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Zooming Out To Wide Shot


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#1 Ken Cangi

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 02:48 PM

I am shooting an adventure climbing film, and I am trying to find an alternative to zooming out to wide scenery. Dolly shots are not practical, and helicopters are not allowed in a few of the locations. I am trying to find alternatives for achieving this style of shot, and I am curious about whether some of the feature and documentery shooters here think it's ever acceptable to zoom out.
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#2 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 02:55 PM

It would seem to me that you do what you have to to get the shot. Zooms aren't the classiest thing in the world, but sometimes you sacrifice form for function. two-cents.
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#3 Chris Graham

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 03:04 PM

zooming out to a wide shot, kind of like one of those Apollo series lift offs where the camera zooms back making it seem like it's elevating drastically when the ship is probably static or non elevating when it hits 70 ft? =P
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 03:25 PM

They usually work best when buried in a camera pan/tilt move that's motivated by movement or the subject. Having said that, there are some straight zoom outs that work - "Barry Lyndon" uses them.

However, best used with great restraint.
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#5 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 04:32 PM

A crane shot with a slow hidden zoom might work for you.
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#6 Chris Keth

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 04:34 PM

Wouldn't bother me as long as you took the time to make it as invisible as possible.
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#7 John Sprung

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 04:53 PM

I am shooting an adventure climbing film, and I am trying to find an alternative to zooming out

Hang a camera from a small parachute. Take it up high, turn it on, toss it. Have a recovery team standing by below.



-- J.S.
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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 05:25 PM

How about a zipline? So long as there's someone on the other end to catch it, and there's no slack in the middle where it'll get stuck, might be a cool shot!

Oh, found this pic, looks like fun!: http://blogs.adobe.c...es/cablecam.jpg



PS - Topics like this make me think that maybe there should be one more forum for Camera Operators or "Shooters".

Sometimes I think of posting a question about certain shooting techniques, and they don't quite fit in the "Lighting" section, and certainly not in the "Gripping" or "Camera Assistants" forums.

Edited by Jonathan Bowerbank, 28 August 2007 - 05:26 PM.

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#9 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 05:45 PM

http://www.chayseirv...tlechildren.mov

Nothing wrong with a little zoom if your looking for some profound disorientation. ;)

I think a zoom would look great if the setting were right and it was revealing something "profound" or as a way to move the narrative.
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#10 Michael Nash

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 05:58 PM

I am curious about whether some of the feature and documentery shooters here think it's ever acceptable to zoom out.


What's wrong with a zoom? If starting tight on your climber and then slowly pulling out to reveal the scale of the rockface and the climber's position makes a compelling image, then why not use it? As long as that lens movement is telling a story, I don't see where there's anything wrong with it.

I think zooms have fallen out of favor because they've been abused for so long. Zooming for emotional impact (like into someone's face) and unmotivated zooms (that don't add to the storytelling) gave the tool a bad rap.

I do quite a bit of ENG/Docu shooting where the zoom is often the only way I can get some movement on the screen. You learn how to use it appropriately, and not as a crutch. Watch any good news-style documentary (like those "Dateline" mysteries, etc.) and you'll see how an appropriate and well-operated zoom can look very classy. A documentary is not the same thing as a narrative feature, and is not subject to the same "suspension of disbelief" and POV constraints. Nothing wrong with acknowledging that the POV is a third party, as long as it doesn't distract from the subject matter.

You could always get close to your subject with a wider lens and frame in more of your background, if it's practical to be up near the climbers.
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#11 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 06:38 PM

I've heard of an Academy of Art instructor here in SF who teaches "Zoom is evil"

It can be, but there's a right way of doing everything.
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#12 Michael Nash

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 06:57 PM

I've heard of an Academy of Art instructor here in SF who teaches "Zoom is evil"

It can be, but there's a right way of doing everything.


:angry: This kind of thing is ridiculous. It's like someone saying "piano is evil" because they play in a punk band. What about all the other genres of music that use the piano effectively?

Like there's only one "language," and only one thing you can say in that language. Do documentaries have to use the same grammar as drama? (or vice-versa?) Is there only one valid point of view to use in film? Sheesh!
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#13 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 07:35 PM

I've already been on a rant or two about this instructors teaching...so I refrained in my previous post, ha ha
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#14 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 07:56 PM

Zooming out is one way to do it.

Another thing to consider is to shoot specifically for an edit. One thing I've done in the past when without the benefit of crane or dolly is to do a slow PAN across a CU frame. Then do a matching PAN, matching speed, in the WIDE. If done well, a matching dissolve (the speed of it, for mood) can give you (the viewer, actually) the concept that a more time consuming MOVE (dolly or crane or helicopter) shot might have achieved.

I think that too often, cameramen forget that they can CREATE the edit points for the Editor. If you shoot something in a very specific way, then they have almost no choice but to cut it the way YOU envisioned it in the first place. Coverage is nice if you're not confident in your own creativity, but if you know for sure how you'd like it to be, take that chance and shoot for the edit. :)
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#15 Michael Collier

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 09:06 PM

the crane zoom combo is a great suggestion, if practicle.

Also forground in a zoom always adds interest, because the composition sceme will change as foreground elements encroatch the frame. Also keep in mind the lamest zoom keeps the center of zoom in the center of the lens. If you can, make your center of zoom something off-center. This of course means a very steady, metered pan/tilt move to keep that object in that portion of frame (or to have it slowly drift into a new composition) That gets very effective since your tilt/pan doesn't look like a tilt/pan, unless you mess it up a bit, and your zoom has a little dynamic quality. Try that out and see if it works for you.
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#16 Michael Nash

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 10:25 PM

Also keep in mind the lamest zoom keeps the center of zoom in the center of the lens. If you can, make your center of zoom something off-center. This of course means a very steady, metered pan/tilt move to keep that object in that portion of frame (or to have it slowly drift into a new composition) That gets very effective since your tilt/pan doesn't look like a tilt/pan, unless you mess it up a bit, and your zoom has a little dynamic quality. Try that out and see if it works for you.


Good advice. I guess I just automatically combine the zoom with a little movement in whatever direction is appropriate for the subject(s), since I don't usually put the smaller subject in the center of a wide frame anyway. Never really thought about that.

I wish ENG lens makers would make a "dampen" feature at the end of the zoom range. Nothing bugs me more than to have the zoom "bottom out" and come to a hard stop before I've finished my tilt/pan whatever. When that happens you've got two visible motions in frame instead of one smooth one. You can practice all you want, but sometimes it bites you anyway when you have to go all the way to the end of the zoom range for your shot.
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#17 herminio cordido

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 07:09 AM

Yo Guys,
I have developed a good technique for getting the dolly effect, it involves a still camera, After effects and photoshop.
I rigged the still camera over my video camera, then i take a picture when i want the effect to happen.
if you want a dolly out, you should get the closer shot first (with a still aswell) and then go to your wide setup (phisically going, not zooming out) and take another still + your video.
Then in photoshop separate the layers and recreate some background behind the layers, so you will be able to move in a 3d world in AE.
Then match both your video shots with the 2 ends of a 3d animation where you dolly in AE.
its a lot of work, but it looks awesome.
check this video for a dolly in effect:

http://one.revver.co...affiliate/45524

Cheers,

H
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#18 Paul Nordin

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 12:08 PM

I've heard of an Academy of Art instructor here in SF who teaches "Zoom is evil"

It can be, but there's a right way of doing everything.


I gotta agree with Nash on this one. There is nothing wrong with zooms well executed, when that's what supports the story or that's the choice for budget/pragmatic reasons. There have been some very memorable zooms in film. Although most of them were executed in the 60s and 70s when they were popular/new, an example would be the opening shot in Coppola's "The Conversation". Many of the suggestions here have been prefaced with the intention of trying to "hide" the zoom. I think a more powerful approach would be to try to stylize the zoom. I would probably want to go over the shot with the director and previz how the shot can be integrated into the action, and/or supplemented with dialog or sound/music to keep the viewer in the story. Depending on the terrain from which you are planning to pull the zoom, you could have a 3rd person perspective added (pulling back to reveal a table of observers, one with binoculars watching the drama on the cliffs unfold)...many options. I guess my main point is to not run from a zoom as if it is unworthy, any more than a static shot is. Its how you frame and execute it and how well it is integrated into the place in the story that can make your zoom an asset.

As far as the Academy of Art instructor...I've brought many new graduates from that institution onto my crews and they have all without exception claimed to learn more, and in some cases have had to un-learn from working on a real-world production than they did in 2-4 years at the Academy. That's the nature of the beast I think with all but the best film schools (there are 3 or 4). Although, to the Academy's credit, they do seem to be gradually improving the practical production skills of their graduates, as well as building an amazing portfolio of real-estate investments in the SF Bay Area.

Cheers,
Paul
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#19 Ken Cangi

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 02:25 PM

Thank you all for the input. Your comments and suggestions have given me a better perspective, and I agree that not discriminating in finding the best technique for the situation is an intelligent and practical way to approach this challenge. I'll let you know how the final shots work out.

KC
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