The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros
This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.
In reply to Sara Peak Convery's post on Mon 7 Jul 2008 :
When I used to do ariels we'd sometimes use a multidimensional bungie cord rig. You could cobble something together from home depot for lessthan $20.
Also you might simply try adding weight to yoru PD100. I've got a pair of well used PD100a camera. Great little camera, but so light they "twitch" a lot when handheld. Try mounting on a 20lbs plate and handhold. You'll be surprise how much the added intertia dampens the motion.
If the road is VERY bumpy, as in off-road conditions, (almost) any kind of rig will get some bumps.
It the conditions aren't that bad, the cheapest way to do this is to hold your arms attached close to your chest and hold the camera with your left hand beneath it and your right hand on the right side. If you've preset your focus and have pre-framed your shot, ideally NOT on maximum telephoto but as wide as possible (but not so wide that you'll be including the inside of car in the shot), and you concentrate and relax, without stiffening your arms, this grip will allow you to act as a natural shock absorber.
Usually, this method has worked just fine for me. Some bumps are "natural"; by this I mean that if it is clearly visible that there are bumps in the road, the occasional bump won't disturb the viewer because they will see that you are travelling on bumpy terrain.
As a matter of fact, all of those mounts – from the indicated web site – are quite rigid and would work well only on a normal, smooth, highway.
I'm quite confident that if you're not using a large camera for this shot – I normally use my small (second camera) in these cases – the indications I have given you should allow you to manage just fine, unless (as I pointed out above) you're travelling on really bumpy terrain.
Of the two cameras you mentioned, I'd use the PD100 for this shot.
As I said, relaxation is the key. Breath slowly and hold the camera firmly but loosly. To get the idea, try holding your hands (without the camera) in the position I indicated and move them slowly up and down (as though they were attached to a big spring). You'll notice that you can move them smoothly and without shaking.
Do the same thing when you're holding the camera and you'll be able to absorb most bumps.
To check your shot, open the side viewfinder and tilt it upwards so you can control your shot just by glancing downwards, every now and then.
Once you've found the appropriate height (one that allows you to see the road without framing the dashboard, position your hands close to your chest (you don't want the muscles in your arms to tense up) , hold the camera firmly while keeping your hands loose so they will cushion the eventual bump and off you go!
Remember to stay relaxed because if you tense up you won't be able to cushion the camera and compensate for the bumps!
In reply to "Mark Barroso's post on Mon 7 Jul 2008:
Apologies for the misunderstanding... I never mentioned using any gear in auto. Nor did I mean to imply one (editorial vs technical) was more important than the other. My point was, as ADW pointed out, for this first timer to focus his efforts first on honing his story. I did not mean said effort should come at the expense of technical mastery. That's a parallel and ongoing effort.
And as to your notion of "real," as you said so well, 'prior planning..." I always carry a point and shoot (I prefer the term 'Happy Snap') camera in my bag (Canon S50), it lives right next to my Mark IIn. I've used it many times when playing the "tourist" and needed to get the shot. I've yet to have an editor ask, "Did you shoot that with a 'real' camera?"
Lets agree he should 'practice, practice, practice' both!
In reply to Wolfgang Achtner's post on Mon 7 Jul 2008 :
thanks for the detailed description--I was starting to think i would need to resort to that to get what i am looking for. I was hoping to figure out a way to run the camera while i was driving solo, but i think i will have more luck finding a driver than a perfectly smooth road.
In reply to Tony Comstock's post on Mon 7 Jul 2008 16:23 CST :
I am curious about how you rig that--could you describe? Is there a person holding the rig or can it run remotely?
I am also wondering about ways to rig for a car interview (presuming a relatively smooth road), in particular, trying to get a 2 shot, frontal view... or am i just dreaming? Does anyone have personal experience with any of the filmtools rigs mentioned above for this?
Oh. Solo. I didn't get that part.
The key is mass and dampening. The mass is provided by the weight of the camera and whatever weight you add. The dampening is a combo of bungies (like springs in a car) and the operator (sort of taking the shock absorber role.) Sort of a poor-mans fixed steadicam rig. I don't see it working solo
I think your best option is maffer clamps and magic arms, and short focal length. The wider the angle of view, the less noticiable the bouncing and shaking will be. Play around to find a wide to shoot yourself wide angle that doesn't look too distorted.
I don't think two angles is a pipe dream. In fact, it's probably a good idea (The reason I bought my pair of PD100a cameras was so that I could have two angles in a shoulder carryable kit.)
Depending on how important the two shot is for you, I would rent a three point suction rig and mount on the hood of the car, which can be seen on the same page Erica sent you to. It's a lot easier to use than it looks.
For inside or outside of the car, you should use a wide angle adapter – even fisheye lenses look good used from the passenger seat.
I've seen too many docs where the filmmaker had a great story but killed it with poor technical skills. I don't know Mike, or you, so maybe my advice was unwarranted, but my first reaction to first timers (including myself) is to learn the camera before you start shooting. Point and shoot is an aesthetic that works for some situations, but not all. It would suck to be in one where that look won't work for you.