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Old April 7th, 2003, 08:04 AM   #1
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Big Wheel shots in The Shining

Anyone have any idea how they shot the scenes where they follow Danny around the hotel hallways as he trucks around on his Big Wheel bike? Considering the sharp corners, they seem really flat and smooth. You don't see a wide-sweeping turn as the camera follows him around sharp corners as you'd expect with a dolly...or even a wheelchair.

Any ideas?
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Old April 7th, 2003, 08:13 AM   #2
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John, they were done with a steadicam i imagine, front what i remember but this was a LONG time ago, but we studied those scenes at uni.

I believe they were shot upside down, then of course changed in post, so essentially the weighs of the steadicam were on top and the camera was at the bottom and a lot of stuffing around with the rig was had.

Also all the sound was of course put in, in post, and i believe they did around 40 takes until they got it right, with poor old garrath on his steadicam running after the kid.

Zac

ps. The Shining, marks the first major use of a steadicam in a feature film, it used it on a number of scenes, and i believe the operator was actually the founder/inventor of the steadicam.

The first film to ever use a steadicam was Rocky, the scene where he runs up the stairs.

And the first film to use a steadicam as it's principal shooting method was Halloween, where it was used for around 80% of the shots in the movie.
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Old April 7th, 2003, 04:56 PM   #3
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Well, of course you knew I was going to weigh in on this one.

Kermie is right, Garrett Brown (the inventor of the Steadicam) operated much of the Steadicam work in "The Shining". He came over to England to train an operator, but once he saw the incredible sets that had been built (believe it or not, all of the interiors and the hedge maze exteriors as seen at night were all sets) and what Stanley K. wanted to do with the movie, he decided to stay on and work on it in person.

The Big Wheel shots were made in low mode, with the camera underslung off the Steadicam. This was the first time the Steadicam had been used in this mode, in fact the prototype of the Model 2 which allowed for this capability was used on the movie. Garrett hard-mounted the arm to a modified wheelchair as he discovered that it was too exhausting to do the shots on foot for as many takes as Kubrick desired. Then it was up to the grips to do the hard work of pushing him around. The shots were brilliant and had never before been seen, but to me that amazing sound design is what really sells the sequence. If you watch the great documentary at the end of the DVD of the movie, you can see Garrett riding the wheelchair rig through the kitchen set.

Garrett has said that during the course of "The Shining" he finally had a chance to develop the techniques that we use to this day. Prior to this movie, he had been doing mostly "stunt" shots; running, stairs etc. Stanley wanted to push the machine to the limits, see if it was possible to do truly finessed work that compared to a dolly. The results still stand up to this day. There are a great number of subtle Steadicam shots in the movie that are hard to detect, which is what we all strive for. Of course, the hedge maze sequence at the end is still a benchmark, not only for the great look but poor Garrett running through a foot of fake snow (salt and styrofoam), for days upon days.

There's a wonderful article in American Cinematographer that Garrett wrote about the project. I don't know if you can access their archives online, and I would be more than happy to post it, but of course copyright issues are what they are. Perhaps it is reprinted online somewhere.
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Old April 7th, 2003, 11:26 PM   #4
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Charles,

It had been ages since i studied it, i know for a fact he did try it on foot and there was a huge amount of takes, i didn't know they mounted it onto a seperate platform such as a wheelchair all together, you learn something new (and again) every day. :)

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Old April 12th, 2003, 12:09 AM   #5
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OK, it was too tempting to dig out my slightly dogeared but precious American Cinematographer August 1980 issue, here's some excerpts from Garrett's article.

"One of the most talked-about shots in the picture is the eerie tracking sequence which follows Danny as he pedals at high speed through corridor after corridor on his plastic "Big Wheel". The soundtrack explodes with noise when the wheel is on wooden flooring and is abruptly silent as it crosses over carpet. We needed to have the lens just a few inches from the floor and to travel rapidly just behind or ahead of the bike.

I tried it on foot and found that I was too winded after an entire three-minute take to even describe what sort of last rites I would prefer. Also, at those speeds I couldn't get the lens much lower than about 18 inches from the floor. We decided to mount the Steadicam arm on the Ron Ford wheelchair prototype that Stanley helped design years before and still had on hand...

The Steadicam arm was fastened to the Mitchell mount, and I could sit in the chair and easily trim the leveling head...with Stanley's [Arriflex] BL in the underslung mode we were now prepared to fly the camera smoothly over carpet or floor at high speed and with a lens height of anything down to one inch. The results, as can be seen, were spectacular. In addition, the whole rig wasn't so massive that it would be dangerous if the little boy made a wrong turn and we had to stop suddenly. Of course, we immediately constructed a platform so that the sound man and our ace focus-puller, Doug Milsome, could ride on the back.

Now the entire contraption got to be quite difficult on the high speed corners. Dennis [the key grip] had to enlist relays of runners to get us around the course. Finally we had an explosive tire blow-out and the chair "plummered in", barely avoiding a serious crash. Afterward we switched to solid tires and carried no more than two people.

Stanley [Kubrick] contemplated this arrangement and decided that the chair should have a super-accurate speedometer, and while we're at it so should the Moviola dolly and the Elemack. Then we could precisely repeat the speed of any traveling shot, etc. (More control over a capricious universe!) I was afraid that I would be lumbered with some kind of outboard wheel to precisely regulate my own speed, so I was happy that nothing came of this particular idea. (Although I would have enjoyed knowing how many miles I DIDN'T run because I had the wheelchair rig!)"


Meeting Garrett some 18 years ago, and getting to know him over the years of operating and teaching, has been truly a high point in my career. He is an utterly charming, engaging and brilliant chap, and has a wicked sense of humor. To see what else he has been up to after inventing the Steadicam (lots of other cool camera rigs), check out www.garrettcam.com.

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Old April 12th, 2003, 12:32 AM   #6
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Charles,

Since you are in the biz, is what they did then MUCH easier to do today?

I can imagine the steadicam or equiv rigs weigh a lot less, and i have seen demo's of even the glidecam v16 that can be swung while in use upside down and back...

You know what i hate about pioneers? they spoil it for the rest of us when we try and do something cool like that heh heh

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Old April 12th, 2003, 12:44 AM   #7
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Easier...in some ways:

There are many more practical options for sound cameras than the Arri BL available, lighter weight and better viewing (also the coaxial mags on the BL shift during the roll of the film). Still, many great shots including those in "Goodfellas" were made with BL's...

Camera bikes, souped-up electric golf cart-type vehicles (some that can travel in excess of 50 mph!), rickshaw rigs...there are many choices of platforms to mount a Steadicam to for high-speed traveling shots.

The rigs themselves don't weigh all that much less than the Model II Garrett flew on "The Shining", although there are lighter weight rigs available, and some of the high end rigs can be stripped down for lightweight work.

As far as instant inversion, no rig on the market allows the operator to invert during a shot while keeping the camera level. That is about to change within the next 12 months or so, which makes it the biggest news in Steadicam in many years. (currently, the result of flipping a rig, including the V-16, upside down is that the camera will also be upside down. For digital acquisition, this is a quick way to achieve low mode since one can just invert the image in post, but obviously not desirable for cine work. Regardless, the rig will have to be tweaked somewhat to achieve proper balance in the new configuration).
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Old April 13th, 2003, 03:41 PM   #8
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wow, this was super interesting.

I always admire steadicam work... mainly because like snooker, I'm only _ok_ at it, but to see it mastered is amazing.

thanks for sharing guys.
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Old April 14th, 2003, 03:43 AM   #9
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Indeed, very interesting...thanks for all the info, Charles.

I'd love to have seen Garrett and the wheelchair team in action, shooting those hallway scenes. Hats off to the sound man and focus puller, too.
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Old April 14th, 2003, 08:04 AM   #10
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Footage of same is sadly brief in the Vivan Kubrick documentary on the DVD, but the documentary on a whole is EXTREMELY interesting as a candid look at the behind-the-scenes dynamic with Stanley and the cast, particular when he berates Shelly Duvall who is seen in various stages of breakdown. I'm always blown away by a shot that follows the crew walking around a maze of plywood flats that eventually emerges into the actual maze as used for the climax of the film--seeing the artifice is wild when you are so familiar with the film itself.
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Old April 23rd, 2003, 09:39 AM   #11
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Charles,

I watched your stair shot in American History X and hats off to
you for that. Amazing shot! As you've pointed out earlier this
must have been quite difficult.
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Old April 24th, 2003, 02:53 AM   #12
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Thanks Rob--I think that single shot is my all-time hardest in the 18 years I've been hauling around the Device. Ugh.
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Old April 28th, 2003, 11:46 AM   #13
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<<<-- Originally posted by Zac Stein :
The first film to ever use a steadicam was Rocky, the scene where he runs up the stairs.>>>

Zac old boy, I missed this the first time around! It's all so academic, but duty binds me to set the record straight on the history of the Noble Instrument (as Garrett half-jokingly calls it):

The first feature film that the Steadicam was used in was "Bound for Glory", followed by "Marathon Man" and then "Rocky". This was shooting order, not positive of the release order but I think Marathon Man came out first. The rig Garrett used on "Bound for Glory" was still his prototype, with desk-lamp arm and all; by "Rocky" he had a prototype of the first production model called the "Steadicam 35". He can be spotted ringside in the last fight of the movie, walking around the perimeter of the ring wearing the Steadicam as well as a shockingly noticeable striped shirt.

By the time of the run-up-the-art-museum-steps scene in "Rocky", many of the kinks had been worked out of the rig, except that the extreme cold caused the onboard batteries to die. A car battery was pressed into service, and the DP himself ran alongside Garrett carrying the damn thing.
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Old April 28th, 2003, 01:25 PM   #14
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Charles, wow you learn something new everyday, i guess i was 'sort of' right as it was the first time a true production steadicam was used, before it was just a stabliser with an expensive french lamp (heh) attached to it.

I am still pretty sure from studies that Halloween marked the first time it was used for the bulk of a movie, i recall the documentary on it, due to budget and time contraints they found it so much faster and quicker to use it. Mind you personally, or maybe it was just due to the newness of the product i thought the steadicam stuff on that movie, except for the opening scene which was lifted directly from an Orsen Wells movie, i believe the 3rd man (but i could be wrong), was really lousy, infact the pinnacle scene where he appears in a kitchen closet was really bad.

But who am I to judge, i put on a rig once, ran around and my footage might as well have been taken on a pogo stick, it was pretty bad.

I now have so much respect for the camera shleppers, as i direct productions for university and a few small television shows here, i realise i have perhaps the laziest job when it comes to being physical, but my big mouth makes up for it i guess.

Keep up the good work, and hopefully one day you are in a position to hire me, or even better me hire you :)

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Old May 1st, 2003, 12:59 AM   #15
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Of course the work on The Shining was excellent.

My main comment is on Halloween. Personally I think that the smoothness of the shots in Halloween were not as smooth as The Shining, but they are not meant to be.

The style from Halloween has yet to be copied, not even by Carpenter himself. It had something extra to it.

Personally I myself strive to have that exact style. I really want a Steadicam Jr or similar so I can get really good at it. It's something that I know I would be interested in achieving.
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