Thursday, June 27, 2013

Alexa Update

   I posted last year about some problems regarding the Alexa that I was having on a show (I would link to the post, but the internet here is slow because the entire crew is on it, so just look it up). In short, we were shooting on mostly zooms, with the 15 mil rods and were having a nightmare getting the bumps out. Shots that I would not have hesitated to do without skates on a Panaflex were showing bumps and shimmies like we were on a dirt road instead of track. We tried wedging under the lens, skate wheels bracing the arm, everything, yet the bumps still showed. We finally switched to 19mm rods and that cut out 75% of the problem, but I was still having to wedge under the lens. The problem is the 4" footprint of the baseplate and not much supporting the rest of the camera. Since this post, I've gotten phone calls and emails from many dolly grips having the same problem with this camera. I got a text just yesterday from another one. I don't know what the solution is unless Arri comes up with a better support system, or if the rental houses at least make sure that all the necessary support brackets etc. come out with this camera. The movie I'm doing now is maybe 20% Alexa and the rest are Canon cameras (a lot of car mounts) but we are still having to wedge the lens. Anyone got any thoughts or comments on this situation? Fire away...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Being "Reactionary"

  I'm from the old school. This is the school where you, get marks, watch a rehearsal, set up, do a first team rehearsal (stop and go), and then shoot. This still seems to be the norm in television, where time is of the essence and the understanding of time budgeting seems to be a little more evolved on a day- to -day basis. Features, lately, though, seem to work on a more catch-as catch-can basis, where no time is given to the camera crew to work out the bugs of any given shot. Our old friend Sanjay believes that this is a result of digital filmmaking, which has worn away the old discipline of rehearse-mark-rehearse-shoot. We now seem to turn the camera on and just roll, and roll around, hoping to get good pieces. I agree, and I see it more and more. Pixels are cheap, compared to film stock, and this has resulted in lowering the bar on a technical level for those of us directly related to the final outcome of any given shot. I used to lament about the editor using the one bad take out of four that had a bump or bad boom in it. Now, there's just one endless take that we extract pieces from. In a way, it's actually raising the bar. You have to be right every time, but in a different way. It's like auditioning on the first take every time and having to sight read music. I've heard this called being "reactionary," or reacting to what unfolds before you and finding the shot within it. To a certain extent, this can be fun (given that your operator trusts you). On the other hand, it's total crap. I've got to get well around six hundred pounds of dolly  or four thousand pounds of Technocrane arm moving on the whims of a twenty-something actor who never does the same thing twice. My competitive nature says, "Bring it on!" and my common sense says, "You people are out of your mind." Not too long ago, I spent twelve weeks working this way on a huge movie and it made me almost ready to go back to TV. Believe it or not, the talents of the dolly grip seem to be more respected there. In the feature world of today, stuff just gets done and you either roll with it or you're replaced by someone who does. In either case it comes down to this: spending a little more prep time and getting a spectacular shot, or doing it on the fly and half-assing it. I'm not a half-ass kind of guy. It all comes down to trust. If you're doing this kind of reactionary show, you have to have the trust of your DP, Operator, and Director. WIthout it, you're gone.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Weekly (monthly) Update

   Hi everyone. It's been a busy couple of weeks so not much time to post. We are sprinting toward the last three weeks of our fourteen week show. After a couple of weeks of mainly car mounts (which were a lot of fun), we had some days of actual old fashioned movie making with dialogue and everything. This DP (who I really enjoy working with) likes to go big on the cranes. He also loves to set up really intricate shots with the fifty-foot Technocrane. I find myself doing a lot of fun moves involving circling around actors, "scraping the paint" off of hundred thousand dollar cars, and hitting over-the-shoulders at sixty feet from the camera. Thanks go out to Mike Howell and Jeff Curtis, two really good pickle operators. Our DP and director excel in coming up with some really cool and challenging shots, so I often go from days of literally doing nothing but turning a wrench, to suddenly standing at the business end of fifty feet of arm wondering if I can still pull it off. I've had to become more adept at finding sightlines where there are none, and then suddenly changing them all as the shot evolves. We also get very few rehearsals (almost none with first team) so it can be a little nerve wracking. I think I'll do a refresher course on sightlines for cranes when this is over. Thanks for hanging in there. I'm still here even though you don't hear from me as much. One more week here and then we are on the road again. Keep the Need.....