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Old December 13th, 2004, 02:53 PM   #1
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Any ideas on how to get this shot?

We have a shoot coming up next year in which a woman chases a guy with an axe down a spiral staircase. It's one of those staircases that has an open area in the middle, so standing at the bottem you can see all the way to the top floor. The open area in the middle is maybe six feet across, and the staircase rises three stories. We have extensive access to the location, fortunately. I want to lower the camera down the middle of the open column and track the two of them as they run down the stairs. Can anybody think of a way to pull this off? If the camera was on a rope and pulley, it seems like it would sway back and forth too much, and how could we control the rate of the spin, let alone see what we're capturing? Maybe run a PVC pipe all the way up and put the camera on a pedastal with hole in it that the PVC pipe pokes through? How would we spin it? Any creative types out there with a knack for building funky gadgets like this? I'm stumped.
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Old December 13th, 2004, 03:13 PM   #2
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How wide are the stairs themselves and what is the handrail made of? I have an idea but I need to think on it a bit more with some of the details of the location. Could be a lot of fun.

Also, what camera are you going to use and will it go wide enough that close to the subjects?
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Old December 13th, 2004, 03:56 PM   #3
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Are you going for all three flights in one take?
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Old December 13th, 2004, 04:10 PM   #4
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The handrails are wood, with a post that protrudes up from the handrail at each corner. I also forget to mention that each floor has a landing, so the steps are not continous all the way to the bottem. No way for anything to slide down the handrail for any length. I would guess that the stairs themselves are maybe five feet wide.

It would be cool to do a continous shot all the way down, but I worry that it might feel too slow. I don't want to slow down the chase, so that decision will ultimately be made in editing. I would think we would have to have at least one 360 degree turn of the camera.
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Old December 13th, 2004, 04:14 PM   #5
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Oh, on the camera -- GL1 with Century anamorphic adapter. If I had a fisheye, I would probably use it and shoot digital 16:9, but I don't think I would want to risk a borrowed lens for something like this. The Century goes pretty wide. I'm pretty sure it would work.
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Old December 13th, 2004, 04:49 PM   #6
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hmmmm...

I was thinking of building a brace of some kind with rollers to follow the hand rail as you lowered the camera from above but the landings might make that difficult.

The other thing you could consider is renting a vertical man lift, you know the scissor type for working high ceilings. Have someone at the controls lowering you while you are filming the action. It might cut into your budget a little but it would save you a lot of work and you'd actually get the shot. Plan on a few practice runs to time it correctly and try the lift out at the rental house because they don't always lower very quickly. Time a dry run at the correct pace and then compare this at the rental house to make sure you can make it lower fast enough.
You might even try to work out a deal for a discount if you give them a credit, you never know.

Oh, and make sure you get a unit that will actually fit into the room.
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Old December 13th, 2004, 09:52 PM   #7
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I saw a new version of the Hi-Pod at the DV Expo in LA.
Don't remember if you can lower it during the take.
It's worth a look: www.hi-pod.com

Hope this helps.

Ken
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Old December 13th, 2004, 10:03 PM   #8
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Ken, the Hi-Pod cannot be boomed down while shooting. When the pressure clamps are released, the only thing keeping the released post from crashing down in a tangled heap, is the hand that you have dedicated to holding the post in place. Also, as soon as ANY tension is released on the pan/tilt pully system, you lose camera control to boot.

The Hi-Pod would, on the other hand, come in very handy for some pretty crazy angles on the shot.

Marco, the shot, as described sounds very cool...and probably very expensive to carry out safely.

You're absoulutely correct about the shot running too long. It sounds like a job for creative camera angles with frenetic camera movement as well as many fast cuts in post to really bring home the speed of the chase.

I'd love to see the finished product.

Good luck, RB.
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Old December 13th, 2004, 11:08 PM   #9
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If you don't mind the high/low angle, perhaps you could have the camera on a stabilization device (i.e. steadicam, DIY glidecam, etc.) and have the camera person run down with the talent. The cameraman would be half a staircase ahead/behind and be shooting across the hole in the middle of the staircase.
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Old December 13th, 2004, 11:59 PM   #10
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You could build a device to do what you ask.
Perhaps similar to a childs top. The shaft being made of 2 tubes twist together at the rate you wish the camera to turn as it descends and a platform with slots in the center to follow.
However I agree with others have said and that several takes from different postions( either from stairs or scafolding) would allow for better action editing.
smitty
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Old December 14th, 2004, 12:38 AM   #11
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Try a block and tackle with 4 pulleys. That should stabilize the camera enough that it won't spin/sway like crazy. Adding a little weight to the pulleys closest to the camera will help stabilize it as well.

Here's the best picture I could find (click here) - scroll to the bottom to see the example with 4 pulleys.
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Old December 14th, 2004, 07:48 AM   #12
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Michael,
Interesting. That looks like it would work, although I don't know if the property owner would like us screwing pulleys into his ceiling. :)

Well, I tried dangling the camera upside down from a monopod last night to see if I could hold it steady enough, and it kind of worked. I can do nearly a 360 degree pan while continuously lowering the camera. I can only lower it one floor, but as mentioned, I probably don't need to track them all the way down the stairs in one shot. It's not as steady as what I had envisioned, but by intercutting the footage with rapid shots from different angles, including some kind of steadicam shot, I think it might work. Biggest problem now is figuring out how to light it without getting my own shadow in the shot. It's already a problem with the existing lighting. Thanks very much to everyone who has offered advice, and if anyone has any more ideas, please keep them coming.
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Old December 14th, 2004, 09:34 AM   #13
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Marco, I was thinking you could screw the pulley system into a two-by-four, that way the whole thing is portable and you could just hang it at the top of the stairs.
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Old December 14th, 2004, 09:54 AM   #14
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Or you could build a vertical dolly system with rope and such....
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Old December 14th, 2004, 11:08 AM   #15
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Rob,
What type of vertical dolly system are you envisioning?
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