Im up to DP my third feature and we are shooting for 20 days. Its pretty ambitious for the budget but we arent doing anything super crazy - it is very much like the movie Prisoners in tone, story and cinematography.
The Producer is wanting to shoot single camera, as to not have to spend money on the extra B camera, crew and post costs that come with more footage, and instead is in favor of getting more gear to make a better A camera.
My initial thought was that we would need two cameras to make our days (I shot two cameras on my last feature, which was a comedy, and being able to leap frog with setup/shooting and get extra shots in when needed I felt saved us alot of time, and that is what I am pretty comfortable with. my first feature was single camera, but it was all handheld and a much much smaller scale.) This show is 100 percent sticks and dolly, some jib with occasional steadicam.
Another thought was to shoot single camera mostly from a small technocrane (thinking the mini 6'-12' technocrane ,moviebird 17 or chapmans Hydrascope 15', I want to use it for interiors and my thought was anything larger might be too large for int scenes.) now I have never used a technocrane, but from what I have read and talking with my Key grip, I have heard they can save alot of time on set, and much are faster than dolly and sticks because I could get most if not all all my shots from a single setup. but they are expensive for sure..
Something to consideration is that I am working with an awesome first time director, but for his sake I thought single camera might be easier for him so he can focus on the one frame and not have his(and my own) attention shift between two cameras, so I feel the end product could benefit from single camera. And making him as comfortable as possible is high on my priority list (I normally operate, but Im choosing to get an operator so I can be with him at video village and support him the best I can)
Another idea is having a remote head on a fisher 23 Jib arm on the Fisher 10 dolly in place of a technocrane like deakins does. I have my own thoughts, but in yalls opinion, how would that compare to the technocrane approach?
I would love some opinions and advice! Getting a 2nd camera package and crew for it, or single camera on a small technocrane or remote head on jib? The producer is pretty open and trusts me, and I know if I make my case for either one, there is a good chance I'll get what I ask for.
From my experience, the 2nd camera does not save much time, but it does get more coverage of an unrepeatable performance.
I would lean toward taking advantage of the single camera and getting the camera placed in the best place to tell the story. With two cameras this is often a compromise.
About the techno crane: it might save some time if you are filming on large sets, but it can eat up a lot of time in confined spaces. The small jib might get you what you want, but it's still slow to move around sometimes. You can try it, and if it doesn't work out, go conventional.
I'm partial to Steadicam, if your operator is a good story teller. And Steadicam can be quite fast to use too. You might leave the radio focus on the camera at all times to make the switch to Steadicam in under 5 minutes.
I'm a little - well, a lot - cautious about Steadicam on smaller jobs. This is of course all reliant on the definition of "smaller job", but still.
Steadicam tends to require two things:
- A very highly skilled operator. There isn't really any middle ground with Steadicam. Either the operator is a top expert or the shot is pretty much unusable. Any less than that and even apparently-straightforward tracking moves (which are really a misuse of the tool in any case) can be a disaster. Something like a crane, you can get at least something out of it with a beginner crew. Steadicam, not so much. It's especially hard on focus pullers.
- A set or location that is suitable, lit and dressed to be viewed from a wide variety of angles. Steadicam lends itself to revealing huge swathes of the area it's working in.
Both of these things are expensive. Top operators are expensive because of their experience and tend to come with a very large amount of gear, for which they will (not unreasonably) want a rental. Very good locations are expensive. Lots of production design is expensive. Lots of lighting is expensive, and rigging it all overhead so it can't be seen in the background of your grand sweeping shot requires lots of expensive equipment and lots of expensive crew for lots of expensive time.
As I've said before, Steadicam works beautifully in situations such as the big TV dramas which are often working on standing sets which are dressed and lit to look great from every angle. You can burn off page after page of dialogue and it all looks wonderful. Again, if you have all the time and gear and people on a high end show, great, you can do anything in any location and it's all easy. Conversely, at the low end I have found that the idea that Steadicam saves time or money is mistaken. It takes a huge amount of setting up, rehearsal, cast who can hit marks, and general screwing around. Unless the operator is a top gun there's always a feeling that the camera is flying around somewhat at random, showing everything, confusing everyone and producing something that's fairly feeble in the long run. Other than with the very best operators there are no retakes with steadicam, there's just trying it a few times until we happen upon something watchable. It's a bit alarming, to be honest.
People will say this is because I've only ever seen mediocre steadicam operators, and that's probably true, but consider what it costs for a good one. What is it these days, $2000/day for someone actually capable of producing repeatable results?
It's a good question... I think it depends a lot on the style of the piece. You'll basically have fewer set-ups and fewer cuts with a single camera shoot in 20 days, but that may work for the style of the piece, I don't know.
If you are out on location, you'll probably want a back-up body anyway, so one compromise would be to have a couple of days of two camera shooting for crowd scenes or action, stunts, anything where it would be useful.
The 15' Technocrane would be nice if you can afford it and have room for it but there will be shots where it won't be a good idea and you'll have to come off of it, which suggests a second body so you aren't unbuilding and rebuilding the Technocrane set-up.
Technocrane's are big/heavy and you need a specialist to operate. I try to use more standard lightweight jib's and arm's which don't require specialists. I use to put the smaller/simpler jibs on a flat doorway dolly, which worked really well, kinda like the Fisher jib. Honestly, the fisher jib is probably your best option because it's a very versatile and complete package. It's something you can use for standard dolly shots, something you can use for cranes. For long moves, the jib works a lot better because then you won't see the track in wide shots. I do love the Fisher 10, I've used it on many shoots, but I'd much rather have a jib then just a dolly.
I haven't been a fan of small jibs for pseudo dolly work; their main advantage is to be able to quickly boom up and down, and to float over furniture. The problem, unless you get a remote head, is operating -- boom too high or low in a move and you're climbing a ladder to keep up with the body or switching off to a second operator, and floating across a table is great for the camera but hard on the operator. It's easier on digital cameras where at least you don't have to keep your eye against a viewfinder and can operate with an onboard (well, you can do that with film cameras too but I always hate not having human eyes judging the image through the viewfinder and trusting the video tap only).
Plus there's the floaty thing where at some moment you push on the tripod head handle to tilt and the force causes the arm to move.
Now a remote head on a jib arm is very useful, the only advantage a Technocrane has is that you can telescope without laying track, plus your arm can be short or long, whereas the length is fixed with the jib arm. Now a jib arm can be sectional of course, like a Fisher boom arm or something, but it's not the fastest thing to length or shorten the arm without having to unbuild the camera off of it, change the weights, etc. In a small space, sometimes a 15' Technocrane is more flexible than a 15' jib arm. But you do have the weight issue to deal with.
Again, I think whether to go with a B-camera versus toys like cranes and remote heads, etc. all depends on the style and the needs of the show, do you want more shots or more moves.