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Handheld Techniques

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Chris Bryan
Handheld Techniques
on Oct 19, 2008 at 4:34:56 pm

Hello,

I am a wedding videographer and just wondering if anyone has any suggestions for handheld techniques or links to sites with some techniques. My handheld is pretty good, but could be a little less shaky at times.

On a related note, what do you do during toasts etc? The weddding I'm editing now, had three toasts in a row, each toast was 10 minutes long! I ended up holding the camera for 30 minutes straight and then they went straight into father-daughter, mother-son dances! My arm was killing me by the end, and it shows somewhat in the video now.

Any help you can give is much appreciated!



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Rick Wise
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 19, 2008 at 6:06:36 pm

One thing you can do to help the footage you've already shot is to buy the Mercalli stabilizing software for either $59 or $119, provided you are PC based. Works incredibly well. (http://www.prodad.de/gb/mercalli_std_details.html)

After that, in the future, there are various solutions: some people like to use a monopod which they can drop down for long takes (but it adds weight to the camera): some people invest in a shoulder-mounted camera; some people invest in various support rigs, the most thorough of which is the Easy Rig.

Rick Wise
director of photography
Oakland, CA
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 19, 2008 at 8:57:36 pm

There's no reason not to be on a tripod for the toasts. And nothing handheld beats the look of a tripod- steadied shot for looking better than uncle Joe's camcorder footage. Everyone is seated, you can pick a spot by a pillar or something and get a stable shot from a distance so as not to interfere with anybody's view. Just be sure you're tapped into the PA or plant some mics on the dais. You certainly can use a quick-release plate and pop it off the sticks immediately afterwards to work the room, I never saw a reception that moved so fast you couldn't do that.

If you really just can't do a tripod, then a good monopod is an excellent combination: gives you the real stability of a tripod on long telephoto shots, can be raised momentarily for "crane" shots above the crowd at receiving lines and during dances, and acts as a damper while moving hand-held. Look at the Lo-Pod for a monopod that is also a motion-stabilizer.

The Easy-rig may work great, so would a full-on steadicam arm, but I would not be caught dead wearing either at a wedding, too distracting and attention-grabbing for a job where you want as much as possible to be ignored so you can get good candids. Show me a tux and Easy Rig or steadicam combo that doesn't look ridiculous and obvious.




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Chris Bryan
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 19, 2008 at 9:07:38 pm

Thanks for the advice,

I like the sound of the Monopod and will look into that. In my experience it is rarely possible to have a tripod setup for a toast. You just never know when the toasts are going to fall, even if you talk to the DJ about the timing its likely to change. And what bride wants a tripod setup in the middle of the dance floor while you wait for the toasts to come up? Besides the safety concern of people tripping over it, it's ugly.

I always find that at weddings it is best to be able to move as quickly as possible and a tripod does not afford me that luxury.

I agree that a steadicam rig is also quite distracting.

Let me ask you this. I've thought about getting a monopod before, but I've always wondered, do you typically by a fluid head to use on a monopod, or do you just attach the camera directly to the monopod? Additionally does anyone have and tried and true monopods that they recommend for lightness, durability and ease of use?



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Mark Suszko
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 19, 2008 at 9:39:33 pm

"And what bride wants a tripod setup in the middle of the dance floor while you wait for the toasts to come up? Besides the safety concern of people tripping over it, it's ugly."

Ridiculous. I don't buy it. I did weddings for years just like this, with way bigger cameras than today, and it NEVER was an issue, ever. Just be smart and scope out the area beforehand; hopefully, you are there at the reception before the couple have made their formal entrance! And don't use hardwired power and/or audio to the tripod at that point, or if you must, gaffer tape the wires. This is something I did, if needed, while waiting at the reception for the couple to arrive. Pre-prep work is key. Generally I'd have a battery charger and the deployed tripod off in a far corner or behind a wall-side table, out of harm's way, but easy to grab on a second's notice. Comes time for the toasts, you keep your eyes open and take your cues from watching the DJ or MC, and you have plenty of time to be rolling and ready. I generally don't sit and eat at receptions, it invariably conflicts with being ready to react to something important. I'm there to work, and I use a news photog's eye to keep scanning the entire for shot opportunities at all times.

First, with any halfway decent telephoto lens, you wouldn't need to be in the middle of the dance floor anyhow. You could even just pick out a chair near the dance floor periphery before the reception starts, mark it, say with your biz card and some gaffer tape, leave the sticks there on low height, and go sit at it with the tripod at low height, and not be obvious at all. Guests that see the tripod in advance will choose not to sit behind it naturally. Generally as well, the lighting is set to highlight the head table during the toasts, and anything on or near the dance floor is in semi-darkness compared to that anyway. In any case, if you take any care at all in placement, nobody will mind or notice you and your tripod for the few minutes you're there. Because the head tables are usually elevated on a short riser, it is harder to block someone's view than you think. And you have all the time in the world to remove the sticks after the toasts as people continue to eat and drink a while. There are also portable risers you can buy or make, like the spider-pod, you could put at the back of the room, and do a great job with. Just takes advance planning.

Second, a simple all-black Velbon or similar tripod is not that obvious or ugly, and takes up very little room, plus it is easy to fold up and toss into a nearby corner right after the toasts are done and people start eating or whatever. You have tons of time to gab the tripod from near the DJ's table, for instance, plop it down, pop the camera onto the quick-release plate and go.

Regarding monopods, you'll pay more for one with a fluid head on it. If you pick one that has no head, just a threaded stud or non-tilting QR plate, then all the panning and tilting comes from moving the whole monopod around. This is uncomfortable to do, but possible. Monopods built for 35mm still cams and the like may not be sturdy enough for video use. Shop around. If you can find one with a built-in or add-on fold-out footplate, those will work great, very stable once you plant a foot on the plate, but pick it up and GO in an instant.

In a pinch, to save money, you might find a cheap but sturdy used tripod with pan head and re-build it into a monopod by amputating two legs and the spreader mechanism. How elegant it looks would be up to your mechanical skills. I made one once in a cave from a box of scraps, but I don't like to talk about it...




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Chris Bryan
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 19, 2008 at 9:55:16 pm

Is it too much to ask for some simple suggestions?

Thank you for the last two paragraphs however which did seem to pertain to my question and served some purpose.






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Mark Suszko
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 20, 2008 at 2:18:23 pm

Something I just thought about regarding monopods without a pan head. That implies using the threaded bolt hole in the bottom of the camera, but without a flexible pan head to absorb shocks and bending forces, you could easily damage the camera body at the attachment point if a sudden force , magnified thru the moment arm of the long monopod leg, were to apply just a little leverage. On a plastic-bodied camera it might not take much force at all to crack the body or crack the bolt attachment point loose, becuase those parts are not designed for loads in shear or for a lot of torque. So I would say *any* kind of pan head on a monopod, even a cheap spring-tension one, is better than none at all.

Take a look at the Flo-Pod monopod and the Studio One brand.


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Chris Bryan
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 20, 2008 at 2:24:43 pm

Awesome! Thanks for the tip!



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Ryan Mast
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 23, 2008 at 2:23:51 pm

People act differently than normal around giant cameras and gear. I generally chose to not use tripods in live events like that -- dynamic events where the subjects are not professionals. Not so much for mobility, but because of social quantum mechanics -- observing something changes its state. Yes, less camera shake does make you look better than Uncle Bob, but so does framing, audio, color balance, content coverage, and editing.

To answer your question, Chris... Try a cheap monopod; see if it helps. If you like using the monopod, buy a nicer, sturdier, lighter one. Personally, I think it doesn't provide enough stabilization to replace a tripod, and isn't small enough to be better than going handheld, but YMMV. Find ways to use your body or the environment to support the camera in three places -- ex., hold it with two hands on top of your head for high shots, hold it with two hands on your shoulder, on your leg, against a wall, etc. Set it on a table or some other flat surface and support the lens to get the correct tilt for what you need. Hold it against your chest. Get intimate with your camera and hold it close! And then use SmoothCam to clean up whatever jitter is left -- at least clean up rotation; translation shakiness is more forgivable than rotational shakiness. Rotational shake makes people feel seasick.

You'll definitely get better with practice, too. Good luck!



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Chris Bryan
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 23, 2008 at 2:30:55 pm

Hi Ryan,

Thanks a lot for the tips! I'll give them a try. Awhile ago I saw a video on a site that detailed different ways to hold a camera showing how the bad technique looked on video and how the good technique looked on video. I'll have to dig around for that video again and then I'll post it here.



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Ryan Mast
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 23, 2008 at 2:34:57 pm

[Chris Bryan] "Awhile ago I saw a video on a site that detailed different ways to hold a camera showing how the bad technique looked on video and how the good technique looked on video. I'll have to dig around for that video again and then I'll post it here."

Thanks, I'd love to see it!



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Chris Bryan
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 23, 2008 at 2:52:26 pm

It didn't take too much digging to find, but I found it. Videomaker also has a podcast with lots of great free videos covering editing, sound and video.

http://www.videomaker.com/vidcast/101/



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Matte Blume
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 24, 2008 at 11:17:11 am

[Mark Suszko] "In a pinch, to save money, you might find a cheap but sturdy used tripod with pan head and re-build it into a monopod by amputating two legs and the spreader mechanism. How elegant it looks would be up to your mechanical skills. I made one once in a cave from a box of scraps, but I don't like to talk about it...
"




;-)



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Zane Barker
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 23, 2008 at 11:13:13 pm

Now the BIG question for you is what type of camera do you have? I have seen wedding shot by so called professionals on everything from a cheep soccer mom camera to a variacam and everything in between.

So if you let us know what type of camera you have we can give you some better tips.

There are no "technical solutions" to your "artistic problems".
Don't let technology get in the way of your creativity!



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Chris Bryan
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 23, 2008 at 11:29:28 pm

I shoot with two Panasonic DVX100B's. I'm interested to hear how the type of camera I shoot with will affect advice on handheld techniques.

Perhaps others will be interested in hearing about Steadicam equipment and other such gear, however, besides picking up a monopod with a fluid head, I at this time am not in the market for any such devices.

My previous post in this thread includes a link to a video that describes some techniques in how to actually hold the camera to get better shots and that's what my question was initially. I'm interested in hearing some tried and true methods from others working in the field.




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Zane Barker
Re: Handheld Techniques
on Oct 23, 2008 at 11:51:46 pm

I have an FX1 which is close in size to your camera and I use this and LOVE it.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/98762-REG/Video_Innovators_106_S_800_...

I removed the front handle and just keep right hand in the camera hand strap on the controls and place my left hand up near the lens. To hands plus your shoulder gives you 3 points of contact and makes the camera much more stable.

And because you have 2 cameras you should have one stationary on a tripod that will give you basic coverage that you can cut to when needed, like if you need to move with the mobile camera. Your stationary camera on the tripod is also the camera that you feed the audio from the sound system into because you dont want a cord running to the mobile camera.

Hope this helps.

There are no "technical solutions" to your "artistic problems".
Don't let technology get in the way of your creativity!



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