Cinematographers and their camera departments are often called on to engineer ingenious little rigging systems in search of crazy camera angles or almost impossible maneuvers. Necessity was certainly the mother of such inventions as Steadicam, Wescam (now known as Pictorvision) and motion control. All were designed in the quest for a very specific type of camera move. In a recent interview with Below the Line, veteran grip Gaylin Schultz talked about rigging a camera between the horns of a bull to get the bull’s point of view for Sam Peckinpah’s rodeo classic, Junior Bonner. (Editor’s note: that interview will run in an upcoming issue.) A recent report by Tom Shelley in Eureka Magazine explained how Martin Dohrn, inventor of the Ant Cam and the Guppy Cam and founder of Ammonite Films, developed “a novel three-axis control system that reduces vibration” in specialized camera lenses used to film tiny insects in the undergrowth. According to Shelley, the Frankencam “was used to support special camera and video equipment for filming and photographing the BBC’s recent nature program Life in the Undergrowth.” Stability is even more important with the advent of HD and there has been a flurry of development activity around support equipment for new formats like HDV. “Even the slightest movement is inevitably more obvious in the high definition results of your image capture,” said a recent release from Miller Camera Support. New York-based Mark Forman Productions has developed bicycle cams designed to shoot actors, athletes and vehicles at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Other companies have mounted cameras on Segway Transporters (which makes for an ultra-cool and remarkably maneuverable dolly). There’s even a website called the Home Built Stabilizer Group (www.homebuiltstabilizers.com), where filmmakers share their tips and tricks for building jerry-rigged dollies, jibs, cranes and rigs. It also includes advice for modifying ready-made systems like stabilizers, dollies or crane/jib systems to meet your particular needs. One filmmaker watched in horror as a camera fell off his crane and into the harbor. (But let’s not tell the rental company…)Certainly every camera crew has its war stories of having to having to build some crazy Rube Goldberg device to get that impossible shot. Here at Below the Line we would like to hear your war stories. E-mail [email protected] introduced its new Steadicam Merlin Arm and Vest at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Now, users have the choice of using the Merlin lightweight camera stabilizing system as a hand-held stabilizer, or strapped on like the larger Steadicam rigs used in Hollywood. It was designed by Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown.Panther Broadcast recently introduced a new spreader for its 100/150mm tripods. But this spreader is unique in that it can quickly be transformed into a dolly. The company’s new two-in-one SD 100/150 can be equipped with either studio wheels with brakes and cable guards, or track wheels for dolly shots.
Written by Scott Lehane