Movie making is truly is an art form...
There are many parts to creating a great film. Today I’d like to focus on camera operations. The success of capturing stable cinematography has become more and more possible through the invention of various types of camera stabilization devices. Everyone knows that in order to get a perfect stable non-moving shot also known as a Static Shot, you need a tripod. You’ll need one heavy-duty enough to handle the weight of the camera that you are using as well as the environment that you will be filming in. If you are filming in high wind, or close to moving vehicles such as a highway or train tracks then the slightest amount of wind off of those vehicles or natural wind will shake the camera if your tripod is too light. That has been a dilemma when filming deep in nature areas where equipment has to be carried into a remote area and you have decisions to make about which tripod to carry into that shoot. But I’ve found that no matter what shooting scenario, I want that same stability everywhere that I go for each and every single image so I sacrifice and carry in the heavy-duty tripod for my camera.
Then there are other types of stability that I can recommend for camera movement shots. Camera movement in the film industry is also referred to as Camera Blocking. First off, I’ll just tell you that, the handheld camera shot is absolutely my pet peeve. I really dislike seeing camera operators do this. I mean just a camera, being handheld unmounted on anything is the worse for produced films. Larger cameras are used in news settings but being shoulder mounted. Any camera whether it be Digital SLR, Blackmagic, RED, or even camcorder type, are not made to be shoulder mounted alone. In order to do this, they need to be mounted on some type of a rail system and a shoulder mount added onto the back and pistol grips mounted forward to achieve an effective shoulder mount.
I have done this quite a bit, but mostly documentary-style films like our three feature-length movies that we’ve produced, but…; it’s still not my favorite type of camera stabilization. Shoulder mounted camera operation, other than brief interview shots for news, in my experience, are only for a certain type of produced shots. As one example, the camera operator is stationary and uses the camera to pan/tilt to transition from one character that is standing on a higher plain slightly above the camera, down to another character that is standing on a lower plain, slightly below the camera. The camera operator has the freedom to do a slight camera pull during the pan/tilt, widening the shot and proving a more freedom in their ability to transition. Now this can be done also with a tripod and fluid head, but truly changes the style of the shoot and what the director is intending for that shot sequence. The shoulder mounted camera shot transition definitely tells a story, a certain way. The shoulder mount provides more of a live feel.
Another type of camera stabilization device is the slider. I personally love a specific slider. It’s the Edelkrone Slider Plus. I recommend that you also purchase the Action Module so you can do motorized incremental slides and the Target Module so that you can do motorized pans. We have other sliders but this is truly my absolute favorite. One thing that you must be careful of with sliders is to make sure that you haven’t stacked too many plates, heads, mounts, attachments, etc., because it tends to get really wobbly and can ruin your smooth shots. The more top heavy the camera rig the higher the chance of having a wobbly shot in your slide.
Another type of camera stabilization are track & dolly systems, which are somewhat like sliders but on a much larger scale. This allows the camera to be moved fluidly along a track like it’s traveling smoothly on glass. The camera is mounted on either a tripod or a pedestal which is mounted to the dolly. Some camera dollies are able to be ridden by the camera operator to allow optimal control over the pan/tilt and overall camera operations and is pushed along the track by a second or third person.
Another type of camera stabilization is Steadicam rigs or glidecams also known as flycams. The glidecam is a pole-based rig with the camera mounted on the top or bottom of it and a counterweight mounted on the opposite side of it to counter-ballast it. This is also mounted onto a Steadicam vest and dual articulating arm which are spring loaded to counter to the weight of the entire rig. The overall weight it dispersed to the Steadicam operator’s body since he or she is wearing the vest that the rig is mounted to. The glidecam or flycam can be used of course without the vest and articulating arms still creating a very smooth and stable camera blocking shot.
Then there are camera jibs, booms and cranes. These are long devices used to transitionally elevate cameras high above the ground with great stability.
The age of aerial cinematography has taken a great leap in the last ten years.