Capturing an unbroken 4-minute take of a Rube Goldberg machine occupying two floors of a 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse, while dodging flying hazards and hoping that the machine actually runs its course, might sound hard. Here's the story of just how hard it was.
OK Go - This Too Shall Pass - Rube Goldberg Machine version
The true beauty of Steadicam is its unique ability to allow the camera to become the "eyes of the audience," transforming onlookers into characters that connect and experience an environment firsthand. This kind of engagement can help good stories become great.
As a camera operator, I've always been intrigued by that. I've done jib and dolly work, but the way that I got almost total control was the Steadicam. I no longer thought in terms of not being able to do things. So after 15 years experience in the film and video world, I decided it was time to challenge myself with something more specialized. The Glidecam was the first camera stabilizing system I flew, and I bought it on the spot.
Photos by Edwin Roses
I've always viewed operating the system as part dance and part camerawork. It's a blend of anticipating where my feet need to be in relation to my hips and the position of the camera. Maintaining balance while moving through an environment and keeping a level horizon is difficult, and using peripheral vision to identify objects such as curbs, light stands and challenges that could potentially ruin the shot is a skill that develops over time.
The combination of tracking, maintaining balance and navigating obstacles make referencing the system's on-board monitor difficult during scenes with lots of movement.
Above, Mic with a crew member in the background. During the shoot, there were quite a few crew members in motion, as well as the band as they moved from station to station. Photo by Sara Samko-Ross
To strike a balance between safety and framing, a term I call "lens awareness" becomes critical: the ability to know what you're shooting by looking forward, following the camera lens, as opposed to down at the monitor.
Mastering this skill has been instrumental in nearly every shoot I've worked on, especially when working on OK Go's video "This Too Shall Pass."
Two page spread from Creative COW Magazine - the OK Go: This too shall pass article
"THIS ONE'S ALL YOU, MAN"
I first received a call from Los Angeles-Based Director of Photography Yon Thomas, an extremely talented professional and friend, with an interesting proposition. Calls from Yon always lead to incredible adventures. In 2009, we traveled to Italy, along with Producer Mike Norman to shoot the behind-the-scenes footage of Sting's winter album, "If on a Winter's Night" where I walked backwards through the snow for nearly a mile, nonstop, tracking Sting for a music video.
"Would you feel comfortable wearing your gear and having someone lower you about 20 feet, from one building floor to another, while shooting?"
Damian, in white jumpsuit (top right), talking Mic and the team through the next move. Note from the cleanliness of Damian's suit that this is early in the day. Both shooting days began early afternoon and ran well after 2 AM. Photos by Edwin Roses.
I said yes, but it was not until I arrived on set three weeks later that I truly understood the complexity of the project or the significance of my role in it. Dermott Downs, director of photography, and Producer Shirley Moyer both welcomed me to the shoot by saying, "This one's all you, man."
OK Go singer Damian Kulash served as creative director for the shoot, as he does for all of the band's innovative videos. This would be, by far, the band's most elaborate undertaking to date: a two-story Rube Goldberg machine propelled by a single toy car hitting a line of dominoes, triggering an over-the-top chain of events with the band in motion, spread across both floors of a 10,000 square foot warehouse.
Panorama by Pehr Hovey. Click on image above for larger view
Oh, and it's captured by a single shot. No pressure, right?
Damian was the ultimate tour guide as we made our way through set for the first time. The warehouse was alive with frantic energy as people worked furiously to finish the massive machine. Walls were decorated with blueprints, diagrams and whiteboards filled with complex mathematical equations calculating velocity and trajectory for dozens of different items. Every corner of the place was full of contraptions, screws, repurposed toys and "fun junk."
Damian explained that the band had been working on the machine for the past three months, together with creative engineers from Syynn Labs, and friends, family and even fans, volunteered their time to create the machine. They had put in 14-hour days and worked in shifts to get it built and functioning. It was up to me to make sure I was able to capture their work, and translate that beauty and science to the screen.
Our tour began outside the warehouse, where the first few sequences would take place, and then zigzagged through both levels inside. Our group included the DP Dermott Down, the director James Frost, and department heads from grip and electric. We were all utterly speechless as Damian walked us through the machine. At the end, he said, "Questions?" We looked at each other and thought, "Is he for real? There's no way this is going to work."
The rig Mic Waugh used for "This Too Shall Pass" included (generally, from left to right): the wireless Cinetape system to continuously measure the distance between the focal plane and objects in front of the lens; iris and focus monitors for the Preston F1+Z lens control system; Sony EX-3 HD video camera; the IDX WEVI Cam~Wave HD link used to transmit uncompressed over wireless to the video assist and playback, as well as to the monitors where the Director watched for editorial composition and the First AC pulled focus; and the Preston F1+Z receiver used to power the motors.
IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE?
While the machine was going through the final round of testing and refinement, it was time to make sure we could shoot it. After all, the designs were built to follow the rules of physics, not production.
Obstacles included 45 to 60 degree ramps, support beams for the warehouse and a makeshift elevator comprised of a pulley system and a harness to lower me down from one floor to another. This is because a Steadicam or Glidecam system is designed to use the operator's body weight to maintain a center of gravity for the rig, camera, system and operator. An elevator pulley system was built to support the weight of rig plus me, approximately 210 pounds in all.
One of the most difficult components for me was going to be getting my body in the correct position when moving from one shot to the next. Positioning the camera is rarely a challenge, but when it's attached to a 175 pound man wearing a padded vest, spring loaded metal arm and a safety harness (used for the descent from the second floor), it can quickly become impossible. "Forget about framing, composition and safety," I thought to myself. "Physically, I don't know if I'll be able to shoot this thing."
I constructed a wood replica to match the height and width of my rig to help the design team modify the ramps and pathways around the machine. I told them, "If you can fit through an area while holding the replica, I'll make it work."
We had two days to rehearse -- one day with the camera department and one day with the band. I used Damian's point and shoot camera to film the rehearsals so we could find out how the band members could scurry around the warehouse floor to get from station to station without being seen. And I started working on my "dance moves."
Above, visit OKGo.net for an interactive map of the shoot, as well as behind-the-scene videos of its creation.
At NAB 2012, Snell unveiled several new products: Kahuna 360 Compact, a smaller-frame version of the company's Kahuna 360 video switcher that is targeted at the live production market; KudosPro, a format-flexible and cost-effective next-generation image-processing platform; Momentum, an asset management (MAM), workflow automation, and resource planning solution; and a 4-RU version of its Vega routing platform. The company also showcased enhancements to its ICE channel-in-a-box and Morpheus automation systems.
Madness because everyone wants to do it. Madness because if you start on the wrong foot, you'll drive yourself mad. Here are some of the things that industry leader and multicam expert Mitch Jacobson has learned from the high-pressure, high-stakes world of rock and roll multicam; some of his favorite tools for improving your own multicam experience; and some surprising stories from multicam's origins...with Desi Arnaz and I Love Lucy.
Learn Apple's Motion: Lesson 14 Text Part 1 Play Video In this lesson, Kevin P McAuliffe begins his look at creating basic text inside of Apple's Motion 5. This lesson is essential as most of the work you do inside of Motion 5 will have some kind of text element in it, and it's important to have the fundamentals down, before tackling your first project.
The old saying is that the edit is the final version of the script. For editors Mary Jo Markey, A.C.E. and Maryann Brandon, A.C.E, their work on Star Trek: Into Darkness began far earlier than that -- when they were asked for their advice on how to shape the script in the first place! In conversation with Debra Kaufman, they describe the role they play in the storytelling process itself, in a way that far transcends the cutting of scenes.
On Star Trek Into Darkness, VFX producer Ron Ames was concerned about standardizing color information between production company Bad Robot and the VFX companies ILM and Pixomondo as well as DI facility Company 3. The solution was installing Dolby's PRM-4200, a professional reference monitor that can be calibrated so that every one shows the exact same color. In this article, Ames and Pixomondo VFX supervisor Ben Grossman talk about how the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor improved the workflow and gave them the confidence that everyone was seeing the same thing.
Learn Media Composer Lesson 84: Creating DVDs Part 2 Play Video In this lesson, Kevin P McAuliffe talks about encoding your exported Media Composer timelines using Apple's Compressor. This lesson is specifically focused on Editors who have made the switch from Final Cut Pro/Studio to Avid's Media Composer, but still want to get the most out of the applications in the bundle, and not have to use a new third party encoding application. Compressor has some huge workflow enhancements like Droplets, that will make the encoding process a breeze.
WorldStage, of New York City, has recently designed and integrated 'First of It's Kind' Live, Moving LED display installation for ESPN's premier show, the KIA NBA Countdown, recorded at the Los Angeles Production Center.
This article describes the design and integration requirements implemented by WorldStage, including a unique systems design process and subsequent hardware and software integration coincident with a new studio upgrade for ESPN's studios at the Los Angeles Production Center in Los Angeles, California.