What if you can't operate the camera for a certain shot? (9 replies and 8 comments)
Hi this is a question for Roger.
As a cinematographer I'm sure you like to have direct control of the camera at all times or as much as possible.
In situations where russian arms or remote equipment are needed how do you go about getting the shots required via the operator? Or do you just control those yourself as well?
Newbie question just interested how you would tackle the situation of someone else operating the camera for you?
I am not Roger but from what I've read, heard and seen on BTS footage so far I am quite certain that Roger usually operates every kind of camera setup (wether it is tripod, russian arm, aerocrane & remote) by himself apart from steadycam shots. But you're right it would be interesting to hear about Rogers approach and communication recipe for situations where it is not possible for himself to operate (drone, steadycam, additional units, etc.).
I'm not Roger either, but I work quite a bit with remote systems.
I just came from a shoot with the mrmoco Milo, for instance.
This type of operating is far too complicated (for me at least) and really demands specialists.
I really wouldn't know where to go in the Flair software !
So, for me, it comes down to communicating with the specialist operating that type of equipment.
I let him know what type of shot and movement I want and he'll advise me about that and makes it happen.
I've worked with great operators, even on regular cranes, who can make the shot required a lot better and faster than I ever could.
Thanks for the insight Morris. I'd love to be involved in a production big enough one day to have this problem!!! So far i've shot zero budget stuff with DSLRS 🙂
Believe me; we've all started out doing small, low budget, productions..
I have shot numerous films with my dad's super8 camera when I was young.. It's all experience that will take you further!
If you've got a good operator who you're in sync with and can trust for me it can be really really liberating. Particularly on low budget indie stuff where there's no time, sometimes limited lighting crew and lots of shortcuts that need finding (I know the same is probably true for $100m features someone will say!) - suddenly you have so much more time to obsess over lighting details, exposure, waveforms - whatever you like doing to get the image you want.
If you communicate with an operator well (whether on a remote system or not) they can get the shot you want quickly, whilst you worry about your million other problems. It's a personal preference, but I like being at a big monitor so I can really study the image and the lighting.
I certainly don't shoot with a Steadicam, as that takes a specialist, but I do operate in most instances. The Russian Arm or Edge Arm is just like operating the gear head as is a Techno Crane. The fact is, I don't use so many pieces of high tech equipment or multiple camera set ups where there would be an inefficiency to my operating the camera. Of course, there are instances when we are shooting with multiple cameras or with a drone, for instance, and the controls are through a joy stick. That I can't operate so I will sit with the operator and technicians to guide the shot just as I will when shooting with the Steadicam.
Thanks for your reply Roger. I hear steadicams are a bit of a dark art, although i've never used one myself! I guess as long as you have good communication with the operator then you still have artistic control over each shot.
Haha, well I wouldn't call it a dark art, but in the hands of the right operator it can be a beautiful tool.
I've operated a steadicam for years, but when I moved to DP, I personally found it liberating to work with specialists who were more experienced. And the amount of fysical fatigue didn't go well with my responsibilities as a DP, I found.
I have to say in the behind the scenes stuff i've seen, the whole opertion of steadicams looks fairly daunting, especially if a big payload is mounted. How do Smaller cameras like the REDs compare to the larger Alexas? Or is there not that much between them in terms of weight? I have no experience with these obviously just curious.
speaking of drones!! I saw lots of drone footage in Sicario I think. Were those drones or helecopter? Do they make drones that will house an Alexa (you did shoot Alexa on this film correct?)
Thank you for your replies. Your last remark about you operating brings me to another question.
In the US it's easy to find operators who can work with a geared head, but when I work in Europe it seems nearly impossible. When I ask for a geared head, it is regarded as very, very exotic.
I believe there are only a few filmschools in Europe teaching geared head operating, so I'm afraid it's becoming a lost art. I really love working with them for their precision and control they have over fluid heads (in a lot of situations, that is). What is your view on geared head operating and do you believe we should try and bring it back to filmschools in Europe ?
I agree with you that the gear head is a beautiful and precise tool to work with. I carry one as a standard on almost every film.
I guess Film Schools feel they are not there to train operators but when I was at film school I would practice very often with a gear head, a stick and a soft felt tip pen. I was told by an experienced cinematographer that the aim was to sign your name with the gear head.
Learning to operate with the 'wheels' is pretty basic even if you don't use a gear head. Almost every remote system demands skill with either the wheels or a joy stick.
Thanks for your reply Roger.
I sometimes wonder what filmschools believe their task is, as it has so often little to do with reality.
It's either too technical and solely aimed at operating (well, except for wheels that is) OR it is only aimed at conceptual thinking and analysis.
I've taught quite a bit over the years and realised it must have something to do with the demand. What students want to learn. Some people are hands-on and some people are.. well creative thinkers... They both go for an appropriate education.
I still believe our job needs us to be both (to some degree), but apparantly that's a hard sell...
Now I come to think of it, the creatives usually hate it when I talk about technical things and operators/technicians loose interest when I talk about creative thinking. It's hard to please people, I guess...
I think you are right! You can't create without technique and technique by itself is ......
Roger, your comment about practicing with the gear head (stick and felt tip pen to write your name) in film school made me wonder if you know of any other ways to practice- specifically thinking of handheld work. I watched Sean Bobbitt's Arri Master Class (great video) which has some great insight to his technique but not regarding ways to practice. Any thoughts?
Shoot some documentaries! I don't think hand held is so much about technique either. Operating a gear head is not all about technique either but there are things you have to master to make it more than technique. You can practice had held doing the 'Groucho Marx' walk, with your knees bending to keep the camera on a horizontal path. You can do 'bench squats' with a camera. That's all fine and useful but to really understand how your body positioning relates to the subject you need to shoot.