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Old January 11th, 2004, 12:38 PM   #1
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Whip Pan

What's the correct definition of a whip pan? My thinking is that it's a pan with a minute (if any) amount of drag/resistance to give you a very quick snap-like pan.

I ask because my Vision 3 head doesn't feel like it wants to loosen up that much, even at the lowest drag setting. I don't forsee any crazy high speed panning happening on shoots, but if there's something mechanical wrong, I'd like to know about it.
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Old January 11th, 2004, 01:00 PM   #2
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Andrew,
Your definition is correct, or at least it coincides with mine.

My Vision 3 head does not loosen to the extent that I could, say, free spin the camera on the head. But it certainly loosen sufficiently to allow a very fast pan motion. You should be able to easily rotate the head with one finger on the pan bar. Note that these heads have a built-in damping mechanism that ever-so-slightly slows the motion as the rotation decelerates. (That's part of the top-grade engineering that you paid for.)

Of course, be sure that the pan lock lever (lower left side of the head) is completely disengaged.
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Old January 11th, 2004, 02:06 PM   #3
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Yup, that's a whip pan all right.

The great thing with using a whip pan in a scene is that it allows you the possibility of placing an edit in the middle of what appears to be a single shot by whipping out of the first shot and whipping in to the second, then sneaking a cut (or better sometimes, a 3 frame dissolve) in the middle of the two. Works every time.

I did this in one of my Instant Films, Roland (at the end) and it got quite a few "how did you do that"s from the audience.

If you are whipping on to a static object with a very specific composition, it's sometimes easier to shoot it in reverse and whip off. Otherwise, there are a number of tricks like using your other hand or a string tied around the pan handle to stop the pan precisely--more often than not it requires a number of takes to nail just right.
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Old January 11th, 2004, 04:40 PM   #4
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"The great thing with using a whip pan in a scene is that it allows you the possibility of placing an edit in the middle of what appears to be a single shot by whipping out of the first shot and whipping in to the second, then sneaking a cut (or better sometimes, a 3 frame dissolve) in the middle of the two. Works every time."

I got a call to shoot some video on a film series a number of years ago. They wanted me to take a consumer video camera and shoot a POV of a "riot". My footage would be played back in "court" as the only witness to what happened. I met with the DP, and he explained the problem: the camera runs across the street to the scene of a confrontation between a police officer and an angry crowd. We discover the officer is surrounded, with his gun drawn. Suddenly, there is a screech of tires and a crash. The camera turns around to see the end of a car crashing into a parked car. The camera runs over to see if anyone is injured. Bang! A gun is fired from the original scene, and the camera turns and runs back to discover the officer standing over a dead man with his gun pointed at the victim.

The DP (and the director) were perplexed as to how to co-ordinate all the little scenarios to make this a seamless piece. I suggested whip pans and the "3 frame" dissolves. What I did was first run across the street to the angry crowd, and survey the scene. The director was watching my shot on a monitor, and when he felt the dilemma was established, he yelled, "Crash," which prompted me to do a "whip pan," in the direction of the accident. Now we set up the second act, the car crash. I stood in approximately the same position, set to repeat the whip pan to the new scene. After a couple of rehearsals, we were ready. The car came down the street, and when I heard the screech, I whip panned to the new scene, in time to see the end of the hit. I ran over to the accident scene and poked around till the director yelled, "gunshot," and again I whipped back toward the crowd. Now we rehearsed the final act, and then did the same thing. Repeat the whip and run to the crowd to find the cop standing over the dead man. When these three clips were edited together, with a short dissolve between each clip, it appeared the civilian with the camera was just reacting to what was going on around him. And it was all played back in "court" the next day's shoot.

Whip pans are commonly used as scene transition devices. We use them on "Rock Me Baby," and they are also used on "The Practice" as well.

BTW, some pan heads such as the Sachtler dv will allow you to turn off the drag. Not a big advantage, in my opinion.

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Old January 11th, 2004, 04:59 PM   #5
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Really seamless effect on Roland, Charles. Slick.
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Old January 11th, 2004, 05:08 PM   #6
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"Scrubs" uses a lot of whip pans as transitions, usually combined with a "woosh" sound effect. I got pretty good practice doing themon every kind of platform: fluid head, gear head, handheld and Steadicam.

Other examples that come to mind:

An incredible 10 Steadicam minute shot from around the 4th season of "ER" that was made as two shots, married with a whip pan in the middle (no, I didn't do it, it was a truly great operator named Dave Chameides whom both Wayne and I have worked with).

The clever Michael Penn video on the "Boogie Nights" DVD that appears to be all one shot, with Michael Penn magically transporting himself from one end of the set to the other--on the commentary, Paul Thomas Anderson refers to using "an old film trick" to achieving this (if you look for it, you can see the edit in the pan).

I can't remember for sure but I believe there was at least one of these in the marathon opening shot of "Snake Eyes" the DePalma movie.

p.s. Thanks RKS, glad you liked it. I came up with that while we were shooting, it wasn't in the script.
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Old January 11th, 2004, 08:50 PM   #7
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There is another Steadicam shot I loved in the film "Aria" (I hope of have that title correct) which is a collection of classical musical works done video style. The first piece, I believe, was "Bolero," and it featured Buck Henry as a philandering husband who runs into his philandering wife at the Madonna Inn. Beautiful, seamless camerawork by an uncredited operator. Too bad. Lot's of cleverly hidden edits as the camera swooshes around the Inn with the music. Nice video if you can find it.

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