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steadicam combined with dolly


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#1 melissa cobb

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 05:51 PM

Does anyone have any good examples of films that have combined steadicam shots with smooth tracking dolly shots in the same sequence/scene?

I had this crazy idea for a film I am going to be shooting in the summer, but I wanted to watch any films that had attempted the combination to see if it would work well and if I liked it.

The scene which I am thinking of using it for is when our main character, Frank, a straight-laced middle aged man, enters a 1940's jazz club for the first time. Basically, Frank is disoriented upon entering, but the club itself is completely in sync with itself. The steadicam would be used to get across Frank's feeling of uncomfortableness and disorientation (bumping into people, feeling lost) and the dolly would represent the motion of the place, the location being a character in itself, and that being smooth, like a perfectly choreographed dance. Contrast this with the big brass band playing on stage which seems like it should be chaotic, but isn't, although Frank perceives it as such. I see the whole sequence as a short montage when he first enters the place

So my questions are: has this been done before and in what films and what are your thoughts on this combination? Do you think it will work? Will it be hard, but worth it in the end or not?

I hope I explained it clearly enough. If you have any more questions I'd be happy to answer them. I look forward to your responses.

-Melissa
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#2 Nick Mulder

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 06:10 PM

handheld is out of the question ?

What sort of focal lengths are you thinking of ?

I always like super wides in a POV to give an impression everyone is looking at you, with fish-eye wides you get distorted horizons which add to the uneasiness...

the wider you go, the less stabilization is required
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#3 Michael Nash

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 06:12 PM

Sounds like a simple enough concept. I think the challenge would be in finding ways to reinforce the shift in POV, between Frank and "the club." Otherwise it might just look like all the dolly cutaways are from his POV (in the narrative sense).

I always say "the camera represents the consciousness of the storyteller." So if you're going to shift POV's of the same subject like that, you have to give the audience enough clues that the POV is shifting, and to whom. It doesn't have to bee too literal or overt, but enough that the audience can sense it.
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#4 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 06:14 PM

Does anyone have any good examples of films that have combined steadicam shots with smooth tracking dolly shots in the same sequence/scene?

I had this crazy idea for a film I am going to be shooting in the summer, but I wanted to watch any films that had attempted the combination to see if it would work well and if I liked it.

The scene which I am thinking of using it for is when our main character, Frank, a straight-laced middle aged man, enters a 1940's jazz club for the first time. Basically, Frank is disoriented upon entering, but the club itself is completely in sync with itself. The steadicam would be used to get across Frank's feeling of uncomfortableness and disorientation (bumping into people, feeling lost) and the dolly would represent the motion of the place, the location being a character in itself, and that being smooth, like a perfectly choreographed dance. Contrast this with the big brass band playing on stage which seems like it should be chaotic, but isn't, although Frank perceives it as such. I see the whole sequence as a short montage when he first enters the place

So my questions are: has this been done before and in what films and what are your thoughts on this combination? Do you think it will work? Will it be hard, but worth it in the end or not?

I hope I explained it clearly enough. If you have any more questions I'd be happy to answer them. I look forward to your responses.

-Melissa



Interesting idea. The way I "envision" your description is that the Steadicam would be either Frank's POV shot (getting bumped into, floating horizon, etc.) or following just over his shoulder.

When the camera turns to look back at Frank, it is from the club's POV, so all of those moves are also moving, but smooth. To enhance that feeling you might experiment with slo-mo by overcranking a bit, perhaps to 36 or 40 frames.
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#5 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 06:03 AM

If I'm understanding the question correctly, you're asking if dolly shots and steadicam shots have been cut together in the same scene...
The answer is a resounding yes. As far as examples, there are probably too many to mention. It really is done on a daily basis on features and television.
But I think your main concern is how to make them look slightly different. Correct?
I think you have a few options to differentiate the two types of shots. The easiest I think would be to use different focal lengths for them. Maybe wide lenses for steadicam and longer lenses for the dolly work.
Another option would be to have the steadicam operator be a bit erratic and less than perfect with their horizons and framing. Some operators may resist this, so try to make it clear why you need it that way so they understand your intention. If you're using a very new operator it may be erratic enough without you having to say anything!
I don't think this will be hard for you at all, especially if you are just cutting from POV shots (done on steadicam) to more conventional shots that include the character in the shot (done on dolly). In this case you really don't have to do much, it should be pretty obvious to the audience what is happening.
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#6 Stephen Press

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 02:13 PM

You might want to overcrank the POV camera slightly just to at to ?Franks? disorientation.
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#7 Zamir Merali

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 02:57 PM

If I understand what you are saying correctly, it sounds alot like some of the sequences in Pi. The actor was walking through NY china town. A smooth MCU shot of the actor walking was intercut with an undercranked handheld POV. It worked really well to show the actors disorientation.



This trailer for Pi has this effect for a short bit at 1:13 .
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#8 Melissa Cobb

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Posted 13 April 2007 - 02:08 PM

Thanks a lot for all of your help everyone. I'll go and take a look at Pi again. It sounds like this is doable and might work out nicely. I'll have to think about overcranking it slightly. I think it could work, especially with the music in the background. And yes, I do want the two types of shots to look different. I like the idea of different focal lengths.

Any more suggestions on films to watch would be great. Thanks again!

-Melissa
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#9 Nick Mulder

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Posted 13 April 2007 - 06:25 PM

If you are going wide and overcranked for the POV have you though of saving yourself the $$$ by ditching the steadicam ?

Edited by Nick Mulder, 13 April 2007 - 06:26 PM.

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#10 Melissa Cobb

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Posted 14 April 2007 - 12:40 PM

If you are going wide and overcranked for the POV have you though of saving yourself the $$$ by ditching the steadicam ?



I could just go handheld, but a friend of mine owes me a favour who has his own gear and eh'll be doing it for free. I don't want to go through all the hassle of steadicam if I don't need to, so I'm still working out all the details. Thanks!
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#11 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 14 April 2007 - 08:30 PM

If I understand what you are saying correctly, it sounds alot like some of the sequences in Pi. The actor was walking through NY china town. A smooth MCU shot of the actor walking was intercut with an undercranked handheld POV. It worked really well to show the actors disorientation.



This trailer for Pi has this effect for a short bit at 1:13 .

The effect you're referring to was done with a camera mounted to the actors body. I believe it was one of doggiecam's rigs. Arnofsky also used it for Requiem For a Dream. It looks much different than steadicam or handheld, but it is a good way to show disorientation. There is probably a slight learning curve for the actor when using this rig. The weight of the rig is certainly going to have an effect on the actors performance, and they need to be aware of how their movements will affect the shot. I think the shots done with this rig are very effective. But it's not the right tool for every job, no matter how cool it looks.
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