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Ryan Brown

22 day feature on RED. 100% handheld. Any advice?

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Going into production on a 22 day feature in a couple of months. It's an indie drama with a gritty story, and the director wants it 100% handheld. I'm in pretty good shape, but the thought of this is daunting. Any advice out there?

 

I'm looking into the "easyrig" systems and would love any feedback on this and other similar setups. I'm also looking into a wireless FF for my 1st, and possibly a transmitter so I'm not tethered for village.

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Hey Ryan,

 

What Red are you shooting on? The easyrig systems are great, or you can look into the "DEFY" gimbal. A buddy of mine really enjoys his. As for a wireless FF, you can go with a Bartech, or a Preston.

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I'm not a fan of EasyRig. It's great for redistributing the weight, but I don't like floating feeling of the camera. Also, the rig is difficult to use in tight spaces. For wireless FF go with a Preston. Every Bartech I've ever used has been unreliable.

 

Make sure the camera is balanced properly. Most handheld fatigue is caused by improper balance. If you have to fight to keep the camera on your shoulder, you're going to get tired much quicker.

 

Don't allow yourself to become a human tripod. If the shot doesn't require the camera to move, use the sticks, either with a loose head, or sit the camera on a tennis ball.

 

Don't put the camera on your shoulder until sound is rolling, and put it down the moment they call cut. If the director suddenly decides to give extensive notes to the actors after the shot has been slated, put the camera down.

 

Go to the gym and exercise. I've run into Wally Pfister a couple of times at the gym, getting fit for HH work on Batman.

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Hey Chris, we're either on epic dragon or scarlet x. I think the defy wouldn't cut it with weight, and even though I haven't used one, the ergonomics makes me wonder how long someone could shoot on those types of rigs before the forearms give out. Hope all is well man!

 

Stuart, great advice and pretty much along the lines of what's already in the gameplan. I've had issue's with the bartech also, so I'll be looking to change it up on this one and the preston seems to be what I'm looking for. If I can remind myself to pass off camera and not let it sit on my shoulder when it's not necessary, I think I'll be OK. I wrap the feature I'm on next weekend, and I'll be hitting the gym pretty hard as well as continuing running and biking. I've also got a stretching regime I'm thinking of throwing in the mix... I pulled a muscle last week on my current shoot and since I haven't given it time to heal it's just getting progressively worse.

 

Love the tennis ball idea... I've heard about that in the past but forgotten all about it.

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Hire a First Assistant that can keep pace with a 22 day shoot and also keep all of that hand held in focus! Otherwise, all of the above is mute.

 

G

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Gregory: I've got a 1st I fully trust to handle the job. He's young, but surprises me constantly. If he sticks with it, I think he's heading towards a great career. Congrats on all the success, by the way

 

Matthew: It's a stylistic choice that I also agree the story calls for.

 

cheers

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Gregory: I've got a 1st I fully trust to handle the job. He's young, but surprises me constantly. If he sticks with it, I think he's heading towards a great career. Congrats on all the success, by the way

cheers

That's good. Glad to hear that. Best of luck to you on your project and thank you!

G

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Wear good running shoes and focus your workout around compound exercises that resemble what your body will go through. Prepare your muscles for the kind of things you want them to be able to do. Don't waste time on pumping too much iron, instead combine endurance and strength. Core strength is also very important. Treat yourself to a long massage on off days. Balance your diet and stay off alcohol.

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I would recommend that you go to Crossfit classes too.

I've been cross fitting for 2 years and a half and hand - held shots are absolutely easy now :)

 

Stretch every single day before starting a take, stretch after the take if you can too and when the day finishes do around 20 minutes of very light running to liberate all the stress and loose the muscles and then go back to stretching for another 30 minutes with a foam roll.

 

Easy - rigs are great but I agree with Stuart, it gives the camera a strange sense of floating around.

 

When shooting hand - held I am used to putting a foam roll (or a couple of pillows if I cannot get the foam roll) tied around my belly so I can put the elbows on it while using the camera, and it makes shooting hand - held even easier.

 

Kindest regards.

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I shoot a feature in a 40 day schedule, all 100% handheld and learned a few things that are helpful.

Besides the great advice mentioned above: Epic is very good in its ability to be striped of extra add-ons you don't really need (avoid on board batteries, drives, grips, etc.) just get cable extensions and let a grip carry the batteries for the camera + wireless.

Unless you really need specific glass, opt for something "lighter" like SuperSpeeds or Cooke S4.

Change your footwear halfway thru the day, from running shoes to something with heels like a work boot, makes you stand up in a slightly different position and a different set of muscles kick in.

Use a tripod to line up shoots and lighiting, the amount of time you hold the camera should be the bare minimum.

Avoid caffeine as much as you can.

Get a set of knee pads and an apple box cushion.

On set, the best friend I had besides my 1st with his wireless (impossible to shoot without a wireless) and grip, was this weird contraption you can see me in this making of:

It's a version of the foam roll mentioned on an earlier post. It really makes a huge difference on a long shoot. Also you can use it to place an Epic in front of you, on your chest. It's a different approach that the usual shoulder placement, but very effective.

Get the phone number of a good osteopath, they can work miracles. And have the producer pay for it!

Happy shooting.

Nico

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I thought this was a really good and well thought out presentation from CamerImage last year:

 

 

I know it's a bit long but I think it's definitely worth taking the time to watch it all if you are thinking of doing stuff like this. I think this is the best thing I've seen on the subject of shooting handheld and I believe that if you invest time in watching this you will at least get one thing out of it that will have made it more than worth the time.

 

Freya

Edited by Freya Black
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I think these are all great suggestions but don't get to comfortable, it's easy to set your elbows down on something and forget that the idea of the camera on your shoulder is to not be completely steady.

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Excellent advice all around. Love the "foam roll" and idea about changing shoes. Just the type of stuff I was after when posting this thread. Freya, I'll watch it as soon as I get a chance.

 

Nico: Thanks for taking the time to respond, much appreciated and valuable stuff that will for sure help me out.

 

Appreciate all the responses and I feel much better prepared. Any more idea's, bring 'em on

 

-ryan

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In Nico's behind the scenes story the operator is using the matte box as a handle. For their configuration this means that the upper arms and elbows are well away from the torso. So then the foam pad solves that. But it's a sort of self created compromise.

 

In comparison, see in the Sean Bobbitt seminar above (35:00) that with an apropriate handle geometry one can have the upper arms and elbows against the torso, in a very stable configuration. Not too much fatigue from that. He's a big guy with a big torso. More averagely sized folk, with a tweak of the handles geometry can have the elbows just slightly more towards the centre of the torso.

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Actually, I was the operator for the whole shoot, and the configuration you see is what best worked for me in this particular situation.

In my experience, the handles look like the best approach, and sometimes it works OK if you are shooting some hand held thru out the day, but when every single shoot, day in and day out depends on your body, it gets uncomfortable pretty fast.

The thing I don't like about the handles is that you're controlling the center of gravity of the camera from further out, making it heavier, in a way as in when you need more counterweight the longer your crane extends.

Camera configuration is highly personal, and it's good to keep an open mind that maybe what looked snappy for 10 minutes in the camera rental house prep room, can turn into a mayor drag on the 18th take after 9 hours of shooting, into your 3rd week.

Every once on your rig becomes a bag of bricks given some time,so be mentally prepared to do weird & silly things so you can (literally) shoulder the weight. Doing this kind of handheld is an exhilarating experience, so involving that you feel as a character perfomorming right there with the actors in a kind of dance,and the camera should be the least bit intrusive.

Not to say that I belong to an exclusive club, but shooting a complete feature operating handheld is an intense experience I had encountered before.

And if all becomes very uncomfortable, remember that it could be much worse....think BL4 with 1000' mag.....now THAT was heavy stuff.

NH

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I've had to do lots of that human tripod stuff (handheld and steadicam), and it's what a lot of hacks want these days (or that motion is gonna make that lame boring corporate shoot look more interesting, etc...etc...)... I haven't done the tennis ball thing (which I'm definitely gonna try now, thank, Stuart)...but often I'll put it on a tripod with it intentionally out of balance...and operate with a couple fingers on the handle instead of my whole hand so it kind of moves around, and I'll sort of shift my weight around or dance my fingers around a little bit so it'll get out of balance a bit and I'll have to correct it. It gives them that look they want (eye roll), but without killing yourself. Depending on the situation, it gives them that look *better* than a long take on a 50mm handheld b/c you will begin to lose control several minutes in, and then the look becomes the look of the person behind the camera struggling, which takes you out of the story, which is the opposite effect they're usually going for in the first place.

 

Another thing, get in the habit of just pulling it off your shoulder right after cut and hand it off. You shouldn't even have to really look, or have to ask. The good AC's understand this and are quick on it, but a lot of lesser experienced AC's aren't. Get that established at the very beginning, if they aren't doing it automatically This is a huge thing on something that's several days long, all handheld...it's a compound effect. It's a big the also b/c at the end of the take, you're tired...and the act of taking it off your shoulder means putting the weight further away from you where leverage is against you so that's where you're more likely to strain something. Even thou a top handle is more weight, I always have it for better handoffs.

Edited by Daniel Mimura

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Don't allow yourself to become a human tripod. If the shot doesn't require the camera to move, use the sticks, either with a loose head, or sit the camera on a tennis ball.

 

 

Cricket ball is best. I find tennis balls to be too soft, hence way too stable.

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I'm jumping into this super late, but I just wanted to comment on the conversation involving handles. I, like Nico, prefer to hold on to the mattebox. I never use handles. I find holding the mattebox makes me feel much more connected to the camera. It's more responsive and easier to control that way. Of course, having the camera in good balance is a must. I will often have the assistants add a second onboard battery in order to add weight to the back of the camera. A light weight camera is great, but a well balanced camera is much more important, even if it adds weight.

Also, good kneepads are an absolute must! There have been so many situations where I need to get lower and I can just drop to my knee, or knees, at full speed. Without kneepads, that's not happening. There was even a shot a couple years ago where I went from running full speed to dropping to my knees and sliding into an over. My kneepads are probably the most important piece of gear I have for handheld.

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