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Overhead shot

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Ryan Bollinger
Overhead shot
on Aug 31, 2009 at 11:54:09 pm

I'm a film student with limited resources and very little equipment and I was wondering if anyone knew a relatively easy way to get an overhead shot for a short film where the camera is directly over actors' heads as the camera rotates slowly?


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Rick Wise
Re: Overhead shot
on Sep 1, 2009 at 2:55:06 am

You will need:
--3 ladders
--sand bags
--straps
--8-12' 2x6 or several 2x4
--wooden box

Borrow or rent a high-hat that hold the tripod's head. Take 2 ladders tall enough to get high enough (see following). Spread the ladders apart. Put weights (sand bags) on the base of the ladders or figure out some way to anchor them. Run a 2 x 6 or similar plank(s) between them. Strap an apple box or some kind of box to the plank in the middle. Attach with screws or straps the high hat to the front of the box. Attach the tripod head to the high hat. In a "normal" position you should be pointed straight down. Attach the camera (very carefully) to the head. For safety, run a rope or strap through the handle of the camera to something overhead that will support the weight should the camera come loose. You will have to stand on a third ladder to operate. The actors should be directly below. You will be able to "rotate" (pan) somewhat.

An alternative is to find some kind of lift that can position you where you want to be. Do the box plus high-hat trick.

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Todd Terry
Re: Overhead shot
on Sep 1, 2009 at 5:23:14 am

Great advice from Rick as always.

I'll suggest just one little tweak, because I have a feeling that you're looking for more of a 360° rotation than that might allow.

You could try basically the same setup, but make an "L" shaped 90° bracket to hold the camera. You can get quarter-inch thick aluminum stock very cheaply from Aircraft Spruce (aircraftspruce.com) to make the bracket (great people and lightning fast shipping). If you don't have the tools or ability to make the bracket yourself, any machine shop can cut the material to the right size, "break" it (make the bend), and drill/tap any mounting holes you need.

Then you just attach that to your fluid head which is underslung under your high hat which is underslung under your apple box which is underslung under your 2x6... and voilà, you can shoot straight down and do a 360 ° rotation. See the top half of the illustration below.

Alternately and simplier, depending on how your head works you might be able to do away with the apple box and high hat completely... if your fluid head has a post/knob arrangment you can just drill a hole in the 2x6 and mount it directly (see the bottom half of the illustration).



Let us know what you do and how it goes.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Rick Wise
Re: Overhead shot
on Sep 1, 2009 at 5:02:44 pm

Very nice improvement, Todd. Slick! I don't think you can do 360º because sooner or later you'll see your self. But decidedly this rig will have more options to it.

One additional word: BE CAREFUL. If you go for either version, do not try this alone. You need at least one body on each ladder. That means at least 3 people in addition to yourself. When shooting, it is nearly impossible to really know whether or not you are starting to tip over until it is too late. With the rig I suggested there is a real danger you could topple forward and do yourself serious and possibly fatal harm, as well as seriously injure someone below. SAFETY FIRST. No shot is worth risking your life for.

Safety first is the rule for every shot, on every shoot.

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Overhead shot
on Sep 2, 2009 at 10:41:23 pm

Nobody here a fan of doing this with a mirror on the ceiling, and adjusting in post?


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Todd Terry
Re: Overhead shot
on Sep 2, 2009 at 10:57:37 pm

Hmmmm.... possibly, that's a very interesting idea and I hadn't quite thought of anything like that... although personally I think that would be harder to rig than hanging the camera.

IF one were shooting film (or shooting video in HD for SD delivery) one could simply suspend a static camera straight down and do the rotation in post... you'd shoot with a wider lens (and higher resolution) than the finished shot to cover the corners during the post production rotation. You could add the spin while the film was telecined, or in the case of video later in editing.

One problem I would have with that though is that the post-induced camera spin would probably look somewhat artificial, rather than organic like a real practical rotating camera. The usual post-production tricks for smoothing out an electronic move like a pan (namely, usually a minuscule amount motion blur) would be difficult to implement because of this particular move. Firstly, it would need to be a rotating circular motion blur rather than a linear one... and secondly it would need to be variable so that while it was slightly noticeable at the frame edges that the blur amount ramped down to zero in the center at the axis of the spin. That's a little bit above the ability of both myself and my equipment.

I really don't think this would be all that hard to do practically.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Rick Wise
Re: Overhead shot
on Sep 3, 2009 at 12:19:38 am

Neat idea. You could not fix the mirror flat to the ceiling and shoot "straight" down or you would see yourself. But you could cock it slightly and make it appear you are shooting down. Problems: Rig the mirror at the correct angle and make it stable -- no shakes; also, quality of mirror. Ideally you would want a front-faced mirror, but those cost a fortune.

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Steve Wargo
Re: Overhead shot
on Sep 5, 2009 at 7:20:26 am

We did this recently for one of our feature films but we needed our to rotate as it pulled up from the subject, a girl lying on a bed, writing in her diary. Here's what we did (indoors). I made a plate very similar to the one in the drawing in Todd's post but I made it out of 2 - 1/4" x 3" plates and a piece of 1" angle iron. I put a 3/8 16 tapped hole directly in line with the center of the lens and screwed an I=bolt into it. I then screwed a 3/8' I-hook into the ceiling. I hung a pulley from the ceiling hook. We took a piece if 3/8" cotton rope and tied it to the I-bolt on the plate, ran it up to the ceiling, through the pulley and down to the ground. We hung the camera about 3' above our subject, rotated it three times, held it steady and hit the record button. Once we had speed, we let go of the camera and pulled on the rope, gently. The camera rose about 6', slowly rotating as it did so. We repeated this several times and we were done. Total cost was $12.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

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Kevin Sawicki
Re: Overhead shot
on May 16, 2010 at 9:33:22 am

I was looking for any info online to make something similar to this, but didn't really come across anything. So, this is what I came up with.

Check my blog at http://kevinsawicki.com/journal/ in the near future for more detailed pics ...

http://reels.creativecow.net/film/360-pan-head



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