Steadicam Training days 2 & 3

Streadicam Training 

I spent a good while working on balancing and did some more of the tests for example having the subject in the middle circling and around it. I felt I’d really mastered it that day and also discovered it was really all down to the balancing. The first day I realised the rig was pulling away from me quite a bit which is just exhausting and basically impossible to get a good shot. The rig pretty much feels alive and if it is pulling all of its 4/5 stone weight away from me there is no chance I am going to be able to fight that while framing up. However, once the steadicam is on your side and moving with your every movement the shot becomes much more graceful. I started looking at the ‘steadicam dance’ in my book and noticed the footwork of the operator. It’s all about keeping the steadicam in the same position but manoeuvring yourself around it’s mass. I realised Id been practising yesterdays tests with the wrong intentions…previously I had been endeavouring to walk my feet along the line of tape, whereas the test was to keep the post above the line of tape! If need be, waltzing your body around the post to enable it to fit through narrow hallways.

In the afternoon we did a small set up whereby we would all swap roles, taking turns to help on each others set-ups, learning the importance of the role of the grip. Which was my first role, I had to support the back of the operator and lead them though an obstacle filled hallway safe and sound.

When it came to my shot I was to track back with subject letting them pass, then quickly following them as they turn town corridor,  pause then follow, track back quickly again as someone jumps out and chases them, follow them down another corridor into a room as they shut the door close up of face through glass. Speed is KEY! I think you have to have complete trust in your grip which is why it is so important to do several tests before filming. My three attempts where not quite Birdman but there were definitely sections I could cut in to. Being critical I really  need to work on framing! I often cut in to the actor head or left far to much head room! Balancing under pressure is difficult so I think it essential to master it!

In the session Joe also discussed with us the idea that steadicam operators are ‘rented’ rather than the rig itself.  Which in a way is quite a challenging prospect, as in order to get the practise you need to get to a good level you would ultimatly need to buy your own rig! So going down this particular rout would be a serious investment and one you would have to be incredibly sure of following. 

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Balancing the Steadicam

On the 30th a practical special effects unit did a demonstration at prime studios which we were able to attend and film. Sian was Steadicam op and I was her grip – She had the Steadicam rig on for around an hour in total and got some really beautiful stuff. Its crazy how quick you have to be as a grip – always alert to your ops movements and pace. The operator doesn’t want to have to think about where they are stepping in the slightest and it is your responsibility to help them track back and forth getting every shot they desire.

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Here is some of the footage she got from the demo!

In the afternoon we did some more tests to help prepare ourselves for the afternoons challenge. We were to get one complete shot of the subject sitting in a van, puling out and tracking left to reaveal something in the back of the van, tracking back with the subject as he enters the building then letting him pass and following him up the stairs in to a small room where he then ducks and hides. Here are my attempts:

I really struggled to begin with and couldn’t get the pace right. I found it hard to keep him in frame and only managed to take control of the shot towards the end of my attempt. Its a shame we didn’t have more time with this one shot as I felt I was just starting to understand it. Something I hadn’t taken in to consideration when filming outside was the wind speed. If theres any wind resistance at all the steadicam doesn’t stay still. We used grips to hold up flags/sails and follow the scene to take away the worst of the wind but its an important point to take in to consideration when it comes to filming outside with the steadicam on the graduation films.

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