DV Shoots

There are some production tips and tidbits among the captions to these pictures.
For more video tech tips, see Tech Info on this site.
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The Sony VX-1000 DVC (digital video cassette) camcorder. This is the camera that has started a revolution in the video industry. The high quality from this little camera has caused it to be adopted by professional users for use in place of Betacam-SP in many applications. The light weight allows it to be used with the little Steadicam JR.
Steadicam JR is a stabilization system produced by Cinema Products, the same company that builds the big Steadicams that fly 35mm motion picture cameras for Hollywood movies. We can do most of the same moves the big boys can do, but for pennies on the dollar. Steadicam JR can handle up to 4 lbs. of camera weight.
Steadicam works by isolating the camera from the human body by a gimble just under the camera. Vertical and lateral movement look fine on the screen, even pleasing. It's angular movement up and down or side to side that make camerawork look jerky. The gimble eliminates this angular movement and allows the operator to move the camera smoothly while walking around, climbing stairs, even while running.
The "Don Juan" move is when the camera leads the subject. (As in "leading them on") Steadicam allows the operator to walk forward while shooting backward. He can see where he is going while framing in the small monitor - and the shot is smooth! (These shots were in Papua New Guinea for "Return to Hauna." Subject is Bible translator Marilyn Laszlo. For some behind the scenes tech info about this click to this doc in my tech info section: Return to Hauna, behind the scenes)       (to purchase "Return to Hauna")
Shooting a cattle round-up in North Dakota. A pickup truck was pressed into service as an impromptu camera car. A large carabiner (like mountain climbers use) clipped to your belt makes a parking spot for the VX/Steadicam rig so you can use both hands if you need to without uncabling and setting down the rig. Clip carabiner to cam handle.
A wide angle lens is a great partner to Steadicam. I use a .5x converter on the VX-1000 for a really wide angle of view. Objects close in the foreground make for a very interesting shot when the camera is moved, especially in the vertical.
The internal battery that comes with the VX only lasts about 20 minutes. To shoot all day you need an aux. battery pack. This makes Steadicaming a bit more difficult because of the wire, but it is still possible. The Steadicam and the battery can take a painful toll on your back, believe me! Wearing a back brace belt helps. Also, don't wear your battery on the side. Center it on your spine. It helps a lot.
The VX and Steadicam allowed me to shoot this angle in a moving dug-out canoe, which was horribly unstable. I actually shot a long interview of Bible Translator, Marilyn Laszlo, here as she paddled along. This was previously impossible with any other technology - at least with a crew of one!
(to purchase "Return to Hauna")
Shooting in the streets of Phnom Penh from the back of a moving pickup truck.
The back of a Honda 50 motorcycle made for a remarkably good camera platform. One can hire a fellow with one of these to take you all over Phnom Penh for a whole afternoon for $5.
This is the view you can get with a .5x wide angle on the VX-1000 inside the cockpit of a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter. The Steadicam JR is so compact that I was able to do wonderful moves inside the helicopter in flight. I could start out shooting to the left out the front bubble, and then smoothly pan across the instrument panel and end up with a quartering front view of the pilot's face as he flew. All while strapped into my seat belt in the left seat.
When the doors come off, though, the Steadicam goes back in the bag. Wind kills it. Fortunately the VX-1000 has a great optical stabilization system built in. It dampens out engine vibration very well and allows remarkably good hand held shots even from a fixed wing. This is a Cessna 206 with the cargo door off. A small air deflector is mounted on the hinges. With a good safety belt this makes a fantastic platform for air-to-air shots. (And it sure is fun!)

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Copyright 1998 by Dan Philgreen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED