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If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?

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ryan elder
If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 28, 2018 at 8:13:05 pm

For my next film project I am allowing some of the budget to go towards a piece of gear to move the camera, to get some movement in some of my shots. However, which types of moves are more important? Dolly shots, or gimbal shots?

A gimbal works well for action shots on a wide lens such as a chase scene or suspense scenes, that require a lot of movement, on a wide lens, where you don't have to hide dolly tracks, like you would with a dolly. Kind of like a chase scene like this:







However, for more emotional and dramatic camera movement, that would be more slow and controlled, I could use a dolly for movement such as this, on a longer lens, where no dolly track would be seen:







As you can see two very different types of movements for different types of scenes, but for a film project that is of the suspense thriller genre, which type of movement is more important, if I can only afford one, between a dolly or gimbal.

What do you think?


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Mark Suszko
Re: If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 29, 2018 at 7:17:26 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Aug 29, 2018 at 7:19:12 pm

The gimbal can be used in more ways, and you can always attach it to something that rolls and have your dolly as well.

But I try to avoid gimmicks and hand-held or steadicam shots, and rather compose a relatively "static" frame and just let things happen within it, staging the action and using actor movement in depth, not unlike theater or soap opera work.

I add the illusion of motion to my relatively static frames, when needed, by sometimes making the editing take a more kinetic pace. Or I will do slow pans or zooms where dolly moves or slider moves are more today's fashion.

It's a style I "grew up in" because all my work has always been relatively low- budget and so I had to make-do with what I did have, or could bodge together. In 30 years of shooting I've only rented a Chapman doorway dolly twice (sans track) and a jib maybe three times. But I've done things like suspend a camera from a wooden board to get vertical shots, or clamp a hi-hat to the top of a tall stepladder instead of a jib or crane, Or make a pintle mount for the bucket on a utility company bucket truck. Or make a bean bag with a strap for my knee, for shooting out the doorway of a JetRanger or Blackhawk. Or strap a lipstick cam to the pilot-streerable "night sun" spotlight under a chopper...Or strap cameras to cars in various ways. Yes, I did the "camera in a fishtank" thing to shoot underwater once. Worked great.

These days a favorite trick of mine is to shoot 4K or better and do re-frames, synthetic dollies and buttery-smooth sloooooow zooms in post.

One fun one, I can still use today to mimic drone shots: a 30-foot length of PVC with a lipstick camera on one end and the battery pack, Casio 4-inch LCD monitor at the other, for balance. Connected to a portable Betacam deck. Looked like a Surf-fishing outfit at a distance, but I got great high-angle b-roll of state fair carnival rides and the like, as well as being able to poke it thru a crash fence and get worm's-eye views of sprint cars on the dirt oval. Very cool look. Today I'd "pole-cam" with a go-pro or gimballed Osmo, and Bluetooth monitoring. You kidz gots it all too easy today, yadda-yadda-yadda...

As to your dolly, lots of things can be used as makeshift dollies; wheelchairs are pretty common and easy to get at garage sales or thrift stores... but did you know a 10-speed bicycle makes a pretty good all-terrain, indoor/outdoor dolly too? Replace the seat post with straight tubing and put your hi-hat or Osmo on that. You may have to replace the back wheel with another front wheel to avoid the gear clicking. But half-wrecked 10-speeds are practically free at the "Sally".

It adds to my fun when I come up with stuff like that and it works; the surprise reaction of folks who think I used something expensive is a hoot.


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ryan elder
Re: If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 29, 2018 at 10:09:31 pm

Okay thanks. I tried the wheelchair option before though, and there was shake. I was told it was because wheelchair wheels are specifically not designed the way professional dollies are to reduce shake.

Also in a wheel chair, I have trouble adjusting the height of the camera compared to other dolly options that could be available, depending on the decision I make.

As for a gopro, I don't like the look of the gopro at all, cause they are too fisheye looking for what I am going for. The Osmo I haven't used, but the problem with using the Osmo, plus the regular camera, is that I would have to match the footage in post, and I fear I wouldn't be able to get a match, compared to using a gimbal that can house the same camera, that is being used for the whole production, if that makes sense.

I've tried making a DIY steadicam and used it on one short film so far, but I find that it waves back and forth, and it's really difficult to rebalance when having to switch lenses, compared to a pro gimbal, which I assume would take less time to rebalance compared to homemade. Plus the gimbal probably doesn't wave back and fort so much on the bottom, like the DIY steadicam.

I actually thought of using my bicycle before as a dolly, especially since for fast shots, since I can bike faster than I can run with a dolly. However, a bicycle is not the smoothest, and you cannot ride it on a track, so I am thinking it will be rough or too shaky maybe. Also, it would be difficult to adjust the camera height on a bicycle, but I can try.

However, there is a big problem with using a bike, and that is, is that it will make noise in shots where you want to record dialogue with the actors.


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Mark Suszko
Re: If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 30, 2018 at 2:40:38 am

Maybe you didn't pick up the the description... you don't *ride* the bike set up as a dolly: you -walk- or run alongside it, while it's large wheels even-out the small bumps. No tracks. Works better if you de-pressurize the tires a little. And I mentioned that you replace the back, geared wheel with another, non-geared front wheel, no chain, and it becomes silent. You get the bike and the extra front wheel at the Salvation Army or Goodwill for about ten dollars.

I also have a DIY "Fig Rig" (Imitation of the real one from Manfrotto, which was just too pricy for me) made from a discarded BMX bike wheel rim that has a slotted, steel angle-iron spot-welded across it. Works really well for hand-held stuff, The alley behind the bike shop had tons of these for free.


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ryan elder
Re: If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 30, 2018 at 2:54:31 am

Oh ok I see, thanks. I was told that the fig rig doesn't work near as well as gimbals hence why gimbals sell more. do you think that's true though?


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Mark Suszko
Re: If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 30, 2018 at 4:08:55 am

Ask Mike Figgis:







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ryan elder
Re: If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 30, 2018 at 4:18:52 am

Okay thanks. It's hard to tell cause in that video the camera is going up and down, rather than gliding smoothly. However, all of his shots are of actors walking, so I don't know if he is doing this up and down thing intentionally, or if all the figrig movement, looks like that naturally.


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Mark Suszko
Re: If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 30, 2018 at 4:51:15 am

I feel that I've been exceptionally patient about this, because I sincerely like mentoring where and as I can. And some of what we've talked about could conceivably help others.

But your posts continue to read like the most elaborate trolling attempts I've ever seen. I've given you the benefit of the doubt. I'm not the only one who's thought this, but I was giving you more chances. I gave you script, directing and editing advice when you asked questions. But you don't ever take it. You only come up with reasons not to try it.

Time to put up. It's a long weekend coming up, and I can't donate any more time to this right now, I've got edits of my own to finish.... I don't know if this is really a troll, or someone on the spectrum who needs a sympathetic and patient ear, but congratulations, you've run out my clock and I have billable time to put to use elsewhere than play rope-a-dope. Just close your browser, try cutting the footage the way I suggested, and then post it here, and let others comment. Then try their ideas. Either it's better or it's not. Actually try it, don't debate it any more.

But right now, you're not moving the plot forward. I can't add water to a full glass.


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ryan elder
Re: If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 30, 2018 at 4:55:53 am

Okay thanks. Sorry about all the questions, I just don't want to make the right decision with my money and budget, and I start to get nervous and anxious and don't know what decision to make. But your advice has been very helpful, it's just I don't know what to do about the limitations of the suggestions, and perhaps I just have to make a decision on what to do, that will most likely work for me.


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Todd Terry
Re: If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 30, 2018 at 5:13:03 am

Mark had a tiny bit more patience than I did.

You can only entertain the same exact questions over and over ad nauseam for so long, with the distinct feeling that all advice is falling on totally deaf ears, and is only fodder for an argument.... a constant barrage of "why it won't work" or "but I heard that..." or "do you think it's better to..." for the umpteenth time (despite the advice coming from people totaling well over a century's worth of experience).

This is all a bit akin to the old saying (sometimes attributed to Einstein), "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." But in this case it's asking the same four questions over and over again (literally the same question in different threads), with the poster apparently expecting different answers this time 'round.

Use a gimbal if that's the look you want. If it's not... don't. If a half dozen seasoned veterans look at your example and tell you over and over "That's a dolly shot, not suitable for handheld," you can take their advice... or not. But stop arguing about it. We'll tell you that you can't shoot with a telephoto lens on a Steadicam only so many times and listen to you (who apparently has never tried it) argue about it for so long. Take our advice... or don't. Learn by failing.

If you are a real director, go out and direct something. Make some decisions for yourself. Stop it with the constant "Do you think it would look better to..." aesthetic questions. If it looks good to you, do it. If it doesn't, don't. People in here are happy to give advice, but actually making those decisions is your job... not ours.

I'm out as well.

T2

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



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ryan elder
Re: If I can only afford one piece of equipment, between these two, which one is more important?
on Aug 30, 2018 at 5:24:13 am

Okay thanks, sorry. A lot of the advice, has me now asking all these other questions, which is why I asked more. Sorry.

Here is a scene I shot with a gimbal operator, operating the gimbal. It's just a rough cut, but do you think the gimbal moves look good, for a long lens, or is there too make shake or jitter?







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