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Old January 8th, 2008, 12:24 AM   #1
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Glidecam Reel

Hey everyone,

I have a Glidecam Smooth shooter. I posted this in the Helping Hands thread to offer my services. Charles Papert had some comments on the reel that he said might be of help to other steadicam users. So, I posted it here for you guys to see and discuss.

I don't shoot with the glidecam very often. The stuff at the beginning of the reel were shot with a GL-1 and the Glidecam 2000 (sans vest) almost 6 years ago. The footage of the rap video and the stuff at the end was done with the Smooth Shooter and was shot more recently.

The footage at the end was shot with the HVX and the Red Rock Micro adapter. Funny enough, I don't own a wireless follow focus device so we had to either manually adjust as we went along or just set the focus and stay the correct distance from the subject.

The link is below. Comments welcome.
Joshua Caldwell
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Old January 8th, 2008, 01:14 AM   #2
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Please post the file-size with links to larger files. Thanks!

And on that note; 44MB is a little on the big side, even by today's broadband standards. :)

- Mikko
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Old January 8th, 2008, 09:13 AM   #3
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So as threatened, Josh, here are my thoughts!

There's a strong sense of shot design here especially in the opening sequence on the reel that takes place in the restaurant and apartment. And a good variety of projects represented.

Josh, the best note I can give you for your future work is that you are probably gripping the post of your rig too tightly. The footage has what we call an "overcontrolled" look--the frame has a choppiness to it rather than a floating smoothness. The easiest way to see this is to watch the very top of the frame, ignore the actors and watch the background. It's present in both your older and newer material, so it's likely a habit that you started early and still have. But it won't be that hard to fix.

What I am seeing in the shots leads me to believe that you are exhibiting a "death grip" with your post hand (the one that is positioned below the gimbal). Certainly the still of you in the opening frames demonstrates this. You should instead be using your fingertips with this hand, with a very light touch. The absolute minimum of force should be exerted, just enough to keep the camera pointed in the direction you expect; this force will increase and decrease depending on the requirements of the shot. For a straight-ahead move, virtually no force is needed and your touch should reduce to the point where you are barely touching the post. This doesn't mean your hand drops to your side, it means your fingers hover a fraction of an inch above the post, ready to get back in there when needed. Except under noticeably windy conditions, you should never have to have a complete grip around the post that resembles a clamp.

My recommendation is to spend some time doing the line exercise, where you make an X or a cross on the wall and another one on your monitor (overlay a clear gel etc to protect the screen and use a Sharpie), then walk SLOWLY towards the wall keeping the X's lined up, stop when you are a few feet away and then walk backwards to your starting mark, and repeat ad nauseum. Record your results and analyze. While we are not expecting the x's to stay absolutely locked together (although that is the ultimate goal), they should at worst "float" in relation to each other, not pitch sharply. In other words, you want to be gently "suggesting" the aim of the lens, not holding it in place.

If you can do this exercise with the X at the end of a hallway, even better. The strong verticals and horizontals will also give you a sense of what is happening with your horizon. Again, with the goal being a smooth shot that has the appearance of a dolly, I think you will find that your operating is producing results that have almost a handheld feel (without the footsteps) due to the overcontrolling. As a way to understand just how much this is affecting things, try recording a version where you get moving towards the x and then remove your fingers from the post entirely in the middle of the shot. I am betting that you will see the frame "settle down" and become a lot smoother (it might start to wander left or right a little bit, which is likely an indication that your gimbal is a bit sticky or mounted off-balance). This is not to say that you should operate shots with your hand off the post, just that you need to reduce your touch to nearly that point.

The main reason that I am going into detail on this is that while I often see footage posted with stabilizers that exhibit this, usually there are many other issues as well with the shot design that lead me to believe that the person is simply not a particular experienced camera operator. However your material showed otherwise Josh, so I'd love to see you clean up the rough edges so those good shots can really shine.

In the restaurant shot, some great beats going on there, nice handoffs from character to character. I loved the cross out of the girls that hands to the waiter, although he was a bit late and you became indecisive on what part of him to pivot on so it became neither-here-nor-there until we got back to the table (and the server with the menus should have been just finishing up by the time the guy with the glasses arrived, as there is a bit of a pile-up there).

Likewise the apartment shot with the two gals has a great flow; you move from close to wide and back again and the energy is maintained throughout. You really nailed the gal checking herself in the mirror; great! The only quibble is when she walks out into the hallway and you were caught being too close to her--a probable solution would have been to have her walk out deeper into the hall, giving you more room for the roundy-round, and once you were halfway around she could counter back towards the door slightly to keep her distance.

From then on, I would have to say that the reel can't keep up with the strength of that opening. While it is important to put your best stuff up front, I think you could probably shorten the remaining clips by about half and have a much stronger reel. The walk-and-talk of the two chaps in the school goes on much too long without adding anything. About half of the running shots of the guy and the girl have issues with headroom and/or vibration; just use the best bits and throw away the rest. It seems a little odd that we see the guy with the backpack approach the car in two separate clips; probably these could be combined into the best moments (you may not want to include the part where he gets in and you lose him for a second).

Overall, the thing to consider in a reel is that you only want to include the stuff that works. There may well be an explanation for why things don't work, like "he boned me that time, he was supposed to take a look around before getting in the car and he didn't, so I wasn't ready for him to get in" etc., but no-one watching the reel knows or cares about that, they only want to see good shots that have solid horizons, headroom and overall execution.

So I'm a fan of much of what was going on in the opening two scenes, but I do think you will benefit greatly from spending some time practicing the line exercise. I know it's boring and not nearly as much fun as chasing people around, but ultimately it will make operating a lot more enjoyable you also and your work will really improve as a result to the point where you can start to simulate a dolly a lot more effectively.

That goes for the rest of you guys too! Practice, practice, practice...not just following your long-suffering girlfriend around the apartment (which is good for honing your headroom and reaction skills) but the line exercise is critical for learning how to let the rig do its thing without getting in its way.

enjoy! Looking forward to hearing/seeing your results.
Charles Papert
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Old January 8th, 2008, 12:06 PM   #4
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Good Lord, someone buy Charles a beer!

Thanks for the INVALUABLE input to the board Charles. I think it's posts like this from 'pros on the inside' that make this community THE place for information.

Once again, thanks.
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Old January 9th, 2008, 11:06 PM   #5
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Again Charles...thanks from the rest of us (readers) for the many great comments on stabilization use. I have personally learned a lot from you and have also learned how to explain what is going on with our system better by having read your posts.

He's only mostly sDEADy.

sort of from "The Princess Bride"
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Old January 9th, 2008, 11:24 PM   #6
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thanks all. Having just emerged from teaching a Steadicam workshop this sort of thing is at the top of my brain right now, although I haven't been flying the rig much at all lately...
Charles Papert
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Old February 8th, 2008, 04:14 AM   #7
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i also have a new glidecam2000 reel in wedding situation
all shooted with handheld!
what do you think?
Relaxing clips with waterfalls and music, 3D photos, 3D videos:
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