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Uber-lightweight RED setup for concert shoot


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#1 Charles Papert

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 07:28 PM

Yesterday I worked on a 12 camera RED shoot of Green Day in concert. The director had warned me that they had been playing 2.5 hour unannounced shows around the Bay Area to prepare for this concert in Oakland which was primarily being staged for the video (with full audience) and that I could expect a similar length show. Having flown the RED in various configurations up to 40lbs of pure camera weight, I set out to configure the lightest configuration possible around my running rig.

(pictures HERE)

I spent a couple of hours building the sucker at a rental house in LA, even though the cameras were being prepped through Lee Utterbach in SF, which I couldn't get to in time. It was a useful gesture in that I confirmed that the setup would balance nicely with the drive and Camwave transmitter mounted at the base of the rig instead of at the top, and the camera itself stripped down to bare essentials. I went with my single channel Preston for focus as the MDR is lighter, and two DM2 motors (the other so I could operate the 18-50 zoom off the gimbal). My running rig weighs 10 lbs with no battery so it was a good start; I opted to use the RED brick as it packs more watt hours than the Dionics (until the HC arrives after NAB) and we had plenty of them on order for the job. I used the IDX v-mount to AB adaptors, not ideal of course but with so relatively little weight on board I wasn't too worried about vibration. With everything on board, it weighed in at 30 lbs for sled, camera and bits and pieces--not bad! I have a modified Flyer arm but one of the spring sections is weaker than the other--the lower section could handle the weight fully cranked up, but the upper wasn't in the mood so I had to go with the PRO arm with two black canisters, which had room to spare. I brought along both my Klassen harness and PRO vest so I could possibly change them out mid-show if I felt like it.

Naturally not everything arrived from Utterbach as I had spec'd; the Element Technica drive mount was replaced with one I had not seen before that had a different mounting style, but I managed to get it to work for me (a bit heavier than the ET but nowhere near as bad as the prehensile RED cradle). And my local AC had thoughtfully made up a plastic plate that screwed into the RED rod mounts on top of the camera, essentially a bantamweight version of the cheese plate that provided a flat surface for mounting things on top of the camera via velcro. I had gnashed my teeth over the rounded hump that is the roof of the RED during prep (see gaudily festooned green tape picture) so this was a great idea. We built the rig up and only a zillion cable ties made things nice. After years of internal cabling, it was initially disconcerting to have the drive cable and HD-SDI trailing down from top to bottom of the rig but I soon discovered that it was unlikely to cause me any trouble for the type of operating I was to do that day.

The sad news came down that I was not going to be allowed on stage other than an 8 foot square to the side of the drums, behind a huge stack of amps that I couldn't even see over (no short jokes, please) and thus I would be banished to the barricade along with a handheld camera. The stage was a good 6 feet off the ground and the barricade was perhaps 5 feet deep with angle supports at regular intervals that I would have to step over, not ideal. We did sound check and the shots were actually pretty good, with the lighting grid behind the band members. However during this time we discovered that the drive was acting up and wouldn't record or format properly. After some cursing, it was determined that the long drive cable was no good and we had to go to the standard length cable which meant moving the drive back to the top of the camera. This plunged me into a funk as I had dialed everything in perfectly; the gimbal was at a nice height, the post was short and the rig spun clean and now I had to go back to the drawing board and move everything around. Luckily the gods were with me and thanks to the "open architecture" of my running rig that allows battery plates to be top or bottom mounted on the rods as well as be positioned nearly anywhere along their length, I was back to a reasonably good setup again in short order. The camera had gotten taller with the drive taped to the top (encapsulated in a towel mandated by our tech who said it would help avoid dropped frames from the deafening sound levels in the house--at this point I wasn't going to fight anything) which made the rig feel a little less tasty but in the context of a concert video, I knew it would do well enough.

Showtime! Suddenly the barricade was populated by up to 6 burly security guys who were keeping an eagle eye out for body-surfing fans, pulling them over the barricade and escorting them back out to the floor. Somehow I had to navigate around them. We eventually developed an unspoken courtesy; when I approached mid-shot, they would move forward and let me by, but if there was an impending bodysurfer alert, they would take precedence and I gave them room to do their thing. A few great tracking shots of lead singer Billy Joe sprinting around the stage were cut short this way but you can't win 'em all, and the feedback over the headset from the director was enthusiastic.

Thanks to my obsessive efforts to keep the rig light, I was able to sail through the whole show (2 hrs 15 minutes) with breaks only long enough to swap batteries and reboot, every 20 minutes or so. With my full-size rig I would have been a good 15 lbs heavier and it would have been a different story, not to mention tougher to respond quickly and nimbly to both the antics on stage as well as the security activity going on all around me. We did have some oddities with the drive still which I would describe as a crash but it's hard to say what was going on, hopefully the footage will be intact.

Fun shoot, interesting setup and I look forward to continuing to explore this sort of thing as more of these HD cameras get thrown at us (SI2K mini...!)
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#2 Lawrence Karman

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 08:04 PM

interesting set-up. Did you consider using the RED 7" on board monitor in place of your LCD and eliminating the downconverter? Would have saved some weight and you get to see it in glorious HD along with all the camera data.
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#3 Charles Papert

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 08:32 PM

Yes, I did for a moment but I was concerned about viewing angle as I have found that to be somewhat rough with the RED LCD in the past. I have my LCD (Flyer monitor) on a free-moving yoke that I can adjust with two fingers during a shot if necessary without shifting the balance of the rig, so having the RED LCD on some sort of fakakta Noga arm would have eliminated that possibility. Granted I didn't end up needing to do that as it turned out, but who knew. At some point I will be putting an HD monitor on the running rig, in the meantime the Flyer monitor performs quite nicely and is not too shabby in daylight, considering.

Maybe next time I might try the RED LCD, see if I like it any better. The Decimator is mere ounces so it wasn't much of a factor. I still got timecode and warnings through the SD feed.
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#4 Lawrence Karman

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 08:48 PM

Red 7" monitor blows away the 5". Much improved viewing angle.
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#5 Charles Papert

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 08:53 PM

Right, I read that a while back but I'm not sure if I've seen one. Will have to spec that next time I do one of these. What's one more cable going down from top to bottom at that point?! (would need the extension cable though).
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#6 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 09:04 PM

Charles,
Welcome to my world, only add a Fiber cable or triax to the rig to navigate around gorilla's behind the barricade . . .LOL . . .

and I agree, it is fun!
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#7 Charles Papert

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 09:09 PM

Yeah, I figured there's a few guys out there for whom this sort of shoot is pretty standard. I've done a bit of it but generally with broadcast cameras, occasionally with film--this RED thing is a whole new monkey.
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#8 MarkKaravite

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 09:56 PM

Hey Charles,

Did you end up going with the Klassen harness or the PRO? I've found the Klassen to be a lifesaver for concert shoots. I'm in a much better mood the next morning. I did a festival with Linkin' Park as the headliner. Showing up in the morning, I expected to shoot their 1:45 set only, when the Director informed me and the other Steadicam Op that we would be shooting the entire 6 hour festival. We talked him into rotating us for the first 4 bands, and we both would shoot the last 2.

It was still brutal in 95 degree heat, but the Klassen harness was key. Again, lightweight broadcast HD cameras, so not a lot of weight, but as much rig time as 2 - 3 good days on a feature.

I'm always amazed sometimes how little forethought goes into carving out some real estate for Steadicam. We could do so much more with a little more freedom to move. Like you said, you pick your battles and do your best.
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#9 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 10:14 PM

I opted to use the RED brick as it packs more watt hours than the Dionics (until the HC arrives after NAB)



Actually the HC Batteries are 85WH the Dionics are 90. The HC's deliver more CURRENT and higher protection loads than the Dionic 90's
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#10 Jeff Muhlstock SOC

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Posted 15 April 2009 - 10:39 PM

[Attached File  Red.jpg   138.01KB   173 downloads

Hey Charles, good info, thanks! Here is a picture of my Red set up from a Neil Diamond show I did last year. Mine was far from light. I should have used my running rig, and the Red zoom lens wasn't available at the time. Also, it would have been better with one less BFD box and an HD monitor would eliminate the downconverter. Also note the scratch track mic... Its still a bit clunky for this kind of work, nothing beats the Sony 1500 for concert work, its a fraction of the weight. Unless the concert is going to the big screen, I don't see a good reason to shoot Red in that environment. I bet they are posting in 4:2:2 anyway... I am avoiding these kind of gigs, been there, done it, to heavy for a marathon. Maybe with Janice's "legway"... joking....

cheers
Jeff
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#11 Charles Papert

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 12:46 AM

I opted to use the RED brick as it packs more watt hours than the Dionics (until the HC arrives after NAB)



Actually the HC Batteries are 85WH the Dionics are 90. The HC's deliver more CURRENT and higher protection loads than the Dionic 90's


Good correction Eric, I didn't proofread that part properly. Current is what HD cameras are all about, power-sucking little weasels that they are.
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#12 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 12:57 AM

I opted to use the RED brick as it packs more watt hours than the Dionics (until the HC arrives after NAB)



Actually the HC Batteries are 85WH the Dionics are 90. The HC's deliver more CURRENT and higher protection loads than the Dionic 90's


Good correction Eric, I didn't proofread that part properly. Current is what HD cameras are all about, power-sucking little weasels that they are.



Since I'm usually in HD Hell I care about current, you could say I'm passionate about current. Aw hell I hate the current generation of HD cameras
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#13 Charles Papert

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 01:01 AM

Yeah, someday we'll look back at this and laugh. Just like we laugh about BL4's and Gold conversions. Are we laughing about those? Maybe not.
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#14 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 01:04 AM

Yeah, someday we'll look back at this and laugh. Just like we laugh about BL4's and Gold conversions. Are we laughing about those? Maybe not.



Nope, we are flying them, only now they have new names, F23, F35, Genesis....
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#15 Martin Hawkes

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Posted 15 June 2009 - 03:09 AM

The sad news came down that I was not going to be allowed on stage other than an 8 foot square to the side of the drums, behind a huge stack of amps that I couldn't even see over (no short jokes, please) and thus I would be banished to the barricade along with a handheld camera.


Hi Charles,

What a mistake not to give you some priority on stage. They really lost out on some amazing footage where the viewer can get a feel of what its like to be onstage. Sounds like the production company weren´t getting across what they were going for to the band and management.

Look forward to see some of it.

All the best,

Martin
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