Saturday, June 18, 2011

Winding Down

  Well, we're reaching the end of another six month run. I'm starting to develop that "last week of school" mentality (along with everyone else) which is ironic because now is when the work really ramps up. It's the climax/cliffhanger episode, so the action gets more intense, the moves get faster and more intricate, and the hours get longer. My show is inherently dance floor-centric. I rarely lay track except exteriors and for really precise effects shots anyway, so this week at least I was lucky to be on one of our few dollyable set floors. It's funny how after so long on a show you  become really familiar with what you can and can't get away with. For instance, I know which sets I can get away without a floor on lenses wider than 50mm and which room entrances are 7' and which are less, and can immediately decide what I need (that sounds pretty easy until you realize we have 6 stages, each with at least two sets, and at least three standing exterior sets that we regularly return to. Knowing these sets as intimately as I do saves a lot of time in setup and allows me to often bring along only what I know I'll need or what I know will fit. If I was really organized, I would keep a notebook of all the sets and their dimensions as well as floor ratings, but, as I said, at this point it's drilled into my head so it would be redundant. Maybe next time.
  To go along with Azurgrip's recent viewing of the new X-Men, I recently saw Super 8. Pretty much what you would expect, especially if you were raised on a steady diet of Steven Spielberg (he produced it) movies. It definitely has his fingerprints all over it. I actually didn't care for it that much although it's easy to see how much work was put into it. It looks great and the camera movement by Mike Wahl was, of course, beautifully executed. A lot of great crane work. Some of my favorite shots to do are basically dolly shots that are done on a crane where you swing around low following the action as you would on a dolly, then go into a rise. There's a lot of this on Super 8. The train wreck sequence is spectacular although it's the longest train wreck in history. Like I said, I personally didn't care for it, because it's nothing you haven't seen before if you've seen ET or Close Encounters. Hats off to the dolly work, though. Nicely done. Which brings me to another point...
   I did a show a couple of years ago with an operator who was really unhappy with his previous dolly grip. He said he wasn't very good, although he was such a nice guy that he let it slide and powered through. I recently saw the movie he was talking about and everything looked fine. Moves were consistent and smooth and I didn't notice any bad booms etc. But, I don't know how many takes were needed to get the shot, or how the shots may have been compromised to make them doable for the dolly grip. The moves were pretty standard, nothing like the fairly technical work of Super 8. This brings me back to the point I've often made that the dolly grip often makes his money and proves his worth in set up. Making quick decisions, insulating your operator from having to make decisions for you, and getting the shot in the least number of takes possible is something that only someone who was on set would ever know. I try to always keep this in mind that I'm here as a team member with my camera operator. If I can't carry my weight, he has to carry his, and part of mine for me.
  Picked up a feature in August, so I'm headed back to Atlanta in late July.
   If anyone has anything in particular they'd like to discuss, shoot us an email or comment. Alfeo, I haven't forgotten your question about remote heads, it just keeps slipping my mind. I'll get to it.

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