I spent today surfing the top deck of an insert car manhandling a Hydrascope as we swerved around the city. Here are some thoughts:
Agree on a speed. Our driver is a professional. He won't go rogue and get us into a hairy situation. If you're going to go faster, the First AD should consult with you. It's your ass hanging out in the breeze.
Harness yourself. A crane arm will drag you right off a car, especially around a corner. It's a lot of mass and you can't fight physics. I know the old argument about wanting to be able to get off the car if it goes out of control. If you have to let go of the arm to save yourself, it's like letting a wild animal loose. It won't stop until it hits something. Strap yourself in.
Watch your height. Especially if you are shooting off the back of the car. You can't see what's coming. The top height on the bucket or camera shouldn't be more than about 12 feet in the city Code is 13'6". Give yourself some leeway. Watch for overhanging branches and low lines. I did all my work on the top deck today from my knees (no jokes) to keep from being decapitated.
Have a spotter. Someone should watch what's coming up behind you. If nothing else it gives you peace of mind.
Let the arm do the work. Don't try to hold it perfectly steady. Let the head take the bounces. That's what it's for. You'll needlessly wear yourself out fighting the arm.
Watch the turns. This is where the mass of the arm can drag you. Your driver should take them slow.
Don't let yourself get talked into anything stupid. A movie ain't worth dying for.
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Excellent post. I'd add make sure that you have clear and clean communication methods, and in addition to headsets, you have hand signals as a fallback. Also, make sure that the chain of command is clear (and in terms of driving speed and turning, limited to you, the driver and the camera operator - everybody else can make suggestions, but you three make the decisions).
Have you worked a lot with the Hyrdrascope? How do you feel about it towards the Techno? From what I've seen here in Orlando at CL's shop I like it but, just haven't gotten to play with it yet.
All good points, Wick
ETC- I've worked a fair amount with it. I like the Hydrascope fine. It does what it's supposed to. The action on the arm is good and easy to finesse. It actually doesn't feel that much different than a Techno arm wise.
Great post D.
Very good points about being clear with the driver and the first AD.
I add dead man leads to the bucket or arm if I get a chance. Basically it's a strap that has one section held folded with very heavy duty bungee. It establishes stoppers in any direction you like. If its very bumpy, you can use it to prevent the arm from touching the ground.
The bungee serves to feather the stop a little.
On a chase sequence for The Bourne Supremacy the insert car driver missed a cue, and swung the car too early, and I found out what happens when a Giraffe crane hits a lamppost at 90 degrees at 75 kilometres per hour. If it had not been for the harness I would have been flung off the car. As it happened I had bruised ribs and some pretty spectacular hemorrhaging.
Of course we lost one Giraffe , Libra 3 , Camera and Lens.
I'll second the motion about strapping yourself in. It's years since I've ridden a camera car -- I used to go along as a gaffer on commercials and music videos -- but I never had a problem. A camera operator I used to work with back in the days before Techno-Cranes and hot heads came into common use wasn't so lucky -- he didn't strap in, and when something went wrong (hit a bump, the car swerved, who knows?) he got tossed and hit his head hard. From what I hear, he's had the mind of a six year old ever since, unable to work or do much of anything but get old. Very rough on him, but far tougher on his wife.
So strap yourself in on that camera car, and be careful out there...
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