Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Aerial Crane Shots

>I have to make a shot in a few weeks that goes something like this :

>Camera starts seven or eight feet into a doorway, moves back leading actor through an (already) open door, out about four or five feet, boom up and tilt down with a pan to the right to reveal actor outside the door on a two foot ledge, twenty five feet up, on the third floor. The opening frame needs to be well inside the building and the final frame should be an *over* selling the geography and showing the ground, probably on a zoom so I can get a bit more size on our hero at the head of the shot.

>So far the leading candidate for this shot is a Javelin, HotHead with some track on a seven by fourteen foot scissor lift. We'll stabilise the scissor lift by guy-wire from corners to equipment trucks and place the lift as far away from the building as we can - probably six to eight feet. Which is not a lot since it would be really nice to look almost straight down and NOT see the base of the lift <g>.

>This is the kind of shot I would think the Technocrane eats for lunch but there isn't one in town and we can't afford any non-local gear. No Titans. No Technocrane. I can't imagine getting a jib onto a Pheonix - I'd have to build up the base too much to accomodate the jib operator. I don't think any stand alone unit can get in ( at the head of the shot) as far as I need...

>Am I missing any options here? Is there a GML ? (grip mailing list <g>) TIA,


>How about using a Steadicam with the operator stepping onto a crane outside? This gives you unlimited flexibility for the beginning of the shot and it should be no problem to achieve your desired final framing.

>Bill (I like Steadicam) Crow American Interactive Pictures

>O.K. Bill. It's good to like Steadicam, but how do you pull this off without the front end of the crane instantly slamming down to the ground. Stepping off a crane is one thing because you can always have a couple of guys step onto the nose when its on the ground, but stepping on while the thing is flying?

>Michael Siegel

>In the words of Tattoo... ""the crane! the crane!"" ...sorry.

>This was used, in reverse, in ""Men in Black"" for the scene in which Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones enter Jeebs' Pawn Shop. The shot starts off high on the crane, sliding down to the street, then following the actors to the store front. If you watch closely, you can actually see the moment where the operator walks off the crane platform.

>Barry Sonnenfeld did a GREAT audio commentary on the LD version, literally describing every single shot. Well worth the rental, even if you don't like sci-fi.

>Jason Ahles

>This can be done , if one is careful, in the folowing manner:

>set up the crane so that it is balanced with the steadycam operator on it. Put it at the pick-up point with suitable ballast on it and then WITHOUT setting the tilt lock, crib up the back of the bucket with sturdy apple boxes or better yet solid pieces of timber. You should be able to unload the nose. When the oiperator steps on the crane, unweighting the bucket, slide the cribbing out and off you go! I am not commenting on the appropriateness of this methodology for getting this shot, merely on the mechanics of doing it this way.

>A second, slightly scarier way is to have someone else on the nose who gets off when the operator gets on.. this requires a scaffolding for him to step onto and has lots of opportunities for problems to occur....but could be done

>Mark ""the devil is in the details"" Weingartner

>Well, sounds extremely dangerous to me. I think Michael's point is well made! You could use a cherrypicker as opposed to a camera crane, which wouldn't need counterweighting but I suspect the rise would be rather slow and jerky.

>I think the original idea is about the most practical. The only alternatives seem to be either Technocrane or blue screen. You could get the art department to disguise the base of the scissorlift platform - section of alley wall etc? This might give you a little more elbow room.

>Chris Plevin

>Mark, doing this thirty feet above the ground is a recipe for disaster, quite apart from the problems of getting the operator onto the crane nose safely. This is the kind of shot remote heads were invented for. If there isn't enough money to bring in the suitable equipment from out of town, then putting technicians lives and limbs on the line instead is not an option in my book. Do it another way or do it in two or three shots.

>Chris Plevin

>Sounds like a good crane/head combo, but I question the steadiness of a scissor lift. Consider putting the crane on scaffolding instead, but be sure to check the weight capacity.

>I worked on a shot in New York as a crane tech where we had a Girraffe crane with a CamRemote head on about 20 feet of scaffolding. The shot was of the Belvedeer fountain in Central Park for the film ""One Fine Day"".

>The rigging grip was Matt Miller (NY based). DP was Florian Balhaus.

>Don Canfield

>Sounds like a good crane/head combo, but I question the steadiness of a scissor lift. Consider putting the crane on scaffolding instead, but be sure to check the weight capacity.

>I worked on a shot in New York as a crane tech where we had a Girraffe crane with a CamRemote head on about 20 feet of scaffolding. The shot was of the Belvedeer fountain in Central Park for the film ""One Fine Day"".

>The rigging grip was Matt Miller (NY based). DP was Florian Balhaus.

>Don Canfield

>I have half ruled that out since I dont think I can get a crane that'll provide an adequate platform at the twenty six foot height required. Meaning, stable enough to accomodate a 300+ pound shift in balance at height.

>That said, it would be nice to start with a bit more flexibility off the top of the shot...


>I think I was specific in my post that I was explaining how one can effect a weight change as described on a counter-weighted crane and that I was NOT recommending this as the methodology for getting this particular shot. Read my other safety related post and you will see that I am more conservative about putting people at risk than most people in this business... ...and I have spent many years strapping DP's into, onto, and under things, but only if the shot could not be done by strapping a piece of equipment there instead. I am specifically not a proponent of doing this shot as a Steadycam shot, but I would not presume to pass judgement on what the ""one true right way"" to do the shot might be without knowing the specifics of the location , etc. I have spent hundreds of hours helping directors and DP's realize complex conceptual shots that never made the final cut...not because they weren't technically good but because, in the end, they did not tell the story the best way. Perhaps another way to tell this part of the story will suggest itself. Perhaps not.


>Mark Weingartner

>This is not a particularly difficult or dangerous shot. It does require experienced and knowledgeable grips. Steadicam operator with rig, plus another grip stand on the crane's platform, and the crane operator balances it for this weight. Two other grips now step onto the platform from the outside of the rails, holding on to the rails. Steadicam operator steps off. Action! Steadicam operator steps onto the platform, grip on board spots him. (Optionally, he attaches a safety line.) Two other grips step off, and the balanced crane booms up to complete the shot.

>The same technique can be used in reverse as well (ala the MIB shot.)

>This is one of the shots that Cinema Products teaches as part of their week-long introductory Steadicam training class. To the best of my knowledge, they haven't lost a student yet.

Bill Crow

American Interactive Pictures

>"I remember a rig that attatched a Steadicam op. (Jerry Holway I think) to an industrial crane (120 footer!!). The shot started as a standard Steadicam walk and talk leading a large group of people up a hill and then the operator was ""clicked"" by a grip to the crane and the operator flew 100 feet or so in the air to reveal the people had formed the Blue Cross symbol with thier bodies.

>The rig was a modified climbing harness that the operator wore under his vest and designed to have his legs pulled back so he could get a straight down shot. I think there were 2 tethers on the vest as well to stop the operator from rotating.

>I don't know if this is of any use to you but it may get you the shot you need.

>Denis Moran

>"Hi All,

>I've seen something similar in the promo-video for the Panther Pegasus Crane. They did a shot in a room with somebody leaving this room. ´They then flew out of the window and down to pick the person up leaving the house through the front door. All in one take.

>Maybe you can get your hands on the video just to see how they did it. It might give you an idea. I suppose you can make this shot with any other crane that is big enough, too.

>Hope this helps,

>Matthias A. ;-)

>While I agree with you, I think you may have misinterpreted my initial post in one respect. I DO have access to suitable equipment such as remote heads, some nice cranes, scaffolding and big scissor lifts. There was NEVER any question of doing this shot with a Steadicam for *availability* reasons.

>I also strongly agree that use of remote heads is indicated whenever possible - there just isn't enough advantage to having an operator on a crane for most shots. Granted, the risks aren't huge but there ARE risks.

>I remember being at the highest *one-rider* height on a Phoenix that had been built on about five feet of scaffolding, it was windy, I was cold, we were loosing light....

>My focus puller at the time yells up, ""Hey Dave. Two words, <pause> metal fatigue."" You know that dense feeling you get in the pit of your stomach...? The bastard! I've never forgotten that. BTW, the shot turned out fine.


>I think you're right although I believe we can stabilize the lift. We may have to use the scissor lift for time reasons.

>I think the scaffolding would be steadier, but the ability to sweep out the scissor lift (when the shot's done) and the faster set-up time make it appealing. The big limitation of the scissor lift is a maximum weight of 2,000 pounds. The scaffolding can accommodate more weight.


>Sorry Michael, I did misunderstand. You're right; my technique doesn't work for this.

>This sounds like a shot for Jerry Holway (610/524-5979). Jerry is the master at flying with Steadicam. He regularly does shots where he is lifted straight up via a cable from an overhead crane. So, there would need to be a rolling scaffold platform outside the window. Jerry is attached to the cable crane, exits the window onto the platform and is lifted up. As soon as he clears the platform, it is rolled out of the shot. I don't know if this would be possible, (safety, stable shot when he is first lifted, etc.) but Jerry is the master of these kind of shots so he'd be the one to talk to.

>Bill Crow American Interactive Pictures

>Yep, always worth remembering that... many of these shots end up cut, or fragmented.

>But I think an A-Minima with the optional Helium-Zep (with GPS positioning and programmable keyframing) will do the trick! Of course, the 35mm version, with an Aaton 35, is a bit larger...

>Jeff ""wish I knew where to rent this thing"" Kreines

>I am also somewhat overcautious on this one:

>Depending upon your crane and the number of extensions (especially rear extensions for counterweights) you could be well over this max weight with crane, hot-head, camera, counterweights, (and the small piece of track for the pull-out of the top door ???)...with 2-3 grips up there to perform the move (if I understand the pull-out correctly). Not a lot of room for that up there either !

>Mind you, I have done a few crane shots, but never off of platforms. I have shot FX plates from scissor lifts, and they can be very difficult to tie-down nicely (we're talking some serious ""post-tensioning"" for a 25 ft. height). Otherwise, that scissor lift may be quite a wobble with that much mass swinging around. The center post of a crane going out of level that high up would make me really nervous.

>I hope you'll be back here posting about how well it went and how smoothly and quickly your crew built and struck the rigging. But it does sound a bit dicey without a telescoping crane on scaffolding, or 2 scissored cranes, or doing it in cuts or wipes...etc.


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