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Steadicam shot to underwater, is it even possible?


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#1 Russell Bell

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 09:32 PM

Hey Guys,
I'm an AFI cinematography student trying to shoot a super low budget spec commercial. The concept is to follow a swimmer all the way from the change room to underwater in one shot. The director really wants this to be done as a oner and wants to be able to follow the swimmer smoothly the whole distance (so this negates the use of a crane). I'm fairly sure this won't work on a steadicam but steadicam would be perfect for this shot, so i thought I'd ask if anyone can think of a way the shot could be done.

As i imagine, it the camera would have to be in the underwater housing the entire time, on the rig in low mode and with some way to release the camera to be handed off to the underwater camera op, using the transition of the camera moving underwater to hide some of the jerkiness of the hand off. But...how in the world can a camera be smoothly removed from a steadicam in low mode mid shot and without having the rig swing dangerously?

The underwater rig weighs around 22lbs (already weighted for underwater use) and can be mounted to from the top or bottom. The camera is an arri 35-3c with a 200' mag. The lens is going to be on the wider end (around a 20mm).

Any thoughts on how to make the impossible possible would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

-Russell
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#2 denis moran

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Posted 11 September 2008 - 10:31 PM

Have you looked at "I amd Cuba" and "Boogie Nights"

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#3 chris fawcett

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 12:12 AM

Have you looked at "I amd Cuba" and "Boogie Nights"


Soy Cuba is full of amazing low-tech shots like the one referred to. It's a camera-movement classic.

You might do this shot in low mode, and cut when the (protected) lens hits the water.

Chris
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#4 thomas-english

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 06:43 AM

Underwater housing with home made antlers going off on either side (as far back as possible on the housing). A long 3ft piece of metal coming off the back of it to rest on your shoulder with as MUCH counterbalance weight as you can put on the end of. Sit in a wheelchair, put the superstructure on your shoulder, frame off the underwater monitor. Have some grips help you into the water from the wheelchair. I would recommend if possible removing the ballast from the housing and making up for it with weight from your antlers and counterbalance.

Alternatively, make a bungee rig that hangs as far forwards from your wheel chair as possible. Make this "quick release" and just as you get over the waters edge.... release it and throw yourself in with the camera.

I would seriously consider jumping in the water with a cheap version of the klassen suspender on. Maybe even take a small Pony for air or have someone bring me air once in the water and help me loose the suspender. You don't even need air in the shallow end.

You'll probably end up heaving that housing onto your lap on your wheelchair. Shooting from the hip and rolling into the pool. Wheelchair and all.

Check with Health and safety first.
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#5 Afton Grant

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 08:23 AM

I would seriously consider jumping in the water with a cheap version of the klassen suspender on. Maybe even take a small Pony for air or have someone bring me air once in the water and help me loose the suspender. You don't even need air in the shallow end.


Be very careful not to underestimate how LITTLE water it takes to drown. Even in the shallow end, one slip of your footing and you're under water wearing some heavy gear that was not made for swimming. Personally, entering any water with gear strapped to me would simply not be an option. Wearing breathing gear might make it better, but there is still a lot that can go wrong. This is sounding like a good example of where the Steadicam is just not the tool for the job.

Coincidentally, I was recently thinking of a way to actually take a Steadicam shot from above ground to below water level. The only solution I was able to figure out would be to construct a large, watertight, plexiglass container or "mobile hallway" if you will. This would be lowered into the water. Via a ramp or steps, the operator can step down into it, below water level, shoot through the glass, yet remain completely dry. I wonder if this might have already been done. Anyone? Erwin?
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#6 Bob Woodhead

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 08:34 AM

How about following swimmer to the pool, then down a ramp into pool with rig (lo-mode), maybe ankle-deep into water. You'd be leading the swimmer a bit. As swimmer dives, you arm down the camera into water FORCEFULLY, so there's a good splash of water around camera. Use that splash as a "hidden cut" opportunity to mimic same move in a 2nd shot, this time w/o rig, only camera in housing, so that you can continue shot underwater. I'd think the moment of impact would be visually jarring enough so that you'd miss the cut (well, soft cut, maybe 2 frame dissolve). Easy enough to test by simply doing two takes with camera in housing & see if they cut.
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#7 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 08:56 AM

My two thoughts are these... As mentioned above, just use a cut. Big multi million dollar features use this tecnique. It works and even people that know what's going on have a hard time telling the difference.

My other thought is this: Use a mini dv hd camera in an underwater housing. I know, I love film too but the reality is that a good mini dv hd camera looks great (not just ok, great) for most applications. I've personally shot mini dv hd for under water sequences on more than one network television show, major #1 network television shows. It cuts great with film and it will make the shot work. If anything, you may end up having to 'dirty up' the video image to make it look more like film.

my 2 cents.
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#8 Fabrizio Sciarra SOC ACO

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 09:13 AM

I second Mike on this, sounds as the easier option so far.
throw you my 2 cents as well:
Being the cam in low mod, why not a snorkel lens with extension? keep the set up extremely light on the sled and allows the op to follow the subject once in the pool simply walking along with the swimmer; I think might be wellworth to give it a try.
let us know
F

Edited by Fabrizio Sciarra, 12 September 2008 - 09:18 AM.

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#9 Mike Marriage

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 09:15 AM

Have you thought of hiring a Polecam and op? I believe they can do this kind of transition.

The latest mini HD camera heads make a pretty good quality picture.

I'd imagine that there are buoyancy issues with taking a 35mm camera into the water.

Edited by Mike Marriage, 12 September 2008 - 09:17 AM.

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#10 Ed Moore

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 10:37 AM

I second talking to a Polecam op - Polecam make a couple of types of waterproof heads for exactly this sort of thing. Believe they were used at the Olympics on some events.

Obviously you then still need to get a smooth tracking shot for the rest of the shot, but I wonder whether it would be possible to build the Polecam as short as possible and then mount the whole thing on a steadicam arm? Was just thinking of whoever it was that managed to mount a timeslice rig on their rig...

Alternatively, Polecams can be bodymounted with their own system and with wide enough lens, a short enough Polecam, a good enough operator and perhaps a wheelchair, you might get away with it.
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#11 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 12:23 PM

I think you could use a crane like the Chapman Leonard Hydrascope. The location would be important of course (it would have to have the correct geography), but you could arm the crane down a hallway and start the shot looking into the changing room and as the swimmer exists and heads towards the pool you could arm/dolly the crane down the hallway with them and follow them all the way into the water. This would also allow you to adjust from high to low mode, or vice versa, during the shot, which won't be possible with steadicam in that configuration.

In my mind, I can't think of a way to do this with steadicam without cutting, like others have mentioned. And even if you decide to do the shot using a cut, as suggested above, you run into issues of how to pull focus and monitor the image with the housing on the camera and the steadicam because it may not be possible to run cables into the housing.
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#12 BJMcDonnell SOC

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 01:40 PM

I think steadicam is the wrong tool for this. Maybe good for the opening of the shot but maybe use a wipe or something to transition into the underwater portion. I operate steadi and I also shoot underwater and once the camera dips underwater its a whole different ballgame. Also if anything goes wrong it can cost a ton of money in insurance claims for damaged gear, not to mention it is dangerous for the operator. For example, I just did a big rain scene and my gear was sealed up in rain gear, somehow water got in and totally destroyed my canatrans transmitter costing production $3,200.00 dollars to fix it. Honestly water and steadicam gear don't mix too well. As brad said also the hydrascope could be a great tool for the job. Or use a wipe to cut from and go to a hydroflex housing.

BJ Mc Donnell
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#13 Amando Crespo

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 09:44 PM

Hey Guys,
I'm an AFI cinematography student trying to shoot a super low budget spec commercial. The concept is to follow a swimmer all the way from the change room to underwater in one shot. The director really wants this to be done as a oner and wants to be able to follow the swimmer smoothly the whole distance (so this negates the use of a crane). I'm fairly sure this won't work on a steadicam but steadicam would be perfect for this shot, so i thought I'd ask if anyone can think of a way the shot could be done.

As i imagine, it the camera would have to be in the underwater housing the entire time, on the rig in low mode and with some way to release the camera to be handed off to the underwater camera op, using the transition of the camera moving underwater to hide some of the jerkiness of the hand off. But...how in the world can a camera be smoothly removed from a steadicam in low mode mid shot and without having the rig swing dangerously?

The underwater rig weighs around 22lbs (already weighted for underwater use) and can be mounted to from the top or bottom. The camera is an arri 35-3c with a 200' mag. The lens is going to be on the wider end (around a 20mm).

Any thoughts on how to make the impossible possible would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

-Russell

Hi Russell!. I only want give you and small advice ever you work with steadicam near a swimming pool. Take care, of course, and check the security strap of your vest. Try to use it one time before fly to be sure that it rules ok. It can be one of the worse nightmares, to fall in a swimming pool with the gear on.... Work safe and enjoy..... And be carefully also with the wet and slippery ground.
See you
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#14 Russell Bell

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 11:52 PM

Hey Guys, Thanks for all of your responses, these together with a bunch of conversations i've had with some other steadicam ops have confirmed my suspicions that this shot is just too dangerous and unrealistic to try to accomplish on a steadicam and have it turn out anywhere near what we would hope the shot to be. Unfortunately a hydrascope is too large to fit into the hallway space (there are a couple corners it would have to move around) and the project has to be shot on 35mm so unfortunately I can't shoot it on a smaller video camera or really use the pole cam. right now it looks like this may be a dolly shot with a jib and an amphibian remote head on a fisher dolly (using a riser underslung to keep the bearings of the jib out of the water) or the 'dreaded' cut upon entering the water, which the director isn't too keen on. I also really liked the snorkel idea but considering the safety of the operator and the angle the director wants the other options will probably be what we end up going with. Thanks everyone though for your responses, it's helped me out a lot.
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#15 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 11:04 AM

Now that your not stuck on the one'r. Build your self in a good screen wipe. Steadi up to the wipe once your out of the hallways getting close to the pools edge. Then you can use the hydrascope to start just before the wipe to recreate what your steadicam wipe did.

This would be a good situation, giving you the freedom of the steadi in the hall and the stability of the hydrascope to transition to the underwater once in the open area of the pools proximity.

Best of luck

Edited by Alfeo Dixon, 17 September 2008 - 11:05 AM.

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