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Complicated Shot - Tracking Shots

Published : 4th January 2007

Hi there

Planning on shooting a spot that would involve tracking across hundreds of people going from close up on faces pulling out to extremely high - maybe even helicopter height to reveal hundreds of people in a setting -

Has anyone had any experience putting anything like this together?

My thoughts are doing it in stages and compositing the shots - starting with a techno crane - I think the people are going to be lying on the floor - and then cutting - or morphing - or whatever post technique to a shot in a helicopter - however we want the effect to be seamless - one shot - a bit like the shot in Kundun I think if my memory serves me correctly.

Thanks in advance as always

Matthew Woolf
NYC DP


What about wirecam/spider cam shot?

Jared Hoy
Gaffer
Los Angeles. CA


class="style15">>> what about wirecam/spider cam shot?

Yes, my thought would be Garrett Brown's Super Fly Cam or whatever incarnation of the SkyCam he has going these days. It is a remote camera platform that is connected to four aircraft cables, which are then connected to motors on four vertical posts however far apart and tall one may choose to rig them.

It's been set up in huge stadiums and can zip all over the place and great speed with great accuracy. Of course, it is also quite the installation, but then you get a shot unattainable any other way without spending far more in a CGI post.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


Hi Matthew,

I've seen it done with a Steadicam operator who can do his shot on the ground with the faces and then be instantly hooked into an Akela Crane via a harness and then craned skyward. Won't get to helicopter height, but you could then digitally extend the shot. The Crane has to be counterbalanced, and when they attach the operator the ballast is removed simultaneously. The operator basically dangles beneath the crane from a harness with a special quick-release device.

Saw it at Cinegear Expo a few years back...The op needs to be pretty brave, but this would involve minimal rigging and CG.

Best regards,
Graham Futerfas
Los Angeles based DP
www.GFuterfas.com


Graham Futerfas wrote :

class="style15">>>I've seen it done with a Steadicam operator who can do his shot on >>the ground with the faces and then be instantly hooked into an Akela >>Crane via a harness and then craned skyward.

It's the Strada Crane that does this. It works quite well but takes a serious amount of coordination and planning. I've been hoisted in it and it's actually quite fun to do.

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


Hi,

class="style15">>> and it's actually quite fun to do.

Being flown is not fun. Being flown while carrying a Steadicam is something I can only project, but I wouldn't relish the idea...

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London


class="style15">>> tracking across hundreds of people going from close up on faces >>pulling out to extremely high

IMHO you're in for a full CGI scene reconstruction based on the tracking shot - it's going to be rather expensive.

Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


Phil Rhodes wrote:

class="style15">>>Being flown is not fun. Being flown while carrying a Steadicam is >>something I can only project, but I wouldn't relish the idea...

It all depends on the Harness Phil. This rig uses a "Standup" harness. There is almost no difference in feel when you are on the ground vs. flying.

The Harness was designed by the chief rigger for Cirque du Soleil, and even though you probably could do better he has done a fantastic job to make this comfortable, safe and familiar in feel.

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


I've seen some really incredible shots recently of Attenborough's new Planet Earth series, it really is the best thing on TV.

Unbelievably steady long lens shots from a helicopter over a kilometre away they must have been at least 1600mm (35mm). Could you do a 'nested zoom' shot joining 2 or three different zoom lenses, and once you are wide enough, track up in the chopper?

Daniel Bronks
DP
UK


What do you mean by nested zoom shot Daniel?

Thanks

Matthew Woolf
NYC DP


class="style15">>>Planning on shooting a spot that would involve tracking across >>hundreds of people going from close up on faces pulling out to >>extremely high

A bit late jumping into this thread, but...

Since you're describing this as a "spot", I assume it is undergoing a standard definition finish. If this is the case, you might consider starting as tight as you can (whatever that is) and doing either a 2K or better yet, a 4K scan on the negative. This would allow you to do a significant blowup (actually a crop and reduction on your standard def element) in post without serious loss. Obviously, film grain and the sharpness of whatever lens you're on will be limiting factors, but I've done a number of shots like this and had pretty good results. It is also a methodology that is commonly used to create "cosmic zoom" elements (i.e., "power of ten zooms"), which is very akin to what you're describing.

Warning: Test prior to use.

Mike Most
Chief Technologist
Cineworks Digital Studios
Miami, Fl.


Hi there,

Take a look at www.bigad.com.au Anyone involved in this great Carlton Draught ad? He/she would now how to take care of your shot...

Another question :

Anyone has any recommendations for cablecam/spidercam-a-like systems?

Thanks,

Onno Perdijk / Grip / Amsterdam, The Netherlands


A nested zoom is one or more zoom shots are joined together in post, to increase the range of focal length. You have to line up the end of one lens with the beginning of another as best you can.

Cheers

Daniel Bronks
DP
UK


class="style15">>>A nested zoom is one or more zoom shots are joined together in post, >>to increase the range of focal length. You have to line up the end of >>one lens with the beginning of another as best you can.

It might be of interest for some to know one of the ways of doing this in post.

Imagine a wide shot of something, and a close shot of the same thing or object.

Joining the shots together produces an edit. A cut. (These shots are not zooming but static)

Now, take the middle part of the shots where the cut is. Overlap them onto 2 different video tracks for some 6 or 8 frames.

If we are cutting from the wide shot to the close-up, take the 6 frames of overlapped wide shot and make a DVE move. At the beginning keep the shot size the same but at the end, reframe to match the size of the close-up (the other shot) at that point. Match the size and position of the object in the shot (ball, face, car, whatever)using the DVE. Forget the boundaries of the frame, just match the size and position of the object. Now this shot should zoom in to match the object as seen in the close-up.

While doing this, it might be necessary to temporarily adjust the shot either by cropping or changing opacity to make the size match accurately.

NEXT : take the other shot - the close-up - and make a DVE on it. This time, the END of the shot stays the same size but the beginning of the shot is made smaller until the object in the close-up is the same size as the object in the wide shot.

Now, your shots are lined up.

Next, you need to make some adjustments. You certainly want the incoming shot to be on the upper layer so it "takes over" the outgoing shot. You might choose to fade it in over the transition duration. Possibly fade up in half the transition duration. You also might want to crop the incoming shot and add soft edges to it at the beginning. Good compositing software allows precise control over how and when the cropped edges grow back to normal (or uncropped). These are just adjustments to make the transition work better.

Much depends on the content of the shots, light, dark, matching well, lighting differences... also transitions from wide to close need slightly different adjustments than transitions from close to wide.

Our transition happens like this: we see a wide shot. Suddenly it begins to zoom in, as it zooms, it comes clearer into vision and, lo and behold, it has changed into a close-up. (which continues)

The incoming shot (in our case, the close-up) should have "taken over" from the wide shot during a matched zoom. The outgoing shot (our wide shot) need
do nothing more than its matching zoom and be taken over.

For some objects, we might choose to add an elaborate mask or a soft-edge shaped wipe of some sort. A face in a crowd, a ship in an ocean, each will get a slightly different detailed treatment, but the underlying technique is the same.

So.

For a more elaborate series of nested zooms, we would still make each transition between shots pretty much the same way as described above. If the camera is to zoom in, it might make us choose a circle-wipe as an addition between shots. We might make smaller DVE moves, we might need to "re-target" shots to produce better matches with objects if they are not aligned during shooting (or go off-alignment during camera zoom)...

But I thought it might be of interest to read a description of the post process for anyone considering this type of effect. Feel free to add your own ingredients.

John Hollands
Sydney
(Better at hiring DP´s than being one)


class="style15">>>For some objects, we might choose to add an elaborate mask or a >>soft-edge shaped wipe of some sort.

More often than not, morphing techniques (yes, the old 2D morph effect) are used to bridge these transitions.

Mike Most
Chief Technologist
Cineworks Digital Studios
Miami, Fl.


Mike Most writes :

class="style15">>>More often than not, morphing techniques (yes, the old 2D morph >>effect) are used to bridge these transitions.

Aw Mike, now you've gone and told them EVERYTHING!!!!!

John Hollands
One of two types of people
Sydney

(The 2 secrets of success. 1. never tell 'em everything you know)


Hi all

Thanks for all your advice on how to accomplish this shot. I wondered if anyone might know of a place to rent the cablecam/spidercam-a-like systems thanks again.

Matthew Woolf
NYC DP


class="style15">>Aw Mike, now you've gone and told them EVERYTHING!!!!!

Broke the Magician's Code, did I?

Doesn't really matter, because you can't buy Elastic Reality anymore anyway...

I actually feel that sometimes it's useful to reveal such things, because if you don't, people think these things are "simple" and can be done without specific skills and experience - only to discover that's not the case when they actually try to do it. THEN they call in the pros. The more steps there actually are to accomplish a seamless, professional shot, the less the do it "your-selfers" might believe that they can (or should) get them done for free.

So a bit of education may be a good thing.

Then again, maybe not.......

Mike Most
Chief Technologist
Cineworks Digital Studios
Miami, Fl.


Hi,

class="style15">>>people think these things are "simple" and can be done without >>specific skills and experience

I've done shots like that and I don't consider myself to have specific skills and experience...

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London


Maybe they are using one of the new stabilised HD Gimbals, look on Mike Brennan's hd24.com.

Ben Hair
Lighting Cameraman UK


John Hollands wrote :

class="style15">>>"now you've gone and told them EVERYTHING!!!!!"

Mike Most wrote :


>>"people think these things are "simple" and can be done without >>specific skills and experience - only to discover that's not the case"

Years ago, I interviewed Steven Poster, ASC, and asked him why he felt comfortable telling upcoming cameramen some of his behind-the-scenes 'secrets.' He said (I'm paraphrasing here) that he trusted his innate creativity to enable him to stay ahead; that what they are learning today is about where he was yesterday and he's well beyond that now; that tools are only as good as the mind and hands that guide them. And that, overall, he's helping others to improve the craft in their own way.

There is certainly a place for professional secrets, just that, at times, it can help more than hinder to be open about things.

Ira Tiffen
Basking Ridge, NJ



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