I would like to film a shot with the camera looking straight down on a subject - but I want to do this outside. Does anyone have ideas on how to do that? I'm not even sure it's possible without a ceiling to attach the camera to. Thanks for any ideas.
Actually, as luck would have it we did just that last week, when we needed a shot exactly like that for a commercial shoot. I needed a high shot shooting straight down 90° at the floor. We did it on stage, but it would have been exactly the same had it been an exterior.
We had our tripod legs as high as they would go, and on top of that we put our jib (which is Losmandy Porta-Jib Traveler). The jib was also extended out as far as it would go. The head went on the jib, and was tilted down as far as it would go. That made it go kinda straight down, but of course it wouldn't tilt far enough to go perfectly straight down so the shot would be perpendicular to the floor. So we loosened (and subsequently shortened) the bottom/lower strut on the jib which allowed the camera mount to tilt down a bit. That tilt, combined with the head tilt, we were able to get a shot perfectly straight down.
The rig was stable, but a little unwieldy so we tried not to move it much. But it worked fine.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc. fantasticplastic.com
The answer depends on the budget to an extent. On a low budget, two ladders, a long plank or pipe or pannter's platform between them, and some clamps, will create a hardpoint on which you can mount a camera plate. A painting or drywall contractor crew would have this stuff and maybe you could work out an inexpensive rental.
You can rent a good jib arm like Todd has.
K-tek, the boom pole guys, make an adaptor for their long poles that would let you mount something like a Go Pro HD camera on the end of the pole.
There is also the "Hi-Pod" giant monopod.
You could also rent a man-carrying bucket lift, these come in some small, maneuverable sizes.
Just hanging the camera and making it stable and safe is the first challenge. If you need the camera to do zooms and pans and tilts, your expense goes up.
There is also the option of post: in a studio setting with a high ceiling, throw a green tarp or cloth on the floor, hang the camera from the light grid, shoot your actor, then composite this into an aerial still shot.
I think the 'two ladders' solution is about the best. Depending on the weight of the camera and the length of the span you may want to rent three long pieces of Speedrail and the 'speedrail truss' brackets that yield a very rigid beam You'll probably want a third ladder for adjusting the camera.
Lately I've been thinking about a similar shot, but moving over a short distance. Maybe a poor-man's-Spydercam solution?
Red Camera Rental & Indy Features, Denver Colorado.
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