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Learning the Gearhead

gearhead panavision panahead film 35mm

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#1 Jeremy Asuncion

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 02:28 AM

Hello all,

 

This is my first post to the forum and I'm glad to be here. I am an undergrad cinematography major and I will be shooting my first show on 35mm. Naturally, a gear head will be best for our studio work, but I have only worked as an assistant with the equipment.

 

A few operators and DoPs have told me that tracing a circle on the wall with a laser pointer is a good way to start out.

 

Does anyone have any recommendations on how I can practice? I'll have just the prep day and the test shoot day to figure out the muscle memory. (Unless I should just settle with a fluid head?)

 

Thanks for your time in advance,

 

-Jeremy


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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 02:39 AM

I would go with whatever you are most comfortable with. I'm partial to O'Connor heads-- just because it's what I'm used to. Though, that said, a geared head is much more precise-- but I don't think I would go right into a shoot without trigger time on one-- ya know? 

 

If you have a dog or a cat, try following them around with a geared head. There is also the old thing to do of writing your name with one.

 

Though, just jumping right in and making it work is also valid.


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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 04:43 AM

Operating the gear head on a dolly or when zooming adds another level, especially with fast moves.


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#4 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 12:06 PM

 Naturally, a gear head will be best for our studio work, but I have only worked as an assistant with the equipment.

Actually, a geared head will be an absolute disaster for your studio work unless you are very familiar with its use or are only composing static shots. The best operators do so without thinking, as the skills have become second nature. It's one thing to practice moves with a laser pointer on a wall, but quite another to be able to instantly compensate for an actor missing a mark or doing something unexpected. Learning a gear head in a short space of time is a pretty tall order., so don't feel that you have to use it, just because it's there. By all means learn to use the wheels, as it's a valuable skill, but don't force yourself to use something you're not comfortable with.


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#5 John Holland

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 12:31 PM

Yes Stuart is correct it takes a long time to be able use a Geared Head .
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#6 Jeremy Asuncion

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 12:44 PM

Though, that said, a geared head is much more precise-- but I don't think I would go right into a shoot without trigger time on one-- ya know?

 

 

It's one thing to practice moves with a laser pointer on a wall, but quite another to be able to instantly compensate for an actor missing a mark or doing something unexpected.

 

Firstly, thanks for all of the recommendations so far! As with a lot of work in camera, it seems like a Catch-22 when it comes to learning the gearhead. I want to learn the wheels, but I don't want to sacrifice the quality of my work—however, I can't get experience on the head without trying it.

 

What do you guys think? I should also mention that this production is my thesis film for my school.


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#7 John Holland

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 01:07 PM

You have said you are shooting 35mm but not what camera you are shooting with ? If its a big old Mitchell yes then you will need a Geared Head . I am sure its not something like that so i would go with a good fluid head.
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#8 Jeremy Asuncion

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 01:11 PM

You have said you are shooting 35mm but not what camera you are shooting with ? If its a big old Mitchell yes then you will need a Geared Head . I am sure its not something like that so i would go with a good fluid head.

 

We will be shooting on the Panavision Gold II.


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#9 John Holland

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 01:18 PM

As Adrian said a O'Connor will work well with a Panaflex Gold.
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#10 Jeremy Asuncion

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 01:25 PM

As Adrian said a O'Connor will work well with a Panaflex Gold.

 

Sounds good!

 

Regarding actually gaining experience with the head, where would you recommend I start? 


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#11 John Holland

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 01:31 PM

Just spend as much time as you can using the wheels so that you dont have to think if you are turning the correct way , belive me it takes time to feel confident using a Geared Head .
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#12 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 04 February 2014 - 04:15 PM

Regarding actually gaining experience with the head, where would you recommend I start? 

Use it at lunchtime on set, frame up on the art dept as they're redressing the set or whatever and follow them around. Learn the skills in a no pressure environment. Then, time allowing, start to  bring the gear head  on set. Use it for easy shots to start with, and gradually use it more and more. Put it away the instant it starts to compromise your work or your schedule, but keep at it whenever you can.


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#13 Jeremy Asuncion

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 12:33 AM

Use it at lunchtime on set, frame up on the art dept as they're redressing the set or whatever and follow them around. Learn the skills in a no pressure environment. Then, time allowing, start to  bring the gear head  on set. Use it for easy shots to start with, and gradually use it more and more. Put it away the instant it starts to compromise your work or your schedule, but keep at it whenever you can.

 

Thanks for the advice, Stuart! It's so easy to overlook those sort of opportunities. I'll be operating for a couple DoPs in my semester so hopefully I can find a chance to practice there.  :)


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#14 Mark Dunn

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 12:10 PM

Why not put a camcorder on it and record your practice? That way you get side finder practice too, using the monitor. You can replay and debrief.


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#15 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 12:42 PM

See if you can take out both a fluid head and a set of wheels, it would give you the opportunity to try the gear head and you would always have the fluid head to fall back to.

In all my years being a camera operator I was never called upon to "operate" a circle or figure 8.


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#16 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 02:51 PM

Sounds good!
 
Regarding actually gaining experience with the head, where would you recommend I start?


Panavision Woodland Hills used to allow people to practice with their Panahead on the prep floor. A phone call to the rental dept. may be good to find out whether they still do this. 818-316-1000. Good luck!

G
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#17 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 04:57 PM

Hell That's good to know Greg, I may even take them up on that.


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#18 Jeremy Asuncion

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 05:46 PM

Panavision Woodland Hills used to allow people to practice with their Panahead on the prep floor. A phone call to the rental dept. may be good to find out whether they still do this. 818-316-1000. Good luck!

G

 

Thanks for the help. I'll give them a call as soon as our production gets on its feet!

 

See if you can take out both a fluid head and a set of wheels, it would give you the opportunity to try the gear head and you would always have the fluid head to fall back to.

In all my years being a camera operator I was never called upon to "operate" a circle or figure 8.

 

That's a great idea, and I think my 1st would really like having a separate head to dock camera!


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#19 Rob Vogt

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 09:11 PM

Also if you are able to get it try to grab a set of reduction gears, it makes it a little easier.

I worked at the operators convention this year when they were teaching the people to use the geared head they did simple dolly in, dolly out moves. Dollying while panning left and right down a corridor and they did the laser pointer exercise with a figure 8, your name in scrips and a circle triangle square ect.

 

PS you dont need a separate head to dock the camera, use a utility plate.


Edited by Rob Vogt, 06 February 2014 - 09:12 PM.

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#20 Bruce Greene

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 04:05 PM

You might want to try a toy, the etch-a-sketch. Learning to draw on this toy will train your brain for the geared head. Then you can practice at Starbucks. :)
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