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class="style8" Stabilising Long Lenses

>Published : 13th March 2005

>Anyone have any advice on how to best avoid unintentional shake on very long lens exterior shots?

>Probably need a 600MM with a doubler (Super 35mm)

>Thanks in advance for any tips.

>Dennis Boni
DP/Steadicam owner/op
IA 600


class="style9">>to best avoid unintentional shake on very long lens

>.....if you have the room, use sandbags on the lens (if it is sturdily mounted)....I used to put a couple bags on a 600mm.

>All best,

>Al Satterwhite
DP/Los Angeles


>Dennis Boni writes:

>Anyone have any advice on how to best avoid unintentional shake on >very long lens exterior shots?

class="style10">>Probably need a 600MM with a doubler (Super 35mm)

>There are almost no limits to what you can do if you require extreme steadiness.

Allow ample time to set up.

Use the largest and strongest head (like an O’Connor 150 or Worrall) you can on a very strong tripod, (Ronford) on good ground away from truck traffic etc.

Use tie down chains and/or lots of sand bags to secure the legs.

Check the camera carefully to see that it doesn't produce any excess vibration.

Thread the mags carefully so that there is no bump on the take up.

15mm rods are not really stiff enough 19mm rods are much better, but it is hard to find extra long 19mm rods. 3/4" and 19 mm are very close in size; you might be able to use 3/4" rods.

Some folks have made custom supports for long lenses so that the camera and the lens are really a single unit. Aluminium channel works very well for this purpose. In this way, you can position the centre of gravity for the camera/lens on the centre of the head.

Adding weight (shot bags) to the lens and the camera can help dampen vibration, but be careful not to stress the lens mount, or it will throw the top and bottom of you shot out of focus.

Use high speed film so you can stop down.

If you have the stop, consider overcranking and also reducing the shutter angle.

If focus pulling is required consider using a motor.

If it's breezy, consider a wind screen. The lee side of a truck is an excellent wind break.

If sharpness is critical, shoot early in the morning before the ground heats up. Avoid midday.

If it's a lock off, you can triangulate additional support from the end of the lens rods to the tripod legs. Even a "C" stand can be used as a support under the lens. Sand bag it as well.

If you can, test the tele-extender with the lens. They vary tremendously in optical quality.

If you're tracking a moving subject, you can get away with a lot.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


>Dennis Boni writes :

>Anyone have any advice on how to best avoid unintentional shake on >very long lens exterior shots?
>Probably need a 600MM with a doubler (Super 35mm)


Some further thoughts :

Check the archives and also Ron Dexter's Website -- it's a treasure trove of great advice.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


>Brian Heller writes:

class="style10">>Use the largest and strongest head (like an O’Connor 150 or Worrall)

>Or a modern geared head with a Hot Gears or other remote control system so your rig is completely isolated from any possible bumps or nudges. Shutter the finder and use a video tap. Sandbag the sticks. Shield the whole rig from any wind.

>If all else fails, pour concrete over the whole setup and wait a few days.

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>Using a geared head on a 600mm or 1200mm lens would be quite challenging, to say the least.

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


>Solid heavy tripod, good lens support system PLUS sitting a sand bag on the actual lens itself.

>Paul Donovan


>Art Adams writes:

class="style10">>Using a geared head on a 600mm or 1200mm lens would be quite >challenging, to say the least.

>It depends entirely on what you are filming. For instance, if you are trying to track a bird in flight then, it would be very challenging.

>However, if you only require small corrections in framing, then a geared head might be just the ticket. All fluid heads have a certain amount of resistance to overcome, having to do with the surface tension of the fluid. With small moves it very easy to overshoot. Likewise if you are tracking a subject that is moving at a fairly constant speed, then a geared head again may be ideal. A long lens on a geared head actually puts the eyepiece in a much more comfortable viewing position. Try it, you might like it.

>Also, remote heads were mentioned. I haven't used every remote head there is, but the few I have used with long lens set ups have had their own vibration issues. I prefer to have my hands on the rig in order to feel any vibration and help dampen it, or a least get an idea where it is coming from. The same is true for looking through the eyepiece. I've found that my head is also good for helping to steady the rig and absorbing vibration -- it's almost as good as a sandbag

>Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


class="style10">>However, if you only require small corrections in framing, then a geared >head might be just the ticket.

>I remember operating a shot with a 300mm lens on a Panahead and even in first gear it was very difficult to do super smooth moves. That was on a very solid tripod. It was difficult to move the wheels in small enough increments to get what I wanted without it looking a little jerky. These weren't big moves.

>Still, that was 12 years ago so there might have been skill issues as well.

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


>I'm not quite sure what the big deal is. I shot cars for many years with everything from 600mm-2000mm on my Sachtler head and never had a problem with stability.

>Get the camera and lens balanced right. Following action, such as cars, is easy.

>Shooting an immobile object may be tougher, especially in wind blown exteriors. Besides locking down the head, I'd occasionally use a sandbag on the lens. In really rough conditions I'd have the grips rig a stabilizing device out of C-stands and grip arms and as well set up wind baffles around the camera. Even with Clairmont's giant 1000 mm in a wind we had no problems.

>Neil Reichline
DP LA


class="style9">>Shooting an immobile object may be tougher, especially in wind blown >exteriors.

>That's actually when a geared head comes in handy. I've done shots with a 10-1 in windy conditions that were impossible with a fluid head but worked great with a geared head. Slight corrections can be easily made before rolling but when the shot happens it's easy to hold the shot still.

>Sachtler makes some truly monstrous heads now, so those might be worth a test, but an O'Connor 2575 will probably do the trick. (What a great head.)

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


class="style10">>It was difficult to move the wheels in small enough increments to get >what I wanted without it looking a little jerky. These weren't big moves.

>The Arri geared head can be gotten with a nice set of reduction gears for small moves. It's always a good idea to test the head out on the checkout day to be sure there isn't too much slop in the movement.

>Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>Neil Reichline writes:

class="style10">>I'm not quite sure what the big deal is....Shooting an immobile object >may be tougher, especially in wind blown exteriors. Besides locking >down the head, I'd occasionally use a sandbag on the lens.

>Doesn't this depend entirely on how the shot is ultimately going to be used.

>A locked off background plate, or a title shot requires a good deal more steadiness than a fast tracking shot with intense internal frame action. Scientific or industrial work may likewise require a high degree of steadiness.

>Brian Heller
IA 600 DP