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Old October 18th, 2012, 10:11 PM   #1
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steadicam sequence analysis

@ 7:40 I love this steadicam sequence.. aspect ratio and quality is messed in this online version, but on DVD it looks so floaty and amazing..

Is something like this real advanced technique to pull off? The pan when he gets to the sidewalk looks almost motor driven its so constant and perfect...

youTube link
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Old October 19th, 2012, 03:50 AM   #2
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Re: steadicam sequence analysis

I hadn't seen that, it's a very nice shot and very well executed.

It's not so much a specific advanced technique per se, more the work of someone who has put the time in to gain that much control of the rig. Part of the challenge is aiming the lens exactly where you want (and also knowing what that composition should be at any given time) and the other part is keeping unwanted motion out of the shot. To achieve the first you have to be thinking several steps ahead at all times, so that you can anticipate and start dialing in what it takes (between your fingerwork and your feet) to ensure that the framing is always perfect. Also, it means working with the actors to get their timing just right. That pan is motivated by the guy getting into the rear sidewalk-side door and thus the timing between him and the last actor into the car has to be just so. It's almost always up to the operator to make the adjustments with the actors so that it perfectly dovetails with the camera moves.

One classic example of this is the shot from Goodfellas, which has almost fallen into cliche because it is so often cited. However, if one watches it from the perspective that each person in the frame (particular in the first half) is placed there and given a certain piece of business to do because it specifically serves the moving camera, it takes on a new light. That's a shot that's largely about following two people from behind, which under most circumstances is boring. Instead, it's a fully captivating shot thanks to the various interactions and actions by the background artists, and it was completely designed by the operator.

Great Steadicam shots are partly physical and a lot mental. The mechanics are important and they can take many years to develop, like mastering a musical instrument. Wrapping one's head around the nuances of carving through space with a camera and how to maximize the environment around the frame is a whole other aspect to the job.

To specifically answer your question, building a perfect pan in the middle of a rotating shot is probably a medium difficulty, because the camera is already in motion and a certain amount of the inertia is swallowed by that ( as opposed to doing a perfect pan with a non-moving Steadicam, where the beginning and end of the move would be more "naked"). If the beginning and end of the pan are not feathered in and out just so, there will be a certain amount of "hitching" at those points where the rate of movement through the frame jumps. Note that during the pan, the operator speeds up his rotation around the car almost imperceptibly.

Although it's indeed a clean job, this kind of shot is somewhat pedestrian for a working Steadicam operator. On "ER" these kind of roundy-rounds were a regular occurrence. If you want to have your mind blown, check out Steadishots.org : Steadicam Shot by David Chameides from ER. While you are at it, watch the rest of Dave's shots--he's done amazing work.
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Old October 19th, 2012, 06:44 AM   #3
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Re: steadicam sequence analysis

I loved watching ER for the Steadicam work. Would they have used a focus puller on that link from ER. I'm amazed how everything is in focus considering the shots.
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Old October 19th, 2012, 10:29 AM   #4
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Re: steadicam sequence analysis

Most people likely haven't even heard of this indie film, but surely most people know Vincent Cassel who produced and starred in the film.

The steadicam shot was so smooth and well executed it left a long standing impression on me. I should try to look up who it was. Would be interesting to know.

If I can do this shot, even if pedestrian, I would be most pleased with myself.
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Old October 19th, 2012, 10:52 AM   #5
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Re: steadicam sequence analysis

Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Denny View Post
I loved watching ER for the Steadicam work. Would they have used a focus puller on that link from ER. I'm amazed how everything is in focus considering the shots.
No-one would dream of shooting 35mm for narrative without a focus puller! In this case it was a chap named Terrence Nightingall, who pulled focus for the first 5 years of ER (including for me when I did some time on it) and subsequently moved up to operate Steadicam for the next 10 years of the show.

It was a challenging job, especially when longer lenses were in use, but for a shot like this where the depth of field was reasonably good, not as hard as nailing those Steadicam shots.
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Old October 19th, 2012, 02:57 PM   #6
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Re: steadicam sequence analysis

Thanks Charles,

Would I assume that the focus puller is in another room or tracking behind the camera?
Another basic question.... what fstop would one typical want to be at on a sequence like that.

Thanks again.

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Old October 19th, 2012, 03:17 PM   #7
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Re: steadicam sequence analysis

Travelling backwards, sideways, crawling--whatever it takes! Also imagine one or two boom guys traveling behind camera as well--it's quite a dance. The gang on ER had it dialed in like clockwork, it was amazing.

As far as a preferable stop, if focus pulers had their way they would
be at T11 all day! The sets on ER were lit to a 4 originally--at some point they were dropped to a 2.8. That was the minimum aperture on the studio zooms.
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Old October 19th, 2012, 03:19 PM   #8
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Re: steadicam sequence analysis

Yep, I thought that might have been the info that I had in my mind.
One day i would love to be on set and check out these crews at work, truly inspiring.

Thanks mate.

Cheers
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