Dolly for stairs at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Support Your Local Camera > Dolly / Track / Cable


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old September 12th, 2010, 08:31 AM   #1
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Cardiff, United Kingdom
Posts: 54
Dolly for stairs

Hi all,
Just wanted any ideas of how to achieve a continuos dolly shot moving up a staircase. I want to dolly up a straight flight of stairs in order to compose a shot of people walking up with faces constantly in frame. Hope that makes sense?
The camera is a canon 5d, so no huge weight issues there, and was trying to figure out what kit would best suit. I was thinking either some kind of narrow dolly (the staircase may not be too wide, location pending) with some kind of leveling aspect (ie a tripod sitting on some wheels, with front leg extended to compensate for the angle of the stairs) or something that can be attached to the bannister and slide up that way. Does anyone have any ideas what kit would be viable either to buy, and thus not too costly, or rent and subsequently not too uncommon, giving me a chance of finding said kit in a rental house.

Thanks for all and any ideas.
Matt
Matt Mullins is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 12th, 2010, 09:41 AM   #2
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Cardiff, United Kingdom
Posts: 54
One thing I did think of was using an inslider at an angle to the stairs and slide back as they come forward. This way I just need my tripod and a purchase of an inslider or similar tripod mounted dolly. Thoughts?
Matt Mullins is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 12th, 2010, 04:47 PM   #3
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
I imagine you have a reason why Steadicam is out of the question, as that is obviously a simple way to achieve this shot.

Keep in mind with whatever you rig: anything in the center of the staircase (track etc), the actors will have to step across. Another rigged to either the center or off the banisters will eventually be revealed in the frame as the shot continues.

Consider also the preferred height of the lens relative to the camera. It's nice to not have to arbitrarily look down on actors when pulling them up stairs (just because the camera is further up the staircase). I've done this sort of shot in low mode Steadicam just to get more into the actor's eyelines--it's a pain to operate but it's an improved angle. This will also help solve the issue above where you will see more of the mounting rig in the background of the shot the more you are looking down at it.

There may be some solution involving a board that straddles three or so steps with a non-binding surface on the back that you could essentially pull up the stairs in front of the actors, but keeping it from wandering left to right would be another issue to solve.

Anything that has the camera simply locked to it will require you to move the rig at a very specific pace as you will be regulating headroom and image size--if the actors change their speed, you have to be able to react very quickly.

Really, outside of an elaborate crane/remote head setup, this is in the domain of Steadicam--although I bet that someone else here will have a Rube Goldberg-esque solution from out of left field!
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 12th, 2010, 05:11 PM   #4
Major Player
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 691
If a steadicam is out of the question, then a crane/dolly would be your next best thing.

Depending on the lay out of the stairs, you could put the dolly tracks running away from the bottom of the stairs, and have a simple "tilt head" platform like the standard Kessler crane.

If you have a turret head, you can align the tracks along side the stairs and follow your actors down that way.

But like Charles said, a steadicam would be your best solution for grounded shots. Cranes come in handy as second option tools for smoothing shots like these but their primary function is to grab shots from high places one can't simply walk around.

Hope that helped!
Terry Lee is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 12th, 2010, 07:45 PM   #5
Sponsor: Westside AV
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Mount Washington Valley, NH, USA
Posts: 1,365
A ladder dolly would work very well for this. I have been using one for years, and I will soon be making production versions. If anyone is interested in a pre production version. Contact me. I even have 2 motorized versions.

Olof@WestsideAV.com
603-387-4921
__________________
Olof Ekbergh olof@WestsideAV.com
Westside A V Studios http://www.WestsideAVstore.com/
Olof Ekbergh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 13th, 2010, 12:44 AM   #6
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
It might, again, if the actors don't have to step where the ladder will go; if you are looking up enough to avoid seeing the ladder in the shot; if the ladder is the correct length for the required run; if the dolly can be "driven" with the proper speed to maintain framing; and so on.

Lots of "ifs" to suggest that it would work very well...?
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 13th, 2010, 07:27 AM   #7
Sponsor: Westside AV
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Mount Washington Valley, NH, USA
Posts: 1,365
Another possibility is a simple "cable cam", I have built a few of those as well. One that flies over 150'.

All these solutions depends on the set/location. In a really crammed situation cable cam may be the best. Both a ladder dolly or a cable cam can be run by pulley and line. It is pretty easy to control speed well.
__________________
Olof Ekbergh olof@WestsideAV.com
Westside A V Studios http://www.WestsideAVstore.com/
Olof Ekbergh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 13th, 2010, 01:04 PM   #8
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
You are quite industrious, Olof! I admire that. Next time I'm in the area I'll have to come visit and see all of these rigs you've built (I had a great leaf-peeping vacation there three years ago, stayed at the Mt. View Grand).

Cable cam would be interesting although you still have the problem of seeing the hardware, depending on the shooting angle--would require a pretty steep down tilt to avoid the cable if you were looking straight down the stairs. But it does present the possibility of continuing the shot in an interesting fashion if your attachment point at the top allowed; the camera can continue to ascend past the end of the stairs, becoming more of a crane shot. If appropriate, of course.

Although I've done my fair share of stairs shots on Steadicam over the years, I'm rarely a fan of them (certainly to operate!) More often than not the shot will start before the stairs and then there is an unmotivated height shift as the camera ascends or descends several steps before the actors. When I'm watching a movie, I can always feel this shift (sure, I'm probably more sensitive to it than most viewers) and I get distracted. Also, it's less desirable to look down or up the actor's noses just because the physicality forces it. As I mentioned, preceding actors up stairs with the rig in low mode may get the lens close to the eyeline, but it does complicate things if the camera has to start on level ground with the actors, and it's a monstrous bitch to operate well.

My personal favorite tool for shooting stairs, if the location permits, is with Technocrane--you can position the lens anywhere you want, at the appropriate height and have the flexibility to change up the shot as needed or fly off the banister into space if desired.

Olef, any plans to build your own Techno?!! Actually I've been waiting for some illustrious homebuilder to tackle that one; a scaled-down telescoping crane. The gauntlet has been thrown down!
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 13th, 2010, 01:34 PM   #9
Sponsor: Westside AV
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Mount Washington Valley, NH, USA
Posts: 1,365
Charles, you got me thinking. Maybe if the skiing is lousy this winter I will tackle a telescoping setup. I have thought of building my own ladder, for ladder dolly, instead of a cheap aluminum one. This would be a natural start to a telescoping rig.

I am sitting on the beach on Cape Cod right now. A great time to relax, but this is an intriguing challenge.

And by all means let me know the next time you are on the "right coast" I would love to brainstorm. I am just 3hrs north of Boston, and would love to have you visit.
__________________
Olof Ekbergh olof@WestsideAV.com
Westside A V Studios http://www.WestsideAVstore.com/
Olof Ekbergh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 14th, 2010, 05:49 AM   #10
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Cardiff, United Kingdom
Posts: 54
Some really interesting and ingenious options in this thread.
The reasons for avoiding steady cam have been pretty much covered by Charles. I want the camera to smoothly lower at the right eyeline with the talent in an easily repeatable move. There's nothing quite like a tricky camera move to ruin performances. I also have visions of losing the steadycam operator down the stairs which wouldn't be too pretty.
I had considered a dolly with crane attached, but the likelihood of camera wobble makes this too tricky to pull off.
I'd never thought of using a cable dolly. Any suggestions on a good model? Is there a relatively inexpensive model out there?
I've attached a jpeg of a possible set of stairs.
Thanks very much guys, informative and helpful as ever.
Matt
Attached Thumbnails
Dolly for stairs-crw_3092-2.jpg  
Matt Mullins is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 14th, 2010, 01:59 PM   #11
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Mullins View Post
SI want the camera to smoothly lower at the right eyeline with the talent in an easily repeatable move.
Hey wait, in your first post you said the camera was moving UP the stairs!!

I would personally want to see more pictures of the location before making a recommendation on this. A lot depends on what is just outside the image you supplied. If there's a short foyer and generous-sized front door
immediately in front of the stairs, you could do a crane on track with the fulcrum outside the door; a grip at the front of the arm would guide it down the stairs as the chassis is pulled straight back. A Jimmy Jib would be a good choice for this as the operator would be able to make minute adjustments to the framing.

I'd be wary of attempting a cable rig for a shot like this--those only function underslung, and you want the camera to be up at eye level which would push the carriage up into the header. Also, rigging the tiedown point to the ceiling in the hallway could be a dicey proposition...

Honestly, a good Steadicam operator should be able to manage this and it would be the least amount of fuss (certainly setup time). To get the lens at eye height would require a significantly long armpost and hopefully a tall operator! But it's well within the realm of a good working operator to pull this off.

Having said all this, very often it's not necessary to be right up in people's grills on a staircase. Have them grow into a close shot with the camera static at the bottom; pan them from off to the side (as it becomes about their backs the person who is furthest from camera can be seen in a reverse over, hopefully the lines can be timed out to accomodate this), or even watch them go from behind and just hear the dialogue. Or a combination of the three. There's many ways to skin this cat and sometimes the "easier" shot is that much more effective. The image you sent is of a staircase with a lot of character; it might be more interesting to lay back on a wide shot to feel the surroundings, give the actors some breathing room. Just bringing that up as a consideration.
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 16th, 2010, 10:53 AM   #12
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Cardiff, United Kingdom
Posts: 54
Hi Charles,
Quite right, I did say moving up the stairs in the first post. However the gap between my first two posts and my third was used to visit the location and an adjustment was deemed necessary once we saw the layout of the building. Sorry I should have mentioned the change but it's getting a little hectic at present what with preproduction balancing with my day job as an editor.

There is a fair amount of space at the foot of the stairs and then a front door. It might be too long a corridor to do what you're suggesting with a crane. Steadycam might be easiest as you suggest. I was keen to have a more fluid move down the stairs and am not sure a steadycam can compete with a dolly (but thats just my experience).
Matt
Matt Mullins is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 16th, 2010, 12:36 PM   #13
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
A long corridor would work even better for a crane, depending on the math (corridor dictates the length of the arm--will that be long enough to get the camera to the first position up the stairs). Easier than dealing with a doorframe in any event.

Steadicam will certainly be "fluid"--unfortunately, depending on the operator that definition may be a good or bad thing (if "fluid" extends to "bobbing in the water")! If you are able to get a great operator, you will be in good shape, it's not that hard a shot for someone with experience. These days there are good operators just about everywhere.

Here's [url=http://www.steadishots.org/shots_detail.cfm?shotID=198\one of my favorites[/url] for these kind of shots as done on Steadicam--really flawless operating by one of my colleagues. My own best example of this kind of thing is probably this one. I didn't achieve the kind of perfection of framing that Jacques did (he's an amazing operator) but in my defense it was a tougher staircase!
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Support Your Local Camera > Dolly / Track / Cable

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:53 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network