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Overhead Tracking Shot


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#1 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 06:39 PM

A guy is walking and I need to track with him over his shoulder so his arms are visible.

What camera scenario is the most logical, I am self financing this.

A couple ideas are a lipstick cam mounted to some kind of steadicam harness that the performer would actually wear themselves. I haven't seen one of these but I assume they exist, right?

Use a pick-up truck with a tripod on the flatbed and drive the pick-up at a slow enough speed to track the performer. I should have enough elevation to shoot over their shoulder.

Any other ideas? The first idea I have neither a lipstick cam nor a harness, the second idea I have everything but the pick-up truck.

Any other ideas?
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#2 Mitch Gross

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 05:54 PM

There are numerous ways oaccomplish such a shot, and it really depends on your budget. The first that comes to mind is a Steadicam with a super-high post and a tilting junction box. This means hiring an operator with gear, and they specifically have to own the correct gear to make the shot. The next, far less expensive option is to put a jib on a dolly and track with the actor. Easily done.
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#3 G McMahon

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 06:06 PM

I am not seeing it from your description. When you say seeing there arms, are you over their shoulder looking down towards their waist as their arms swing? Or is it a wider shot MS from behind? I have notoriety for dodgy cheap solutions.
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#4 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 09:17 PM

I am not seeing it from your description. When you say seeing there arms, are you over their shoulder looking down towards their waist as their arms swing? Or is it a wider shot MS from behind? I have notoriety for dodgy cheap solutions.


Over the shoulder, but also above their head, keeping pace as they walk forward, back of their head would be closest to camera.
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#5 G McMahon

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 11:15 AM

Hi there,

Is it possible to have a western dolly towed behind him (from the actors belt eg.). That way the camera will move in time with the actor. I did a similiar thing in reverse, actor pushing camera.
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#6 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 05:45 PM

Hi there,

Is it possible to have a western dolly towed behind him (from the actors belt eg.). That way the camera will move in time with the actor. I did a similiar thing in reverse, actor pushing camera.



Wow, kind of reminds me of the saying that "actors are cattle". A tortion bar might work better. Put a jib on a western dolly, lock off the jib, then use a tortion bar attached to the actors waist, and then yell "roll sound, camera ready, Mush!"

I can pretend I'm Peter O'Toole in the Stuntman and actually stand on the dolly to weigh it down so the dolly movement is less jerky. Peter O'Tool's character never actually did that, but he was the kind of character who would.
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#7 Phil Savoie

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 06:26 PM

Over uneven ground a camera slung on aircraft cable works very well. The set up requires some anchor points on each end ? poles, trees whatever. As suggested talent can pull the rig behind them or at times it can be advantageous to have a grip walking just behind them in pace holding frame and leading/pushing the camera/sled. This is fairly inexpensive compared to a steadicam op or dolly rental. The camera can be hung from one single large pulley or a more elaborate multi wheel custom rig. You?d be surprised with what you can get with a few rehearsals and a steady hand. A recent thread on the cinematography forum under cablecam addressed some options.

Phil Savoie
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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 06:49 PM

What camera & format are you shooting?

If it's just an HD or DV cam you could probably avoid any really HEAVY rigging, as has been recommended.

Your pickup idea sounds a little dangerous, as I assume the truck will be in reverse and your actor will be walking behind the truck as it's moving...but one slip on the gas pedal and DISASTER, so I wouldn't recommend it. If you're working with a really lightweight DV cam or something, I've seen people attach their camera to the end of a C-Stand and set up the stand in the back of a truck as they've driven BESIDE the actor. And the results were great.

If you can get a steadicam rig for your actor that runs from their waste and arcs over his/her head & shoulder, that could work, but remember the street and everything else in the shot will be shaky while your actor will be the only "stable" element in the shot.

There are so many options, and so many that will work for YOU. Who knows, maybe in the end you'll just go handheld and get exactly what you want :)
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#9 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 06:58 AM

An Easyrig might work. I'm not sure how high you can extend the overhead bar though. I think you can rent an easyrig at a lot of places.
Other than that I think you could get a climbing harness and rig a piece of speedrail to it and rig the camera to that. The shot sounds like it needs to be connected to the actor, so I would avoid anything like the truck driving along side because it's impossible to keep the same speed as someone walking from a vehicle.
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#10 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 08:19 AM

In Requiem For A Dream they had a camera attached on the torso of the actor. Looked freaking great! Although it was front on, you could adopt that system to work?!?

How about the camera on the pick-up truck on the sticks and the actor sitting on the edge of the pick-up truck pretending to walk?!?

I may not understand what your desired shot is here, but sounds like you may only need to see the upper torso from behind and well, if there is room on the location for pick-up to drive through it this could work?!?

Get an actor to walk the 'walking machine' - u know, the cardio gym thing, with blue screen in front of him/her?!
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#11 Hal Smith

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 08:38 AM

Talk to Doggicam. They make bodyrigs for your sort of gag. They sell and rent their gear in various packages.

http://www.doggicam.com/
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#12 Mitch Gross

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 03:15 PM

The problem with all of these suggestions that have the camera somehow rigged to the actor is that the rig may show up in the shot. Heck, this doesn't have to be so complicated. Back in the doc "Primary," in 1962 they used a small 16mm camera with a wide angle lens and simply handheld it arms extended over and behind the candidate as he made his way through a crowd of people. Stunning shot and it doesn't get more low tech than that.
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#13 James Erd

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 04:43 PM

If your camera is light enough, mount it on a pole and walk behind the actors. I have a mono-pod that I can invert for this purpose. It turns out to be smoother than you would think for the same reason a jib doesn't need a lot of damping, and the longer the pole the smoother everything gets. You don't have to hold the pole from the end either. Put some weight on the end opposite of your camera for a counter balance, hold the pole in the middle and you are the jib!

Next to just sticking your arms out you can't beat this for cheap B)

Edited by James Erd, 18 December 2006 - 04:47 PM.

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#14 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 06:54 PM

Thanks for all the great ideas, I haven't clicked on all the links yet but I will shortly.

My first choice would be to use the camera I already have, which is a betacam sp camera. But I think that would limit me because it is heavy.

The truck, if I did that idea, would be going forward, the actor would be walking alongside the truck in the same direction as the pick-up truck.

Yes, I think that is dangerous if the wrong person is driving. The person who I would trust to drive the pickup is actually booked through February as a picture car driver, grrrrr.

I'm intrigued by the lipstick cam idea, perhaps just attacj a digital 8 clamshell to their backside. which I have.
The "gag" is the person is shuffling cards while they walk, but we need to see the ground below and his feet intermittently in the shot as well.
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#15 Phil Savoie

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 07:58 PM

Back in the doc "Primary," in 1962 they used a small 16mm camera with a wide angle lens and simply handheld it arms extended over and behind the candidate as he made his way through a crowd of people. Stunning shot and it doesn't get more low tech than that.


Glad you mentioned that Mitch. Low tech can be very effective and is often forgotten.

cheers Phil
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#16 Stuart McCammon

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 10:47 PM

Only problem with the jib is to make sure and use a heavy-duty, non-remote head that won't drift on ya)
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#17 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 19 December 2006 - 09:18 PM

Glad you mentioned that Mitch. Low tech can be very effective and is often forgotten.

cheers Phil


The talent is six foot two.
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#18 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 06:02 AM

The talent is six foot two.


I reckon I could still reach over that :D being 192cm myself
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#19 G McMahon

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Posted 22 December 2006 - 10:06 AM

OK, from what I read now. It?s an over shoulder walking shot of the actor shuffling cards. Can't you have him riding the dolly as well, staging a shoulder swagger, with the camera up high booming over his shoulder so a dirty BG of moving ground is seen? What's important about the shot, the hands shuffling?
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#20 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 22 December 2006 - 11:30 AM

OK, from what I read now. It?s an over shoulder walking shot of the actor shuffling cards. Can't you have him riding the dolly as well, staging a shoulder swagger, with the camera up high booming over his shoulder so a dirty BG of moving ground is seen? What's important about the shot, the hands shuffling?


The walking is just as important.
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