Strange things to think about when shooting video. Like wheels.

We have a video shoot next week that skews into the unusual category. At least as far as my typical assignments go. I need to shoot footage of a person walking and the shot needs to be composed mostly to frame our person from about mid-thigh down to the ground. The product is an prosthesis; a lower leg for someone who has had an amputation.

We'll be shooting indoors, on a smooth, concrete floor and I'll need to track along side the person as they walk while shooting in 4K video.

In the best of worlds, with the best of budgets, we'd figure out the exact pathway we'd be traversing and would have a crew lay down dolly track, mount the camera on a Levinson dolly, do a few rehearsals and move on to the next shot. But, as is usual, we won't be operating in that production paradise. I have a small budget and we are not just shooting one pathway but multiple locations all over a large building. It's very much "run and gun" video production.

I've been playing around with options today and remembered a project I did with a film maker named, Steve Mims, back in the 1980's on a music video for Billy Joe Shaver. The opening shot for the music video was a tracking shot of a woman (from the waist down) wearing cowboy boots, carrying a guitar case and walking down the sidewalk on Congress Ave., and then heading into the Continental Club. I modified a Multi-Cart gear cart by bolting a piece of one inch plywood to the bed of the cart, drilling a hole for a large bolt and attaching a fluid tripod head onto it. The fluid head held an Arriflex super 16 camera and a Zeiss 10-100mm lens.

I also used a magic arm to attach a homemade soft box with a 500 watt Lowell Tota-light inside.

Our camera operator laid down on the plywood and ran the camera as one of our grips and I pushed and pulled the cart, matching pace with our talent. It worked very well and an equally fun thing was that our soft light followed along perfectly.

With this in mind I went into the studio and grabbed my Multi-Cart R-10. It's a great cart and has probably saved my lower back a thousand times over. It has nice, fat, pneumatic tires in the back but it has hard, noisy, plastic wheels on casters in the front. It's a piece of cake to rig up a camera mount on one of the rails or the vertical handles on the front and back. But those front wheels.....vexing.

I checked online and found that there is an upgrade wheel available. It's a wide, soft, five or six inch wheel with upgraded casters. I've ordered two of the new wheels and I've started experimenting with camera mounting. I'm using several sets of Super Clamps and Magic Arms. I'll need a rail for the camera and space on the rail for an external video monitor so we can see our composition as we move.

The area we'll be shooting in is well lit but I'll also bring along an extra clamp and arm just in case we want to mount a light out in front to provide a bit more directional pop.

It's fun to play MacGyver on these projects but I've found it's pretty important to practice a few times before the day of the shoot. If for no other reason than to make sure you have all the right parts.

Since all the moving shots are M.O.S. I thought I'd use the little a6300 along with the 18-105mm G lens. It's capable of making really nice video files.  Maybe I'll get a little use out of that new cage after all.


Ralph DiFronzo said...

I've found this to be a great solution for a small crew with a lightweight camera. It uses readily available, inexpensive PVC pipe for the track. You take the dolly and rails with you (they fit in a gym bag), snap the rails onto PVC (which you can buy near your location if you don't want to transport it) to form the track, then mount your own tripod to the dolly itself. Voila. You can also easily make the track curve.


Anonymous said...

I've used a common supermarket shopping cart. The camera operator climbed into the cart, and as the Brits say: easy-peasy. The hardest part was getting the operator into and out of the cart:)

BTW everybody know how to use a shopping cart ...no dolly-grip needed :)

EdPledger said...

I don't do any video but was surprised you wouldn't use a camera with IBIS for the inevitable little vibrations. One of the Sonys.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Ed, The 18-105mm lens is an OSS lens which means image stabilization in the lens. It's pretty darn good. But we'll test all the cameras in house over the weekend and use the one I like best. Thanks, KT

Michael Matthews said...

Great layout, caster isolated far left on a field of white.

BPete said...

Film Production ... now you're talking my real game. Here's my best quick, most available, easy to use and transport solution to the shot you described. A wheelchair. After about a half century now of operating a film/media production company and studio as a living I've scaled it back down to where it started as a more or less 2 person operation and gone back to my roots thanks to the ease and economy of digital. But all this time I always had one in reserve in the gear locker. Sometimes you just didn't want to wait for the crew to set up dolly/track etc. to just grab a shot that struck your fancy. Grab the chair and a dolly grip ba-dabing ...

The shot you described could be a push or a pull with you just leaning over your own lap with a little twist, especially with a stabilized. I used to rig and overhead arm with shock cord to suspend the Arri, now you just hand hold the little miracles.

BTW they come in balloon tires, even beach tires, regular tires and even the simple transport style chairs work well on smooth floors (Walmart about $125). Now being w/o grip trucks and strapping crews I also use the chair with a homemade bridge across the foot rests to haul gear and tripods, stands etc. ... so that's my gorilla tactic tip for today Ha-ha.