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Old December 15th, 2007, 08:07 PM   #1
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Steadicam questions you were afraid to ask

(((Let me preface with - I know some of this discussion may be redundant next to the steadicam forum. However, this is a different board, and hopefully different questions and responses will surface.)))

There's a lot of good specific info here regarding technical details of certain stabilizers, etc... Searching past posts can do a lot to fill in gaps of information. There are also a lot of comparisons between certain rigs. However, I haven't seen (at least in a long time) a post regarding ALL questions - things that perhaps you feel you're expected to know but don't. There are a lot of very good, very hard working ops who check in this forum from time to time and now (with the strike) you may find more than usual killing time online.

The beauty of the industry today is the ready availability of top-level tools that can help get our visions recorded in easier and more financially responsible ways than ever before. However this abundance of tools also sometimes creates gear envy, lust, and misunderstanding. I see a lot of people buying stabilizers because they assume they're the answers to shaky handheld footage. In certain situations, an inertial stabilizer can be the correct tool, but not all. And hence the myriad posts - "I bought this thing, now what."

So here it is - I'd like to open a thread concerning stabilizer knowledge from technical to philosophical, from the simplest question to the most complex. A lot of people ask - "what rig should I buy for $xxx." Few people ask "what does a stabilizer get me for this production that I can't achieve other ways," or "what motivates my camera movement," or even "what am I expected to show up with if I bill myself as an operator?" Or perhaps - "how much input should I have in the design of a shot?" None of these questions have simple or singular answers.

So I'll start it off with this, in the hopes that this particular discussion won't be the only topic covered. What makes a good Steadicam shot?
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Old December 15th, 2007, 08:14 PM   #2
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oh, and my question is completely open - if you saw a movie and loved the shot, tell me why, you don't have to be an A-list director or top-level steadicam op to have an artistic opinion!
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Old December 15th, 2007, 11:43 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaron Berman View Post
So I'll start it off with this, in the hopes that this particular discussion won't be the only topic covered. What makes a good Steadicam shot?
A McConkey has been known to be a very reliable tool in the pursuit of Steadicam excellence.

I'm curious to see where this topic goes!

Peace,
Afton
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Old December 16th, 2007, 12:00 AM   #4
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I don't really have any questions at the moment besides how the glidecam x-10 performs. I think stabilizer shots add a personal feel to media...it almost makes me feel as if I am a part of a scene unlike with a jib.
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Old December 16th, 2007, 05:36 PM   #5
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I think stabilizer shots add a personal feel to media...it almost makes me feel as if I am a part of a scene unlike with a jib.
I think this sums it for me too. Movies are designed to take you there so the way Steadicam shots glide through space and over things where normal dollies can't go really makes you feel like you're part of the action. However, some scenes need to have more of an "observer" feel than a "part of" feel so that's where a Steadicam might not be a good choice.

I like Steadicam shots that aren't too flashy. I tend to like subtle, more conservative, more transparent camera work so maybe that's just my preference. I notice a lot of TV shows like the "roundy-round" move, but I don't like it that much unless there's a reason for it, like revealing the surroundings around a character before showing their expression or something like that.

On the technical side, I like Steadicam shots that are rock solid and look like dolly moves. I can appreciate the physical difficulty of managing the changes in acceleration and holding the horizon level in a complicated move so if they pull it off, hats off to the operator. The irony is if it's really good, people won't even recognize it as a Steadicam shot.
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Old December 16th, 2007, 09:29 PM   #6
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Shot technique that I find useful with Steadicam is making the transition from one scene to another that conveys seamlessness as to not appear even slightly jarring.
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Old December 18th, 2007, 06:17 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Jaron Berman View Post
What makes a good Steadicam shot?
Other than the invisible Steadicam shot? E.g. Temple of Doom rope bridge?

Do we mean the slightly more contrived 'ever developing' shot as favoured by non-Pixar CGI animators? <eww, sorry>

Either:
- The viewer is an auditor in a situation, nothing is left out, the visual facts presented are without further interpretation, it's as if we (the viewer) could experience a situation as if in a perfect 'Tomb Raider' experience, we're always seeing the right thing at the right time.

(Which is why I'm so excited about introducing Steadicam to training video - more revealing, less staged)

Or:
- The viewer is doing an 'out of body experience' from the protagonist's viewpoint, in that we see the 'perfect' or 'dream state' version of a situation, creating all those 360s and internalisation sequences (DJ through the crowd, then.... ooooh-whip.... over the shoulder to the MacGuffin).
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