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Old March 19th, 2011, 07:24 PM   #1
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Pan technique

Is there a special technique used to get 180 degree pans? I am trying to shoot aeroplanes landing ie coming at you head on direction, then side on and finally going away from you as they land if you get what I mean. I am trying to do this in one continuous, smooth shot but I am finding it very hard. The worst part is having to move body position by a few small steps half way through. That results in very shaky shots and I have actually kicked the tripod legs once or twice!

Andy S
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Old March 20th, 2011, 04:51 AM   #2
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Re: Pan technique

Position you body for the end of the shot not the start of it and practice makes perfect!

Also what head do you have on your tripod as a good smooth head is essential, a long pan handle can also help as it gives you greater control.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 06:29 AM   #3
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Re: Pan technique

I don't know if this'll help you, it works for some folks.

I shot high school football, very briefly, for a guy who taught me a trick where you point your pan arm AWAY from you, like a gun barrel.

If you're right handed, this'll mean putting the pan arm on the left side of the tripod, operating it with your left hand to leave your right free to zoom.

It's a little weird, and it does strange things with counterbalance/weight, in my opinion, but it did seem to work okay.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 08:11 AM   #4
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Re: Pan technique

Josh cause i'm not english i'm having difficulties on understanding this tecnique, could you explain it better?
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Old March 20th, 2011, 09:12 AM   #5
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Re: Pan technique

When filming floatplane landings in Alaska it seemed to help when I had a lot of drag dialed in the head, along with previous suggestion of positioning yourself where you want to be at the end of the pan.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 10:25 AM   #6
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Re: Pan technique

This always happens when you are forced in too close - same thing happens with car racing and other similar sports, like Ice skating - they're actually worse because you're forced to also zoom out and then reverse if you are too close in - I was at Marham a few weeks ago shooting some Tornados - a coincidence, and Gary's set up for the end is the only solution really - you can also find it better when the object goes from camera right to camera left, because you can frame right from a distance - as you can't get your eye to the viewfinder - so you can set up looking into the viewfinder from the back, then as you pan, you can get your eye into the eye cup as it passes the half way mark.

If it;s repetitive shots, then an LCD attached to the tripod below the head can work, so you pass the pan handle as goes past the half way point while your body faces forward. It can also help to put the camera up high when you use a separate screen. Needs a good head and legs whatever system you try
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Old March 20th, 2011, 12:03 PM   #7
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Re: Pan technique

Just to explain what I mean take a look at this clip at 5:52 of the US Airways A330. It's a long pan but is very smooth. I can't imagine it's very easy to do that!
YouTube - JustPlanes's Channel
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Old March 20th, 2011, 01:26 PM   #8
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Re: Pan technique

I think that a really good head will help with this - and I would imagine that the whip pan effect of Vinten heads would also come in very useful, where you can push that little bit harder and bypass the fluid momentarily to re-frame.

As well as a good head on the tripod, really good, solid sticks will help. I bemoan the weight of my Vinten Pozilocs, but they don't tip over, wobble or twist when in use. It's a good job I do weights, though.

Of course, those shots could've been put together with a Manfrotto 501 head with wobbly legs, and be stabilized/smoothed in post with Mercalli or similar software. Which would probably be cheaper then getting a top of the range tripod!
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Old March 20th, 2011, 02:39 PM   #9
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Re: Pan technique

I have an Vinten Vision Blue setup which produces some super smooth shots. I'm just not good enough yet to do these 180 degree pans!
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Old March 20th, 2011, 02:52 PM   #10
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Re: Pan technique

This may be too difficult to describe, therefore I have included a complex and very technical illustration.

One thing it does not show is switching the pan arm to your left side if you're right handed. What I mean is, if one is standing behind the camera, usually for a right hander, your pan arm is on the right side of the tripod.

My tripod has the option to screw it onto either side, so if you use this technique, I recommend screwing it onto the left side so your right hand can zoom or focus.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 06:31 PM   #11
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Re: Pan technique

Hi, Andy..............

As you've already discovered, one of the major pains with doing 180's is the tripod legs themselves, been there, done that at an airshow, and had the bruises to show for it.

I vowed after that occasion that any "action replay" would not involve a tripod and decided instead to rig some kind of pedestal or other contrivance so that there was simply nothing to collide with as you panned the head.

However, as pedestals don't exactly grow on trees and one rigid and heavy enough for HD shooting would be, at best, somewhat unwieldy, some other tack needs to be taken.

I take it that these planes you're shooting are using regular airports, and you're shooting from some sort of observation deck?

If so, you will have had a chance to check out just what other possible support aids may be to hand on the deck itself.

The few I'm aquainted with have rails, either solely or on top of plinth walls. If they are available, something like this: Hague Column Bowl Mount with clamps

Or this: Hague 100mm Bowl Mount

could be very usefull.

If the railings are straight, you get 180 degress of free movement instead of 120 degrees with a tripod, if you can use an inside corner of the ralings, you get a full 270 degrees of unobstructed walkway.

Those units will allow you to use your VB head using a 100 mm to 75 mm reducer, also available from Hague.

Check out their other offerings, there may be something more usefull depending on your circumstances and that of your shooting location.


PS: Have just noticed the first unit, the Column Bowl mount, is not recommended for tubular type railings, which could be overcome by getting Hague to drill and tap the rear edge of the head mounting plate with a 3/8"/ 1/4" hole to take the mounting bolt of a monopod, which would, in effect, give you a tripod but with a central, vertical column to prevent it rotating about the tubular rails.

Still nothing to trip over and should be rock steady, though you'd need to buy a monopod for the rear support.

The great thing about Hague is that they are an engineering company, and can do stuff like that for you without it costing an arm and two legs.

Last edited by Chris Soucy; March 20th, 2011 at 09:39 PM. Reason: Important update.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 12:54 AM   #12
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Re: Pan technique

After years of having viewfinders physically locked to cameras (literally the case with film cameras, and effectively the case with broadcast cameras) we have gotten to the point where onboard monitors are good quality and commonplace. In my last few years as an operator I started experimenting with using them exclusively to operate everything except handheld shots--and even then, I often used a heads-up external monitor rather than bury one eye in an eyepiece (day exteriors were where I would draw the line).

On a really a complicated master shot that required some extensive and very critical framing during 180 degree moves, as well as having the dolly in steering mode and having to backpan during a 90 degree turn of the dolly (i.e. chassis moved underneath the camera, but the camera had to point the same direction) I started experimenting with mounting the monitor on the dolly outboard from the camera. I was thus free to pan and tilt through a wide range without losing sight of the monitor at any time. It took a while to get used to the disassociated sensation, although I was used to that via remote heads, but even more so was the peculiarity of having to remember which direction to move the camera depending on how it was facing. Eventually it became second nature and could make far more subtle movements because I wasn't twisted around the head like a pretzel.

The airplane scenario would be a perfect example of this. With the monitor mounted independently of the functions of the head, one can operate with the body remaining the same direction at all times. The tricky part is subtleties of tilt throughout the 180 degree pan. You could even theoretically hand off the pan handle from one hand to another during the shot. All of this takes practice but it's an interesting way to work.

In a more traditional operating mode, the main thing about a shot like this is to set your body so that it becomes more comfortable as the pan progresses; i.e. line up the end frame first with your body in a normal configuration to the camera, then pan the camera in reverse back to the first frame with your feet in the same place, if possible. It's much harder to maintain a smooth pan if you have to move your feet. I call this technique "unwinding".
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Old March 21st, 2011, 04:37 AM   #13
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Re: Pan technique

I shoot planes with a Canon A1s (20:1 zoom) on a Miller Compass 15 and use the LCD with the contrast turned up slightly and a Hoodman LCD hood modified to block stray light and importantly the grid displayed on the LCD. Started with the + but graduated to the grid .. that enables me to pan while tracking the planes balanced in the frame.

The other unit is the Manfrotto LANC controller, also needed days (read weeks) of practise. I can stand back with the handle extended while slowly zooming as the plane lands or takes off. You learn to step around the legs without thinking about it, practise does it. I tried 2 pan handles but eventually found one is enough. The second one can get in the way when you have to move fast. I also use a B+W graduated ND filter which drops the sky 2 stops.

Another trick is, in the menu, select zoom numbers for the display ie: Z0-99.

At HARS we have a Lockhheed Super Constellation Connie Takes to the Skies and I know that Z39 fits Connie in the frame as it goes past me at right angles on the main runway. My ambition is to zoom right up to the Captains side window as Connie races past.

I've asked the pilots to look across in my direction and smile when they see me. They deplane and say 'you got it yet?' One day.

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Old March 22nd, 2011, 07:50 AM   #14
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Re: Pan technique

You have a framing issue. Set an external monitor (a portable DVD player with a/v inputs will work) outside the field of view (to the right) for the camera start. Set your pan bar on the left side of cam. Practice paning only looking at the ext. monitor. The monitor may need to be set inside a box to provide sunlight shield. Works great.
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Old March 22nd, 2011, 09:26 AM   #15
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Re: Pan technique

Good Morning,

Great advice here.

my Indian Cent worth. (that is 1/2 a penny by dfinition)

a good tripod really is helpful!!! I use my vintin tripod as apposed to my gitzo. always have my 521 pro lanc remote on handle, Always have handle up level. If circumstances allow I use my small hd external monitor on the left side cause thats what I am used to! It is mostly just for framing as focus would be on infinite.

legs being in the way!!!

If outside or to a wood base, you can shorten up the two back legs and put the front out a bit further. If on the ground I would then spike the legs into the ground, or deck screw to a wood base. that can help the hitting the leg issue (I just did this on a Job last week, shame on me!!)

Rubbere band starts if possible: I keep a fat wide one on handle and a small skinny one that cover most of my circumstances.

hope somthing here can help.
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