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Old January 19th, 2009, 05:29 PM   #1
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Using remote motorized pan tilt heads for weddings?

I was wondering if anyone uses motorized pan tilt heads like the Bescor MP-101 during the wedding day and how it has helped your shoots.

Which remote head do you use? What situations do you use it for? Where do you place your remote head(s)?

Any other tips or advice?

Thanks!
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Old January 19th, 2009, 09:44 PM   #2
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2 years ago I tried the Grizzly Pro remote system, (uses the Bescor remote heads) because I had read reviews of how good the pans and tilts were. I had the brilliant idea of shooting a wedding with 3 cameras via remote control and a live switcher using only 2 people. I lived and learned. After trying it on one wedding, I returned the system.
In my opinion, the pans and tilts are not smooth enough to be "on air." Jerky starts and stops made the video look like it was shot with a bunch of amateurs. It's possible to "take" only static shots, but even setting up the shot quickly enough was a real chore, especially if you're zoomed in. The only half-decent camera moves were the ones that were full wide. The good thing is that I had every camera also shooting tape, so I had a backup in case my switching was not good. As it turned out, I had to re-edit the entire wedding from start to finish, because of my horrible looking camera moves. Since then, I've been using only live people to shoot.

If you're going to use a remote, the only shots it's good for are as wide as possible.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 10:41 PM   #3
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Warrens experience is what most go through. Remote control heads are for security systems not weddings. You need competent humans.

Cheers.
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Old January 20th, 2009, 06:22 AM   #4
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Thanks for sharing your experience, Warren. I agree that, out of the box, the pan and tilts are not smooth enough especially when zoomed in.

In the best case scenario, you would have live people for every camera. However, this is not always practical or allowed. Some situations where a motorized pan tilt head might come in handy are when there isn't an accessible balcony but you want a high, balcony-type CYA camera mounted on a light stand, or up front at the altar where most churches won't allow you to be. Every once in a while, we'll get a church that doesn't allow anyone closer than the last few pews of the sanctuary.

I think having a motorized pan tilt head would be beneficial for certain cases, it's just another tool in our arsenal. I was hoping to get feedback from others who are currently using them as well.

Warren, what improvements would make you reconsider using remote heads? If the jerky start and stops were addressed, what situations would you see these coming in useful? Or would you still rather use live people to shoot?
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Old January 20th, 2009, 07:09 AM   #5
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IIRC Mark and Trisha VonLanken use or used the Grizzly Pro system and might have use another system prior to that and from things I have read in the past they swear by the system (not at it). I know Mark posted here about the system he used but can't find the post at this time.
Perhaps it depends on the head it's working on and some additional practice time?

Don
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Old January 20th, 2009, 06:07 PM   #6
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You're on the right track if your intention is to use a remote head as a static altar camera. As long as you don't do any moves or attempt to follow the bride down the aisle, you should be fine. The remote would come in handy if you needed to readjust your composition. If you make a mental note beforehand that you shouldn't move or zoom during a live shot, you should be fine.

To test a remote head, my suggestion is to try doing figure 8s. If you can do it without jerks or stalls, you have a good head.

I guess I'm spoiled... my first remote setup was a Jimmy Jib arm. The pans and tilts are immaculate, along with the adjustable feathered starts and stops. I got used to the feel of the system, then tried the Grizzlypro which I hated. I also tried the Varizoom remote, which works almost as well as the Jimmy Jib, but the head alone costs over $3K and it comes in a case that looks like a large ice chest. Believe it or not, I still have this head sitting in my garage, used once or twice. If anyone is interested in this head....let me know lol
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 02:28 AM   #7
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Contrary to most other reports here we use our third, radio controlled Z1 mounted on a 16ft tripod invaluable. The head is proprietory but modified and the radio control which operates the head and the Z1 (zoom, stop/start) was built for us by a specialist.

It's not as good as a professional hothead but for about $2K we give our clients a "Sound of Music" shot as the bride enters and the couple leave the church and, zoomed in, a unique third angle for the rest of the service and the readings.

We've used the pan and tilt to follow brides into the church but generally use it to set up the shot. The zoom is beautiful and as smooth as the camera's own control.

The key is to get the camera prepared before you need it. At these extremes the dynamics and flexibility work against each other but overall it's more than worth it and our clients get a unique offering. The key is to have it radio controlled because with an increasong concern over healthand safety - plus insurance risk - nobody wants cables trailing around the building.

Finally, some churches in England won't allow operators in the main part of the church and for those occasions we have all three cameras on these heads and run the whole shoot from the control desk mounted in a case at the back of the church. Having said all this, there's nothing to compare with an experienced camerman.
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 04:50 PM   #8
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Running a deshaker script in the NLE will usually eliminate the jerks in a pan by hand or motorized really well. It has saved lots of my handheld footage I thought was done for.

Or you could cut the jerk with a fade.

Do you leave the focus and exposure on auto when doing a remote pan? That seems a little less than professional.
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