestion is a really good one. A good dolly will also have a hydraulic arm that will allow you some vertical movement in spaces where a jib arm won't fit.

Unless you want a floaty feel the dolly will probably give you the small moves you want in a dramatic tear jerker type film. The one place where the steadicam might be a time saver is if you have any long walk and talk shots. If you have a good steadicam op they can keep you from needing large amounts of track which can save a considerable amount of time.

In general I find a small dolly such as a peewee to be a huge timesaver vs. tripod. Doesn't work for everything, but most of the time it makes moving the camera and finding the frame much quicker even when only shooting static shots.

If you are wanting slow moves the smaller stabilizer with the hvx might not be the best bet. The larger camera with a big rig will generally give much smoother subtler moves, especially if you don't have a super experienced steadicam op.

~Jess
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#7 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 10:15 PM

^^ id agree but i would also make an effort to get an actual dolly grip, not a grip that can push a dolly. the difference is night and day.
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