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Geared Head Experience

Published : 17th March 2005

>I've been shooting for over 20yrs. I'm getting calls for B camera operating. However!, I have only shot on a geared head once. Any indicators or tips when a geared head will be used on a shoot? Is it determined by camera pkg weight or the A camera operator preference? Will 35mm more likely be on geared head than 16 or HD. I have NEVER shot NTSC video on a geared head.

>I don't want to get hired on a job and then stare at a geared head in fear. I figure if I ask "Are you shooting on a geared head?" that will send up a red flag. I'm confident in my operating skills just not on a geared head or at least until I can practice on one. There are none locally for rent.

Bummer...

Thanks,
Tom McDonnell
Dir/DP
New Orleans, La


>I can't track down a geared head anywhere in New Orleans. My closest rental markets would be Houston, Dallas, Nashville or Atlanta. Any advice on a rental house or person I could contact to arrange or at least discuss a practice rental for 2 weeks or longer?

Tom "needs to get on the wheels" McDonnell
Dir/DP
New Orleans, La


class="style9">>Any advice on a rental house or person I could contact to arrange or at >least discuss a practice rental for 2 weeks or longer?

Dear Tom :

>I have worked with a New Orleans DP named Louis Koerner on a number of occasions. He used to be represented by Morrison Productions in N. O., but is now freelance. His equipment moves between Tavernier, Florida and N. O.

I know he has a big Louisiana Tourism shoot coming up in December. Maybe he could bring in his mini-Worrall a couple of weeks early for you and then pick it up when and if he needs it for the shoot. Here is his contact information.

CP Mini-Worrall Gear Head

Tropic Films, Inc.
184 Orange Blossom Rd.
Tavernier, Fla 33070

Louis Koerner
Phone: (305) 852-8283
Cell (305) 393-7456
Fax: (305) 852-0294
or
James Cohen
Phone: (305) 745-7226
Cell (305) 776-6617

>If that does not work out, I live in Houston and have an excellent relationship with Texcam. They have an Arri II gear head and a Mitchell gear head. The rental manager, Pat Patin is a very good guy. If Louis' head is not available, I'm sure Pat could help you out. His number is 713-524-2774 ... http://www.texcam.com

>Best wishes and good hunting.

Sincerely,

John Sheeren
Camera Operator
1st AC
Houston, Texas


class="style9">>I don't want to get hired on a job and then stare at a geared head in fear. >[The post was a question about being forced to use a gear head on a >job where the operator has little experience with them.]

REPLY :

>My observation as a fly on the wall of these sets is that its the operating preferences of you, the operator that determines what kind of head is used. Some equipment packages I'm familiar with, for robotic cameras for example, have both gear and joystick configurations. Operator preference determines which system I unpack and build for them. I work with one DP who always prefers---and gets---a gear head.

>Conversely, if there is only one configuration, then the operator is either forced to learn it, (at the rental house, the day before) or not take the job.

Lew Comenetz-Video Engineer (Functions as sort of a camera assist in certain environments.)


Tom,

>I've played around with Worrall heads(mini and the big ass one)and the Arri-it is not easy-it really kicks your ass until you start to get coordinated-you should practice as much as possible and rent one as Rich suggested.

John Babl
Miami

***Just watched "The Country Doctor"( I think that was the title, directed by D.W.Grifith) featuring one of the first pans (that I can think of) Imagine hand cranking and panning...(I suppose it was a 2709)


Don't count the turns!

>Choose the geared head 90% of the time. Fluid head for action and in tight spots you can't do with the gears.

It will become second nature very quickly.

Steven Poster ASC


class="style9">>Conversely, if there is only one configuration, then the operator is either >forced to learn it, (at the rental house, the day before) or not take the job

>You wont learn much from one prep day, but its better than nothing. It does take a lot of practice, and then the different feel of a geared head when you're on the platform moving - fast dolly track or sweeping crane move vs. one on a remote head on a short arm and lots of back pan (don't cheat with auto back pan compensation either).

>I don't think it has as much to do with what cameras are on the show, as compared to the style of filmmaking and more importantly, the Camera Operator's preferences. I know DP's who do fine with just a good ol' Sachtler 7+7. I myself like going out with a geared head which are superior for finessing certain shots.

>Don't be intimidated by a Geared Head, but instead let its virtues inspire you to practice. there are many advantages. You can get the feel of fast sit downs and stand-ups by how many cranks it takes during rehearsal. you wont count them consciously, but its better without a "bump" near the end of the move as you perhaps overshoot. In other words - and this is hard to relate - but the Geared Head will stop where you want it to stop, without backlash and the kinetic dolly move influencing the pan/tilt. That sort of thing.

>Learn in 1st gear, and a little in 2nd. Don't mess with 3rd yet - its rarely used. Do circles and figure-eights (don't put the chart too far away, use the whole tilt range). And reverse your direction randomly at different points. Also, do long lens stuff, but do it with people close to camera, so you use more of the pan/tilt range, and do actual shots that look cool - a lot different than getting myopic about the crosshairs following a figure 8.

>I think its good to learn to hold the wheels lightly, sort of like a cigarette between the fingers. Learn that way and you wont be influencing the head with vibrations when you really have to crank it.

>Never work in 3rd gear - you'll find that you rarely need to put both pan/tilt on that setting. however, practice doing some shots in 3rd gear where most of the move is slow and smooth, and only part of it needs to whip around. Again, this is not the type of virtuoso operating one should focus on as a beginner since this will rarely come up, and you will likely be able to do the shot on a Fluid Head.

>Likewise, eventually you can add a Microforce in your pan hand and hide subtle zooms into your moves. takes a ton of practice. I frequently work with a Camera Operator, Harry Box, who does this way better than I can - I'm always impressed.

>Practice with the head a little out of balance such as when the tilt wedge is used. A lot of things can only be practiced on a shoot, where the camera booms and you have to rotate your head on the eyepiece (first sideways and as you boom up your head's level again) things like that.

>Then at a certain point, do some wacky things like spinning the pan wheel, and sliding it to a stop. you have to liberate yourself from the gear a little - sort of like a wide receiver practicing one handed catches (or a striker booting it in with the outside of their foot?). Need a better soccer analogy.

Mark Doering-Powell
LA based DP


Mark Doering-Powell writes :

class="style9">>I don't think it has as much to do with what cameras are on the show, >as compared to the style of filmmaking

>Maybe I keep missing that booth at Cinegear, but does anyone make a gear head specifically for smaller cameras? I keep thinking half-size of 35mm would be right for a lot of things these days. Maybe someone like Joe Lewis would be interested.

Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


Tim Sassoon writes :

class="style9">>does anyone make a gear head specifically for smaller cameras? I >keep thinking half-size of 35mm...

>ArriHead Compact. you wont see it showcased as its been a round for a few years.

Mark Doering-Powell
LA based DP


>Years ago I read a study where two basketball teams were compared : one practiced regularly, the other thought about practicing and learned new moves on paper and thought about them a lot.

>In the end it was discovered that the team that thought about moves a lot did nearly as well as the team that had been practicing, and that gave me an idea back when I wanted to learn how to use a gear head.

>I sat in front of my TV, and whenever the camera moved on whatever show I was watching I would make the appropriate moves with my hands. Of course you need to know which way to turn the wheels in the first place, but that's easy to figure out. (If you don't know, let me know and I'll tell you.)

>I also had the luxury, when I was a camera assistant, of practicing on a gear head during lunch, but all the time I spent in front of the TV practicing in the air really paid off when I was able to get my hands on a geared head to practice. More than half the battle was just knowing (without thinking) which way the wheels should go. Getting the speed right was a very small part of it.

>I used to love geared heads and swear by them. They're smooth, accurate, and great to use in environments where there are forces that act on the camera in bad ways, eg. wind, G-forces from abrupt dolly moves, etc. They're handy on cranes of all types.

>Having said that, I haven't used one since about 1997. Up until then nearly all of my operating had been on a gear head. Most of my work since I moved to the SF Bay Area in '93 has been corporate or commercial, and 99.99975% of that work has been on a fluid head. Even the episodic and feature operating work I've done from 1998 on has been on a fluid head. I'm sure I could still jump on a gear head and do fine : once you learn it you don't forget it. But I don't know that I'd order one these days. I'd be happy with a nice new O'Connor.

>As for when they show up... well, that depends. On the features and TV shows I've worked on the "A" camera ends up on a gear head and the "B" camera ends up on a fluid head. I've never been on a shoot where there was a gear head and no fluid head, but I have been on shows where there was no gear head. You can do a lot on a gear head but you can't do everything.

>I've used them in both 35mm and 16mm shooting. I haven't used them for video or HD yet, but it sure would be fun if for no other reason than to dazzle the clients. (That added air of mystery never hurts.)

>I knew a DP/operator in LA back in the early 90's who did a lot of "B" camera operating and second unit shooting. He always told production he wanted a fluid head. He didn't care if people knew he couldn't operate a gear head; he just told them he could do on a fluid head anything any operator could do with a gear head. He didn't seem to have much trouble getting work. There's also a highly respected local "A" camera operator who works on BIG features and who I've never seen use anything but a fluid head, although I haven't seen him around in a while so that may no longer be accurate.

>Gear heads don't much fit the style of my shooting these days, which is fast, fast, fast with full control of the zoom. They sure can be fun to work with, though.

>I don't think it's as much of a problem to insist on a fluid head these days. There was a time when you would be glanced at askew but I don't think that's the case now.

Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
Mountain View, California
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/
Local resources: http://www.artadams.net/local


>I was shooting a MOW out of town over the summer and had to bring in a local operator for one day while the regular A operator (also a local, sort of, but that's a different story) was sent off to shoot some 2nd unit establishing shots.

>I asked the day-playing operator if he would prefer a fluid head (in this case an O'Connor 2575) to the Panahead on which the camera was normally placed. He chose the Panahead.

After the first take it was clear to me that this operator was struggling with the wheels. I asked him again if he wouldn't prefer the fluid head. The shot was a medium close-up following an actress in a very emotional scene and there was a lot of movement on her part. The operator declined, again saying he wanted to use the wheels. On take two the execution of the shot was worse than take one. The director looked at me and he didn't have to say a word. I had to jump in and operate for the rest of the day.

I felt bad for the guy, and talked to him at the end of the day. I reiterated that if he had more experience with a fluid head, he should have made that request, it would not have reflected badly upon him, but the fact that he blew the shot on the wheels did, and the director as well as the producers had no confidence in him. The operator felt that since the A operator had been shooting with wheels, he didn't want to change "the look" by using a fluid head.

>As long as the shot is executed properly, one shouldn't be able to tell if wheels or a fluid head was the instrument used, nor does it matter to me, as long as the desired end result is achieved.

>I think this was a good lesson for this operator, one cannot "earn while you learn" in these kinds of situations.

Paul Maibaum
DP/LA


>You cannot think about which way you are spinning the wheels when working with a gear head....after you have gained the experience of working with one, it is rather like riding a bike: you just do it. As soon as you pause to think about it, you will fall off.

I was doing a cam-remote shoot once and at lunch, the tech flipped the direction switch on the pan control [why they have a direction switch is beyond me!]. Well, I sat down on my apple box and tried to frame the first shot after lunch...

>DAMN! I thought I had totally lost my touch! I was sweating it out! Well, this lasted for about 15 seconds until the tech couldn't handle my frustration anymore and he jumped in to switch it back. Yeah....lots of fun..

Well, we had some words after the shoot but to this day, I always double check the settings before and after lunch!

Best way to learn the wheels : buy a set!

>I've had several in the past and sell off the old ones for another set...my current favourite is the older Technovision gear head.

Cheers,
Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
www.barklage.com
View reel : www.reelsondemand.com


class="style9">>why they have a direction switch is beyond me!.

>Just like flying a radio control plane. It's fine going out. But when it's flying back at you you’ll for sure turn the wrong way if you can't reverse the controls.

Steven Poster ASC


class="style9">>No way can you operate a fluid head if you have to make a turret move >on a Chapman Titian Crane.

>Sorry to do this, but...I beg to differ. I do it quite easily when I use a fluid head.

>With my Steadicam and Sports Cinematography background I’m very comfortable with a fluid head and for the most part prefer it. Lately the show that I have been operating 2nd unit on (Desperate Housewives) has been so strangely equipped that at times all we have had has been the wheels (Even on the day that we had the low angle prism!) Be it a full day on the Libra head on the Titan arm with extension or just normal operating. Thankfully I got back up to speed on the wheels VERY quickly.

>Eric Fletcher SOC
Steadicam/"A" Camera Operator
Los Angeles, CA USA


>>Thankfully I got back up to speed on the wheels VERY quickly.

The good news is that operating on gears is like riding a bicycle: once you have learned it you can never forget it. So if you practice a lot you can start with rather easy shots and build your experience each time you have your opportunity. The only rule is that you must never think.

Just let your body do it.

Regards

Argyris Theos
DoP
Athens Greece


>Tim Sassoon wrote :

class="style9">>Maybe I keep missing that booth at Cinegear, but does anyone make a >geared head specifically for smaller cameras? I keep thinking half-size >of 35mm would be right for a lot of things these days.

>I used mini Moy geared head that I have been using in conjunction with my Aaton XTR for years. The wheel operation is not as smooth as an Arri head or Panahead but it works for me and got me used to using the wheels and I figure when I use 35mm a bigger geared head will feel like butter to me. You might be able to find one used somewhere.

>Brian Fass
Cinematographer
www.watchreels.com/brianfass
NYC


class="style9">>Lately the show that I have been operating 2nd unit on (Desperate >Housewives) has been so strangely equipped that at times all we have >had has been the wheels

>Did anyone mention how wonderful the lighting is on that show? Yes I see the occasional lens flares, like the ones this week in the kitchen scenes. For some reason it didn’t bother me like it is supposed to, perhaps because I was so impressed with the overall look of the show.

>Please tell an ignorant slob from Minnesota what format you folks are using!

>Jeffery Haas
freelance shooter and editor
Dallas, Texas


>My two pennies worth...

>Get hold of an ArriHead for a week, stick a laser pointer on it, sit in the living room and write on the walls, follow characters on the tv etc, worked for me.

>Dan Bronks
DP
UK


>Jeffery J. Haas wrote:

class="style9">>Did anyone mention how wonderful the lighting is on that show?

>Thanks goes to Walt Fraser on 1st unit and Blake Evans, Lowell Peterson and Bing Sokolsky on 2nd unit

>Please tell an ignorant slob from Minnesota what format you folks are >using!

>35mm 3 perf, although my Panavision Lightweight for steadicam use is a 4 perf camera.

>Eric Fletcher SOC
Steadicam/"A" Camera Operator
Los Angeles, CA USA


class="style9">>No way can you operate a fluid head if you have to make a turret move >on a Chapman Titian Crane.

>Eric,

>You didn't respond to what I said. Have you had to make a big turret move on a Titan with a fluid head?

>Great show by the way. We're hooked.

>Steven Poster ASC


class="style9">>You didn't respond to what I said. Have you had to make a big turret >move on a Titan with a fluid head?

>Yes I have. And really it was no problem for me. One of the shots that I did involved a huge 120 degree tilt so there was no way that I could have done it on the wheels (In reality it SHOULD have been a remote head shot, but you know how that goes)

>The way that I did it was to lock the pan on the head and use the turret for that.

>Eric Fletcher SOC
Steadicam/"A" Camera Operator
Los Angeles, CA USA


>A fabulous operator I knew once told me that on shots with lens less than 100mm he used a gear head. Over 100mm he preferred a fluid head. I think the wheels give a lovely smooth precision to tracking dolly moves and those big crane shots. They always worked for me. But to second, (third fourth etc.) you can not think about which way to go. Best way to learn is to practice, practice. Also, in the day of the whole TV teleprompter, a gear head was mandatory to handle the weight.

>Many years ago, while assisting, I worked with a still photographer from Minnesota who had been hired to film some commercials. It was a testimonial type spot using some big talent and wall to wall dialogue. We had a teleprompter and this DP wanted to use a fluid head. (He had never spun the wheels) After struggling with the fully loaded BL 4 with big zoom and TV teleprompter, he gave in and we brought out the Worrall.

>I offered to operate for him, but he declined. Every take he would turn the wheels a tiny bit in the wrong direction, curse and turn them back to make the move. After a dozen of these "oh shit" moves he relented and I operated for him the rest of the day, promoting my second to focus puller. It is a valuable skill to have even though it might have fallen out of favor slightly.

>Sincerely,

>Ed Colman, President ­ SuperDailies, Inc.
Cinematographer Supervised Video Dailies
http://www.superdailies.com


>Steven Poster writes : (re: geared head directional switch)

class="style9">>Just like flying a radio control plane. It's fine going out. But when it's >flying back at you you’ll for sure turn the wrong way if you can't reverse >the controls.

>What kind of shooting situation would be analogous to the plane flying back toward you? Shooting back over your shoulder?

>Also, I'm not familiar with the term "turret move." Can you explain it?

>Thanks....

>Dan "never been on a Titan" Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


class="style9">>What kind of shooting situation would be analogous to the plane flying >back toward you? Shooting back over your shoulder?

>Remote heads have directional switches to change directions of both pan and tilt to compensate for being underslung from a crane or mounted conventionally on a dolly.

>A titan crane has a pan wheel to pan the turret of the crane, the turret being the platform that holds the mounting base for the camera and the seats for the operator and assistant.

>Steve Peterson 600 1st AC,
Owner Cartoni Lambda Head modified with Hot Gears Controls.


>Well, I want to thank you all for the insightful input. I feel it's better for me to be upfront and honest than to get myself into a bad situation.

>If I lose the operator job for being honest so be it. Until I become an experienced or at least competent "geared head", it's a fluid head for me.

>Tom McDonnell
Dir/DP
New Orleans, La


>I think the equivalent might be the remote head shot where you have a subject coming at you ... camera goes up (or is already high) ... subject goes under camera ... camera rotates around and follows subject going away from camera ... Dp/operator Brooks Guyer is a MASTER at this shot ... having been a remote head tech for a long time before moving up ...

>Mako ... who knows when he's been out operated! ... Koiwai
Glendale, CA


>Mako Koiwai wrote :

class="style10">>I think the equivalent might be the remote head shot where you have a >subject coming at you ... camera goes up (or is already high) ... subject >goes under camera ... camera rotates around and follows subject going >away from camera ...

>My hardest one was sort of the opposite. A remote head on a crane such that as two people sat down on a couch (in a studio), the camera craned far up and over the couch (eventually looking straight down) and then dollied away from the back of the couch and craned down to reveal a huge mural on the wall in front of the subjects.

>On top of the actual up and over move was the constant correcting for the position of the dolly as the dolly grip tried to compensate for the arc of the crane which shifted it's position in relation to the couch. All that compensating for compensating was totally confusing as we arc'd over the top. SHEESH!!!! We rehearsed for well over an hour, but we got it.

>And I can say - for what started this thread in the first place – the only reason I got that shot, is because a year earlier I just went ahead and bought an old (but very clean) Mitchell gear head (used to be Panavision) for $1500 so that I could learn it.

>I even continue to use it once in a while, but of course once you've used a Panahead or ArriHead, etc., going back to that old Mitchell can be pretty rough.

>Roderick E. Stevens II
Director -o- Photography
www.restevens.com
12on/12off


>Roderick E. Stevens wrote :

class="style10">>All that compensating for compensating was totally confusing as we >arc'd over the top.

>You know, I've always wondered why nobody (at least to my knowledge) has built an "arc compensating" version of the Technocrane - that is, one in which the length of the arm is adjusted as the boom swings. It seems to me it should not be that difficult to come up with some arrangement that basically lengthens the arm as the boom swings past parallel in either direction, and retracts it as you swing towards parallel, thus raising and lowering the camera mount in a vertically straight line. Or am I mistaken - has someone actually done this already?

>Mike Most
VFX Supervisor
IATSE Local 600
Los Angeles


>Mike Most writes :

class="style10">>You know, I've always wondered why nobody (at least to my >knowledge) has built an "arc compensating" version of the >Technocrane - that is, one in which the length of the arm is adjusted as >the boom swings.

>Louma 2.

>Saw it once at a show, Munich, never saw it again.

>It did exactly this.

>Cheers

>Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net


>My hardest shot on a geared head wasn't all that hard...in theory.

>We started out on a crane in front of a bunch of actors on a 35mm or 45mm anamorphic lens. We changed speeds from 24 to 6fps and then craned straight back, up and over a gentleman who ends up in the foreground as we descend in front of him. The kicker: the set was -exactly- the size of the frame when I landed.

>Doing all that with the extreme strobing of a 6fps shutter in reverse was quite exciting, not to mention seizure-inducing. In the end they had to paint out a lens flare in post, but at least I ended up perfectly framing the set. It took a couple of tries.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
Mountain View, California
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"


>I learned how to use a gear head by jumping on a set of wheels at every trade show I could get to, and staying on them until someone kicked me off. One of the shows I was gaffer on was a sci-fi film in a space ship set. Lots of lighting built into the set, so I had time on my hands once we were shooting, and the DP hardly ever used the gear head, so it was available for hours at a time and I had my laser pointer handy.

>When I really got the hang of it was at a crane and remote head demo put on by the SOC. There were long lines for a ride on a Chapman crane, but no line at a small boom arm with a remote head. I jumped on those wheels and tried to keep my crosshairs on the riders on the Chapman Crane that was swinging around randomly, while a grip was randomly swinging around the camera I was using. Because this was such an abstract situation where I had no control or connection to where my camera was in space, or where the target was going, it forced me into a very Zen mindset. I quickly saw that thinking about it led to disaster. In order to keep the target in the crosshairs, I had to kind of "let go" and "use the Force."

>By the time I had a chance to operate for director Rowdy Herrington on a Lab 24P shoot at Sony, I was ready. I was a bit nervous, but I kept the camera on the geared head all day. He knew that I was a bit green, but at the end of the day he asked me where I learned how to use the wheels so well... he's worked with some great crews, so I took that as a nice compliment.

>I think the circles and figure eights are great for getting the hang of it and building up some coordination, but then it really helps to set up some kind of random moving target situation, just sort of turn your conscious brain off and follow something random for a long time. Then at some point, you just have to bite the bullet and shoot a project on a geared head. If you practice, practice, practice in this way, then you'll find that a real shoot is comparably somewhat easier because the blocking of the camera and actors are choreographed, rehearsable, and repeatable.

>Focus on the shot though and not on your hands.

>Good Luck.

>Sean Murray, soc
Camera operator/ Gaffer
Burbank, CA / Pittsburgh, PA


class="style10">>I think the circles and figure eights are great for getting the hang of it >and building up some coordination, but then it really helps to set up >some kind of random moving target situation, just sort of turn your >conscious brain off and follow something random for a long time.

>I don't consider myself a great wheel operator, but I have had some experience here and there, primarily on remote head shots I used a long lens still camera on my ancient oversized "bought at auction a million years ago" geared head in my driveway following joggers and cars to practice as well as sitting in front of my largish television framing close-ups on the wide shots.

>My wife already knew I was nuts, so it didn’t bother her much.

>Mark Weingartner
LA based


>I'm a bit late on this thread.

>I have never managed to click with Geared heads, I've always been terrified of them and that they represent being found out for not being a proper DP… The configuration has never made sense to me, it seems so against logic/common sense i.e. the left wheel should be tilt and the right wheel should be pan. When I tried operating on a remote head where I could reverse the wheels I suddenly clicked and made much nicer moves. I've been told having the wheels the wrong way round is called the Russian method but that could be a wind up. A London camera house quoted me 27k to engineer a head that way, too risky an investment.

>The single best experience in learning wheels was watching Peter Wignall operate crane moves on a commercial I lit, took all the fear away seeing how relaxed and confidence he was, and how it could be second nature making such nice moves.

>Shane Daly UK DOP


class="style10">>it seems so against logic/common sense i.e. the left wheel should be >tilt and the right wheel should be pan

>I'm not so sure, think about a long pan Left with that configuration.

>Sam Wells

>==========================

class="style10">>it seems so against logic/common sense i.e. the left wheel should be >tilt and the right wheel should be pan

>Yeah, I thought that was kinda weird when I started on the wheels as well. When I would practice in my head prior to getting my old Mitchell gear head, I always assumed it was this way.

>Acceptance can be peaceful.

>Roderick E. Stevens II
Director -o- Photography
www.restevens.com
12on/12off


>This whole geared head learning issue is over-fraught with anxiety.

>It is a 2 to 16 hour matter, spread over 2 to 6 days, depending upon your native abilities. Just as you have a pretty good idea of your IQ, by age 18 (or earlier) you know how spastic you are. My own "spasticity quotient" is reasonably poor, so I was probably a 14 hour learner over 5-6 days. But you will not fail.

>As a rule of thumb, if you are in a league where you need to learn the "wheels," then you are probably an attractive catch for a rental house, who will see future $$$ signs in establishing a relationship with you and will probably make it very cheap--probably free--to get an old head for a week to learn on.

>Just ask. Know one gear head, know 'em all....and you never forget.

>Jerry Cotts
DP/LA


>I don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but I got my first geared head practice pointing a long lens at a fish tank. Pick out a fish and follow it as long as you can. The zippier the fish is the harder it gets. Do this for a while and it starts to become second nature.

>Steve Smith
Camera Operator lately
LA


class="style10">>Maybe I keep missing that booth at Cinegear, but does anyone make a >gear head specifically for smaller cameras? I keep thinking half-size of >35mm would be right for a lot of things these days.

>I have an older geared head made by National Cine Equipment that I bought a few years ago. It's really great for smaller cameras, but it doesn't have the leverage to tilt smoothly with heavier packages, you really have to muscle it.

>It's dimensions are 8"x8"x8" and it weighs 33lbs. I wouldn't put a camera package heavier than 20 - 25lbs on it, but it's fantastic with my SRII.

>Rachel Dunn
Cinematographer


>Rachel wrote :

class="style10">>I have an older geared head made by National Cine Equipment that I >bought a few years ago. It's really great for smaller cameras, but it >doesn't have the leverage to tilt smoothly with heavier packages, you >really have to muscle it.

>See, I have the opposite – an old Mitchell gear head that I could put a ‘couple’ of 35mm cameras on it if I wanted. I like to put the XL1 on it just for the silliness! J

>Roderick E. Stevens II


class="style10">>I have an older geared head made by National Cine Equipment that I >bought a few years ago. It's really great for smaller cameras...

>That's about what I had in mind. A search didn't turn up much about same. It seems to me that if people are trying to do cinematography with micro cameras like the DVX100 or A-Minima, there should be appropriately scaled support equipment available. Dalsa aside, it's not like cameras are trending bigger and heavier, anyway. I wonder if it's possible to mod a Manfrotto 3263 Deluxe Geared Head, or if that's too small for a starting point? I've used the smaller 410 for medium-format still. I haven't tried a 3263, but looking at the catalogue picture, with better wheels, maybe it's a contender.

http://www.bogenimaging.us/product/templates/templates.php3?

sectionid=10&itemid=279

>Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


>It seems to me that if people are trying to do cinematography with micro >cameras like the DVX100 or A-Minima, there should be appropriately >scaled support equipment available.

What would REALLY be cool is a mini gear head with a geared horizontal slide....

>Sam "lend me a hand" Wells


class="style10">>It seems to me that if people are trying to do cinematography with micro >cameras like the DVX100 or A-Minima, there should be appropriately >scaled support equipment available.

>I'm not so sure. At worst, thinking like this causes people to make miniature video tripods that don't work - there comes a point where you have to have some mass and inertia to the thing, and some suitably large, low-slop bearings, for it to work properly.

>My frustration here is born of several years working with a highly inadequate tripod which caused me much pain and grief; now I own a rather nicer one, which just causes me pain when I carry it - but the point is, everyone told me it was too big for the camera, but I feel it's only just large enough when the camera is fully loaded. This is a fluid head, but even they don't work very well if you make them too small.

>Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London


>Phil Rhodes wrote :

class="style10">>there comes a point where you have to have some mass and inertia to >the thing, and some suitably large, low-slop bearings, for it to work >properly

>The most important part of making video look like film is to move the video camera like a film camera. Often that means using the same tools you would use to move a top dollar camera, and mass and inertia are a large part of it.

>I have no problem putting a Panasonic DVX100 on a Chapman Dolly with an Arri head, or any similar combination. Unfortunately, if you're shooting on DV, you probably don't have the budget to do that.

>I do have a set of light weight Bogen carbon fibre sticks and a 503 fluid head if I'm going to be hauling it myself through rough terrain. It will do, but it's not my first choice of camera support.

>Sometimes it comes down to how much you can carry, or what you can squeeze into a location, but it always comes down to what you can afford.

>I have a set of Ronfords which work great with a better fluid head, or my NCE compact gear head, and with a skateboard dolly or doorway dolly, I can get a look that approaches the more expensive alternative - but it takes more time to set up between shots, is far less stable and therefore more difficult to operate smoothly, and places limitations on what you can do in order to achieve a shot (like booming up or down during the shot)

>But the important thing to remember is that you're always fighting the clock, and if you can get more done with a Chapman (or other comparable) dolly and a geared head, then push for that.

>I always try to remind my clients that "cheap can be expensive," because if you burn an hour (or more) a day because you are trying to make inadequate equipment operate adequately, then you are doing your client and yourself a disservice.

>Roderick E. Stevens wrote :

class="style10">>See, I have the opposite – an old Mitchell gear head that I could put a >‘couple’ of 35mm cameras on it if I wanted.

>Hey, I'll bet we can mount my geared head on top of your Mitchell, and have a geared ‘Dutch’ head. If you don't mind the head being 2.5 feet high, and having another operator over your shoulder for the ‘Dutch’.

>Thanks,

>Rachel Dunn
Cinematographer


class="style10">>The most important part of making video look like film is to move the >video camera like a film camera.

>Hmmm… I disagree. On the rare occasions I shoot one of the mini-DV cameras I usually end up with a small fluid head. I make the same moves that I'd make on a Sachtler Studio 7+7 or an O'Connor Ultimate head.

>Composition, lighting and exposure make a much bigger difference to me in making video look like film than camera movement does. I move video cameras the same way I move film cameras; the size or type of head makes very little difference as long as I've got the right sized head for the camera.

>I don't think putting a mini-DV camera on a gear head is going to move you much closer to the filmic experience on its own. That's my humble opinion.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
Mountain View, California
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"


class="style10">>The most important part of making video look like film is to move the >video camera like a film camera.

>Art A. wrote:

class="style10">>> Hmmm… I disagree.

>Indeed!

>I find lighting and in fact production design to be far more significant than camera movement when trying to create 'film' with video.

>Rachel Dunn wrote :

class="style10">>Hey, I'll bet we can mount my geared head on top of your Mitchell, and >have a geared ‘Dutch’ head. If you don't mind the head being 2.5 feet >high, and having another operator over your shoulder for the ‘Dutch’.

>GREAT!!!

>Then we'll put an A-Cam on it to capture the moment!

>Roderick E. Stevens II
Director -o- Photography


>Phil Rhodes writes:

class="style10">>there comes a point where you have to have some mass and inertia to >the thing

>Without disagreeing, I think the available equipment is still too large for the smaller cameras. And I would like to have a fluid head option which will work on (i.e. not crush) a video tripod. I'm just not capable of doing a very slow, smooth pan or tilt at full telephoto with a fluid head and smaller cameras. And even if I'm shooting film, it's usually me and one other person hiking up a hill with all the gear to get background plates for VFX shots.

>From what pictures I could find, the NCE looks pretty good; even smaller, for a 100mm bowl, would be better, IMHO. Which searching around for the NCE, I came across the archaic Eaton Hercules (for still cameras), which again, is probably erring on the small side, but has close to full-size hand-wheels.

>Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


class="style10">>I'm just not capable of doing a very slow, smooth pan or tilt at full >telephoto with a fluid head and smaller cameras.

>I've found a good way of doing long, slow and smooth pans with a fluid head : I wrap my thumbs and forefingers around the base of the fluid head and kinda pull the head around slowly with a thumb and forefinger. I've done a fair number of smooth tabletop pans this way.

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
Mountain View, California
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"


>Art Adams wrote :

class="style10">>I've found a good way of doing long, slow and smooth pans with a fluid >head : I wrap my thumbs and forefingers around the base of the fluid >head and kinda pull the head around slowly with a thumb and >forefinger.

>Now that's funny! I do the same exact thing.

>Tom McDonnell
Dir/DP
New Orleans, La


class="style10">> Now that's funny! I do the same exact thing.

>Me too, but if you actually think about it the best place to be is as far from the centre of rotation as possible - a longer lever to mechanically-disadvantage small erratic moves. Annoys me that the handles are usually too short.

>Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London


>Phil Rhodes writes :

class="style10">>but if you actually think about it the best place to be is as far from the >centre of rotation as possible

>I think the point is that's actually wrong in practice. By rotating at the hub, one is intentionally mechanically disadvantaging one’s self. The problem is not lumpiness in the fluid head, but in the human inability to move slowly and smoothly absent sufficient opposing mass. That old Newtonian thing - need more Tai Chi.

>A gear head is smoother because of the angular momentum of the mechanism, and by translating velocity into torque. It's always easier to precisely control a higher value.

>Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


class="style10">>Me too, but if you actually think about it the best place to be is as far >from the centre of rotation as possible - a longer lever to mechanically->disadvantage small erratic moves.

>I have done both. And yes, the handles are usually too short.

>Jeffery Haas
Freelance shooter and editor
Dallas


>Sorry to have joined the discussion so late in the day and thanks for Jerry Cotts' advice and thoughts - absolutely spot on.

>I also fail to understand why there appears to be so much concern about geared heads. It is simply a question of making the time to learn the art of using the handles. This surely applies to all equipment. Each of us has to make the effort of going to rental houses etc., and learning how to operate new equipment - it wasn't so long ago with the appearance of 435 and all of it's on-board electronics which raised eyebrows. Why should learning about handles be any different? I appreciate that handles are not very popular now that fluid heads are as good as they are, but that is a fairly poor excuse, given that so many of the remote systems/cranes/gyro heads are operated using handles. There are plenty of obscure pieces of equipment, and I have never worked on a job where a declaration of ignorance has been especially well received!

Is it not more an issue that the position of camera operator is about the first person to be elbowed from any production looking to make savings? "The DP can and should be able to operate" is the abiding production office philosophy. Given that this is not going to change, is it not incumbent upon us, if we are choose to operate, call ourselves operators or are likely to be forced by the economics of our industry to operate, to get up to rental companies and learn?

And finally, I have to acknowledge a vested interest. I am a partner of a company called Jackson Woodburn Controls and we manufacture a system called the Revolver, which are electronic handles for geared heads, giving you amongst other things motion control capability - www.jacksonwoodburn.com ... Using the Revolver means the perfect circle can be programmed in if you can't actually operate it yourself!!

Cheat. I think I'm one of the best.

(Apologies for the hard sell - the Revolver is available for rental and sales at weddings, christenings...)

Long Live Geared Heads

Ben Bannister
Director/DP
Jackson Woodburn Controls Ltd.


>The trick is to have both hands on the wheels AND run a zoom control!

Whenever this awkward situation arise, I use my left hand to do the normal pan, with my pinkie and ring fingers clamped around the wheel handle....and my thumb and index finger holding and riding the microforce control....It's not too bad to do...the only thing to watch out for is the occasional wire from the microforce getting wrapped around the pan wheel.

This occasion is when the production company, in their infinite wisdom, has forced upon me THEIR choice of 1st AC [which is always a cheaper and less experienced person than who I originally wanted...but yet justified in their eyes due to some ridiculous $25 a day savings].

Cheers,

>Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
www.barklage.com


class="style10">>I've found a good way of doing long, slow and smooth pans with a fluid >head : I wrap my thumbs and forefingers around the base of the fluid >head and kinda pull the head around slowly with a thumb and >forefinger.

>I've done this before but recently tried it on a long, slow pan of a landscape with a horizon. It was a humbling experience and really didn't work well at all. I was shooting with a Canon XL and the fluid head was a tiny Sachtler DV4 which really sucks for those kinds of moves.

>I wished I had an Arri head for it....

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>Phil Rhodes writes:

class="style10">>there comes a point where you have to have some mass and inertia to >the thing, and some suitably large, low-slop bearings, for it to work >properly

>But scale effects can be used to advantage. For an ultra-lightweight geared head for handicams and such, you could probably eliminate the low-slop bearings and use a certain amount of spring loading without incurring too much friction or slop.

>Rachel Dunn sez:

class="style10">>I do have a set of light weight Bogen carbon fibre sticks and a 503 fluid >head

>The 501 and 503 are actually greasy heads. I use a 501 when travelling light, and end up mainly shooting statics with it -- I won't push it beyond its capabilities; i.e. will avoid doing long, slow landscape pans with it, even though I have an extended handle. On bad days it can develop tilt striction when kept stationary for more than a few minutes. On good days I can convince myself it's a real fluid head. I also use Art's trick of minimizing leverage by turning the head itself -- though I'll stabilize the end of the handle with a fingertip for some additional control. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

>The main diff 'twixt heads is that a fluid head's resistance INCREASES as you apply more torque, while a greasy head’s DECREASES. That's a BIG diff!

>Generally I like working against more resistance (higher fluid "tension"), regardless of camera weight, but for that it's gotta be a real fluid head.. on a solid tripod.

class="style10">>"cheap can be expensive," because if you burn an hour (or more) a day >because you are trying to make inadequate equipment operate >adequately,...

>Ain't that the truth! But when you have to travel extremely light (which, BTW, I'm having to do currently) the tradeoffs can often tend to work the other way. If someone made a real fluid head for handicams that you could pop onto Bogen's carbon legs, I'd be first in line. I've been meaning to try their 505 head; it's advertised as "fluid" but I'm sceptical until I try it. The 510 is a beauty, but a bit too large and heavy for this application. The Sachtler DV heads are the right size, but just don't have enough resistance and adjustability for my taste.

>If the new Sony HDV cameras turn out to be popular in the low-end pro community (particularly as the world's only multi-standard SD camcorders!) I'm hoping some good, serious support hardware will emerge for them as well.

>As for zooming while cranking a geared head, why has nobody come up with a fluid-damped, (or pressure-sensitive) foot pedal-operated zoom control?

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


class="style10">>As for zooming while cranking a geared head, why has nobody come >up with a fluid-damped, (or pressure-sensitive) foot pedal-operated >zoom control?

>I'd be concerned about the frequent occasions when an operator has to shift his or her weight, such as when executing a move while clambering over a dolly. (I can do that with a fluid head too, by the way. )

>Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
Mountain View, California
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"