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#1 kes

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Posted 20 June 2004 - 07:48 AM

Hi,

I would like to hear comments from operators who is doing awards and American Idol type shows how you approach this kind of shot :

Assuming I am standing not on the stage but rather down in the narrow space between the stage and the first row preparing to move from left to the right side of the stage, meaning that at the begining the stage and talent are on my left side and the audience are on my right. There are two ways of doing this shot and I would like to hear what is your way. I would first discribe the way I do it but not knowing if it is the best way all I know is that I am usually use it succsesfully but with your comments could easily adjust to the other way. The way I do it is :
I position my self at a missionary position while my chest is facing directly towards the talent, meaning that my back is towards the audience behinds me who is sitting the on the side ( sled is on the side of my left ear ), now I start moving towards the talent, just before I am approching the center of the stage I have to leave my post, turning the sled with my fingers and then catch up again just to end with Don Juan. Now this method could be very tricky because you have to conculate in your mind when to leave your sled - turning it with soft touching fingers - catching up again, doing all that and keeping your talent in the center and in perfect horizone because all the differnt pressures on the sled. It getes harder with longer lens and faster movements because of the turning of the sled . This way I also can not see the monitor for a second which is not fun. The only good thing I can think of doing this way is that I walk more comfortabely at the first half of my move.
The other way, which is my brother's favourite way, is that instead of facing towards the talent my chest is now facing towards the audience and my back towards the corner of the stage ( sled is now on the side of my right ear ), now if I start moving towards the center/talent the walking is a bit uncomfortabe but on the other hand I press constant pressure on the post all the way ( helps to keep the talent in the center and the horizone ) WITHOUT leaving the sled - turning it -and catching again ( just the way it feels and done if we would do exactely the same move but from the right side of the stage and towards the left ). This way I also dont have this second I do not see my monitor.

I hope I did make sense with my description. Please let me know the way you do it.

Best
Kes
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#2 PatrickvanWeeren

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Posted 20 June 2004 - 08:30 AM

Dear Kes,

I always try to walk the same way as I'm viewing.
This doesn't mean that the camera is viewing that way; it means my legs are moving that way. A very safe way of operating as well.

If I walk from left to the right on the stage I will position the sled in front of me and face to the right. This way I can switch in any direction (Don Juan or Missionary) that I need to at any given time.

Whenever the walking direction changes in a shot I'll try to be in the most comfortable way for the longest time or for the most difficult part of the shot or actually do a switch if necessary.

kind regards,


Patrick van Weeren
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#3 Buster Arrieta

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Posted 20 June 2004 - 10:00 AM

What is the wireless system transmitter that you use in those shows on live broadcast?
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#4 Lawrence Karman

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Posted 20 June 2004 - 10:55 AM

I'd probably just walk backwards on the left to right cross (rig out in front of my chest with the stage to my right) Odds are you would pause at your end spot and reverse the move a few cuts later. There's plenty of reference ,ie the stage, so you know where you are at all times while backing up. And you have a utility person wrangling cable to keep you from stepping on audience members if you stray. Which leads me to Buster's question. I have always been hardwired to the truck on these "live" events. The sports guys (think Olympics/Marathon) are usually the ones transmitting. Peter might know.
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#5 Bryan Trieb SOC

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Posted 20 June 2004 - 12:16 PM

There are 2 popular companies that make decent RF systems for live broadcast. Total RF...and Grass Valley Thompson. Not always foolproof on "entertainment/variety" type shows because the amount of interferance coming from other RF technologies (mostly audio) can greatly interfere with the video signal transmission. It's not like sports when most of the time they only care that they HAVE the shot to air....picture quality can never, or should never be sacrificed on a big variety type show.
I'm actually shooting "Canadian Idol" right now and what works for me personally is operating in missionary most of the time. A shot in the pit that goes across the stage from left to right isn't always the easiest to switch to don juan when you have triax on your back and you have to make gentle/accurate zooms during your shots. I have developed some kind of weird technique that allows me to do a half switch while moving across the stage. I stay in missonary but twist my body a little...a few side steps that transition from walking forwards to backwards. That way I NEVER get caught if the director comes to my camera for non-scripted shot...which happens very often on live performance ...especially when your director get's "caught" and they have it in their head that they can "rely" on the steadicam to bail them out on the line cut. I only truely don juan when I don't have any triax system on my camera....for me there's just too much torque coming from the cable to be able to switch efficiently. I know you can purchase a mini triax system that you can feed through your harness and connect on the back of the harness ...but to me it's still a cable.
I would also suggest having a really solid and experienced cable puller/spotter. When you have downtime on the set, grab your puller and rehearse all of your potential moves as much as you can so that not only YOU but also your assist have as much in "motor memory" as possible. When you're in rehearsals...give notes to your puller...sometimes right before a compicated shot remind your puller of your path....things like that will make your show smooth and you will be uber-prepared for those little variables that don't happen in rehearsal.

Have fun, work hard, and fly safe!
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#6 kes

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Posted 20 June 2004 - 01:13 PM

Thanks for your replying.
Ikerman - I can see your way but I would not want to go backward, as I do not want to rely on my spoter that much, and I do not have one anyway. Also walking backwards from left to right could be hard if the stage is curvy.
Patrick - If I understand it right do you operate the way my brother does ?
Bryan - I know this wierd technique as I use it as well but only when I do it from right to left, this is how I end my move from right to left . It isnt the saftiest technique but works for me best from right to left ( you really need to be carfull not to hite your legs with each other in this transition from walking forward to backwards or you will find yourself on the floor ). I would not want also to end my move from left to right that way as I am really really comfortable to end with Don Juan all my moves from left to right - just like a second nature for me and find it hard to understand operators ending this shoot other than D.J . Isnt steadicam beautiful ? There is no one way of operating ! ? .
I do not work wirless - life indeed are crule.
Kes
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#7 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 01:39 AM

Which leads me to Buster's question. I have always been hardwired to the truck on these "live" events. The sports guys (think Olympics/Marathon) are usually the ones transmitting. Peter might know.

I was Hardwired last night and it was with that damn Multi-mode Fiber line, Talk about stiff.... YECH. I miss the telecast Copperhead but alas you can't send power down the fiber yet....
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#8 Ruben Sluijter

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 05:25 AM

There are 2 popular companies that make decent RF systems for live broadcast. Total RF...and Grass Valley Thompson. Not always foolproof on "entertainment/variety" type shows because the amount of interferance coming from other RF technologies (mostly audio) can greatly interfere with the video signal transmission. It's not like sports when most of the time they only care that they HAVE the shot to air....picture quality can never, or should never be sacrificed on a big variety type show.

Actually, in defence of wireless, I've been shooting pretty much every tv thing I've done over the past two years or so with the new Thomson wireless system.
Most of the tv stuff I do is of the entertainment show variety (mostly big shows).
In fact, one show that both Patrick van Weeren and myself have done relied completely on this wireless system for it's look (that show went on to win an award for innovative television).

To me the quality of these wireless systems has improved tremendously over the old, analog style, line of sight things with that huge phallic thing sticking out of the camera.
There are still occasions where the signal can drop out but they are much less frequent and usually very brief.
In my opinion, and that of most directors, the freedom that wireless provides for Steadicam far outweighs any possible disadvantages inherent with wireless and has allowed me to do some pretty neat shots for some of these shows without all that cable hassle restricting you.
There is not any noticable difference anymore in picture quality (perhaps maybe on a scope but not really visible to the human eye) so I don't see it as any form of sacrifice.
I'm sure some more technically inclined people might disagree with me but I feel that wireless has matured enough for it to be useable on pretty much any tv show without fear.

Just my humble opinion...

Peace, Ruben "Death to cables!" Sluijter
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#9 Larry McConkey

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 08:31 AM

I used to do a lot of TV, especially live TV, and being one of the first I was able to insist on what I thought I needed to do it properly. Properly meant that no one at home would be able to spot a difference in video quality, and the level of control of the shot should not appear different from other moving cameras that were generally being operated on a crane of some sort (with lots of zooming to enhance the restrictions of their physical moves). I wanted to offer moves that they could not make, albeit with judicious use of zoom as well, especially savoring moves that crossed the boundary of stage and audience. My intent was to make the use of Steadicam the same quality as the other cameras, aesthetically and technically and at the same time break down long established barriers to where the camera could go. Along the way directors and I had to create a new aesthetic, a new language of camera moves, that could be incorporated seemlessly into the preexisting structure. All this to mean that I had to avoid any Steadicam centric operating flaws from being evident (floating horizon, shiftless framelines, wandering headroom, inconsistent focus, falling on my ass). So, particularly for the live shows, my primary goal was not to fall, then to stay out of the other shots, to minimize control problems, and finally do something spectacular looking, in that order.

This brings us finally to your question, and my answer is that I would always use DJ unless falling was a concern (no spotters of any kind). I insisted on a focus puller and a cable puller (no RF system at that time existed that wouldn't cause obvious technical problems). I also insisted on a lightweight cable system usually one brought in by my friends Barry Minnerly or Doug Joseph who had a proprietary fibre-optic system with a very lightweight cable. One of them came with me as well. I could get away with this because I was the only game in town. The director would trade away 2 or 3 other cameras for the cost of bringing all of us! I don't work these shows anymore because other Ops have gotten good enough without all this help!!

In any case, I knew one of these members of my crew would keep me safe, and a few words with those audience members who we suspected might stretch out their legs at inappropriate moments helped as well. Other than the falling down issue, control was paramount, and I would restrict the move if necessary to avoid any extraordinary operating difficulty that would otherwise result. A given shot might indeed need a switch in operating position, but I would then do two things: try to engineer the switch for a dramatic moment that would sustain not only a slight lapse in control if it occurred, but also a real change in direction or tempo in my shot; and secondly, I would then rehearse that switch over and over again (in the actual location when possible) to maximize my peripheral vision, learn how to overcome unwanted influence of the external cabling during the switch, and put much of the skill needed into the autopilot part of my brain.

One last point: I worry about the way you talk about the switch itself as requiring you to "catch up again" with the rig on the other side. This should never be the way you think about changing positions, especially for live or taped-as-live situations where you are likely not to get another take. I may have misunerstood you, but this is helpful advice and worth stating for others: Practise these switches as SLOWLY as you possibly can do them, WITHOUT TOUCHING the rig - just body control. Only add control of your post after you can do this with absolute control throughout. You will find that eventually you will be operating with confidence throughout the switch, exerting all the necessary corrections for cables, etc. as you do in more comfortable positions. Do not think it should be done quickly just hoping that little will go wrong during the transition. Don't worry about being able to see the monitor. Instead, make the switch slowly, taking several seconds and trust that maintaining control throughout will prevent the frame from wandering.

I loved the adrenaline of live TV along with the mental gymnastics needed to plan how to be in the right place at the right time throughout the show, and the general energy from sharing the responsibility of a good, clean, exciting show with all the other ops and directors. A real rush!! I just wish I had the chance to do it without the additional restrictions and hassle of the cabled systems...

Larry
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#10 kes

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 04:43 PM

Dear Larry,
Thanks for your valubale tips and advices - I treasure them as I always do with your other advices.
I probabely did not describe it very well - I NEVER actually take my hands off the the sled... it is just when I start my move while my sled is place close to the left side of my hip, half way through my walk and by the time I start my switch I do the turning of the sled ( by those seconds sled also crossing my face ) with my fingers only but then when exit to D.J I regain the original hendling of the sled as I did in the first part of my move and before the switch.
Perhaps I should start my move while my sled is at the right side of my hip, than the sled would not cross my face ( because it is already on the other side ), I would not need to turn my sled with the fingers ( helps to keep horizon level ), and by doing this I will maintine the exact handling ( but obviously not the exact pressure otherwise the sled would never get...turned ) of the sled throgh the whole shot but still end with the same D.J . I am confused about the best way.
Kes
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#11 WillArnot

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 10:55 PM

Kes (name???),

Your last post here is a little hard to follow, but I think I get what you are saying.

Picture this: the sled does not deviate from it's path of movement. The sled should stay on the exact same line while your body 'dances' from one side of the camera to the other. To do this effectively you will need to employ Larry's advice of controlling the mass of the sled with your body as it travels from one side of the camera to the other during the switch.

In this way, if the sled is well balanced, the frame should stay exactly the same while your body moves around the sled, WITHOUT your hand touching the post. As Peter pointed out so well, understanding what the sled is doing vs. what your hand is doing vs. what your body is doing is very important to understand in order to correct / improve your technique.

You mention the position of your fingers, and this is an important point that I don't feel has been talked about much. Alot of people are taught to operate with their fingertips in order that they don't over 'muscle' the operating hand and learn finesse rather than a 'heavy handed' approach.

For me, this technique led me to less operating control and bad habits. I prefer what one might call the 'full fisted' grip w/ my operating hand. Even tho the whole hand is wrapped around the post/gimbal, this is deceptive, since 85% of the real control comes from the thumb and forefinger (the two you would put together to sign OK). These two are butted up as high as possible on the gimbal. Why?? because that is where the CG of the sled lies, and therefore where I will least affect the roll axis, and where I can make nice flat pans. Think about it .... unless you fly a completely 'neutral' drop time (ie. bottom weight is same as top weight) then being slightly bottom heavy means the CG is just below where the yolk of the gimbal meets the pan axis bearing. In this manner I find that I have more finesse with the bottom 3 fingers gently wrapped around the whole post than I do with having just the finger tips. The finger tip method means I have to drop my thumb more down the post away from the CG in order to oppose the pinky finger which plays a larger part (and in my opinion, less accurate) in controlling tilt and roll. And that means I have to move it back up to oppose my forefinger to make a good flat pan. I find I have much more control going around a corner fast with the flat part of the length of my fingers than I do with just the tips.

Your preference. This may spark debate ... just chill, there are many ways y'all.

However... what to do with your grip of choice while making a switch to or from DJ.?? Firstly, as we know, learn to do this with no hands to learn what the sled does on it's own. Ideally nothing, and the sled is still over the same point on the ground b/c it is YOU that has moved around the sled, NOT the sled that has moved around you (ie. a symptom of muscleheads w/ no finesse). UNLESS of course the shot REQUIRES the sled to move AS you are making the switch. ie. an actor steps sideways let's say. The point is, is that Howard and Larry's advice basically means that you have to operate less than you think, even though your body has just made or is making a big physical movement. This is the beauty of Steadicam. The sled is isolated from our bodies, and will do amazing things if we don't screw it up and over-operate. The answer to what to do with the operating hand is therefore, 'AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE'. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. Right? If the frame is there, don't try to adjust it while switching. Physically... you can just totally loosen your grip and 'walk' the hand around the post without actually influencing it. This ironically is what is known as having 'touch' or finesse. ie. we are touching the post (barely, if at all) and not influencing the frame...but the hand is there & ready should something unexpected happen.

So... remember your workshop??? Put the 'X' on the wall and put a line on the floor in line w/the 'X'. Now put the X in the crosshair and walk up to it. LOCK OFF. Now lean back a little, the sled will start to move away from the X, now keep the sled over the line as you hustle your feet to catch up and now dance around to the other side of the line/camera. Remember Larry's advice: "Speed Kills". Practice this SLOWLY with CONTROL.

Foot work, Foot work. When I used to play alot of Tennis, I learned this. Foot work is EVERYTHING. If your feet aren't in the right place then you aren't properly balanced, now your body is working harder and is less efficient at controlling the sled, so the operating hand now has to do more to control the sled, So the framing suffers. It's all connected and you gotta start at the basics and work up. Remember what Peter said. Analyze every element of your move.

Turn the monitor off. Get those feet moving. And let GO!!!!

Have fun.

Will

-Having re-read this post it occurs to me that alot of this Don Juan thread is contained in General Discussion under the thread "Novice Question: My hip's gone all funny"- and I was incorporating my response to info in that thread too. Apologies for any confusion.
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#12 kes

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Posted 23 June 2004 - 11:32 AM

Thanks Will for your long reply - as always you contribute wonderfuly to this forum.
I see yours and Larry's point of doing as little as possible with your operating hand and much more with your body - I already tried this today with some good results.
What I did untill now ( with some pretty good results as well I must say ) was not paying attantion much to body movements but rather compensate on it by moving the sled with my working hand acoording to the shot. Your way make more sense and I am planning to stick with it - I noticed I could achive the same good results by operating very little just because I am combining a few body control and various speeds in one shoot. Thanks again.
By the way Will I think you did some excelent job on Requiem For a Dream, especially you chassing the little running boy up stairs and nicely lock off on the old lady.
Kes
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#13 WillArnot

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Posted 23 June 2004 - 04:06 PM

Thanks for the nod Kes. That little kid had his Wheaties that morning and gave me a good run for the money. Glad you noticed the end it was a tricky fast move. Through the door, hard right w/out losing the boy, panning left seeing into the room avoiding bad reflections in the mirror on the way to a tough lock off on one knee with the bottom of the sled one inch off the ground.

Cheers,

Will
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