Thursday, November 06, 2008

Step Off's and a Good Show.

Thanks for all the suggestions. You gave us enough to keep busy for a little while. Someone suggested a post concerning the Steadicam/crane step off (or on). This is a shot (as Gripworks said somewhere) that can give a Key Grip/Dolly Grip grey hair. It's a shot that a hundred things can go wrong on, all of them leading to an injury or worse and should only be performed under the supervision of an experienced Key, reading about it here won't make you qualified to do it. The basics are: Steadicam starts on a high crane shot, comes down, he steps off and the shot continues on the ground. (or vice-versa) This shot used to be a "how'd they do that?" but has since become a "Why'd they do that?"
The technicals- (for purposes of this we'll just say it's a step off)- Someone has to counterweight the Steadicam when he leaves the crane. This means (at least) two grips have to step onto the platform as soon as it touches down. If you have guys working the bucket to lower the arm, be sure they remember to clear under it after the hand-off. Too many things can go wrong on this shot to have someone standing under the bucket not paying attention.
The Steadicam op needs a platform to stand on as he rides the crane. You have to get a large enough crane to accomodate the weight of the platform. That's why a truck mounted crane such as a Supernova works best for this. Generally, this also allows the Dolly Grip to ride with and safety the op during the shot. If the Dolly Grip rides along add another counterweight guy.
Timing is everything on this one. The grips have to communicate visually during it. The platform touches down, weight is added, it's safe to step off. If possible, it helps to land on a furniture pad.
It's a good idea to make the platform as long as you can get away with to give the operator three or four steps before the step off. This helps eliminate long pauses in the shot as it touches down and also gives the Key Grip a second or two to ascertain that everything is OK before the weight switch out occurs.
I'm sure many of you will have things to add or other ways you like to do it (or I'm sure there's also something I've left out). Leave them in the comments.

In a completely unrelated topic, I've been working my way through the first season (and now the second) of the SciFi Channel's Battlestar Galactica, which enter's it's fourth and final season this January. This is one of the most complex and well-written science fiction shows I've ever seen. It's a shame it's ratings haven't been higher because it really is a fantastic show, and I highly recommend it. Do yourself a favor and rent the first season.


Anonymous said...

You made the right choice leaving it this long. I've been addicted to BSG since about halfway through season 2 and its been a long, long wait for the second half of season 4. Frankly the best, most complex scifi ever written for TV.

Like the blog too.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto BSG halfway into Season Two, and have been a fan ever since. Lacking the budget for serious special effects, the show concentrates on character and story rather than getting carried away with visual pyrotechnics. Really good show.

As I recall, the classic "Chinatown" ended with a "step-on" crane shot, the hand-held camera moving through the crowd, then rising up to reveal the wide shot. Probably used a Titan, given that it was the early 70's. That's the first time noticed such a technique. Any ideas how they pulled that off?

Nathan said...

We had a step-on shot in State of Grace as Sean Penn exits a Hell's Kitchen hotel. That is one maneuver that's scary as hell to watch.

Trivia: The movie is loosely based on Mickey Featherstone and The Westies. One of Mickey's brothers or cousins (I forget), was the Titan driver.