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First shoot using a steadicam op


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#1 Jimmy Browning

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 03:57 AM

Hi guys,

I'm going to be shooting a short film involving some steadicam shots. I've never worked with a steadicam operator before so I wanted to get some advice as far as what to expect and things to be aware of. I also wanted to get a rundown of the normal procedures and etiquette for shooting with a steadicam operator, especially in regards to my camera assistants and their normal duties.

Other than the plates, what other equipment will the operator usually need? I am shooting with the Panaflex Elaine.

Thanks,

Jimmy
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#2 Afton Grant

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 09:44 AM

Hi Jimmy,

If you get yourself a decent operator, he or she will most likely be glad to answer whatever questions you will have. Even if you don't ask, they will bring up the important things prior to, or during shooting. A couple unique things that I have found to surprise first time Steadi-crews:

Remote focus pulling. It's not easy. Pulling focus off of a little walkie-talkie-looking-thing by just watching where the camera and subject are is something that is foreign to many new AC's. Best advice is to plan a little intro-time if the AC has never used one before. When shooting, if you can get a couple rehearsals, it'll definitely help. Try not to pull focus off of a monitor. This is REactive - by the time you see a focus problem, it's already burned into the film and too late. I know it's tempting, but for the sake of your up-and-coming AC, using the force is best for their future career.

Insurance. Your operator will most likely be bringing a lot of very expensive equipment to your set. It could easily be $100,000 or more. These are the tools with which he or she makes a living, and as any rental company does to protect their belongings, your operator will require insurance as well.

As for general etiquette, you don't need to treat them any different than anyone else. A normal level of respect is all that is necessary. Depending on who you get, there's a chance he or she has been doing this for a while. This means to try to be open to any advice and suggestions they may give. Safety is a big concern for many of us, especially around crews that are lesser experienced. If your operator says no to something, don't argue. They'll likely have an alternative suggestion.

The rig is heavy. It won't look heavy, and your operator will probably do a good job of making it look even lighter, but it's still a whole lot of metal on two human legs. Try your best to only call for camera-up when you're ready to rehearse or shoot. Rearranging the set, lights, actors, etc while the op is holding the camera can quickly wear your operator out - affecting your actual shot.

Additional equipment will depend on your operator and his or her package. They'll know what you both need.

Best of luck!
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#3 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 10:00 AM

I've never worked with a steadicam operator before so I wanted to get some advice as far as what to expect and things to be aware of. I also wanted to get a rundown of the normal procedures and etiquette for shooting with a steadicam operator, especially in regards to my camera assistants and their normal duties.


Thanks being honest and for asking questions, I think that is a great indicator that you'll work well with your operator.

Afton covered all the highlights very well. I might just add that if there is any "cardinal sin" it would be to touch the operator's rig or post while they are wearing it. It's a safety issue and a professional courtesy. Just tell the op what you want to see and guide them verbally if needed. Some operators will let you try the rig during down time and some will not. I encourage people to try it and usually within 2-3 minutes they're more that ready to give it back.

Good luck with your shoot and thanks for asking.
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#4 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 12:39 PM

Yo Jimmy,
The fact that you even considered asking says tons about who you are !

As Robert said, ask your operator if you can try the rig on it may give you some more needed understanding of the operator and rig.

Best of luck on your shoot

Let us know how it goes
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#5 geoff shotz

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 01:53 PM

hey jimmy- where are you shooting, when, and who's your op? i know there are a whole bunch of guys sitting around in l.a. who'd gladly come by and hang out, chime in, assist, act as a peanut gallery, ohh, and help too, of course! well asked questions, by the way. there are some very seasoned d.p.'s who treat us way worse than you have already started out! good luck!

geoff
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#6 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 10:42 PM

Great tips so far. I'd just like to chime in and reiterate that the Steadicam is not a tripod. Particularly on lower budget productions when time is short and the shot-list is long, there is a tendency to try to shoot everything off the Steadicam (to move quicker). Not that it isn't possible, but it is a specific tool that isn't meant to do everything. As said, it's heavy and the operator is only human. Plus, longer lenses will be more difficult for the operator AND for the focus puller. If you should use a dolly or sticks, take the time to do it right. Your movie will be better for it and your crew will respect and appreciate you more for not just trying to "run and gun" it.

Your operator may have more experience than you and the DP as well, so it might be helpful to collaborate in terms of shot design. He may have ideas that could enhance what you already had in mind. Just try to figure out the limitations of his operating and the capabilities of the focus puller before you spend time trying to get a shot that may be beyond them.
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#7 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 11:23 PM

I've seen too many productions skimp out on the second body which should stay on the steadicam. This way you can leave your A body on the dolly, sticks or hand held and move between the styles more efficiently.

The reason we become human steadi-pods or a steadi-dolly is because the AD is running out of time and doesn't want to switch over to and from steadi, thus compromising the emotion of the shots in the sake of making his day. Don't get me wrong... making the day is of the utmost importance. If your shooting HD, it becomes a bit more expensive to have the second body than with film.

Get a second (lightweight) body for your op and he will love you for it... :wub: ::smooches:: :wub:

Money well spent...

-Alfeo
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#8 Jimmy Browning

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 08:06 PM

Thanks for all the advice guys. The shoot is this Sunday, I'll let you know how it goes.

Jimmy
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