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Shooting boat to boat - stabilization options


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#1 Naim Sutherland

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Posted 02 July 2008 - 04:54 PM

Hi everyone,

I have a gig coming up shooting promo material for a speed boat company. I get the sense from the brief, cryptic interaction with the agency that this will primarily entail shooting speedboats from other speedboats.

I am wondering if anyone has any clever camera stabilization suggestions. My gut tells me that shooting handheld in a way where I can brace myself in the boat and the camera against my body will give me the most flexible, smoothest shooting possible, but I wanted to run it by you guys as well and see if anyone has any experience or suggestions to offer.

I have a very small budget (so no ultimate arm, though that is clearly the correct piece of gear for this kind of thing!), and I'm shooting on an HVX200.

Thanks for your help!
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#2 Andrew Rawson

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Posted 02 July 2008 - 05:24 PM

Perfect tool.
http://www.makohead.com/

Andy
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#3 Michele Peterson

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Posted 02 July 2008 - 05:30 PM

I've shot from a moving boat with that camera and without the luxury of stabilization devices. The shots were mostly unusable, fortunately, we were not dependent upon that shot. The faster your boat goes, the more you'll bounce, so you'll have to slow down. Avoid driving the boat across the wake of another, to minimize bumps. The bough of the boat will bounce more than the stern at high speeds.

My advice is shoot any shots you can from land to give yourself the option. When the production I was on did it, there were also different cameras on the shores (it was a lake) using long lenses.
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#4 Mike Washlesky

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Posted 02 July 2008 - 06:14 PM

Hi everyone,

I have a gig coming up shooting promo material for a speed boat company. I get the sense from the brief, cryptic interaction with the agency that this will primarily entail shooting speedboats from other speedboats.

I am wondering if anyone has any clever camera stabilization suggestions. My gut tells me that shooting handheld in a way where I can brace myself in the boat and the camera against my body will give me the most flexible, smoothest shooting possible, but I wanted to run it by you guys as well and see if anyone has any experience or suggestions to offer.

I have a very small budget (so no ultimate arm, though that is clearly the correct piece of gear for this kind of thing!), and I'm shooting on an HVX200.

Thanks for your help!



How about renting a Glidecam rig?

http://www.glidecam.com/


At the very least it will help dampen the bounce from being on waves.
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#5 Naim Sutherland

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Posted 02 July 2008 - 08:00 PM

How about renting a Glidecam rig?

http://www.glidecam.com/


At the very least it will help dampen the bounce from being on waves.


I did consider glidecam. My concern is that I will end up having to hold the thing so much to keep it from blowing in the wind that it might not be worth the marginal amount of bounce it could obsorb.

The Makohead looks awesome, though probably completely out of my budget. I have requested a quote from the nearest place, but I won't be able to afford it unless the client wants to pony up some extra cash, and obviously I won't hold my breath on that.
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#6 Mike Washlesky

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Posted 02 July 2008 - 08:49 PM

I did consider glidecam. My concern is that I will end up having to hold the thing so much to keep it from blowing in the wind that it might not be worth the marginal amount of bounce it could obsorb.

The Makohead looks awesome, though probably completely out of my budget. I have requested a quote from the nearest place, but I won't be able to afford it unless the client wants to pony up some extra cash, and obviously I won't hold my breath on that.



Thats a valid point. But if you are going so fast as to have to fight the wind, you might want to slow down. 40 MPH+ would be a problem, but I would use the glidecam, at say 20 MPH, and shoot slow mo since you are using the HVX200 so you can hold longer on the shots that are decent in the edit. plus if you do it in the early morning when the water is calmer, backlit with the rising sun at 60fps, it should look pretty kickin. Show us some footage with what ever you end up going with. Curious to see how it will turn out on a small budget..
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#7 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 02 July 2008 - 10:55 PM

Naim,

One thing I should point out: I believe the MakoHead is designed primarily to keep a level horizon--not specifically to stabilize the shot. Those are two different things.

I did a commercial shoot for Honda watercraft in the Florida Keys last December and we used the MakoHead quite a bit along with a lot of handheld work by Jordy Klein (who's dad, Jordan Sr., invented the MakoHead). Jordy has probably as much or more experience as anyone shooting boat-to-boat, and his handheld shots from his camera boat (with a catwalk that straddles the center and extends out maybe 10-feet on each side) were great--very smooth even in windy/choppy conditions. I believe he used a small Kenyon Labs gyro stabilizer part of the time (http://www.ken-lab.com/)

The camera (Arri SR3) we had hard-mounted on the MakoHead/tripod had a bit of bounce on the mid-to long end of the lens when the water got choppy, but that bouncing actually made for better energy in the final film.

Maybe you could try contacting Jordy for some advice. He's a great guy and might be able to suggest something to fit your budget: http://www.jordy.com/

Good luck!

-Fran
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#8 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 03 July 2008 - 03:21 AM

How about renting a Glidecam rig?

http://www.glidecam.com/


At the very least it will help dampen the bounce from being on waves.

That would be a pretty tenuous situation for someone who doesn't regularly operate a steadicam. I'd be very worried that they would end up over the side of the boat, especially if you're shooting from a speedboat, which presumably would require high speeds. Steadicam can be done on boats, but the size of the boat is important. The bigger the better and the slower the better. And if you're going to do steadicam on a boat, it's important to have someone that knows what they're doing in the rig, not someone who is renting it for one job. Safety is priority #1 in situations like that.
Just my two cents.
Good luck!
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#9 Rick Allen

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Posted 03 July 2008 - 10:22 AM

I am wondering if anyone has any clever camera stabilization suggestions. My gut tells me that shooting handheld in a way where I can brace myself in the boat and the camera against my body will give me the most flexible, smoothest shooting possible, but I wanted to run it by you guys as well and see if anyone has any experience or suggestions to offer.


Naim, at the very least you should rent a gyrozoom or the canon stabilized lens or adaptor (IS-20B2). Shooting boat to boat is Extremely difficult and unless you are VERY close and the water is VERY smooth your shots will be unusable. The place on the boat that moves the least is dead center and as close to the stern of the boat as you can get. This is where the props are and the most mass (from the engines) so you have the least movement. Again if you've never done this before (and even if you have) you really need a stabilized lens. Glidecams and steadicams won't work.
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#10 Mike Washlesky

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Posted 03 July 2008 - 11:05 AM

Naim, at the very least you should rent a gyrozoom or the canon stabilized lens or adaptor (IS-20B2). Shooting boat to boat is Extremely difficult and unless you are VERY close and the water is VERY smooth your shots will be unusable. The place on the boat that moves the least is dead center and as close to the stern of the boat as you can get. This is where the props are and the most mass (from the engines) so you have the least movement. Again if you've never done this before (and even if you have) you really need a stabilized lens. Glidecams and steadicams won't work.



Yeah but unfortunately you cant use a canon stabilized lens on an HVX200.
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#11 Brian Rose

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Posted 03 July 2008 - 02:24 PM

Second on the issues with renting a glidecam. You'd want to get a smooth shooter and vest (believe me, I've tried without, and it is murder on the arm), and that presents its only challenges. It alters your center of gravity, and if you're not careful, you could pitch forward. And if you go into the water, you're in SERIOUS trouble. You'd sink quick, and that vest doesn't just slide off.

And yet, if you're filming boat to boat, you've got to have it. It seems to me, the solution is to find a third party...someone with experience with stabilizers. You might try asking around. They can be found. Or perhaps you could rent the rig, and enlist someone else to operate, rather than paying for an operator and his rig?

You ought to speak with your client, and impress upon him/her the importance of this unit for filming. Maybe they might give you a bit more?

Best,

Brian R.

PS: I sure wish I could help, since I have a rig. Where are you located?
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#12 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 04 July 2008 - 04:24 PM

And yet, if you're filming boat to boat, you've got to have it.

Best,

Brian R.

I disagree. It MIGHT be helpful in certain situations, but if the boat is moving at high rates of speed, I would say that steadicam/glidecam is not a good option at all. The risks would far outweigh the rewards and the truth is that the shots will very likely not be that great. Again, if you're on a slow moving boat, it's different, but for high speed or big waves steadicam is not a good option unless risking someone's life is worth getting a moderately stable shot.
I would not operate a steadicam on a speed boat moving at high speeds. I've spent a lot of time on boats and a lot of time flying a steadicam, and I know that it would be a bad idea. Sure, I have a quick release on my vest, and I can be free of all my gear in about two seconds, but that doesn't mean I want to risk myself or the gear unnecessarily. It would be irresponsible, both to myself and to the people I was working for. And on top of that, I really wonder whether insurance would pay out if something happened in that situation. I tend to think they would deny the claim because of the unnecessary risks that were taken.

At a certain point, clients need to have things explained to them. If they won't spend the money to do the job the right way, the job won't get done the right way. If a problem needs certain tools to do a job, then the problem won't get solved without those tools. If I want to paint a wall, I can't use a hammer.
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#13 Naim Sutherland

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 02:01 PM

Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for your generous help and suggestions!

I have suggested to the agency that they expand the budget to include a Ken Labs KS8. This unit sounds very promising for what I want to do, and will not break the bank. It'll be a close call with shipping to get it up here to Vancouver from Connecticut by Thursday for my shoot Friday, but we'll see what they say.

I guess my worst case scenario is to rent a glidecam unit. I will certainly be careful, and I will have an assistant there to hold me on the day. I have done moving vehicle stuff with glidecam before, but not boats. I am still concerned that most of the vibration and bump won't be taken out, and that it will be cumbersome and more trouble than it's worth, but on the other hand I am concerned that I won't get very much if I don't bring it.

We'll see what they say. I am also up against the fact that this gig came from a craigslist ad, so I don't have a personal relationship with the agency doing it, and there is no established trust there. The other thing that sucks is that all I don't even have a name or phone number from them, all I have is an email address, and it is 'intern@theirdomain.com'... great, I am going through an intern.

Anyway, I will definitely overcrank at 60fps, and I will have a pola and nd grads on hand to add some visual punch. If all else is lost I'll shoot it really wide and they can use that FCP stabilization plugin!

Thanks for your help and support everyone!
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#14 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 08:30 PM

Good luck Naim.
I think having gyros is a good idea. You should probably have two so that you can stabilize two different axis' and not just one.
If you do end up using a Glidecam without a quick release, then be sure to have a sharp knife in your pocket so that if you go over the side and into the water you can cut yourself out of the vest before you sink too deep and drown.
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#15 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 09:08 PM

Why haven't we suggested that he wear a harness with the glidecam? If you give him enough room (slack on the rope) to move around the boat, but not enough to fall deep enough into the water, I think that would be a pretty safe idea.

I'm sure by this point he has all ready shot the thing, but I wanted to say that having an assistant holding you, is not safety; it's putting two people in danger!

For shoots like this, you have to stress insurance and safety equipment. The client must understand that paying a little more than they would have liked for insurance and legitimate gear, is cheaper than paying the coast guard to bring you up to the surface....etc.

Jamie
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#16 Darryl Richard Humber

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 09:28 PM

I did a movie last Spring off Cape Ann, MA with a LOT of boat to boat on open ocean. We used a boat called a "flight deck" as a camera boat. It was very stable and powerful and we mounted a short Phoenix arm with a Libra (and sometimes a Scorpio) and did a lot of work at high speed (boat not camera) We also mounted a Scorpio on sticks for some of it. It seemed to work out very well. Whatever you do, make sure the guys driving the boats know what they're doing first of all. This is the most important. A good grip crew is also important. There are a few pictures of the boat we used with a longer arm in it on my site at dollygrip.blogspot.com.
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#17 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 03:49 PM

Why haven't we suggested that he wear a harness with the glidecam? If you give him enough room (slack on the rope) to move around the boat, but not enough to fall deep enough into the water, I think that would be a pretty safe idea.

Jamie

In my opinion, I don't think it's safe for anyone who's not accustomed to operating a steadicam on a regular basis to be operating on a boat, whether they have a harness or not. It's hard enough to operate safely on solid ground, but when you add a moving boat beneath your feet you're multiplying the degree of difficulty 10 fold. Have you ever just tried to stand on a boat moving at high speeds? And like I said before, it's the wrong tool for the job, so there is little reason to take the risk. I would hate to see someone get injured trying this. Hopefully the gyro's do the trick.
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#18 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 10:18 AM

In my opinion, I don't think it's safe for anyone who's not accustomed to operating a steadicam on a regular basis to be operating on a boat, whether they have a harness or not. It's hard enough to operate safely on solid ground, but when you add a moving boat beneath your feet you're multiplying the degree of difficulty 10 fold. Have you ever just tried to stand on a boat moving at high speeds? And like I said before, it's the wrong tool for the job, so there is little reason to take the risk. I would hate to see someone get injured trying this. Hopefully the gyro's do the trick.


Brad, I know that steadicam is your "thing", so you take it personally. I understand that. I have worked with, and amongst one plenty of times to know how heavy it is, how hard it is to operate, and the difficulties that surround it.

I suggested the harness because the guy who started this thread seemed to be dismissing your suggestions, which doesn't make much sense. I figured I could help save a life :)

I completely agree with you. I can't even keep a drink from spilling on me when on a boat, none less operate a glidecam, with a light camera, without experience, at speeds, on a boat.

Curious to know how this shoot went.
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#19 Michele Peterson

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 12:03 PM

I know you are tight on funds, but a scuba diver trained in water rescue, or at least an open-water (ocean, not a pool) lifeguard might not be a bad idea. There are production people who specialize in underwater work.
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