Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Stabilization On The Water

I may be shooting some boat-to-boat shots for a commercial and was wondering what some people were doing for horizon stabilization out there on the water.

So far, I've heard of the Hydro-Gyro, the Perfect Horizon, and using a Libra head... any comments? I'm looking for fairly straight-forward solutions that aren't too time-consuming or expensive to rig, but also what works well.

These are static shots of a static boat probably but we might have to shoot from another boat rather than solid ground.


David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles


I recently did a bunch of footage for Kawasaki jet skis - we used a Libra head on the end of a 15 foot giraffe crane in a 30 foot cat boat with twin 300's. Other than working the crane grips pretty hard, the results were fantastic. At 45 mph I could do a move from a cu to a logo shot. The director was moaning with joy. They found the best way to protect my camera from splashes was lots of seran wrap.

Marty Mullin
Los Angeles
818 712-0272
305 606-1262

Unfortunately it will very much depends on the condition of the sea. A poor man solution has always been shooting handheld and resting the camera on a big fender (you know the inflated rubber stuff used to protect the boat sides).I have managed to achieve good results with a steadicam on a Garfield mount, constantly correcting the horizon line. Shooting high speed obviously helps.

Again as you are certainly aware it very much depends on how long you need the shot to last, and weather conditions. wind is obviously a factor in waves formation. The hull shape of the boat you shoot from also will be a factor, some boats are more stable than others, and the bigger the boat the better.

The gyro solution is by far the best.

Hope this helps.

Franz Pagot AIC
Director of Photography/Underwater Cameraman

Take a look at the FLIGHTHEAD. It’s a gyro head also. I think the webpage is

I saw their showreel with some amazing footage of the head rigged on a speedboat. Really impressive.

Omar jabali
1st ac

We used the Mako Head with some really long lenses on Miami Vice

It came from Cinevideotech in Miami
305) 754-2611 Ask for Jack

Dave Satin
HD Imaging Engineer
Miami Vice

Hi David,

I've been following this thread and although I'm a member of Pictorvision, I'd like to objectively introduce you to another option.

The Pictorvision XR has been successfully used on a number of water based productions such as Bad Boys II, Starsky & Hutch, the Athens Olympics, Red Bull Air Race, and World Powerboat Racing.

If you're at all interested in seeing footage, I can post a short water reel clip online.

Fraser Kelton

Hey Omar... and find info about that flighthead under

I worked a couple of times with it.... pretty amazing and comparable to the Libra IV ... very easy to use and a bit cheaper... and its very simple to mount anywhere. Only one - but considerable - disadvantage:
you can put a 435 with the long Angenieux Optimo (24-290mm / super35 / T2.8) on the Libra,
I wouldn’t do that with the flighthead, it’s stabilization simply performs better with a light/medium weight zoom.

Good luck for your shoot !

best regards..

Lutz Hattenhauer, BVK
director of photography | steadicam operator
Hamburg | Germany

Daniel Bronks offers great general advice for anyone planning a water shoot, specifically :

"Firstly get a good grip crew"

I also like his low-tech solution with the bungee rig. I used something similar in a Lebanese military helicopter (Bell 212) in Beirut. If you are using a wide field of view in relatively calm water, this could likely be what your looking for.

If you're planning to mix focal lengths, especially in rougher seas, then a gyro stabilized system will give you more options. There are a number of solutions depending on how much of the environment you want to filter out.

The "Hydro Gyro" and the "Mako Head" will take out high amplitude low frequency pitch and roll motion while allowing you to operate with your favourite fluid head.

The Libra and Flight heads also filter out the high frequency low amplitude changes in pitch and roll as well as yaw (pan). These heads are remotely operated via hand wheels. Depending on how calm or rough the water, being physically removed from the camera can be very helpful.

The last category includes the Pictorvision XR and the Stab-C. (also remotely operated) They both employ a dual gimbal design which enables them to filter out high amplitude low frequency as well as low amplitude high frequency angular changes in yaw, pitch and roll. This makes all focal lengths including extremely long lenses possible. I have successfully used the XR to stabilize a 600mm (super 35) on a cigarette boat at speeds up to 65 mph as well as 900mm (2/3" sensor) on a relatively slow moving pontoon boat. The XR also makes it possible to slave the camera to the boat for POV shots while still filtering out the undesired motion. I have no first hand experience with the Stab-C but have heard good things about it.

Finally, if you go with a gyro solution, find a tech with a good understanding of mechanical isolation. He/she will prove invaluable in helping the grips devise the right mounting platform for the conditions.

Have a great shoot.

Stephen Pizzo
Design Engineer/Technical Manager
Pictorvision Inc. (formerly Wescam)
Los Angeles

Can one put a Libra head on a Technocrane? Or does Technocrane have a
self-stabilizing head for water work?

David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles

> Can one put a Libra head on a Technocrane...

We used a Libra head on a Technocrane on a camera car for much of the car/bike chase sequence on "The Matrix Reloaded". It worked amazingly well, even at very high speeds. I've also been on car commercials where we did the same, with similar results. Highly recommended.

With the Libra, by the way, your success is very much in the hands of the Libra tech. Try to get recommendations from other successful users.
Rod Williams
Motion Picture and HD First Camera Assistant
Petaluma, California

David Mullen asks;

> Can one put a Libra head on a Technocrane?

Yes, you can generally put any of the remote heads I mentioned earlier on any of the Technocranes.

> Or does Technocrane have a self-stabilizing head for water work?

There are two main designers/builders of Technocranes, Horst Burbulla (Germany) and Technovision (UK). Neither of them build their own stabilized head.

There are two primary rental outlets for Technocranes in LA.
Panavision Remote
offers the Libra the Pictorvision XR as upgrades to their basic Technocrane package.

Cinemoves (formerly Technovision USA) is the other Technocrane rental company. While I know they can accept nearly any remote head, to my knowledge they do not currently offer a stabilized head.

Stephen Pizzo
Design Engineer/Technical Manager
Pictorvision Inc. (formerly Wescam)
Los Angeles

Yes, Libra heads are VERY often found on the ends of Technocranes, for a variety of good reasons, even on dry land ...

I am away and not reading much on the list, but if no one has mentioned it yet, the Mako Head is one of the servo self-levelling systems - you can put your regular fluid head on top of it - it nulls out the boat rocks.

Mark H. Weingartner

Thanks to everyone for their advice. One more question: can I use a 1000' mag on an Arri 435 on a Libra head on a Technocrane?

David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles

> Hi David
> Please tell us what shots you are trying to get. Is it all boat to boat or are you shooting on board?

I've done lots of boat shooting, much in the open ocean in big waves, much more near shore and in all cases the critical factor is the camera boat. Ideally, a SWATH boat or a power catamaran will provide the most stable platform. Around 50 feet is a good compromise between manoeuvrability and stability but bigger is usually better. Be sure to check that the boat can handle the weight of gear, crew and clients. Get something really FAST, 25 0r 30 knots fully loaded, not for shooting but to reposition quickly between takes.

Otherwise you'll be out there forever.

An additional fast 30 foot boat is handy for pick up shots and ferrying people on and off the subject boat. The boat skipper is like your helicopter pilot or dolly grip. Get someone who can understand your shot and how he needs to keep the boat oriented.

Gyro heads are great for long lenses and CU's but often look too steady. The old Tyler gyro marine mounts give a great look in big swells and holds horizon well. Hand held is great as long as you rig something to take the weight of the camera. Use the lightest camera you can get to deal with the inertia loads as you slam over waves. However, if you are tracking fast, it will likely become impossible to maintain a shot for more than a few seconds but that may be enough.

Feel free to call

Eric Camiel NY DP
203 792 0382

Yes. And a 10:1 zoom. But be careful with the Libra head, I’ve had BIG problems on occasion.

Daniel Bronks


I have not been following your inquest completely but depending on which Techno you are talking about you shouldn't have too much of an issue with regards to weight as the Technocranes all have around a 82kg (180lbs) payload, the issue is that a 1000' foot mag will limit your tilt to between 15 and 20 degrees as well as create a large surface which will hinder stabilisation if there is any wind, it is of course... possible.

Obviously, there are loads of other variables, I don't know whether you are on a lake (flat surface) or out to sea (rough) - water can be very forgiving under the right circumstances. The Libra should give you no hassles it is obviously in the jib where any problems lie, it obviously all depends what you are rigged on as well.

With regards to lenses anything over 200mm on anything other than completely neutral water is likely to be a liability

Some of our locals shot some beautiful stuff out to sea yesterday with the Libra hard-mounted to a rubber duck...

Hope this helps,

Dean Slotar | One8Six Cape Town
t +27-21-555-1780 |? f +27-21-555-1828 |? m +27-82-895-2620

> If you want some hand held operating (often the best platform at sea), then a bun-gee rig with a >>base plate for the camera rigged to a 'goal post' rigging over head is a good tip.
>>Because of the nature working at sea, lining up, coordinating, communicating, everything moves at >>a snails pace...

I recall reading or maybe someone told me this- most all of the boat scenes on JAWS were done hand held. This made the producers nervous- our big multi million dollar movie shot with hand held cameras?! But of course, the stuff looks great. Apparently, the DP, Bill Butler, felt that in order to get the kind of shots they needed on this... not big enough boat, and without spending time on many complex rigs, hand held was the way to go.

On a side note. The different conditions of the water caused major anxiety for Mr. Spielberg. I never noticed the changing water as being a problem\ and probably not many other people did either. But the next time I watched the boat scenes- sure enough, behind one cu would be smooth grey water then immediately following, the other guy's cu, the water was choppy and sunny.
What a great movie.

Edwin Myers, Atlanta dp

Hi David

I very recently shot boat to boat on a commercial. It depends what kind of beat of shot you are after. (and how big the swell is)

Firstly get a good grip crew.

Simply put, if you want perfectly stable platform then go with a gyro head, but that might not be what you are after.

If you want some hand held operating (often the best platform at sea), then a bun-gee rig with a base plate for the camera rigged to a 'goal post' rigging over head is a good tip.

Because of the nature working at sea, lining up, coordinating, communicating, everything moves at a snails pace and you will be left holding the (30lb) baby on your shoulder for most of the day. Not only will it lighten your load it will help your shot stability.

If you do this, get yourself strapped in tight both sides or front and back with a rigging harness so you can lean into it, and rock with the boat.

I can give my honest opinions of the gyro Libra, Stab C, and Flight
stabilized heads off list.

Daniel Bronks


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