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Circular Track, good examples


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#1 Adam Howden

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 10:19 PM

Hi All,

I'm looking at shooting a scene with 3 people talking. Actually 2 girls chatting and putting make up on a main character. I'd like to cover it on a circular track and do a series of close ups. The director and I are just a little foggy on co-ordinating action to the camera moves or wether we just roll up going from one person to the other and see what we get, then work it out in the editing room?

So we'd like to try and find some good examples of where this kind of thing has been used. Dinner parties or board room type scenes...

Can any one out there think of any...?

Many thanks in advance!

Adam Howden
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#2 Tony Brown

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 04:09 PM

Hi All,

I'm looking at shooting a scene with 3 people talking. Actually 2 girls chatting and putting make up on a main character. I'd like to cover it on a circular track and do a series of close ups. The director and I are just a little foggy on co-ordinating action to the camera moves or wether we just roll up going from one person to the other and see what we get, then work it out in the editing room?

So we'd like to try and find some good examples of where this kind of thing has been used. Dinner parties or board room type scenes...

Can any one out there think of any...?

Many thanks in advance!

Adam Howden
www.adamhowden.com


If you try to keep correct eyelines for the cut you'll go nuts. you'll sweat blood (and money) trying to get it perfect and this will have two major drawbacks.

Any error will jump out and more importantly, even if you get everything 100% spot on, it will be sooooo boring. Using backs of heads as cutting points is dull and predictable

I would embrace the problem and take advantage of the confusion, utilise the erratic nature to enhance the scene. If the scene is strong enough it will carry through.

If in doubt then limit the angles, dont do something just because you can, it will end up like a student film exercise and consequently.......a dogs dinner.

Good luck
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#3 Bob Hayes

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 10:20 PM

Try doing multiple passes at different sizes. Also start your moves at different spots in the track so the timing is different. You may want to do half in one direction and half in the other. Make sure you get key lines on camera on a few takes.
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 01:39 AM

Try doing multiple passes at different sizes. Also start your moves at different spots in the track so the timing is different. You may want to do half in one direction and half in the other. Make sure you get key lines on camera on a few takes.


This is exactly what was done the couple of times I worked on a scene that did this. We did a very wide (couldn't tell what lines were being spoken) from down the alley so they had an "emergency" shot to cut to. Then we did steadicam roundy-rounds in two sizes. I believe we started each take of each size in a different spot. While this was going on, the director was at the monitor checking off the key lines he wanted to be sure to get the actor's face for.

Basically we covered the thing like machinegun fire: not precise but we probably killed it.
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#5 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 02:21 AM

Nothing good comes out of circular track, believe me.

I quote myself:

I don't want to sound negative, but circular track is almost always a compromise in framing when you have more than one object or character. Circular track is in my view only good for one thing: to track around inanimate objects where the object stays in the middle of the frame and in the center of the track (i.e. no panning should be required) - a face, a cup etc. The minute you have to pan on a circular track to compensate for something, you have compromised the effect and it will start to look snaky and unclean. It's hard to explain, but you'll understand when you can view it through the viewfinder.

Let's do a real world example. You have three men sitting around a table. Start by being so wide that you can get all three men in frame at the same time. Camera is pointed at the center of the circle, which preferrably should be an imaginary axis in the middle of the men/table. Track around and all will be fine. You will probably see your own track in this scenario, but it's doable. It's also hard to light for a 360 wide, but that's also doable.

Now, without changing the track move in to a close-up of one of the guys. Since he's not in the center of the track anymore, you'll now have to both pan and tilt to keep him in the center of your frame - this will look snaky and jittery. Also, you will now notice that due to your panning, your object will appear to be rotating faster as he comes closer to the lens and slower when he's further away. Your framing will also be compromised since he will appear to be smaller when he's further away and larger when he's closer. The cool illusion of a circular, even track is now broken by the ketchup-effect of having all that compensating panning and tilting accelerating towards the close end.

I don't have much time for circular track, as you might be able to tell. It's probably the most misused track of all and my heart just sinks every time a music video director asks me to bring some, because I know we'll end up using it in the compromised way above.
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#6 Hal Smith

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 07:20 AM

For reference, "Hannah and Her Sisters" where the sisters are sitting at a table in a restaurant and the camera's circling around them, Carlo Di Palma, Cinematographer. If you want to know something technical about the scene I can email Doug Hart, 1st AC on "Hannah" for you. I wouldn't want to claim I'm a friend (or even an acquaintance) of Doug's but I do have his email address and he's pretty good about answering straight forward questions.
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#7 Adam Howden

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 08:53 AM

Thanks Hal, I managed to track this down today and think it's pretty much what we're after. It was great to be able to show the director to get him on the same page, he's pretty keen for it now, so thanks Hal.

Any other ones anyone can think of?

Adam :-)

P.S. Thanks Adam Frisch, yes I think you are a bit negative...
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#8 Tony Brown

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 09:36 AM

P.S. Thanks Adam Frisch, yes I think you are a bit negative...


But right.....!
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#9 Serge Teulon

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 10:55 AM

I agree with Tony and Adam....circular track nearly always seems to cheapen things.

The best bit of circular track movement I remember seeing is in Departed on the roof. That worked...
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#10 Hal Smith

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 10:49 AM

I agree with Tony and Adam....circular track nearly always seems to cheapen things.


Have you seen the restaurant scene in "Hannah"? Woody and Carlo used the camera's travelling around in a circle to solidify the character relationships between the sisters. It's done so subtly that it doesn't call attention to itself. Rather than shoot conventional coverage they allowed the action to flow from actor to actor without hardly any cuts. What cuts are there excepting one coverage style cut are apparently because the layout of the restaurant didn't allow for track all the way around the table, there's a half wall behind one of sister's chairs.
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#11 James Brown

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 11:38 AM

Hi,

I agree with the above comments. More often then not it is a "style over substance thingo" but to answer your question there is one in a Short Film "Violet" that i operated on. I have sent you the link, i think it works extremely well.

Regards, James
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 01:26 AM

Have you seen the restaurant scene in "Hannah"? Woody and Carlo used the camera's travelling around in a circle to solidify the character relationships between the sisters. It's done so subtly that it doesn't call attention to itself. Rather than shoot conventional coverage they allowed the action to flow from actor to actor without hardly any cuts. What cuts are there excepting one coverage style cut are apparently because the layout of the restaurant didn't allow for track all the way around the table, there's a half wall behind one of sister's chairs.


Another really beautiful thing about that scene is the way that focus is thrown back to the next person's face just as we see an eye peek out from behind the back of a person's head. It's just magical the way you find yourself being led from person to person like that.
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#13 Adam Howden

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 03:47 PM

Hi Hal,

Mate, THANKYOU sooo much for getting in touch with Doug Hart (1st AC on Hannah & Her Sisters). It is truly amazing for me as a young cinematographer (32) to get information like this - sooo very helpful. Not only helpful but yet another fantastic example of the nurturing professional attitude of great cinematographers and camera department people.

I can't thank you enough and can hopefully return the favor one day!

Sincerely,

Adam Howden
Director of Photography

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#14 Serge Teulon

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 07:37 AM

Have you seen the restaurant scene in "Hannah"? Woody and Carlo used the camera's travelling around in a circle to solidify the character relationships between the sisters. It's done so subtly that it doesn't call attention to itself. Rather than shoot conventional coverage they allowed the action to flow from actor to actor without hardly any cuts. What cuts are there excepting one coverage style cut are apparently because the layout of the restaurant didn't allow for track all the way around the table, there's a half wall behind one of sister's chairs.



Hi Hal,

I haven't unfortunately watched "Hannah" yet...but from what you say I will do now.

Cheers ;)
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#15 Freya Black

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 08:50 AM

Hi All,

I'm looking at shooting a scene with 3 people talking. Actually 2 girls chatting and putting make up on a main character. I'd like to


Just to point out that girls are people too! ;)

love

Freya
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#16 Hal Smith

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 03:41 PM

Just to point out that girls are people too! ;)


Girls, no. Women, yes.

(And now I will proceed to detention for my appropriate whipping). :(
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