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Old December 8th, 2008, 12:24 PM   #1
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Shooting on a moving city bus?

I need a ten-second shot of a person on a city bus looking out the window while it's moving. We have no budget to hire a bus, so we can't "simulate" motion and install greenscreens over the windows. The obvious problem is excessive camera movement. I've tried leaning against the wall, not leaning against the wall, tightening in my elbows, loosening my elbows, using a shoulder rest, no shoulder rest, etc. but to no avail, every time the bus hits a bump in the road the image shakes terribly.

I can live with SOME camera movement for realism, so would anyone have tips on camera handling, short of hiring a steadicam operator? Again, this will take place on a sparsely-populated bus on an actual route (which lets us do this without having to obtain clearance or hire a bus).

Thanks for your advice.


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Old December 8th, 2008, 12:37 PM   #2
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The only thing I know to tell you is to get the footage as clean as you can, and then take the clip into After Effects. It is great for stabilizing your footage just as much as you want it to. If you don't have After Effects, you can use the "Steadycam" plug-in in Final Cut Studio 2. Heck, 10 seconds of footage you can even send it to me and I'll stabilize if for you. No charge of course, just put me in the credits ; )

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Old December 8th, 2008, 04:08 PM   #3
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Hi Jacques..................

Alternatively, you get your hands on a Cannuk/ Yank version of one of these puppies and go shoot it with the camera mounted to the bus itself.

CAMCORDER MOUNTING BRACKETS

There's a bracket for just about every eventuality.

If you can't find what you need your side of the pond, order one from the UK, air freight wouldn't be that expensive on something like that.

As for what to mount it to, don't ask me, you're the one who's ridden the bus.


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Old December 8th, 2008, 05:30 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by John Stakes View Post
The only thing I know to tell you is to get the footage as clean as you can, and then take the clip into After Effects. It is great for stabilizing your footage just as much as you want it to. If you don't have After Effects, you can use the "Steadycam" plug-in in Final Cut Studio 2. Heck, 10 seconds of footage you can even send it to me and I'll stabilize if for you. No charge of course, just put me in the credits ; )

JS

I've looked at stabilizing plug-ins, but every time the camera jerks the image gets blurry, so even if I went frame-by-frame and re-centered the picture, it'll stay blurry. Also, the moving background out the window confuses the software, which tries to stabilize that.


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Old December 8th, 2008, 05:35 PM   #5
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Alternatively, you get your hands on a Cannuk/ Yank version of one of these puppies and go shoot it with the camera mounted to the bus itself.

CAMCORDER MOUNTING BRACKETS

There's a bracket for just about every eventuality.
I wish I had the time and clearance to set up a bracket, then we'd get a perfect shot. Hell, we'd even drive the bus on a smooth road. But this is strictly a "get on, shoot, get off" situation.

Although, I might approach a driver at the subway stop (where they rest for 5 min. before starting up again) and ask him about clipping on a bracket for a short distance in exchange for a coffee (or a nudie mag, their days can get pretty long and boring). ;-)


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Old December 8th, 2008, 07:22 PM   #6
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I've looked at stabilizing plug-ins, but every time the camera jerks the image gets blurry, so even if I went frame-by-frame and re-centered the picture, it'll stay blurry. Also, the moving background out the window confuses the software, which tries to stabilize that.


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Old December 8th, 2008, 09:37 PM   #7
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After Effects
Like I said, it won't fix motion blur.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 09:48 PM   #8
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I think if you have it hard mounted to bus frame, it will distort every bump...

Try:

1. shoulder mounted camera.

2. Monopod, unextended between legs of shooter resting on seat. Seat will isolate somewhat from bus bumping along.

3. Since there is no dialogue, shoot 60i, slow down by 17%, and render to 24p
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Old December 9th, 2008, 07:52 AM   #9
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Yeah, all I can think is just get on the bus and get the shot. You mentioned that it's only 10 seconds long - go for it. Get footage when the bus stops at a traffic light, or slows down for a nice smooth turn. Or, stand and use your body as a stabilizer by bending your knees and absorbing the bus movement, stabilize further by dangling your tripod below the camera for some DIY steadicam action.

Get on the bus and get it done.
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Old December 9th, 2008, 08:27 AM   #10
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These days there are so many folks with Steadicams of one flavor or another, might not be that hard or expensive to find someone to help out by grabbing this shot. If your camera is small enough, a Merlin would do a great job and be completely unobtrusive (hard to board a bus wearing a vest and arm with any subtlety!) There is a unique look to Steadicam on a bus--the image outside the window is locked to the camera, and any jostling and bumping the bus does is thus visible in the shot (albeit not in a jarring way).

Barring this, and knowing that the bus is mostly empty, would it actually be that impossible to grab the shot you need while the bus is stopped and cut the various mattes from the windows to insert running footage? Obviously heads against windows is the hard part to deal with as you would have to rotoscope, but perhaps it can be sorted out depending on the height and angle of the camera. Or have one of your pals hide in the seat behind holding a small section of greenscreen behind your talent's head...! whimsical, but it could work...
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Old December 9th, 2008, 08:50 AM   #11
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Like I said, it won't fix motion blur.
obviously you have not used the software. If your footage is blurry from the get go, that is one thing. But if you capture clean footage, the program will allow you to pick a main subject within the frame and that will be your "stabilization point." It does NOT alter the frames, or blend them, or whatever. Your best option is to capture this particular scene in HD if available.

Anyways...my two cents. Good Luck.

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Old December 9th, 2008, 12:48 PM   #12
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Set your lens to wide, use a wide angle lens if possible - or at least, set your zoom to as wide as you can get it. Engage optical stabilization. Have a crew member there to brace YOU. Use one hand to hold on to the brace bar above you and the other to operate the camera. Do a long take. You will have no control over which ten seconds you're able to use. Some of it will be usable. Some of it won't be. Don't try to brace the camera into a fixed state - use your body to absorb impact.

If you need a shot of a particular store front that the character is looking at, you'll need to do two takes. Do the first one of the character. Come back a second time and sit in the seat the character was sitting in. Have your camera ready to go. Start shooting as your approach the storefront you want and continue with the camera fixed on the storefront as you pass - keeping the camera frame on the store front while the prospective changes, as the bus roles along, will give you a terrific shot. For this, you probably won't be able to use your wide angle lens. You'll probably have to zoom in a bit but hopefully, not much. The longer the focal length you choose, the shakier your shot is going to be - something I'm sure you know already.

Spielberg wanted the cameras on Jaws locked down on the boats. he was told by his DPs that that was the wrong approach and would do the opposite of what he wanted to do. The camera men wanted to stand and hold the cameras and allow their bodies to absorb the impact of the waves - which is what they ultimately did. To some degree, you just have to accept the drawbacks of your environment and allow the audience to deal with it. No one is going to think less of your filmmaking abilities because of the environment's application of the laws of physics. A real DP would simply tell you that there are some shots that you cannot get without a budget, and that you shouldn't sweat that. And that would be the correct advice.

The raw footage will look much worse than the edited scene placed within a movie will. If the bumpiness is really bugging you, you may need to cut to a close up of the character's face in that moment. Or can you substitute a shot of the character at the window taken from outside the bus? Either of those could cover a multitude of sins.

You could try renting a glide cam for a day and see what happens with that. It may resolve your concerns or it may make them worse - I do not know. I've never worked with one.

I'd be interested in hearing about how you resolve this and would love to see the scene when cut. Best of luck.

Last edited by Lori Starfelt; December 9th, 2008 at 01:01 PM. Reason: ratty grammar
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Old December 13th, 2008, 10:03 AM   #13
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obviously you have not used the software. If your footage is blurry from the get go, that is one thing.
It is. Every time the camera moves due to bumps, you get motion blur.
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Old December 13th, 2008, 10:07 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the advice.

I got some great advice I may try, including standing and using my knees to absorb the shocks. Any gear, such as steadicam, is out, since coming on the bus with a steadicam operator is likely to make the driver balk - and we have no budget to rent a private bus, or to go through the paperwork of getting the transit company's permi$$ion. That also leaves out other solutions such as setting up green screens, etc.


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Old January 28th, 2009, 03:13 AM   #15
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Turn off computer image stabilization, as such introduces even more motion blur.

Final Cut Pro's Smoothcam zooms in to eliminate the manically moving out black bands, so use a wide angle lens.

I would tell the driver you are a student filmmkaer and you're doing a short on commuting, THEN bring a tripod.
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