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Old November 29th, 2003, 12:27 AM   #1
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west wing - steadicam?

hello.

i have been watching the west wing's first season on dvd and i have been really impressed by some of the long shots that appear to be steadicam.

does anyone know if that is in fact what they are?

many of them are long shots going down hallways with many turns.

i am just writing up a short that i want to do and i really need a sequence like that. it would be a shot that starts outside of a building and then goes right up through the front door and then goes through various places inside to capture conversations amongst different people in different departments etc.

matthew
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Old November 29th, 2003, 01:11 AM   #2
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Matthew,
Our own Charles Papert worked Steadicam on West Wing during its first season. You'll be interested in seeing this thread.
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Old November 29th, 2003, 08:37 AM   #3
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Amazing SteadiCam shots.

Another couple of incredibly well choreographed SteadiCam shots can be found in Good Fellas and Bonfire of the Vanities.

The premiere shot in Good Fellas takes place when Henry Hill takes Karen to the nightclub. The shot begins on the street and continues downstairs, through the basement, kitchen etc. There are many well timed background action wipes that make the scene even more dynamic.

The whole opening sequence of "Bonfire" was done on SteadiCam, just under 10 minutes or so if I remember correctly. Worth renting just to see this one shot.

I beleive that the operator for both shots was Larry McConkey.

RB
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Old November 30th, 2003, 02:36 PM   #4
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Thank you Ken. I'm starting to think I should enlist the services of the DVinfo Net community as my press agents!

Rick mentions two wonderful shots that should be studied by anyone interested in Steadicam technique. Larry McConkey's skill in designing and "sweetening" elaborate Steadicam moves is unequaled. The real brilliance in the Goodfellas shot to me is how the camera is primarily following two characters from behind while keeping the shot interesting. Larry had a lot to do with giving the various extras they pass bits of business to do to keep things moving. Another interesting note is that the move through the kitchen is actually a circle; they come out of the same door they came in, but you don't realize this because each corner is handled differently.

The Bonfire move is actually under 4 minutes (the length of a standard magazine of film) but seems longer, possibly because the script is not as interesting as Goodfellas! Larry's work is again impeccable.

Matthew, thanks for your email about the Hardigg factory outlet in So. Deerfield...I only wish I could take advantage of that! I used to live in Northampton years ago, and got an old style Hardigg case then. Coincidentally, I was living there when I bought my first Steadicam (in '89) and used to practice around the area. I have some great tape of zooming around the Student Union at UMass, the streets of Noho and other points. It's been a long road from there to the West Wing (etc.)!
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Old November 30th, 2003, 05:08 PM   #5
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Charles.

I guess I missed the fact that you were the steadicam operator on the first season of West Wing.

Absolutely gorgeous work.

Thanks for the pleasure of your art. I love your stuff on Scrubs.

Richard
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Old November 30th, 2003, 05:25 PM   #6
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Richard:

Thank you so much!

I really must point out that I was one of seven operators that passed through the West Wing in the first season. I was the second; I was there for two months (the thread that Ken hyperlinked above has the list of episodes that I worked on). I won't go into the reasons for having this sort of turnaround which is very unusual!

I did however do all of the first two seasons of "Scrubs", although I did leave the show this season to pursue other endeavors. Unlike "West Wing", "Scrubs" doesn't list the camera operator in the credits so often people think I'm still on it.
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Old November 30th, 2003, 05:40 PM   #7
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Oh, I forgot to throw in some West Wing trivia.

In the first season, the West Wing itself was built on two separate soundstages at Warner Bros. A specific corridor was duplicated on both stages bridging the two halves, so that a long walk and talk would often end in this hallway and then pick up again after a cut as the characters exited the hallway in the other stage. If you watch closely you can identify this hall: it's yellow in color, with paintings on the walls and closed double doors at either end.

Since the show was a hit, money was allocated to moving the show into the newest and largest soundstage at Warners. The two halves were combined and the set expanded out in a few different directions. The Translites (massive photographic backdrops seen out the windows) were changed out also; the ones used in the first season were stock which were replaced with the actual views from the White House. If you look at the view behind the President's desk at night in the first season shows, there appear to be buildings with lit windows nearby; however the daytime view is (more accurately) open ground and trees.

The sets were absolutely beautiful. The first time I was in the Oval Office (which is built overscale, about 1/3 larger than the real Oval) I was a bit awestruck. After a few 15 hour days shooting in there I became quickly used to it!
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Old November 30th, 2003, 07:30 PM   #8
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You're right Charles,

If the Bonfire script was anywhere as interesting as that title sequence it probably would have been a pretty good movie.

Regards, RB.
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Old December 6th, 2003, 05:33 PM   #9
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charles, you must know joe becker then huh?
he is a friend of my moms and i hope to work with him this summer as an intern...

i saw the west wing post and thought it was pretty cool.
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Old December 10th, 2003, 04:30 PM   #10
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Keep in mind that if you are going to do a transition shot from
outside to inside you will have to deal with the massive light
loss, otherwise things will be too dark inside or too hot outside.
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Old December 10th, 2003, 10:08 PM   #11
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Jerry:

Not sure--what does he do? It's been three or four years now since I did "West Wing", I've lost track.

re: transition from outside to light--even on features, this is done essentially the same as a DV camcorder would do it; riding the iris. On a feature the camera assistant would remotely pull the iris at a predetermined speed and cue, and usually the shot would be designed around "burying" the transition around a corner or in someone's back or something. A really sophisticated alternative is to light the first room brightly and have the level taper off as you get deeper into the building, simultaneously with the stop(iris) pull which softens the difference.
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Old December 11th, 2003, 04:52 AM   #12
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The advantage being on film that the IRIS is a full manual control
instead of fixed increment servo control, right? Would it be
possible to light the room(s) your going into (if you can avoid
seeing the actual lights ofcourse) so that exposure stays the
same?
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Old December 11th, 2003, 09:31 AM   #13
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well the interior is a hospital and it is all generic flourescent lighting.

i can do it pretty much any time of day i want, perhaps i can find a time of day where the lighting inside/outside is as similar as possible?

this is an area i have no clue about, i have never done anything that required any real lighting thought.

matthew
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Old December 11th, 2003, 11:05 AM   #14
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There's exposure and there's white balance issues also--the daylight will be cooler than the interior. Most cameras will be able to handle this if left in "auto", but you risk having the iris clamp down if you end up shooting towards a window later in the shot.

On the first season of "Scrubs", we did exactly this shot; 3 minutes that started in the parking lot, pulled the principal actors up the ramp and into the hallway (hidden iris pull, natch), into the elevator, up three flights, down another hallway and into the ICU, replete with three whip pans. Take 37 was the keeper. It was an intense morning for me! The fluorescents in the hospital had all been changed out to 5600 degrees i.e. daylight so there was no color temp issue there.
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Old December 11th, 2003, 12:23 PM   #15
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Going a bit off topic perhaps, but Charles, whatever part you played in Office Space, thank you. It is one of the most under-rated comedies of recent times, and allowed the word 'assclown' briefly to become an extremely offensive form of playground abuse in England (I don't know if it's common in America, but in the UK it has great shock value). There was a time when I could quote that movie almost verbatim until my VCR chewed up the tape. Any amusing anecdotes you'd care to share?

Kieran
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