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cheap method for tracking shot and dolly shots on the GH2


Mirrorkisser

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Hi everyone,

since shooting with a tripod can become a bit static at times i was wondering if anybody found a  way to take tracking or dollyshots without investing tons of money.

i was looking into all kind of glidecams, but most are pretty expensive. but possibly there are ways, like a skateboard instead of a dolly etc. has anybody tried something like that real life with success?

thank you for your help!
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I own, owned and rented quite a few different stabilization systems. Now I own the Hague MMC, which is similar to all the similar looking devices on the market, and it works. Don't expect the shots look like those:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhEOa82KL_c

... but what is shown in the demos really works:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_F-L7hZo10
EDIT: You should have a wide angle lens for this. With the kit lens, stay at 14mm, use AFC with center focus field.

As for the skateboard: Good idea. But a [url=http://www.google.de/imgres?q=Pico+dolly&hl=de&sa=X&biw=1920&bih=944&tbm=isch&prmd=imvns&tbnid=FchIROE5V5jqLM:&imgrefurl=http://www.ephotoinc.com/pico-flex-skater-dolly-dslr-camera.html&docid=lQjlI9BBgiEjSM&imgurl=http://imgs.inkfrog.com/pix/rr8747/pico_flex_dolly_4.jpg&w=600&h=300&ei=mGzUT9C0MJDU4QSnu7T-Ag&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=529&vpy=317&dur=298&hovh=159&hovw=318&tx=190&ty=101&sig=108061027616659538085&page=1&tbnh=92&tbnw=184&start=0&ndsp=45&ved=1t:429,r:11,s:0,i:105][color=red]Pico Flex dolly[/color][/url] isn't too expensive either. You might consider.

Stu Maschwitz, author of The DV Rebel's Guide, always has good ideas for indie filmmakers. Buy the book. Read his blog (http://prolost.com). In the said blog there once was a terrific trick (link broken), but I found the corresponding video on youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqPX0gH2id0
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thank you very much for your answer, i will check that out. the hague mini stabilzer looks nice, but with old lenses with manual focus you will probably need  a follow focus or shoot with aperture 4+. Did they shoot the clip with any sort of stablizing lenses?

i really like the part with the tripod, just tried it at home, works like a charm, although you cant glide that far.

something else i found: people used shopping bags, cut a hole for the lens in it and filmed like that. as long as you keep your arms hanging, it will always be the same height level for the camera. that solution is probably even too low budget for me, but if you are somewhere outdoors and it could be a nice guerilla option.

I think you do not always have to buy the hottest and newest shit (equipment). unfortunately i am not too gifted with hands so i cant build a rig or glidecam by myself. but there are often some nice selfmade options.
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The french/german channel ARTE had a shoulder rig with a clever follow-focus solution combined:
https://vimeo.com/39065279

Also check the vimeo-channel for the other creative devices (or the "ARTE Mediathek", and here "Trick17", if you need a german translation). ARTE is always closer to Lumière and Méliès than to Zacuto stuff, and the clips look funny and unprofessional. However, the ideas can be followed and pimped ("newest shit"):
https://vimeo.com/43200226

There also are DIY-suggestions for jibs, steadycams and many funny cinematographic engines, that can really be used (but look like something from Nemos Nautilus, as Jules Verne described it).

The most simple DIY stabilizer is a bar with two grips (also described in The DV Rebel's Guide), self-explanatory, looks s.th. like this:
[img]http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2557/3847442714_a937d31df1_z.jpg[/img]
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Thank you very much! Looks pretty nice. I dont like stuff, that looks too clean and too professional. I am a huge fan of Jonas Mekas, whose stuff is not technically state of the art, but therefore is ART, breathes poetry and soul.

I already ordered a copy of the book by Stu Maschwitz.

Do you have any more links like the one with the tripod glide?

By the way, i used to work for arte like 2 years ago (but the work was more dramaturgy related, cinematography is rather a hobby of mine, where i try to capture things or brief moments that have a meaning to me)

I recall that you manufactured the camera grip yourself? You probably also built a glide track or something like that for yourself? (http://www.glidetrack.com/products/sd-range/glidetrack-sd-hybrid-slider.html) something like that? But there has to be a better way than spending almost 400 euros. like bars of a drawer (schubladenleiste)?

thanks again for your help Axel! really highly appreciated!
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The glider in your link (and a lot of other commercial ones) is based on standard IGUS industrial track and sled parts. I bought a meter of track and a sled from IGUS in Germany, drilled/tapped a few holes, installed two rubber stops, ball head and a quick release, saving a couple of hundred euros in the process... works like a dream!
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[quote author=Mirrorkisser link=topic=827.msg5944#msg5944 date=1339336964]
thanks for your post kirk. sounds relatively easy to build. do you think a rather ungifted person in handcraftship can build such a thing?

@axel: i was looking a bit deeper into the pico flex dolly. do you think it can hold a gh2 or canon 5d?
[/quote]

I use to assist a friend of mine who shoots music videos. He has an actual dolly (Stu Maschwitz: "If you can ride it, it's a dolly" - a slider can't be controlled to the same extent), self-built, but quite big.

I never tried to build a slider (though a few dollies, none successful).

The only solution that seems to work is the wooden plate - [i]two[/i] plates screwed as sandwich for stability - on skateboard-wheels that run on plastic tubes as rails).

Impromptu slider, not looking sophisticated: The camera on a heavy pelicase that sits on a velvet cushion can glide perfectly on a smooth and even surface. Since I am not Scorsese, I enhance my Hague's stability with the warp stabilizer occasionally.
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hmm maybe i will really try it with the skateboard or the hague grip.

the pico dolly works with the gh2, but you are always on a relatively low level height wise. what i like about it, is its portability.

can you do nice horizontal tracking shots with the hague grip? i mean Tarkovsky style for like 2 meters or more?

A tripod on wheels could work, but probably not on every kind of ground.

https://vimeo.com/12355402
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[quote author=Mirrorkisser link=topic=827.msg5947#msg5947 date=1339351400]can you do nice horizontal tracking shots with the hague grip? i mean Tarkovsky style for like 2 meters or more?[/quote]

I am a big Tarkovsky fan too. The answer is yes and no. The smoothest dolly shots are obviously done with a dolly the size of a locomotive (or a [i]real[/i] locomotive?). But many of the well-known camera-movements in my favourite films are not so stable as I remembered them, among them the most memorable images. You know the girl whispering the prophecies at the "zone" in [i]Stalker[/i], where the camera half pans, half dollies above the muddy treasures of a - flooded floor? The shot is perfect - but not perfectly smooth.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPUyR3aFMJQ

There are examples of absolutely mindblowing shots, but upon closer look it's not their elegance that makes them stand out, it's the artists vision. Very close to dolly shots are the majestic, always narrative pans in Tarkovskis films. Something only few people care enough about (because pans can be so boring if performed by amateurs).

[quote author=Mirrorkisser link=topic=827.msg5947#msg5947 date=1339351400]the pico dolly works with the gh2, but you are always on a relatively low level height wise. what i like about it, is its portability.[/quote]

You need two heavy lamp tripods with Manfrotto superclamps. Between them you can clamp any kind of board as a surface for the skateboard/pico. If it's inside a house, you surely can borrow a door.
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Very nice example. And so true. Its not about a technically clean and asthetic shot, but rather more about artistic expression. Its something else that captures you.

well i will continue on my quest for good dolly and tracking shots.

do you use auto focus or smaller apertures (4+ for a bigger area in focus) with the hague grip?
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[quote author=Mirrorkisser link=topic=827.msg5950#msg5950 date=1339363729]well i will continue on my quest for good dolly and tracking shots.

do you use auto focus or smaller apertures (4+ for a bigger area in focus) with the hague grip?
[/quote]

I use AF (with Olympus 12mm). But doesn't help if the place is too dark, therefore the aperture too wide, therefore the focus too critical. With the right lens and sufficient lighting, you'd get everything sharp, with or without AF.

With any steady-system you should practice. Download the Steadicam Merlin manual [url=http://www.tiffen.com/images/content/Merlin%20Manual%20Nov8_Lo.pdf][color=red]here[/color][/url] (right click safe as, pdf). It was partially written by the inventor of the Steadicam, Garrett Brown, who for instance worked for Stanley Kubrick on [i]The Shining[/i]. No matter what system with a gimbal and counterweight you buy or build, the principles apply to all of them (don't tilt while you "dolly", stay on the same level, learn the positions to best hold and control the camera [i]with both hands[/i] asf.). Sure, the small devices are too small and lightweight to really look like they were operated by a giant, and our skills of moving them will never reach those of Larry McConkey (the [i]Hugo Cabret[/i] scene above), but we needn't be ashamed to use Mercalli, Smoothcam, Warp Stabilizer and the like.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSoJ96ntYEI&NR=1
With the assistance of those, an already pretty steady shot won't need to be scaled too much to look perfect.
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Here's a photo of my homemade IGUS parts slider... two rubber end stops, mounted permanently to a home made aluminum quick release plate for the Cartoni, a 3/8ths threaded hole in the sled for the old ball head. That's it... About € 110 total cost.
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DIY solutions with the Igus track as basis are well documented (as I have learned just now). Have a look at this timelapse, pseudo HDR footage:
https://vimeo.com/16533808

You will find a lot of instructions via Google. Thanks, kirk!
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Hi Axel, thanks for your post, you are really a very helpful ressource and gave me a lot of helpful information.

I really love that attitude, i think its so important to share knowledge and things for good things to happen.

I will search for a good offer on the hague grip. I use almost only canon fd lenses (and none of my other primes has autofocus) and there is also no stabilization in those lenses (some dislike it anyway, because they say it looks unnatural. i never understood this point though.)

Thanks for the photo Kirk. Looks pretty nice, just like the glidecams in the store. i am just affraid i would screw up during the building process once i had the parts. But maybe i have just to try it with confidence and get a friend who is good at such things.
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alright, i bought the hague mmc grip now. i hope it can take the gh2+rode video mic pro and a canon fd glass. as you shoot with a wide lens most of the time once you use a steadycam, it should do ok.

I have been watching some documentaries by Volker Koeppen lately and i noticed that the camera guy just shoots out of his hands without any assistance, it looks shaky sometimes, but it did not disturb me that much.  which just reminded me that the quest for the clean shot is pure bogus.

tata and thx for all the help.
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[quote author=Mirrorkisser link=topic=827.msg6178#msg6178 date=1339937865]
alright, i bought the hague mmc grip now. i hope it can take the gh2+rode video mic pro and a canon fd glass.[/quote]

Hm, maybe too much. You don't happen to have the kit lens? That would be perfect @ 14mm & f4.0. Certainly without the external microphone.

My review of the Hague is reliable because I have some experience with different systems and indeed I have a second GH2-rig in use:
[img]https://dl.dropbox.com/u/57198583/Flycam2.jpg[/img]

It's the U-Flycam, cheap indian system inspired by the ABC Handyman. It works. When you put it together, you need a minimum of ten minutes every time to find the proper balance. It is slightly more stable than the Hague - for a few minutes! Since it weighs about two kilos (with camera) and it's not a system supported by vest and spring-mounted arm you won't hold it any longer without shivering. People tell you otherwise, but this is my experience, and I go to the gym.

With a lightweight system lens, the hague weighs below one kilo. The counterweight can be reduced, because the gimbal has a slight friction that makes the movements slower. Put a little quick release plate on top, and you are ready to shoot within seconds. That it supports only cameras up to 800 g should be believed (okay, maybe one kilo).

[quote author=Mirrorkisser link=topic=827.msg6178#msg6178 date=1339937865]I have been watching some documentaries by Volker Koeppen lately and i noticed that the camera guy just shoots out of his hands without any assistance, it looks shaky sometimes, but it did not disturb me that much.  which just reminded me that the quest for the clean shot is pure bogus.[/quote]

I saw a german TV doc "Nachtschicht" (Nightshift), you can watch it completely [url=http://www.n-joy.de/leben/nachtschicht165.html][color=red]here[/color][/url]. It was done with the GH2 and the Nokton 25mm. Pre-hack-era, no Andrew-Reid white-balance-shift. 720 50p. Handheld or stabilized by a light tripod as "rig" (Sound: Beachtek SLR, Sennheiser G3 radio mic). I like the way the people are made irrecognizable by the blur. Stable enough. And what is more, a little instability lets emotion move the frame. Did you see anything from Rodrigo Pietro, the DP of the Iñárritu films? That's it!
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