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Flying in the Forrest

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#1 Nils Valkenborgh

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 08:50 PM


In february I will be flying a JVC GY with an mini35 for a feature film. One of the shots requires me to run (rather fast) through a forrest pointing the camera backwards.

Could anyone give me some tips on how to avoid tripping over branches and such. Should i make a route in advance? should i wear gloves while flying the steadicam? ==>cold. If so, which gloves? (the fingerless setwear maybe?). Are there secrets of making the shot look as fast as possible (without going entirely wide-angle)...

Any answer to one of these questions would be greatly appreciated, or if you've got some tips to share please feel free.

Greets Nils.
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#2 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 11:39 PM

Plan your path and clear it of anything you could trip on. I saw and shovel might come in handy. Have a really good spotter and wear knee pads.

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#3 Marc_Abernathy


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Posted 10 December 2008 - 09:44 PM

also make sure you walk the path half speed and full speed WITHOUT GEAR. get used to the terrain. THEN strap on the contraption and do it half speed then your ready.

i dont know if i trust a spotter on a running shot. if they fall or trip.. they could cause you to do the same. i usually dont use spotters on such shots. i have had a couple scenes that had me going up a small hill to a roadway form the woods and i DID need a spotter to get me up the blasted hill but for a regular shot i dont prefer to have someone too close to me.

above post is great advice.. knee pads, clear rocks, lookout for holes, clear branches-make sure talent stays on the set course.

get the steadicam DVD with daddy jerry and uncle teddy. they have a session on the disk that speaks directly to this particular setup..

sounds like a fun shoot. i so enjoy running shots.. let us know how it works...

Edited by Marc_Abernathy, 10 December 2008 - 09:47 PM.

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#4 Nils Valkenborgh

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Posted 11 December 2008 - 12:45 PM

Thanks Marc and Jess,

You really posted some helpfull advice,
I'll post some pics of the shoot as soon as possible
the shovel was something i really didn't think about
but it's really good for clearing small hills and filling up
holes or traps in the ground.

The "preparing" advice from Marc is also very good,
so I make sure I know the terrain.

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#5 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 11 December 2008 - 02:43 PM

Main reason I would think about a spotter for this is because it is Don Juan. Shooting behind me and running forward I find that I can't do as nearly as good of a job at looking where I am going. The spotter would be as a guide to make sure I don't run head on into a tree or something like that :-) In this particular instance I would think about mounting the camera backwards so that the monitor can still be out front while shooting Don Juan.

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#6 Sven Joukes

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Posted 12 December 2008 - 03:01 AM

Are there secrets of making the shot look as fast as possible (without going entirely wide-angle)...

Hi Nils,

Don't run straight ahead of the subject, but rather at 3/4 before them (if that's OK with the director, of course), preferrably with trees and branches passing between you and the subject. Any kind of moving foreground will add to the perception of speed.

Fly safe!

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#7 Lars Erik

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 07:39 AM

Hi Nils,

I did a feature last year in the woods of Norway. It was on the Sony F-900 w/Pro 35. Heavy set-up. 18kilos.

Here some safety issues I ran into:

- branches on trees, use safety goggles. I almost got my eyes ripped out a couple of times
- branches on the ground, slippery little suckers, remove them. I fell twice in 5 days.
- as stated before, you MUST walk the path you're shooting first. Check for all possible safety issues. Refuse to do the shot if you consider it to be unsafe for yourself or the rig, until the shot is safe to do.
- movement between shots. Make sure you got a strong assistant. Movement in the woods can be difficult when you're moving from shooting location a to b. Don't move the rig yourself, you'll wear yourself out on this. Your energy must be used when shooting.
- Shoes, use good shoes with a good grip sole.


Even when you remove loose branches and such, the shot will still be risky. Specially when it's fast. I did the shot a few times in slow tempo, with the rig on, trying to get the feel of the shot and at which points of the shot composition could become tricky, then I did the shot with this rehearsal in mind, but I looked at the monitor about 25%, the rest I looked at where I was going. After 3 takes the shot was starting to work. Your arm and body will get a feel of the shot. Since you're shooting on video, this might be a possibility also for you. This worked fine for me. I found out that looking at them monitor while running in the woods, was far too risky.

Spotter, I never used them if I was running don juan, too risky. But they were good to have in missionary. In don juan I talked to the actors, and asked them to act as a spotter if I fell. The main character saved my ass at one time. I almost fell face first into a very muddy area.

Good luck


PS! Bring lots of fresh cloathes, you'll sweat your a** off.
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#8 MarkKaravite


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Posted 15 December 2008 - 02:14 PM

Hey Nils,

Great advice from the other ops. I did a feature this summer, where we were running full speed through the woods with an F23 at 48fps, which meant flying a SRW-1 recorder as well. Normally, I would say lighten up the rig as much as possible. You can do this with the lw video camera.

A couple additional comments:

1) Have the grip department supply some spare plywood. We covered up holes with plywood, and had the greensman cover it with leaves & such.

2) I actually used my rickshaw on a couple shots. Allow yourself to pick the path. After all, woods looks like woods, as long as you are in the right direction for the DP's light preference. We selected a path that was able to be cleared enough for the rickshaw. It was the bumpiest rickshaw ride I've ever taken, but we were able to achieve high speed running shots through the woods, and it was much safer (and better operating) than be running full out in don juan. We started at 35mm, and eventually I was able to give the DP a 85mm closeup that looked great, all due to the fact that I was riding.

Good luck & be safe,
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