It all began in 1976 – the introduction of the Steadicam brought a new look to the world of film and video production. Whether it be popular Hollywood movies or a small video production, the revolutionary system brings a one-of-a-kind look to your video production.
Here at SolidLine, we utlitize different types of Steadicam rigs quite often. Last week we were shooting our latest video for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, or NCSBN, and both Director of Photography Ed Boe and Steadicam operator Carl Wiedemann were on hand.
After spending a few days shooting on Steadicam, we thought we’d ask them both about what it’s like to work with the rig…
What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to using a Steadicam?
ED: The big challenge is planning. Each shot needs to be choreographed and timed out before it’s shot. It can make it more difficult in terms of overall schedule of the day, but I guess I don’t have to carry the camera from location to location so in that respect it’s much easier.
We often talk about our favorite shots in mainstream movies, do you have a favorite use of Steadicam in film?
ED: I think everyone thinks of Goodfellas when they think of impressive steadicam shots, and I do too…..
…but I have to say I was in awe of the crazy one shot takes in Children of Men (I know some of them weren’t using only the Steadicam, but some of them were).
Do you have a favorite steadicam system you like to use?
CARL: For the shoot on Monday I was using a Steadicam Flyer LE (Tiffen brand). With the lower capacity rigs (for cameras under 25 pounds) the Tiffen gear is probably the best as their quality control of vital components is very rigorous. There are many competing rigs in this arena that sell for a lower price, but there are typically drawbacks that accompany the lower cost, primarily in the variety and convenience of balancing adjustments (a paucity of which can make a rig unusable in a professional environment), as well as the range and precision of camera motion available (which affects the quality and variety of shots attainable). Steadicams also vary widely in terms of power and video distribution options, which again affects their applicability to professional shoots.
What’s it like on the body? Do you have to break periodically?
CARL: Working with a larger rig (like the the full sized EFP rig I used on the June 14 shoot) both lower back muscle and cardio fatigue becomes a factor. With a larger rig it’s best if I take short recovery breaks every five or ten minutes. On July 9 I was using the smaller Flyer rig which is much lighter and enables longer periods of shooting. I prefer using this rig for corporate and documentary shoots as they may require longer blocks of near continuous shooting. The drawback of the smaller Flyer rig is the limitation on accessories that can be added to the camera. The great benefit for corporate shoots is being able to gather more footage by deferring the recovery breaks that a big rig requires.
And finally, why use a Steadicam at all? What does it add to the overall quality of a production?
ED: TV and film seem to love doing handheld camera more and more lately, but I prefer the smooth meticulous orchestration of something like steadicam or even camera on tripod, dolly, or jib. It feels way more invested in the final product and less by the seat of the pants.
CARL: The Steadicam is a great means of adding camera movement, either subtle or elaborate, to a production without excessive set up time. Tracking shots of a location, product, or performer can help to engage a viewer. For instance a Steadicam walk-and-talk of two people discussing a location or product (while walking amongst the location/product) is frequently more interesting than a montage of tripod-bound shots with narration. Another benefit of Steadicam in a corporate video situation is the ability to spontaneously adjust the camera position in relation to any improvisations, or otherwise unexpected actions, by the talent or background elements.
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