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Milly Smith

Am I just too short?

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I am working as DOP for a short microbudget student film, shooting on the Canon C300. The plan for one particular scene is to follow the actor from behind, handheld. This is a night time exterior scene, with only a lamppost and the moon for light sources (we were unable to gain permission to use electricity, and there is no money in the budget for a generator). The main problem though, is that I am short - 5ft2 to be exact - and the actor is at least 6ft4. I was planning on shooting this myself - do you think that is still possible, or should I find a taller camera operator?

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In general I don't think it makes much difference, although in that particular situation it will obviously limit how you can choose to line the shot up. I've known some very small people who have made a perfectly adequate living behind a camera but the specific circumstance of handheld shooting is clearly going to be directly affected by it.

 

If it's any consolation, I'm 6'3" myself and have spent a lot of time walking around with my knees bent when working with presenters who are your size. Possibly this is why I have so much back trouble...

 

P

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Because you can use the screen you could try holding the camera with your arms extended over you head. It's one advantage of the lighter camera, but how successful it is may depend on how long the shot lasts and how steady you can either hold it or a stabilised lens can manage.

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You could always have the actor crouch a little. You could also use a slightly longer lens, and stand further back from the actor. This will induce a little more lens shake, but it will give you a better angle of attack so you aren't pointed as far up in relation to the actor.

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I think it is a concern for this particular shot -- I'm 5'7" and have had trouble keeping a big backlight from a condor from flaring the lens when shooting handheld of a taller actor. But if you aren't using backlights then being shorter should be OK. The other problem is when you are following the taller actor in an over-the-shoulder shot and need to see past their shoulder rather than rake their body. I just did a shoot where I had one tall operator and one short operator for A and B cameras, and switched between them depending on how high I needed the handheld shot to be, which was useful.

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