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Old October 6th, 2007, 09:39 AM   #1
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Stabilization for narrative film

I make short films with a Canon XH-A1. I have a basic tripod, but I'm looking for a bit more camera movement in my films. What sort of stabilization is typical for narrative films? Shoulder-mounted? Steadycam rig? Monopod? I know all of these are used, but I'm looking for an investment that will see the most use in my films, and instigate the most change to my filming style. I'm currently leaning toward a shoulder-mounted solution like the spiderbrace, but I thought I'd look for some input from other narrative filmmakers to see what they're doing.

Thanks.
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Old October 6th, 2007, 11:08 AM   #2
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How about a dolly?


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Old October 6th, 2007, 11:27 AM   #3
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How about a dolly?


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Yep, a dolly gives you more bang for buck. You could get a pretty good platform dolly, perhaps even with some track, for less than a good small Steadicam rig.
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Old October 6th, 2007, 01:55 PM   #4
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I have picked up a steadycam sled and arm/vest, spider dolly, jib tripod with wheels, monopods, shoulder brace, steadystick, sled without arm/vest, and can say that if I had to use only one for the most versatility it would likely be the dolly. Make sure you get one that can handle straight and curved and its great!

the steadycam is great but its not as steady as a dolly, it is more versatile in where it can go however and while setup is not instant it is usually faster than a track setup and dolly. A tripod is great but a good dolly can substitute if needed, and many lower ones have a tripod as the main device anyway so you have both. Wheels in a tripod I have found basically useless for smooth video on anything but very wide shots. A monopod is really only worthwhile for standing shots where a tripod cannot be used. The shoulder brace is great but again limiting in that its mainly a high viewpoint and not as steady as one would hope. The steadystick is great in conjunction with the shoulderbrace in that it helps take the weight off but only when you are standing still otherwise it is actually counter productive since as you move your hip movement goes straight to the camera which is worse than straight handholding. A jib/crane is great especially in conjunction with a tripod/dolly setup, but very large and cumbersome to set up and not as easy to use as the other options especially in any tight location.

So bang for buck a dolly!

So far bang for buck in dolly's I went with a spider dolly, but was also impressed with a indiedolly and microdolly.

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Old October 10th, 2007, 09:39 PM   #5
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I would say go for a shoulder mount - but that's because I love the freedom of working handheld.
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Old October 24th, 2007, 10:00 AM   #6
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Thanks for the recommendations. I'll definitely look into getting a dolly system eventually, but it seems like a dolly would only be useful for certain specific shots. Do you all use a dolly on a large percentage of your shots?

Here's a clip to a scene from the movie "Go" (which is an awesome movie that I recommend to everyone for viewing):

http://duffx.com/videos/random/gosample.wmv

Are the shots in this sample handheld, shoulder-mounted, or what? I like the free-floating style of it.

I've also been looking at the multirig pro, since it seems to be one of the more versatile cheaper systems. I see a lot of people using it for location work, but is anyone using a setup like this for narrative film?
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Old October 25th, 2007, 08:57 AM   #7
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Go was shot handheld. Getting that look with a light handicam is difficult. The problem with the multirig is that it takes your hands off the camera.
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Old October 27th, 2007, 03:28 PM   #8
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What you use for a film depends on the story and how you want to tell it. For most narrative drama films a dolly generally gets used for the tracking type camera moves - you almost have to justify using anything else in story telling terms. It takes more time to set up etc., but that's what film making is often about, not taking the easy way out.

On dramas the dolly also usually gets used as a tripod, just a quick way of setting up the camera: it's handy with the larger film & video cameras. However, with lighter cameras that's not an issue and the dolly you can afford won't have the same control in setting the camera height

Basically, you decide how to want to move your camera when you've got your script.
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Old October 28th, 2007, 10:52 AM   #9
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The movies I'm currently making are short comedy films. Essentially I'm just looking to shoot and edit for transparency so as to not distract from the script. Nothing fancy -- just something that follows the characters without calling attention to itself.
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Old October 28th, 2007, 03:45 PM   #10
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The movies I'm currently making are short comedy films. Essentially I'm just looking to shoot and edit for transparency so as to not distract from the script. Nothing fancy -- just something that follows the characters without calling attention to itself.
In that case I'd get a dolly, your camera moves won't attract attention.

If it was in documentary style or an action movie hand held would work. Also if you want to shoot in the style of something like "The Office", which has a knowing feel about it.
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Old October 30th, 2007, 12:20 PM   #11
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there is no such thing as a style which will never attract attention away from the script. A tripod probably comes closest to "blue shirt & khaki pants". If you want to be inconspicuous you need to specify a genre and then follow the appropriate conventions.
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Old November 1st, 2007, 11:28 PM   #12
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there is no such thing as a style which will never attract attention away from the script. A tripod probably comes closest to "blue shirt & khaki pants". If you want to be inconspicuous you need to specify a genre and then follow the appropriate conventions.
The genre is almost exclusively comedy.
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Old November 2nd, 2007, 05:11 AM   #13
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If you don't want to draw attention, don't do camera moves which aren't motivated by the action and that includes pans and tilts on the tripod. Basically, let the actors use of space and the telling of the story motivate how you use the camera.
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Old November 2nd, 2007, 07:22 AM   #14
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Go was shot handheld. Getting that look with a light handicam is difficult. The problem with the multirig is that it takes your hands off the camera.
The multirig will work to achieve the look you want on smaller cameras.
It will help to keep the camera up at shoulder height and will get rid of the twisting high frequency wobble that smaller cameras get when you have to hug them to hold them still.

It doesn't need two hands to operate it, here's how to use it with one hand (right only)

Use it over the shoulder with the right arm, spin round the front arm to use as the right arm, fold the left arm up and out of the way. You can now use your left hand on the camera controls. The rig will take the weight of the camera. I would recommend a good Lanc controller for you right hand to control the zoom and recording.
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Old November 2nd, 2007, 11:04 AM   #15
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James - "comedy" is not specific enough. I guess maybe "style" is what you need to decide on as well as genre. If you want the contemporary hand-held look - Go, Bourne series (first one directed by the guy who directed Go), Borat, Babel, Children of men etc etc you have to shoot handheld.

The look of steadicam can sometimes duplicate dolly - but they are both very different to handheld.
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