shooting efficiency and steadicam
I've never hired a steadicam operator so this question is from utter ignorance!
The shoots are live action drama with multiple actors with a lot of dialogue
Can utilizing a steadicam operator increase the amount of production (shots) done in a day versus using sticks and dollies?
It seems there may be a trade off. Less individual setups versus more time blocking and rehearsal?
To ask the question another way, it seems that using more steadicam shots with the camera in the action and crossing the line would take less setups and make sure the audience stays oriented. (And make sure that we don't end up in trouble by crossing the line and forgetting to shoot an angle)
I'm not asking anything about the dynamics and quality of the shots or production value - just efficiency.
Isn't more time spent setting the lights for a Steadicam shoot, than one where the camera is relatively still, on a dolly - because you've got more angles you're going to see all in the one take? And where's the additional wide shot coverage coming from, if any? I wonder if you're trading shoot time for more edit time when you go with all steadicam. Finally, any three points define a plane, so, if all the actors and the camera are in evolving motion, and changing positions, the line of action is going to change continually anyhow, isn't it?
My experience isn't as wide as some, but one constant I've found in my work is that the biggest time saver on the set, bar none, is a talented, well-prepared actor, who knows their lines and blocking and can give consistent performances. Pro talent for your cast saves time and thus, money. On the set, and in post.
Your point on lighting is a big factor, certainly. I'd have to get the wide shot as a separate take.
I don't mind the additional editing time (I think), but my thought was that there would be less editing time with steadicam shots of longer length than a bunch of cutting back and forth.
The talent aspect is without question true as I've experienced that personally.
Thanks for the comments!
I'd love others to chime in.
The pressure I feel is that network TV and Movies have so much motion now, and add onto that the all the DSLR gear that affords motion for even the lower budget production that without steadicam footage it might appear dated. ??
Steadicam shooting can indeed affect the speed of a shoot (and edit). Sometimes it makes it faster... sometimes slower.
If you have a difficult interior lighting job with all sorts of people and sets and props and a lengthy shot with complicated choreography... then just the setting up, blocking, rehearsals, and busted takes can make doing that as a Steadicam scene take longer than doing it the conventional way.
If you have an easy-but-lengthy walk-n-talk available-light exterior, then shooting Steadicam can be significantly faster than doing it the conventional way with lots of setups in various places and/or laying tons of dolly track, breaking out jibs or cranes, etc.
It's kinda a wash, it just depends on the complexity of the scene.
I know this goes for me, though (and I'm betting for many, if not most), I would rarely if ever choose Steadicam shooting over conventional setups only because it might be easier or faster. I would only choose Steadicam shooting if it was right for the scene, if it was the appropriate technical way to capture the action, if that's the look I wanted and my vision for the scene. Speed or ease would rarely if ever factor into the choice. Choosing to do a Steadicam scene because it is easier or faster is definitely a producer's way of thinking about it, rather than a director's way.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
I'll second Todd's point: using a steadicam works only if it's appropriate for the scene.
Long master shots with little or no "coverage" is a rare technique that some directors use well. For instance, the amazing opening 4-minute take of Touch of Evil by Orson Welles. That example uses a crane. It took massive prep and rehearsals and many retakes mostly due to a bit player who couldn't remember his lines. When director Welles told him to say anything and we'll dub your lines in post, the shot worked smoothly and just in time as dawn was about to break. The result: many pages of script shot in a single night.
A director I often worked with insisted on using steadicam for a high-end corporate film. I wasn't crazy about the idea since I would not be operating and hence not looking through the viewfinder to frame and evaluate. When I saw how well the operator did and how fast we able to move, and how many pages we covered, I was impressed.
Bottom line: get the right cast and the right crew and shooting long masters can be an efficient and effective tool. You are however walking out on a very long branch that could break and send you to the ground.
MFA/BFA Lighting and Camera Instructor Academy of Art University
San Francisco Bay Area
Also it's hard to pull focus with stedicam, if that's an issue?