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Information Overdrive: Tips For Professional Video Recording With A Steadicam

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Published on Apr 3, 2009

Tom Upton gives us some insights to best utilize a steadicam camera stabilizing system. What is the set up time for a steadicam operator? How long can you wear a steadicam rig? How much does a Steadicam weigh? How does a steadicam operator get the shot?

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Hi, and welcome to the steadicam edition of Information Overdrive. This is a steadicam Mine is a Master Series Elite. steadicam was invented back in the '70s and it's revolutionary film and video by freeing the camera from the jib and the tripod and the dolly without the bouncing and shaking of handheld. Many people think it works by gyroscopes, but in reality it's just balance, and the physics of the Steadicam's arms isolate the body movement from the camera. While it makes the camera seem weightless, the rig is anything but and the operator needs a strong back as well as a creative mind. at the moment my rig weights about sixty pounds. The vest distributes the weight but envision carrying just a 45 pound barbell. That's what we operators are dealing with. Think of us as a dolly that sweats a lot. One way to envision a steady cam shot is to think of dolly track as roller coaster. It can go up and down stairs following for leading actors in, around, and out of rooms, down the hall, and even out into the street. With this ability comes great responsibility. to make the shot worth the effort of the preparation and choreography. It doesn't happen by magic. It takes planning and rehearsals and a choreography to make it a really worthwhile shot. Planning and practice pays off not only in getting a great shot but in saving and editing time in the final production. In a single steadicam shot, you can save all the time and expense of setting up dozens of camera angles and the time spent editing it in post. Here's an electrifying example by Steven Fracol of a Steadicam shot he made that includes many Steadicam advantages. First, it sets the scene, the tension and the action. Watch as it starts wide and ultimately ends in an ECU. Note the grace of the camera as it goes up several flights of stairs. It also pauses to let action work within the frame. The steadicam doesn't always have to keep moving. Actors and props moving in and out of frame add to the action of speed is another tactic, and from a wide shot, all the way across the street, up the stairs, and through the house, and the viewer is now in a powerful extreme close-up there is no dialog in that shot and steadicam shots do not have to be that intense. Here is another example that starts wide and moves in, but it's an entirely different feel. A steadicam shot does not have to be a marathon it can simply get your audience from one place to another Before we get in to some other examples, there are a few technical, and esthetic considerations. One frequently asked question is What camera comes with the rig? Well the camera and the Steadicam are two separate items. The Steadicam can use any type of camera whether it's film, video, HD, big or small. How does the director see what I'm shooting? We use a video transmitter that's sends the image to a monitor. It has a range of several hundred feet and how do you change focus? Well the inexpensive trick is to use the lens set as wide as possible so that more of the image naturally falls into focus. But if you are moving from wide to close up you need a wireless focus system and an assistant to run it. And before you ask, having someone try to manually adjust the focus or the iris on the fly doesn't work.
Can you cut from steadicam to static shots Yes, it works wonderfully. And when possible have actors or props crossing the screen. Now you know how it works, how and do you use it? You can use it when you have a lot of dialogue between actors in an otherwise dull environment. its the law Or to move characters between moves or locations. It can certainly capture action. And it's perfect for POV or even dream sequences. As I said earlier, magic doesn't happen by simply putting on the steadicam and some directors who are working with it for the first time often make two extreme mistakes. Either, they make a shot profoundly over complicated, or way too simple. So we've all only just begun to scratch the surface of what you can do with a steadicam. We haven't even gotten into things like low mode and the tricks you can do with that. So, always get us involved early in the mix, before shoot day if you can. We can help make you create shots that will move your project to a whole other level. So where do you download Information Overdrive? Go to Crews Control's website and click podcast.

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