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Falling Down

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#1 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 06:17 PM

I know its a bit touchy of a topic but it seems like if you push yourself it is bound to happen to most ops sooner or later.

I was on a show recently where I fell. Luckily the majority of the damage that occurred was to my ego. The shot where it happened I was running while doing linear tracking(tango) following a little girl as she ran across a field. Turns out the grass was a little wetter and muddier than I thought and the girl was running a whole lot faster than expected. I didn't really trip as much as I lost traction and the sled kept going while I didn't. Once the weight got out in front of me with the momentum I had, going down was inevitable. As far as I can tell I landed on my knees and my sled landed on the front of the battery rods before I turned it and laid it down on its side. The mag popped off the camera but it and everything attached to it was completely fine. I bowed out of the rig and got up with a bruised ego but no other damage. My battery rods were bent which I repaired with a block of wood and a hammer and my rig was up and running again in a matter of minutes. Later I figured out that one solder joint in a cable had also broken lose but that was an easy fix.

Thinking back on it linear tracking while running requires the sled to be further from your body than when running forward or backwards which contributed to this incident. If I hadn't hit a wet spot I would have been fine but in the future I will probably be a bit more careful about running while doing it with a heavier camera and long sled. Of course it was the first shot of the day on a show where I wasn't getting a whole lot of sleep so that probably played a small part as well.

So does anyone else want to share a falling down story and what you learned so that I don't feel like a fool all by myself?

I may look into getting some cleats for use when running on grass. I have some cleats for working on ice but they wouldn't work very well for grass.
Anyone out there using cleats for wet grass or other similar situations? What kind?

What do you take into consideration when doing running shots and deciding how fast you can go?

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#2 Imran Naqvi

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 06:46 PM

Hey I have no pride!

I've only fallen once, it was only my second job and it was my own fault.

It was a linear tracking shot with the actor about 20 feet to my left with some trees whipping by in the foreground. So far so good. I was shooting on an HDW750, can't remember the lens it was a zoom, but initially at least it was a mid-shot. My route involved avoiding some extremely low cut but still protruding tree stumps but I was confident I could get the shot.

We do the shot and the director says "Can we do that again but tighter?" So I ask how much and she gets me to zoom in to a tight MCU, to which I say "I don't think I can hold that" as the actor despite being asked to give me 3/4 speed went full pelt (as they always do!). She asked if I would try anyway.

So I take a breath and we go for it. I got about 15 seconds in, one of those tree stumps that wasn't a problem on the first pass gets me and I was falling before I had a chance to even think about it. Luckily the rig went down with the camera, side on, and the arm effectively cushioned my fall.

The director ran over thinking she killed me, apologised and agreed that it was a bad idea to have tried that. Thankfully whilst there was a little damage to the base of my EFP there was absolutely zero damage to the camera (It was brand new and one of the few 750's in the country at the time). She was so shaken up by it she wanted to move on straight away and we finished the day without incident.

What I learned was if I'm unhappy with the shot I say so, and if I think there's a chance of going over even after taking all precautions I say no.
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#3 RobVanGelder


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Posted 14 May 2009 - 12:49 AM

I might as well....

At this moment I am rebuilding my Steadicam Master into something completely different because of the fall I took 2 weeks ago.
This was actually AFTER the shooting.
I just finished a shoot in a very hot and humid pit, dug out in the Thai Jungle in Phuket. Shooting with a HDW750.
It was night and although the set (pit) was in light, the surroundings were not and basecamp was about 50 yards away from the set.
I knew there were roots and vines on the ground, some of them sticking out. I walked back with my rig to Basecamp in the near darkness, stepping cautiously, but could not avoid one vine that was sticking out for about 10-15 inch and caught me on one leg.

The crash broke my top plate, the post attachment to the base was bend and a camera filter broken. Otherwise everything was still good....
That was a sad day, all money earned (which was not that much) out of the window immediately!

When my new rig is finished I will post some pictures!
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#4 Matteo Quagliano

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 03:38 AM

Up to now I fall just one time and not while working but while practising running shot. no big damages, I was flying a DSR-D30 betacam with a canon 6.5 zoon on (around the same weight as 750), I broke the old NP1 battery mount (replaced with V-lock much much better) and the viewfinder (that I repair myself with a LOT of patience).
It was a very very strange feeling, it was a couple months or so that I was on the rig and I decided to start running, no path no actor, just running with the camera infront as if I was chasing someone. Stupidly I decided to do it in a winter day so I didn't have the right shoes too. And I fall. Just a very very little stumble (that walking with rig or running without you wouldn't even notice or think as a danger) and 4 steps after I was hitting the grond with my base and my knee. The strangeness of the feeling was that at first you think you still can do something, I mean you realize you're falling, but then you just realize there's nothing you can do then falling, the rig so out of you just take you down, no matter what you do or think, it takes you down... and what a long time it takes to take you down, that was the most particular thing about falling down while running, the incredible amount of time passed from the sec I realized I was falling and the time I was hitting the ground... very odd.

my experience

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#5 Martin Stacey

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 04:48 AM

What I learned was if I'm unhappy with the shot I say so, and if I think there's a chance of going over even after taking all precautions I say no.

While I have been lucky enough not to go over yet I managed to dodge the bullet in a big way last year. I was on a one shot music video with my AR and we were shooting in multi-level car parking building travelling up the ramps from the 3rd to 9th rooftop level with a final sprint across the roof to a stage that was setup at the far end. This in itself while tiring wasn't the issue, it was the fact that there was a fire breather on the roof who had knocked over their bottle of kerosene onto the painted concrete. Once again not a major problem to cleanup but the fire marshall on the shoot decided it would be a good idea to just hose it down. This effectively turned the roof into one giant oil slick that I was expected to run through and we were due to shoot in 15 mins time after dusk.
I was down on the 2nd floor prepping my rig when, to the director's credit he called down to me that there was a problem on the roof and he'd like my opinion. I think my exact words were "No f***ing way... Clean it up!!!!", which put the shoot an hour behind schedule as 150 extras got on their hands and knees with 200 empty pizza boxes, which was the only thing even slighty absorbent available, soaking up the kerosene and water combination on the roof. (I only wish I'd had my camera on me as it was the strangest sight).
At the end of the day we got the shot and the director was happy but my point is that you shouldn't be afraid to say "no" as most directors will understand when you explain that it is not safe for either you or the equipment. Never be afraid to point out that someone is going to be responsible for your income while you spend the next few months recuperating from the potential injury caused by a fall. And as for directors that won't accept that? Ask yourself if you are you sure that they are the sort of people that you want to be working for?



Edited by Martin Stacey, 14 May 2009 - 04:52 AM.

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#6 Charles Papert

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 06:37 AM

The number one rule of preventing falls is to scout the exact path of your run without the rig on. The few times I have gone down (knock on wood, it's been a while) have been the direct result of not having done this and being "surprised"; once on a grassy lawn that had a hidden sinkhole, once by a large rock, another time on a slick manhole cover. I will also mention that I didn't have a spotter on any of those occasions that I remember. The spotter part is a personal choice, some feel that they will get in the way/drag them down etc. but everyone agrees on inspecting the path.

Running with a Steadicam is serious business. People have hurt themselves. There is that rule of thumb about saving 10% of your top speed to keep things in control. And as Jess notes, having the rig pointed sideways and thus all of the weight is in front of you is prone to this sort of thing--as soon as you pitch forward, the rig pulls you down.
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#7 RodCrombie



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Posted 14 May 2009 - 04:34 PM

Hi Jess
Well over the last couple of decades I've fallen 4 times. First time was running up a set of stairs onto a stage and because iwas looking at the monitor thought I was further than I was and put a foot where a stair riser would be but wasn't. Skinned my leg snapped the lens off the Betacam, broke my monitor mount on the 2A and my ego dropped through the floor. Oh yes all of this in front of a couple of thousand concert goers. Second time chasing the actor across a field, (I was the vampire bat or some such thing), he is supposed to fall and I'm supposed to drive the lens "into" his neck. 3 takes no problem as we worked out how he would fall and how I would miss stepping on him. Take 4 he lands differently and I have to do a fancy 2 step to avoid his family jewels. Throw the rig sideways, snap the mag off and bend the eye piece. Third time walking backwards at a good clip. Spotter trips on slightly raised manhole lid. I step on spotter's foot. He now stops moving, I continue to walk up his leg and then sit on him. No damage other than grip's ego. Last time running through battle sequence and "dying" soldier decides to die before the camera gets to him. I trip over him no damage to rig or me. Soldier, (he really was one), goes to hospital because of dislocated hip from me falling on him.
So those are my stories. I use spotters but always warn them that I'm faster than they think, so be ready for it.
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#8 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 10:52 PM

Talk about rehashing old wounds, I guess I will never be free of it . . . .LOL . . .


Ya . . . . Thanks Jess

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#9 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 11:30 PM

I remember reading that thread a while back. Definitely a memorable story. Atleast you can say that youve done underwater steadicam :-)

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#10 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 15 May 2009 - 12:12 AM

I was always told it was a matter of when, not if, so when I took my first fall it was a lump on the head and bruised ego. The second time it was a lump on the head and huge bruise above my knee; another two inches down and it would have been a broken patella. Luckily no broken rig or camera parts but the second one was enough to draw blood.

Both instances were due to Camera Utilities who had very little if any Steadicam utility experience. I do a good bit of live work and love it, but now I'm extremely particular about who the utility is and have a list of the guys that cover your a** no matter what; those guys are worth their weight in gold!

Keepin' it right side up!
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#11 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 15 May 2009 - 01:24 AM

Anyone out there using cleats for wet grass or other similar situations? What kind?


I did a music video a few years ago and was surprised by the fact that they were intentionally creating mud on a football field where we were shooting. Sure enough they expected running shots and everything else through the mud. I wasn't informed about this ahead of time and obviously hadn't planned on this, but managed until lunch when I sent a PA to the sporting goods store to buy me a pair of football cleats. It was like night and day, and I felt much more stable and much safer. I don't think it matters what kind of cleats you have, you just need some kind of shoe with spikes. There was a slight learning curve, as there is no give at all when stopping, it's more abrupt, but it's much better than sliding two feet every time you attempt to come to a stop.

I've yet to have a fall, and don't plan on doing it anytime soon, although I've come close on quite a few occasions!
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#12 benedictspence


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Posted 15 May 2009 - 06:49 AM

It's like an AA meeting in here,

My name is Ben Spence and I've fallen over with my rig on. Twice in 6 years infact.

The most recent time was only 2 months ago, the first take on the first show of the first day of 6 weeks of kids TV! It was a run up some stairs onto the stage to bring the presenters on, a move across the stage as they come running on and then back down the stairs at the other end. I knew on the rehersal day that it was a little tricky- the stairs were facing the wrong way onto the stage so I'd go up them and then quickly reverse my direction to do the move across the stage. I could feel during the rehersals that I was pushing myself a little too fast but being a new show I didn't want to say 'no'. I started taking a little short cut at the top of the stairs for a smoother transition- the director liked it but I didn't; should have said something!

Anyway, first take infront of 150 kids I run up the stairs and my shortcut means I catch my foot and I kind of stop but the sled keeps going. Camera and sled hit the stage on their side, about as good as a hit could have got- the force evenly distributed so very luckily nothing was damaged. I got my right hand out in time so I had a small graze on my shin and the usual bust ego but got up, reset and went right back into it. I asked them to swap the stairs round for the next morning!

Again, the key lession was I should have listened to my instinct and said no when it felt dangerous, even something as simple as a walk-on on stage can end badly if you push it the wrong way. The funniest thing was that at the end of the day, even though I was beating myself up about it for hours, eveyone else had totally forgotten about it!

The other time I fell over was in a very dark strip club running around with a very bright ringlight and a step which I couldn't see, but I was pretty distracted so it wasn't my fault that time. Although infront of a club full of dancers it was probably the most embarressed I've ever been.

I'd like to repeat: "Fly Safe"

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#13 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 16 May 2009 - 01:24 PM

11 years operating and I can't even count how many times I've fallen. I've gone down on rollerblades going backwards down a parking garage, running through a park in low mode with an Arri3 (snapped the mag and lense right off) and a bunch of other times in various configerations. In fact, I fell on Tuesday, just a simple backwards pull and my heel caught a root and down I went.

I think it matters not so much how often or if you fall but how you land. My general rule is that the grip (or grips if I'm on rollerblades) always try and save the rig. That's not because I'm cool and I dont care about myself but by saving the rig, they stop the gravity from kicking my but. I take a little digger and were all good. If you have ever had a grip try and stop you once you start to fall, you will know it's pretty much impossible. You add the 50lbs of the rig to your say 180lb frame and throw it backwards about 2 feet from your body and it's a frickin lot of mass going down.

I like knee pads for certain stuff and gloves and some times a helmet (I wear one when I'm on blades but I've never actually needed it). I have even told production before I did a shot that there was a decent chance I would go down and that knowbody should freak out if I did. One director/stunt cordinator I work with alot is so used to seeing me go down that he doesn't even ask if I'm ok, he just sais, "back to one" and we go about our day.

Aside from having grips that you know and are comfortable working with you, my biggest advice is to know yourself. Know what your body does when you start to fall, know how you land, how you react and if you doing something that is too dangerous for you as an operator.
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