Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Shooting Straight Down On A Lake

I have a potential music video coming up where I would like to shoot a wide shot straight down over a lake. Not wide enough to see land. Possibly a push in straight down as well.

If I am too far from shore to use a condor of some type what are my other options? Is the best option to stay close enough for a condor rig?

Has anyone had any experience using cranes on boats/floating platforms. Is there a remote helicopter that could handle a full size camera - without rippling the water?

Aaron Schnobrich
Director, Photographer
California and Abroad

Get a 50' Technocrane on a stable Dock. It will give you the telescoping flexibility to account for movement of the subject (presumably in a boat?)

Florian Stadler, D.P., L.A.

Have you though of using one of the remote blimp rigs that can be anchored to land or to any kind of a boat?

Peter Jensen - Camera - Los Angeles

Hi Aaron,

The Helicopter would definitely ripple the water. The condor would not give you enough offset and also what kind of drop down would you get on a condor? My advice would be to use a Strada with a 100ft arm.


Sanjay Sami
Key Grip

You don't say where you are shooting - this would help with regard to our making realistic recommendations. Also, what sort of focal length and height are you talking about in terms of angle of view... is the idea to have someone/something floating completely surrounded by water isolated?

If you are shooting in LA or somewhere near a production city, a long crane like the strada might be a good way to go as sanjay suggested... if out of your budget, a fifty foot techno is also probably out of your budget...a 100ft or 120ft condor or a 150 ft truck mounted condor might be another way to go... but it depends, of course on how far out you need to go... the higher you go, the further out you have to go.

Rigging to any condor is an easy thing for a decent grip...... as easy as a channel ubangi or speed rail rig across the basket with an oconnor head on the end (and maybe a tilt wedge but probably not needed). If you go that route, consider a tango so you can roll the shot a bit for lineup... or I could rent you a forty-five degree mitchell riser that gives you some pan and tilt when looking straight down

I have also rigged a mitchell plate at an angle - or almost straight out in some cases to preserve my ability to pan and tilt when looking straight down

One general note :

Anything you use that is based on land will be much much much much much much much easier and safer to deal with than pretty much anything you put on a floating barge or boat. The further you get from the center of roll (the axis the boat or barge rolls on) to the camera, the more those rolls
become swaying motion... not something you want.

The smaller the barge or boat (other things being equal) the faster the rocking motion

unless your whole movie is about this shot, find a way to base it on land

Consider the possibility of shooting it with a bit of shore in shot (if you can't get rid of it) and having a visual effects house clone the water to extend it to cover the land... the effects work might be cheaper than some of the in-camera effects... or maybe not... it all depends on the specifics.

Safety note :

If you use a condor, and if the shore is sandy or muddy or if you do not know how stable it is, make sure professionals lay out appropriate cribbing to stabilize the condor...if one wheel sinks in and the condor starts tipping with you armed out, it can all go horribly wrong pretty fast - I
have seen it.

Condors have very little margin for error when armed out... so do NOT overload the basket... in fact, if you can shoot the shot without an assistant, do that to increase your margin of error. This is one advantage of a truck-mounted tree-trimming type of condor instead of the self-propelled ones... the longer chassis of the truck, the outriggers, and the professional full-time driver/operator will protect you from some stupid things that could happen.

Good luck and tell us what you ended up doing

Mark Weingartner
VFX DP/Supervisor

>> I would like to shoot a wide shot straight down over a lake. Not wide enough to see land.

Find the right bridge?

David Perrault, CSC

Hi Aaron,

You can also use an air balloon. The shots done with this are very fluide. Weither (wind!) is the only issue...

You can Check for info SOULCAM for shot samples :



David Perrault wrote:

>> Find the right bridge


Michael Sanders
London Based D.o.P/Lighting Cameraman

online reel at :

>>"Consider the possibility of shooting it with a bit of shore in shot (if you can't get rid of it) and >>having a visual effects house clone the water to extend it to cover the land..."

Many good ideas. In any case, if you shoot straight down, even with a little ripple, you will have arm or condor or bridge and camera reflection to remove... I like Mark's idea since you'll already have to do a bit of visual effects to remove the reflection.

Peter Hawkins

If you want to minimize the reflections that need to be removed with VFX, use a Flycam or similar product supported with cables. If shooting from directly overhead, the camera's reflection would be occluded by the subject, and the cables would be difficult to see, depending on the surface of the water.

The rigging would obviously be more involved with this solution and your water location would have to be accessable from two sides... and a windy day would pose a problem moreso than the other suggestions.

Eric Deren
Dzignlight Studios
VFX & Animation Design

If you can set this scene in some kind of cove or small bay would some sort of cable rig be feasible?

Bruce Douglas, DP
Sao Paulo, Brazil

Fred Martial-Wetter wrote:

>>You can also use an air balloon. The shots done with this are very fluide. Weither (wind!) is the >>only issue...

Whatever the careful of the time of day and angle of the sun in regards to your shadows

Jim Sofranko


Someone already mentioned it :

Bad name for a helium balloon but very good engineering as long as there isn't too much wind. Can give you aerial shots over bodies of water that you cannot get any other way. You can contact Henri Ferbus. He speaks english: +33 1 48050506. He's a good friend of mine. I've worked with him many times but have no commercial interest in their balloon.

Steven Gruen
Digital Cinematography
Paris, France

There are lots of solutions, it depends on the location and terrain, and scale of the shot.

Dan Bronks

Hi Aaron,

You can also use an air balloon. or a remore control helicopter which probaby wont create ripples in the water when high enough

>Jaime Reynoso AMC

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