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Old December 19th, 2004, 12:14 AM   #31
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Point is, can you see what I am trying to diagram here? Ok, don't add the blank spaces. Can you arrange the characters to show what I am trying to do?

I would attach an image but alsa, we cna't do that here. I would throw an image on my web site but I have no good way other than scan in a hand sketch. If you would like to see a hand sketch, I suppose tomorrow I can come up with something.

ĎI donít know what Iím doing, and Iím shooting on D.V.í
- my hero - David Lynch
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Old December 22nd, 2004, 09:21 AM   #32
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not to get away from the do it yourself process or take the fun out of it, but depending on how much time/money you can put into it, you may want to consider hiring a grip for the shoot who has an extensive backround in camera rigs. Just a thought. :)
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Old December 22nd, 2004, 10:54 AM   #33
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In thinking about the shot you describe, you have one person chasing another down a spiral staircase with the camera in the center, which puts it no more than 5 feet away from the actors as I see it (3 ft radius to the "hole" plus perhaps 2 feet from inside railing to actor? how wide are the stairs?). Unless the ax wielder is right on top of the person they are chasing, you will have a hard time keeping both in the frame. The camera would have to be higher or lower than the action to give a wider frame which to be honest, may be more dynamic compositionally than tracking right at eye level. The easiest way to determine this is to position the camera in the center of the stairs at ground level and position a stand-in just a few stairs up and check your composition, as this is the same relationship you would have in the desired shot you are proposing. Then try moving the stand-in up the stairs to see what that does with the composition.

Again, not sure of the stairs themselves--is this a classic iron tight radius spiral staircase, or a broader structure? Another possible variation on the shot is to have the camera descend from alongside the staircase, so that the characters are seen the whole time winding their way down, coming closer to camera and then moving away, etc. This could also be very dynamic and may underscore the "chasing" aspect nicely. Given the right distance to the stairs so that no panning is necessary, i.e. the lens is wide enough to cover the path of the actors from left to right without panning, this becomes a simpler physical challenge, just a straighth drop.

I will agree with others that the Steadicam-down-the-stairs version is the least interesting for this sort of thing, and given a tight diameter staircase, rather dangerous. Although with a GL1 you can easily use a handheld stabilizer which shouldn't be a problem.
Charles Papert
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Old December 26th, 2004, 09:44 AM   #34
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Excellent. Thanks Charles. Just measured the staircase (sorry it took a few days. Kinda busy with Christmas) and the interior hole is 55 inches. The stairs themselves are 39 inches wide. No, this isn't an iron staircase. Everything is wood, and as mentioned the stairs don't descend continously to the bottem, as there is a landing at each floor. I really appreciate everyone's input here. I have not shot a lot of action scenes. These types of shots, especially anything incorporating camera movement, are completely new territory for me.
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Old December 26th, 2004, 04:07 PM   #35
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How about sending a camera guy down the center on a rope? With a winch and pulley, he could descend smoothly, and at a constant rate.
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Old December 26th, 2004, 11:53 PM   #36
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So Marco, taking those measurements into account, you have about 4 feet from the center point of the hole to the middle of the stairs themselves, i.e. the distance from camera to actors. As I mentioned earlier, you would need to think about what you could actually contain in that frame (not both chaser and chasee, but perhaps quick pans from one to the other).

Your reference to the ill-fated Jimmy Jib shot in "Project Greenlight" (two years later, still an astonishingly bad concept) was astute. On a limited schedule and budget, sometimes the "coolness" of a concept that takes a lot of time and effort to achieve can end up being less than spectacular in the final film, and required sacrificing many other valuable setups. The smartest thing you can do as a filmmaker is to see this coming and head it off at the pass. The second smartest thing is that if you do decide to roll the dice and go for the sexy rig but it ends up taking too long to set up on set, you make the decision to cut your losses and move on before even more time is wasted.
Charles Papert
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Old July 30th, 2005, 12:58 AM   #37
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This looks like the rig to do the job.
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Old August 1st, 2005, 04:26 PM   #38
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the easiest way i can think of is to build a strange dolly that will follow the track of the rails. one leg would be MUCH higher than the other with a platform connecting the two (or four i'd recommend) that the camera sits on top of. this system would be able to be controlled much easier as far as speed and safety of the camera is concerned. if the legs were correctly the device would mimic the shape of the rails all the way down.
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Old August 5th, 2005, 02:42 AM   #39
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On the other hand, you might consider relocating the scene.
If you find a similar spiral staircase that is open on the side to a large room or even one coming down as a freestanding structure in the middle of a room, you might be able to integrate it into the scenario. You could stand off a ways and zoom in close as you followed them all the way down, in one shot. With what would appear to be a camera position right next to the actors, you might be able to conceal that the staircase is in such an open space. If the writers and director recognize how difficult smooth-looking footage of this action would be to obtain in this staircase, they might go for the change.

If you try all the suggestions others have given and the results come out badly, my idea may start to seem more interesting.

You didn't tell us if the woman ever connects with that ax!?
If so, the special effects needed may be interesting-----or is this a snuff movie?
Steve McDonald
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