Thursday, May 09, 2013

Technocranes

  Let's talk about Technocranes for a moment. I generally love them. As long as you have the right size (not too large, not too small), they make life a lot easier. You can hit multiple points in any shot without laying floor or track, and the shots generally become more creative just because you have the ability to go any direction in space (assuming you have the room). On exteriors, usually the bigger the arm, the better. It gets a little trickier on interiors. I have found that often you have more arm than you need. By which I mean you sometimes end up trying to thread a fifty footer around in a space where a thirty, or even a twenty would work much better. Here's the crux of the problem though: too much arm, and you are forever fighting the bucket end hitting walls, etc, and too little, you end up laying track for an extendable crane. Today, we had both situations. A large space to swing a fifty around in, but it wasn't quite enough to get us the reach we needed. So we ended up laying forty feet of track to do an extremely technical series of moves in a space where a thirty footer would have made life easier (because of the shorter bucket end swinging through doors etc.) By the end of the day I was exhausted. No, utterly exhausted. We swooped and circled, and dove in and quite literally missed the walls on the bucket end by sometime a half an inch. With a Technocrane, it's always a game of variables. On a normal dolly shot, you have a Dolly Grip, an operator, actors and a focus puller. With a Technocrane you add another: the pickle operator. So now you have six variables that all have to work together in a ballet of movement. When you add the extra variable of an interior shot dodging cars, and support beams, and lighting fixtures, it can become a little daunting. The only good thing about an interior Techno shot is the plethora of sightlines. Outside, you generally start high, which gives you nothing but the sky as a sightline. So I'm forever trying to remember that the matte box is straight up from the church steeple, and the sidebar is at hipbone height. I don't use lasers. I've got enough to watch for without trying to calculate if the laser is off the tape mark because the extension is off or I'm too high or low. This reminds me of a story, which I've told here before, of the dayplayer who informed me that I "shouldn't use the sun as a sightline because it will move." And with that, I'm out.
D

9 comments:

sk85 said...

What is a pickle operator?

Wick said...

sk85, the pickle operator is the person controlling the telescopic movement of a Supertechno or other telescoping crane arm. So called because the hand control vaguely resembles a pickle (Very, very vaguely).

D, I can't agree enough with too much crane being a problem, especially indoors. Also with keeping marks in one's head. I tried lasers a few times, and for some specific applications, using two (at different angles) worked to set start marks, but they'll drive you crazy when it comes to end marks.

And thanks for the tip on the sun, here I always thought the sun revolved around grips.

Anybody coming to Cinegear? I'll be visiting and will base myself out of Phil Saad's That Cat slider booth.

sk85 said...

thank you for the answer.

The Grip Works said...

I am on a movie where we have 2 Scorpio cranes - the 37 and the 24.
I hate the Scorpio crane. The Techs who come with it have no idea how to set it up (here in India) , and I simply cannot get it to balance. So I end up muscling it around at the expense of precision.
As far as marks go, I never use lasers for a crane. I use sight lines, and sometimes I use a C-stand with the arm extended out to touch a part of the weight bucket that I mark with a piece of gaffers tape. It works for some of those moves that have a very precise beginning or end.

D said...

Wick- sorry I'll miss you at Cinegear. I usually go when I'm in town.

Sanjay- There's not much worse than trying to muscle a crane around that's back or front heavy. I HATE babysitting cranes when they aren't balanced. I did use your c-stand idea earlier this week when I did a shot with no eyelines (open sky). Thanks.

Wick said...

D, If there's anything excitring there, I'll try to get some good pics for here. Sanjay's C-stand suggestion is great, any kind of reference stand is a help. And yes, there's little worse than fighting an unbalanced arm. Skipping to the next post, good tip on getting there early. Slower is something we can all do; faster can be a problem just like you described.

Unknown said...

I tech both those cranes. Balancing the arm is the easiest part of the set up. If they don't know that... Look out!!

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