Definition February 2021 - Web

AXES OF

STAB I L I SED SUPPORTS | GEAR

For most of cinema history, stable moving shots required either exquisite skill or a pile of heavy equipment. Some of the tiniest man-made devices are now making stabilisation easier – but the old guard still has its place FREEDOM

shrunk to the point that we can run smaller aircraft with bigger cameras than previously possible. With a lot of modern cameras increasingly resembling a box with a lens on the front, operating a moving shot from the shoulder often isn’t as easy as it was in the days of shoulder- mounted ENG cameras. For a lot of people, the layout of a 1990s Betacam was a formative experience, and trying to handle modern cameras in their boxy native format can be a recipe for backache. That’s where organisations like Vocas come in; the company recently announced a new version of its USBP-15 baseplate for the Red Komodo. Rigging cameras for different applications gives us a lot of flexibility, and certainly on a gimbal or drone, there’s benefits to stripping off every unnecessary chunk of metal. Operating from the shoulder, though, the extra weight of the accessories is a fair trade-off for not scoring a camera-shaped divot in the operator’s shoulder. It’s been such a big deal that Vocas even has a package of accessories for the Sony FX9 named Alister’s ENG kit. In a now ancient YouTube video showing B4 lenses adapted to big-chip cameras, the estimable

WORDS PH I L RHODES / P I CTURES VAR I OUS

1968 film, Funny Girl . Marconi’s Heli- Tele, made in the mid-seventies, was a metre-diameter sphere containing a camera and was made with vacuum tube technology that dangled off the side of the aircraft like a super-sized seasonal bauble. Later versions of the Heli-Tele were stable enough to point long lenses at small things on the ground from far away, which created surveillance possibilities that excited not only film and TV, but also the police and military. Still, seventies helicopter mounts often weighed enough that the helicopters of the time sometimes struggled to lift off if the crew had been overindulging at the lunch buffet. In 2021, we have literally pocket-sized gimbals for our literally pocket-sized cameras, and even the big helicopter-mounted options have

he opening shots of The Sound of Music show Julie Andrews practically being blown

over by what’s very clearly helicopter downwash, in a scene set long before helicopters were a commercial reality. In late June 1964, when that scene was filmed, helicopter shots required wide lenses to look sufficiently stable, so filling the frame with an actor forced the aircraft to fly very nearby. Now, an actively stabilised camera mount goes without saying, but it’s a mistake to think that such a thing is a new idea. The option to bolt a camera to something that magically keeps it level goes back to the sixties and seventies. The Tyler Major Mount made possible the spectacular shot of Barbra Streisand, which closes the

FEBRUARY 202 1 | DEF I N I T ION 15

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