The GlideCam is finally put together and I’ve had some time for me to get comfortable with her. After about two weeks with the GlideCam, I can say I got a lot better at controlling it and it’s movements. I’m no certified operator, but I can definitely get a shot and make it usable. At any opportunity that I got, I would try my best to bring it with me and see what I can do. So I’ve just been bringing it to all of my client shoots and just shooting until my arms give out. I’m so proud to say that I am going to have the strongest right arm and hand. I’m able to break a couple rules though and as I break them I try to practice them so I can get better with it. For example:
1.) Don’t run with the GlideCam starting out
When I first got the GlideCam I was told not to run with it as soon as I could. I didn’t listen, though I took the words into consideration. I learned that while running with it you need to be able to keep both hands on the rig or else you will lose control. I might have to start learning how to condition myself for running. And lift more weights because that shit is no joke. Jogging and weight training might be included in my morning routine.
2.) Only use wide angle lenses on the GlideCam
I say no to this. Wide angle lenses do look beautiful on the GlideCam. And I think part of the reason is that the wider the image the less shakiness you’ll see. It’s beautiful, but I’ve always been a close-up type guy anyways. 50mm and up club (really 75mm and up because that’s what my 50 is. I have an APS-C sensor). That’s what most of my films are, a variation of MCUs to ECUs only using wides for establishing shots and even then it’s rare. I just got a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 and it compliments the GlideCam beautifully. It’s actually one of my favorite lenses too. But just as I say no to using wides and let’s get some cuts on there I am also trying to get better with its movements. I think there is something beautiful about a moving telephoto shot. As much as I’m not a fan of Michael Bay I love the telephoto shots.
3.) The rig needs to be perfectly balanced
This is really true. But I’ve used this rig on a handful of clients so far and if you’re looking to go a lens swap you need to make sure that you are The Flash when it comes to rebalancing because you might miss something good. After two weeks I am now able to balance my GlideCam in about a minute. I never said it was perfect, but like I said earlier I try to practice the broken rules so I can get better. One thing that I try to keep in mind is where the camera is tilting towards. So if it’s tilting towards the front when it’s go time, I keep a mental note of it and I counter balance it with my three fingers that hover over the shaft of the GlideCam. If there is time of course balance it, but if not you need to work around it.
All three of these rules I broke and actually turned into a quick video. A friend of mine who is a skater invited me out to film with him so I took this as the perfect opportunity to test out my new 14mm lens and GlideCam. Two weeks of practice led to this. That is what I was thinking the whole time. It was a perfect way to test myself and see just how much I was actually learning.
First off Will (My skater friend) skates fast as hell! There was no way in hell I was going to catch up to him by simply doing small movements. I wanted to follow him and get dynamic skate shots because I didn’t want to be basic, I wanted to challenge myself. I already feel like my work needs a push so that is one of the ways I thought I could separate my video from other skate videos out there and just videos with moving subjects in general. I slapped on my 14mm and I just ran after him every time he moved or did a trick.
In breaking rule one, I learned: KEEP BOTH HANDS ON THE RIG AT ALL TIMES! It’s so easy to watch the subject move really fast, and you just want to move a bit faster but both of your hands are directly in front of your body blocking you from moving any faster. So, you put one hand to the side and start running around. Wrong, your camera will go bonkers on that rig. You need the two hands on that rig, one for stabilizing the other for guiding.
The shots came out wonderful. Even if I were running it wasn’t bouncy (Duh, the point of a GlideCam). Since he was moving so fast running wasn’t helping me catch up. A large majority of the shots that I had taken was me kicking off on a skateboard. The only way I’d be able to keep up is with some wheels and in emergency situations where I didn’t have proper footing, I’d have to jump off of the board and continue by running after him using the board as a boost. While doing that once again I would keep in mind that both hands need to stay on the rig at all times.
The lenses I chose to shoot with was super important for this shoot for me too. I wanted this to look a little bit cinematic. So, what I did was I shot in 60fps and then imported the footage into a 24fps composition. I, of course, used my trusty Rokinon 14mm for all of the wides. But I knew that some tight shots would be nice too. One of my favorite lenses out of my entire arsenal is my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4. Before the GlideCam I could never use it because it doesn’t have image stabilization but it makes all of my shots look 20xs better. So where the 14mm could get nice wides I wanted a lens that could get nice close-ups. I threw that 50 on the GlideCam and used it for the intro shot where the camera pushes into Will holding his board up with his feet until he dips out of the frame. It worked like magic. Especially since I shot in 60fps too so there was almost no shakiness. The closeup shots were super hard to achieve because of the constant movement but I kind of just adjusted after a while like I didn’t even notice that I was using a 50mm on a GlideCam to capture the action.
Throughout the entire shoot, we were racing against the clock of time and light. If I were going to swap my lenses it needed to be fast and we needed to start moving fast. So that meant that I did not have time to balance my rig properly all the time. To compensate I made a rough estimate. So I would leave the rig down on the concrete, then I would just pick it up to see where it was tilting. If it was close enough to the center I wouldn’t get too picky (there was no time for that) if it tilted just a little bit I would keep mind of that and while filming I would focus on using my hand is a counter as mentioned before.
Oh, another rule that I was given that I had to break was to have the LCD screen flat against the camera body so that it didn’t interfere with the balance of the camera its self. I ignored this rule once again because of the real world situation that I was in. For the intro shot Will was standing pretty high up from me. There was like a good 6-foot difference between camera and subject. So that meant that I had the GlideCam above my Head. I was not able to see what was on the LCD screen. So I had to swing it out and tilted down towards my direction. Now that the LCD screen was adding a little bit more weight towards the left I knew that with my hand on the shaft I would have to push the camera gently towards the right so that it could counterbalance itself. The same thing happened again when Will went to grind his board against the pole, this time I got a bit lower so the LCD screen still had to be flipped out. I guess what I am trying to say is if you’re going to use the LCD screen make sure you take into account that it is going to be less balanced towards the left and right axis.
From making this video alone I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Mostly how to break a lot of the rules but still get usable shots. And maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit but I also think it’s due to the fact that I shot all of the video if not most of it in slow motion. So whatever I was lacking in it wasn’t as apparent. I didn’t shoot this with the DJI Ronin but I do feel that if I did shoot with the Ronin I would have not liked it for the simple fact that it was motorized and mechanical. One thing that I liked about this footage was the fact that you could still see a little bit of that human shake to it. This shoot made me push myself just a little bit more than if I were just by myself practicing.