Friday, February 07, 2020

Communication Is The Key

  I've done a lot of wire work with a Technocrane. It seems every job I do now involves at least one sequence where I'm swooping a camera around an actor or stunt person on a wire. Needless to say this can get a little hairy and requires intense focus. It also requires that you as the crane operator know where the actor is going and that the stunt guys in turn know where you are taking the camera. Now a lot of work of this kind involves a fair amount of "making it up as you go" or "rocking and rolling" as we used to call it. So while you may not be able to say exactly where the camera will be at a given point during the shot, you can agree on parameters. Look at the set. See where the wires are and any movement they may be doing. I always talk to the stunt coordinator and see where I can't go. I've been in so many freelance situations where there was a miscommunication from the 1st AD or operator that I always go right to the source and find out exactly what that actor or stuntman is doing. They will appreciate it and see that you are actually looking out for their people. Also, forget the monitor. In these situations you can't afford to take your eyes off the head. Having a pickle operator you trust is priceless.  Mine have saved me from more than one unfortunate incident. Call out your moves on the headset. I'm always saying, "Swinging right," or "left and down," etc. I had an incident a while back where we had an actor travelling toward camera on a wire. We were in a hurry and losing the light and it was getting a little chaotic. The operator thought we were going to push in at the actor to simulate movement. With no rehearsal, the AD yelled. "Roll camera!" As we were about to go I saw that the stunt guys thought they were supposed to move the actor to camera. I stopped everything, went to video village and informed them that I wasn't going until I knew exactly what the stunt guys and I were doing. The DP agreed and I went out to the wire guys for a consult. Once we all knew what was happening, we rolled again and continued with the shot. Everything happened so fast, everyone thought everyone else knew the plan. In these situations, you have to step up and call a halt until everyone is up to speed. That Techno arm doesn't stop on a dime so you have to know what everyone else involved in the shot is doing and vice versa. This kind of situation can happen to anyone. The wire guys and AD department were all world class but mistakes can happen when the sun is going down and the yelling starts.
   This advice actually goes for any stunt. If they are flipping a car, go to the stunt coordinator and get approval for any camera positions.  If it's an explosion, go to the effects coordinator and find out the minimum safe distance for camera. If it's a gunshot, talk to the armorer. Communication saves lives.
    In any case, it's been a long week. Everyone stay safe. They ARE out to get you. Not really but act as if they are. It only takes once.

D


D

Sunday, January 19, 2020

1917

  I had looked forward to this movie for a while. The first world war is the war that we hear the least about. Even though it was known as the War To End All Wars. Early on, I had heard that it was a "one shot movie" in the style of Rope. This, along with the subject matter, had me intrigued to see how and what they did. I was not disappointed. As an aside, the press keeps mentioning the "one shot" aspect as if it's a gimmick or a fancy Hollywood trick like 3D or Glorious Smell-O-Vision (look it up) meant to put asses in seats. This isn't that. It's really the best way to tell this story. It's immersive and visceral. The camera never leaves the protagonists and you as the viewer are taken along (whether you want to go or not) for the ride. Camera movement almost becomes a character in itself in this picture. In a lot of ways it's like being on the first hill of a rollercoaster. You're slowly clanking and lurching toward the top and you know that a big drop is coming followed by a bumpy ride. Under the sure hand of the legendary Roger Deakins and Key Grip Gary Hymns and his crew, the camera movement is nothing less than spectacular. The only problem I had was that the whole time I was watching it, some part of my mind was constantly shuffling through camera platforms; "OK, that's a Stabileye on speedrail, that's a crane, that's a steadicam." Joe Blow from Minnesota won't have that problem though. Go see it. Whether or not you think the subject matter was treated the way it should have been, it is a technical marvel. If you want to know how it's done, here's your answer.
  8 Am call tomorrow. Blah,
D

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Back to Work

  Well, the vacation is over. Monday morning I, along with many of you, will jump back into the grind and will carry on until around April. The job I'm currently on is a new streaming series. Instead of breaking it up into separate episodes as we're shooting, we treat it much like a six month feature. The director and DP are constant. This adds to a certain cohesion that is often compromised in standard series shooting where the DP alternates and the directors are on a revolving door. We know the drill and the fastest way to get things done.
   One of the systems we are using regularly is the Oculus head on the dolly. This works very well for a lot of things, but isn't a universal tool for everything. Wisely, our DP likes to use an arsenal of tools for many situations. We often go from Technocrane, to dolly, to mini Libra underhung on speedrail and carried. They all work really well in specific situations. I really like the Oculus on the dolly. It gives the operator and I a tremendous amount of freedom to find shots as we often make them up on the fly with little rehearsal. While this works well and the Oculus is an amazing head, don't make the mistake of thinking a stabilized head can fix everything. A wavy floor like a linoleum one will still often show up onscreen, especially on a longer lens on a dolly. It's best for high frequency vibrations like a wood floor. If you use it on a very wavy floor, it's best to leave off the vibration isolator. Pneumatic tires also help a lot,  Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth.
  Good luck in the coming year and stay safe out there. Remember, take nothing for granted and if something can go wrong it will.
D