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Arri gear head


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#1 Saba Mazloum

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 04:46 AM

Hey lads ,

Quick question about Arri gear head, I'd like to know what direction do the wheels go ? What direction does the left wheel turn at what rotation ? And that of the right wheel ? Also could they be changed ? As in could I change the rotation of the left wheel to the opposite ?

Hope this is not confusing ...
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#2 Tom Jensen

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 06:47 AM

There are two wheels, pan and tilt. The pan is on the left side and when you turn it clockwise, you are panning left. When you turn it counter-clockwise you are panning right. The wheel at the back is the tilt. Turning the wheel clockwise will tilt up and turning it counter-clockwise will tilt down. You cannot change this.
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#3 Saba Mazloum

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 06:51 AM

Thanks for the quick response . Not even the Arri 2 can change ?
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#4 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:17 AM

As far as I know, you cannot change any mechanical geared head. Remotely operated Hot Heads can be changed.
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#5 Tom Jensen

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 12:33 PM

As far as I know, you cannot change any mechanical geared head. Remotely operated Hot Heads can be changed.


This is true. The smartass in me wanted to say, "Just switch the wheels."
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#6 Jerry Murrel

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 11:19 PM

As far as I know, you cannot change any mechanical geared head. Remotely operated Hot Heads can be changed.


Stuart is correct. The Hot Heads can be changed; which is a great feature
IMHO. The problem I have with Panavision and Arri geared heads is that
when rotating the right wheel clockwise (from the view point of someone
standing perpendicular to camera right) the camera tilts up, rather than
downward.

That seems counter-intuitive, and if one is not very well practiced on the
geared head, one might (as I have, to my embarrassment) screw up a very
important take.


-Jerry Murrel
CineVision AR
Little Rock
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#7 Tom Jensen

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 01:16 PM

The problem I have with Panavision and Arri geared heads is that
when rotating the right wheel clockwise (from the view point of someone
standing perpendicular to camera right) the camera tilts up, rather than
downward.

That seems counter-intuitive, and if one is not very well practiced on the
geared head, one might (as I have, to my embarrassment) screw up a very
important take.


I'm not quite sure what you are saying. The configuration that it is in works great. If you've ever done a shot where you are panning so fast that you have to let go of the pan wheel and push the camera with the tilt wheel, I think you would see the benefit. You wouldn't want to do that any other way.
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#8 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 05:40 PM

If you've ever done a shot where you are panning so fast that you have to let go of the pan wheel and push the camera with the tilt wheel, I think you would see the benefit. You wouldn't want to do that any other way.


I would say you should probably be on a fluid head in that situation.

I found geared heads very counter intuitive when I first used them, and it took me a long time to 'unlearn' my preconceived notions of how they operated.
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#9 Tom Jensen

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 07:54 PM

I would say you should probably be on a fluid head in that situation.

I found geared heads very counter intuitive when I first used them, and it took me a long time to 'unlearn' my preconceived notions of how they operated.


Not necessarily. On a dolly move you sometimes need something to hang onto. If you have a fluid head and the handle is the only thing there is, it goes where you go. On the gear head. the head doesn't move unless you turn the wheel. Sudden stops on a fluid head is something that also looks horrible in dailies. Gear heads become very easy to use once you learn them. The fluid head is often a crutch for those that haven't figured it out. They aren't easy, that's for sure but their use and purpose is hard to argue.

Edited by Tom Jensen, 14 July 2012 - 07:58 PM.

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#10 Jerry Murrel

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 10:45 PM

I would say you should probably be on a fluid head in that situation.

I found geared heads very counter intuitive when I first used them, and it took me a long time to 'unlearn' my preconceived notions of how they operated.


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#11 Jerry Murrel

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 11:36 PM

Stuart Brereton wrote:

"I found geared heads very counter intuitive when I first used them, and it took me a long time to 'unlearn' my preconceived notions of how they operated."


I quite agree. I remember prepping a 35mm shoot at Panavision Hollywood and noticing that the DP (an AFI graduate) had not requested a Panny geared head, even though we were using a dolly.

I asked for one and the kind folks at Panavision supplied it at no extra charge. When we started shooting, the DP told me I could return the geared head to PV, as he preferred to shoot with an O'Connor fluid head. He told me that for him it was much simpler.

A recent production still from "Water For Elephants" shows Rodrigo Prieto operating on a dolly shot. He was also using an O'Connor 2575 Fluid Head for ease of use. Of course, these are both instances of DPs operating, rather than SOC camera operators.

Tom is certainly right about geared heads being excellent tools, and the Worrals and Technoheads are much more affordable than a high end O'Connor. But more and more they seem to be relics from an age in which many cameras weighed 100 lbs or more.

I would still use one with a 65mm Panaflex camera or an IMAX film camera. And I would need to practice for many hours.


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#12 Tom Jensen

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 08:40 AM

To each their own. It is really the DP's prerogative. The operator will often use what the DP says to use. Whatever gives you confidence and makes your life easier, use it. One of the beauties of the geared head is that you can count turns of the wheels for repeatable moves. This is particularly useful when you need to land on an exact spot on longer lenses. With a fluid head it is sometimes difficult to repeat moves to exact positions. Fluid heads are great, I have nothing against them but like any job, you have to have the right tool for the job. Sometimes you just can't do the move on a fluid and sometimes you just can't do the shot on a gear head. That being said, I would want a geared head on every job if I could get it. Just remember that as an operator, you MUST know how to use one. If you get called for a job and your camera is given the geared head, production and the DP expects that you can to the job. In the 80's I went up to Otto Nemenz just about every weekend and practiced on the geared head until every move became second nature. It just takes a little commitment.
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#13 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 11:56 AM

Not necessarily. On a dolly move you sometimes need something to hang onto. If you have a fluid head and the handle is the only thing there is, it goes where you go. On the gear head. the head doesn't move unless you turn the wheel. Sudden stops on a fluid head is something that also looks horrible in dailies. Gear heads become very easy to use once you learn them. The fluid head is often a crutch for those that haven't figured it out. They aren't easy, that's for sure but their use and purpose is hard to argue.



If you're doing a move that is beyond the capabilities of a gear head (panning so fast that you need to drag the head by the tilt handle) then you are definitely using the wrong tool.
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#14 Tom Jensen

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 01:21 PM

If you're doing a move that is beyond the capabilities of a gear head (panning so fast that you need to drag the head by the tilt handle) then you are definitely using the wrong tool.


You just have to know what you're doing. It's a skill, not a mistake. I've done it many, many times and I've seen it done many, many times by the best.
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#15 Tom Jensen

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 01:39 PM

In addition, letting the wheels spin isn't using the geared head beyond its' capabilities, you're using it beyond your hand's capability to turn the wheel fast enough. Stopping the wheel is an art. You have to use your hand as a brake and it can get hot fast. You have to ease it to a stop. Trust me, I'm not the only one who does this.
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#16 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 12:49 AM

I've seen it done many times too, but every time I've thought "why not just use the O'Connor?". Each to their own, I guess.
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#17 Tom Jensen

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 08:32 AM

I've seen it done many times too, but every time I've thought "why not just use the O'Connor?". Each to their own, I guess.


Because the O'Connor head might be on another camera. Do you really want to stop production to swap heads, especially if the other camera can't do the shot without it or it's on the next stage or out on 2nd unit? You just have to learn to do it. Sometimes the rehearsal goes great without it and in the middle of the take, all of a sudden things speed you have to spin the wheel. It might be a stunt and you have one shot at it and it could mean the difference in getting the shot and not getting the shot. And what if it is a full speed dolly move that comes to an abrupt stop? The fluid head will dip down just about every time. My point is that sometimes you don't have a choice. Do you want to be the guy that says, "I can't do the shot because I don't have the right head." That never goes over well. Switching to third gear might speed things up but then then small turns of the wheel make for big camera moves that aren't as easy to control. The smoothest moves are in the lowest possible gears.
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#18 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 02:56 PM

Yeah, sometimes you don't have a choice, and you'll need to use a head in a way it wasn't intended to work, but on every other occasion you should choose the most appropriate tool for the job. In my humble opinion, fluid heads are better for whip pans.
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#19 Tom Jensen

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 05:23 PM

Yeah, sometimes you don't have a choice, and you'll need to use a head in a way it wasn't intended to work, but on every other occasion you should choose the most appropriate tool for the job. In my humble opinion, fluid heads are better for whip pans.


Right tool for the right job always makes ones' life easier.
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#20 Charles Papert

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 01:28 PM

In my operating career I did quite a few whip pans on geared heads ( as well as the fast spin of the pan wheel maneuver Tom describes). I also did them on fluid heads. Certain nuances of a shot, also considering where the shot goes before and after the whip pan, dictated which head I would use. Having both at your disposal give one a choice, which is nice, but it takes a lot of experience and trial and error before all of the advantages become apparent.

These days, the speed and strapped budgets have dictated that I just can't allocate the extra money for a geared head in my packages as it would come at the expense of other crucial items (there's not one ounce of fat--I generally have to make decisions on the tiniest accessory. Yay). It would be nice to offer my operators that choice, but times have changed. There are a few advantages of the fluid head that are undeniable--working a little zoom into the shot (I was never quite convinced that having the AC do it with the gun was the right way) and the 90 degrees of tilt either direction without the time hit of tilt plates (which mess up the operating feel as well). There are ways around a lot of the classic complaints about using a fluid head on the dolly, such as momentarily applying the tilt brake when coming to a fast stop and increasing tilt friction to avoid the sudden dips from acceleration. For as long as I disagreed with those who claimed that the geared head produced a "mechanical" or (interestingly) "American" look to operating, I had to slowly accept that the reverse was true--the fluid head is just as capable of the precision of the geared head. Certainly there are some great tricks like counting the wheel rotations (nailing those fast stand-ups and sit downs every time), but I'm glad to not have to waste any time on set watching heads get changed or cameras rebalanced (and wedges slid in) as tilt plates are engaged. I kinda miss them though.

For new operators, it's a tough time as they become more rare on set but it is still an important skill to learn as they are the de facto for remote heads. Not easy to get thrown onto a Technocrane and have to wrap one's head around a complicated backpan when you are still trying to remember which direction is tilt down.
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