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Old August 22nd, 2006, 10:46 AM   #16
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Inside The Steadicam Workshop Class

The business of 2nd Unit is to separate the wheat from the chafe so to speak and help the independent filmmaker get the most for his or her buck. Such was the case here where last weekend, Paolo was sent to the Steadicam school by Tiffen, a major sponsor of 2nd Unit which, if I may boast a little, really understands the value of 2nd Unit. In addition to all the other support we receive from them, as owners of the Steadicam, they are providing us with a complete unit and sent one of our guys to school last weekend which, as I found out, is an indispensible tool if you're going to have success with the Steadicam shots. Here then is the e-mail I received from Paolo today who took the class and reflects on it...uncut and uncensored. It is what it is.

Jonathan-
So the class ended with a great array of exercises, from the outdoor shoot that you saw, to some scenes that we tried inside with switches while filming and movements to follow the "actors" as they sit down/get up, walk toward you etc.

The Steadicam can do miracles but there is no way you can master it without the workshop. Or, to be more precise, there is, but you probably don't want to spend 10 years just tring to figure out what people know nowadays. Keep in mind that the acceptable standards have evolved since the first shoot on "The Shining". What we expect today from the Steadicam is shots that are almost as smooth as dolly shots but with the added flexibility of going around tight corners, something that you cannot do even with a careful planning of dolly tracks.

Peter is clearly a master, not only in using the device but also in designing the shots and it was a pure pleasure to see a pro at work.

One of the attendees, Tom, told me that he worked for about 12 years as camera operator with George Dibie. At the end of the class we all took a test. The test was a planned shot that we all had to learn and execute. We had one walk-through and one chance to do it. We taped all shoots and then watched the tape all together. Equal level of embarrassment for all :)
Actually Tom commented very positively on my shot and I have to say that it was, surprisingly, one of the "cleanest" of the series, something that makes me feel pretty good since all the other attendees have a lot of experience. Framing and horizon where there.

It's pretty clear though that no matter how much experience you have as a cameraman, when you are overwhelmed by the multitude of things that you need to control with the Steadicam, even the pro gets the subject out of frame, looses the horizon etc. It was fun but quite the humbling experience for all of us.
My take on this is, if I had to pay $500 of my own money for it, I would have felt that that was one of my best investments in my ongoing career as a filmmaker. The 2-day workshop should be a required class for every DP, cameraman and director. Just to understand what the Steadicam can do and to give you a clear appreciation for the amazing skills that a master Steadicam operator has.

The Peter to whom he refers is Peter Abraham who is a master Steadicam operator with tons of professional camerawork for big name studios under his belt. If you're considering using the Steadicam, consider investing in his class. Our take on the issue is this; With tons of inexpensive HD cameras on the market, everyone is a filmmaker these days. Your film needs something to really set it apart from the rest. That unit, the shots you get with it and your experience after the class will separate your film from the masses so quickly it'll make your head spin...literally.

Peter Abraham
The Steadicam Workshops
6 Lake Street - Box 164
Monroe New York 10950
917-453-1219

http://www.TheSteadicamWorkshops.com
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Old August 22nd, 2006, 12:36 PM   #17
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Wow, just when I was thinking about posting something about my Steadicam experience, Jonathan beats me to it.

One thing that I'd like to add is about cost considerations for the budget-conscious filmmaker. I know that there are other solutions out there and in fact, during Cinegear, Jonathan and I tested some Steadicam competitors. It was good to have two days to use the Steadicam and to talk with Peter, since he is one of the contributors to the design of the Flyer. There is much more to the final product than the stabilizing elements. Tiffen's Steadicam is a system that includes many components and it's designed to be used in several different situations. The placement of the monitor, battery pack, the routing of the cables, the electronics used to power the camera (above), from the battery pack placed below, the adjustment of the arm at the vest (forward/backward and side-to-side), all these elements determine if you'll be working or fighting with the gear. As mentioned in my email, the Steadicam can be very challenging. I asked Peter how long it takes to become proficient. His answer was: "if you practice one hour every day, in two months you'll be mediocre". You don't want to add problems to this. You don't want a sub-standard system that makes you kick the battery, doesn't have the right adjustment for the arm or that drops the gimbal when you do whip the camera side-to-side (it all happened with other systems).
The Flyer, usable with most of HDV cameras and some 35mm Arris, is priced competitively and Tiffen offers financing. You can easily get $250.00 a day for the rental of the gear when you get hired as a Steadicam operator. The original Steadicam is the one device that was awarded a full Oscar as one of the technological breakthrough in motion pictures.
All these elements, to me, make the original Steadicam the only candidate for a stabilizing system. If I had to buy one I would do all I can do to get the one and only Steadicam. I know I sound like a commercial but, people who know me know that I don't endorse poducts that I don't like. It's just that I think that a Steadicam system, like a good matte box, will serve you for years ahead and it will add so much to your video/film vocabulary that you'll wonder why you didn't make the investement before.

I was so impressed by what the Steadicam can do that I would love to shoot an entire feature with it or at least 90% of the scenes. When you master it you can land to a lock off position that is as good as a tripod with maybe just enough dynamic tension to look more interesting.
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Old September 1st, 2006, 02:47 PM   #18
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Fujinon Added as Sponsor

I know everyone loves Zeiss lenses and I must admit I like them as well but the fact of the matter is Fujinon makes some really great glass as well which is why we use so much of it on the JVCs. How proud am I then to be able to announce that Fujinon has come on board along with Sony providing its full array of prime lenses from 5mm to 20mm, to 2nd Unit for our upcoming docudrama El Papel. The primes will be fitted directly to the Pro35 which is fitted directly to the adapter ring which is finaly set to the new Sony F350. Principle photography for El Papel starts on October 1st and we'll be using Fuji glass on the 350s for the entire second season of 2nd Unit which starts shooting next week after the long 3-day weekend. On behalf of our entire cast and crew, thank you Fujinon for your belief in the future of independent production and trusting 2nd Unit's commitment to the 150,000 independent filmmakers who call dvinfo.net and other forums home. Your glass will make a big difference in the quality of our productions and enable us to better explain how important good glass is to good production.
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Old September 7th, 2006, 06:58 PM   #19
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Say Hello tyo DA IRY

One of the reasons we put this site together and keep the team going which, with the number of people wanting to get on the crew is fairly easy, is the caliber of people we get. Meet DA IRY (everyone on the crew at some time gets a nickname). He's a graduate of the University of Kentucky School of Film and here to make his mark. On his own he shot some sidefilm and edited a short piece together just for fun. And I thought it was great. Welcome to the team DA-IRY. Welcome to the team. You're on for the docudrama if you want the shot. Why? Simnple. Initiative. Yeah, you know what you're doing but initiative is the main reason. You really like what you do, we're going after an Emmy with this production and you'll be a great addition to a team you fit right into already. So, say the word and the shot is yours.

http://www.mushyproductions.com/gall.../2ndunitvo.mov
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Old September 8th, 2006, 10:59 AM   #20
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Episode 10 is out!

Mission Impossible 3, Domino, The Skeleton Key, Pleasantville, Shanghai Noon, Indipendence Day and many, many more. Bruce McCleery, gaffer and cinematographer, has worked on all these movies. As you can guess, he's a very busy man but, as it happened with other Hollywood pros, Bruce has donated generously his time to sit down with "2nd Unit" and freely talk about what it takes to work professionally in the movie industry.

Here it is, not your moment of Zen, but the first part of Bruce's interview: http://www.2nd-unit.tv. Part 2 will be posted next Friday.
Enjoy!
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Old September 8th, 2006, 12:41 PM   #21
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Another great job, guys! Keep it up!
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Old September 10th, 2006, 09:08 AM   #22
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thanks for the nice thread Jonathan.
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Old September 16th, 2006, 08:45 AM   #23
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Busy Times for 2nd Unti

Sorry for the "No Posting" time but these are eceptionally busy times for 2nd Unit. We've had to deal with Amsterdam, gearing for the Second Season of 2nd Unit, the upcoming docudrama and working a joint venture with IFF. But by far the most time consuming is the growth. So, by Monday, everyone will be back in the saddle and up and running. Paolo, though, has been consistent in weekly episodes on www.2ndUnit.tv with Episode 11 now available and we'll have the filter deal worked out with Tiffen that I know a few of you are waiting for. It's nice to know we were missed!!!
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Old September 16th, 2006, 10:38 AM   #24
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Episode 11 is out!

Hi.

Part 2 of the interview with Bruce McCleery is out! Bruce shares even more experiences about shooting great movies like Pleasantville, Domino, The skeleton key. His explanation of changing key lights is simply an eye opener.
To play the interview simply clock on "Current episode" and, if you want to watch part 1, click on the "Past episodes" page and scroll to the bottom.

Enjoy!
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Old September 16th, 2006, 04:06 PM   #25
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Well look how far you guys had come from the dream of 2nd unit to many more seasons and a docudrama and lets not forget the champion shooting shows. Its great to watch you guys grow.
And for Paolo, my hats off to you for all the hard work you have put in on 2nd unit and that goes for ALL THE CREW.
My truck is gassed up, camera loaded and I am ready for a call to come on down and help. I would just drive over but not sure where to go or hook up with you guys.
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Old September 16th, 2006, 05:23 PM   #26
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Thank you Joe, all the people in the crew work hard and yes, it's pretty amazing to look back and see what happened in the such short time. Proof that when you put all your energy and passion into something you can achieve a lot.

Hope to see you soon on the set of "2nd Unit"
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Old September 18th, 2006, 10:28 AM   #27
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New Filter Sets Available at Deep Discount Part 1

In conjunction with Tiffen Filters, 2nd Unit has put together a few Filter Sets that will enable the cinematographer to better control the images created with today’s advanced technology-laden cameras. The initial set described here is designed to enable your basic control over images entering the lens and successive sets are specific to your task and shooting requirement.

Foundation Kit
While most kits begin by including a clear filter, the 2nd Unit kit doesn’t because, well, it’s not a filter; that is, it really doesn’t do anything other than filter out hard objects from your soft glass lens. In short, we just assume that you have already taken the precautions necessary to protect your lens surface from scratches and other damage that occur in everyday life. Why lens manufacturers don’t include clear covers has always been a curiosity to me because protecting your $3k to $30k investment with $30 piece of glass seems so basic. Now, that said, there’s a lot more to glass than “clear” and while you can certainly get “protection” from a $5 glass cover, that doesn’t mean you can shoot through it. All glass isn’t created equally so when you’re selecting that clear protector, make sure it adds nothing to your subject image; no color, no distortion, no nothing. Tiffen’s glass has been the Hollywood standard for more than 60-years which is why 2nd Unit uses it in all of our productions. They use the same clear glass for their protectors that they use for every one of their award-winning filters so we can be sure that, when the scene calls for no filtration, leaving the Tiffen protector on has no impact on the image. Just remember to remove the clear protector when adding a true filter.

Figuring you already have a clear filter, the basic 2nd Unit kit is comprised of three filters. because at the foundation level, your concern should be generally controlling the amount and quality of light that comes into your camera thus allowing for continuity across shots.

Polarizing Filter
1) These filters, which are either circular or linear depending on whether you have a newer “automatic” or older “manual” type lens, are the Swiss Army knives of the cinematographer’s tool kit. This is because they don’t just do one thing but a few things and they all have to do with how we perceive objects. First, we don’t so much “see” an object as we do observe the light waves that are reflected from it. Thus, an image, as we perceive it, is the product of light waves reflected from the object and each object absorbs some light waves and reflects others. By removing errant light waves or reflected light waves that are not parallel to each other and thus don’t fully contribute to our perception of that image, we are able to perceive the image more clearly. Some of these errant light waves are responsible for things like “glare” so using a filter that eliminates these errant light waves eliminates the glare. This removal which is most notable when shooting things like the sky and most pronounced when shooting reflective surfaces like water and glass also deepens the colors and enhances the entire visual experience.
2) The filter also reduces the amount of light entering the camera by 1.5 to 2 stops and so the polarizer acts like an additional Neutral Density (ND) filter. All lenses have a “sweet spot” or a usable gamut of stops within which the camera records the best possible images. This is despite the fact that the shooter can record images when their lens is showing “16” on one end or “1.4” on the other. Staying in the sweet spot results in better tonal images so having a filter that enables the shooter to keep the image in the sweet spot results in better images.

The 812 Warming Filter
While many people think warming filters are all the same, THEY ARE NOT. Typically used for scenic, portrait, travel and to improve the color rendition of different brands of lenses, they come in a number of varying strengths and tonal qualities. Further, they affect different lenses differently so if you’re not using a consistent set of lenses like the Fujinon set of primes, and are mixing say a Canon zoom and a Fuji prime, you’re going to see different colors.

The filter does exactly what it says it does and that is ads a warming color to the scene, especially skin tones which is beneficial when adjusting for overcast days. As some people say, it gives your shots that “California look”. Further, the filter absorbs blue light so shots requiring flash in still photography for example appear more natural. As we’re more concerned with moving pictures, this characteristic allows dark-skinned characters to lose that bluish tone top their shin and, in Hi-Def, this cast is apparent not only with Afro-Americans but Hispanic, Indian and other dark skin tones as well.

While you may think that the skin tone aspect of the filter is the most important, it’s not. Independent filmmakers typically shoot when and where they can and their budget allows. This translates, more times than not, into a continuity problem. You may be shooting one day and it’s bright and sunny and the next opportunity you have it’s overcast. Even though you may not be shooting against the sky providing a physical reference, the tonal qualities of the light surrounding your subject have changed and thus the mood and overall tone of the shot. This is where the 812 comes in. The 812 is a mild warming filters which means there are intensities above and below this line. However remember, we’re building a base filter kit here to address the basic filmmaking needs and the 812 is a perfect balance for most shots. Finally, a word to the wise. While Tiffen manufactures a line of filters that combine their ProMist for example with an 812 into one filter, these are specialty filters and thus are used when you’d like to use both filters at once. This is a luxury available only after you’ve built a kit and need to combine filters to save space in your matte box. Typically matte boxes have two slots to hold filters. If you need three, you’re in trouble. By combining the 812 with another filter, you get a 2-fer filter and thus can slip the third filter into the second slot. If you’re creating complex shots like this, you’re way past the basic level in filters anyway so you’ve already got the basic kit we’re describing here. So stick to the basics for now and add an 812 to your tool chest. You’ll use it more times than you know.

See Part 2 Next

Last edited by Jonathan Ames; September 18th, 2006 at 10:54 PM.
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Old September 25th, 2006, 08:25 AM   #28
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Steadicam workshop at Birns & Sawyer

Hollywood. The word that is recognized all around the world as the capital of movie-making. In Hollywood, Birns & Sawyer is a well recognized name in the entertainment industry. Founded more than 50 years ago, Birns & Sawyer has been a staple of the industry, visited by scores of professional cinematographers, including members of the ASC. The reason? Very simple. Birns & Sawyer doesn't simply rent or sell the equipment. They help you figure out how a given camera can work for your next feature. The people at the store will guide you through camera tests, help you achieve a special look in camera, etc. And when you're done, you can see your footage on a 2k HD monitor.

But it doesn't end there. Birns & Sawyer provides professional, accredited training at their facilities. An example has been a two-day Steadicam workshop given by Master Steadicam Operator Peter Abraham. Peter learned the craft from the inventor of the Steadicam himself, Garrett Brown, and applied his mastery to endless features, including high profile projects like "Sex & the City" and "The Sopranos" as well as live events including the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, and hundreds of commercials and music videos. His work has been nominated for 4 Emmy Awards. Pretty cool that Birns & Sawyer can bring this kind of talent into their store for demos and classes. The workshop is taught in two days and it's worth every penny. I tried to use the Steadicam on my own on Episode 10 (“Fisher Lights”), and not only it was a near-disaster but my back killed me! After taking the workshop I finally understood the nature of the device and my Steadicam shots improved dramatically. Thanks to Tiffen for sponsoring the "2nd Unit" training, and to Peter Abraham for being such a dedicated teacher.

Anyway, before the workshop we had the fortune to sit down with Steve Tobenkin, COO and General Manager of Birns & Sawyer. Steve helped us understand the services that his company provides to the industry and how Birns & Sawyer helps cinematographers, from the no-budget indie to the established professional, achieve their cinematic goals.

These are the topics covered by Episode 12, available now at the "2nd Unit" website.

Enjoy!
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Old October 13th, 2006, 11:22 PM   #29
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El Papel Kicks off at Birns and Sawyer Oct 25th

We're about to start El Papel and I wanted to drop a short note to the viewers who hit this forum and our website downloading thousands of episodes every week. You and your support have made El Papel possible and I wanted to thank you all. We're looing forward to another great season in Season 2 and the El Papel production as well and will keep you all up to date on it's progress. I'll be posting all about the production as it occurs here so stay tuned. it all kicks off Wednesday the 25th at Birns and Sawyer where Geprge Spiro Dibie, Sony and I will be talking about why we selected the new F350 instead of the 900 series and how we're using them in conjunction with Fujinon's glass including the George Lucas 10X10 and a great set of primes. Chuck Lee of Fujinon was going to be there but he won't be in LA until the 26th so the three of us will have to do. I truly hope that the readers of 2nd Unit and this forum in LA and Sounthern California will stop by and say hi. It'll be fun and loaded with alot of informative discussions.
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Old October 14th, 2006, 11:28 AM   #30
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Congrats, Jonathan. I'm sure that El Papel will be a great hit!

Keep us updated!
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