1st Time With A Gear Head

Get yourself to a rental house and start practicing. Usually they'll have an old Worrall head buried in the back that they'll let you take home with a hihat so you can practice. In first trying it out, you'll drive yourself a little nuts, convinced that they should switch the pan for the tilt and how the hell does anyone move diagonally, but it's not that impossible. But it does require practice to get at all comfortable. Perhaps you can just suggest to the Producer that you don't see this show as a gear head one and you'd rather spend the money on some other gizmo. Extra filters, a tilt plate and a Microforce are always nice additionals that no producer would ever know if you really needed or not.

Mitch Gross NY DP

Hey Rod:

Just as the guys probably said, get one out of a rental house and practice (practice a lot, a lot, a lot). Start with squares. Doing squares teaches you which wheels do what. Go one direction, then reverse yourself. When you get that down, do circles, or lumpy squares (this teaches transistions, how to smoothly go from up/down to left/right). And always reverse yourself (try to do it without thinking - practise while watching tv - get used to not thinking about it). Then do figure eights or the infinity symbol. When you can use the wheels without thinking, watch tv and try and match the movements on the screen (if they pan left, pan left, if they tilt up, tilt up). What this does is force you to react without thinking (you can also try and follow your dog running around in the backyard - if you've got one). The hardest thing to do on a gear head is do a diagonal or do a rise on a remote head. The rise on a remote head is the trickiest because you're not on the crane and you can't feel when the arm starts to rise. If you get behind in a move like this, you've already blown the take, there's no way to smooth the catch-up. The great thing about gear heads is how they work with dollies. A hard stop on a gear head is much more controlable than it is on a fluid head. The operator is separated from the dolly's motion/momentum more with a gear head and can be much more precise about his stop and start placement. By presetting the pins on the wheels, you can land a gear head perfectly on a point in space. No overshooting, no lag. Bang. Very helpful when slamming a charactures look from screen left to screen right in a tight closeup. Hope this helps. Take the plunge. Get it out of the way early in your career and you'll find the wheels of great help when you need them (and you've got a whole crew looking at you).

Michael Bratkowski

Back yourself up and get a heavy duty fluid head like an O'connor or Sachtler Video 30. No sense making your life miserable unless you feel absolutely comfortable with the geared head.

Tony Salgado

Actually, you're quite correct. Sleep and REM sleep both play important roles in memory consolidation.

Jessica Gallant

Director of Photography and Listmum

Studio City, CA USA


I've just been hired to shoot a short next week for which the producer is getting an Arri Gear Head. I've never touched a gear head before. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can introduce myself to this swell piece-o-gear yet reduce the "idiot" factor? Thanks.

Roderick Stevens Arizona, D.P.

Put a camera on the head, point it at the wall, and practice writing your name backwards with it. Practice every chance you get both before and during production. Try not to think what each hand is trying to do -- just let them do it.

Good luck!

--Gerry Williams DP, San Diego

In my opinion you must also have a fluid head on the set. I don't think one can shoot everything with a gear head. At least I know I can't. Once or twice a day I will find myself switching back the the O'connor for those very fast or long pans and tilts for instance. The tilt range on a gear head is also very limited (30 degrees each way with the Arri head, and yes the built-in tilt plate helps but you can still only tilt no more than 60 degres at once and not that fast ) . Also when in low mode on the Pee-wee the pan wheel can get blocked against the dolly. The best way to get used to it is... just shoot with one.

And since when does the producer choose the gear for the DP anyway???

Daniel Villeneuve, c.s.c. Directeur-Photo / Director of Photography Montréal, Canada http://www.aei.ca/~davil

Oh well. It seemed like a fun toy to get some time on, but I told the producer today to mark the gear head off the list. It just seems like an awfully expensive piece of equipment that will take more time to work with than is prudent. I am anxious to try one, and choosing to live in Az. rather than L.A. means I don't have the ready access to a lot of gear. Maybe next time. > > And since when does the producer choose the gear for the DP anyway??? > Indeed, the entire package was setup before a D.P. had been selected. Much of that has been changed since my employ however.

Roderick Stevens Az. D.P.


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