Despite an increase in the intricacy and complexity of actions and effects on screen, the clarity of camera movement improved immensely through the decades of filmmaking. A lot of that improvement began with the invention of the Steadicam in 1975. It was the first stabilizing mount of its kind for motion picture cameras. At a basic level, it isolates the operator’s movement from the camera through a system of counter weights and springs. The amount the operator’s movement affects the camera’s movement is minimized, thus creating an uber smooth shot.
Before the Steadicam, camera movements were usually done using dollys that rolled along a track. As you can imagine, this process took a long time. It also didn’t allow for complicated shots in spaces where the tracks couldn’t be laid. With Steadicams, cameras were finally as mobile as the camera operators themselves. Shots that were formerly tedious to set up or impossible altogether, were suddenly easy to get and, most importantly, looked great.
What does Steadicam offer?
In short, the Steadicam offers stability on the go. It is perfect for tracking, or moving, shots and is much more convenient and flexible than the restricting pre-built dolly tracks of the past. Of course, like any piece of equipment, it won’t be the best fit for every project. For documentary or “found-footage” films for example, a shaky hand-held camera rig is probably preferred to the smoothness of a Steadicam shot. If the idea is to put the viewer in the cameraman’s shoes as he’s being chased through a spooky house a la Blair Witch Project, then it makes sense to have the camera be as shaky as it would be if any normal person was pointing and recording with a camcorder.
On the other hand, the Steadicam offers a shot that doesn’t take away or distract from the content on screen. Without the need for tracks, the camera is able to move freely around the space, chauffeured by its trusty Steadicam Operator, fully immersing the viewer in the film’s world.
Who’s the guy wearing that crazy rig?
So what does it take to be a Steadicam operator? Well, to begin with, a lot of skill and experience. Anyone who has ever put on a Steadicam vest and rig for even a moment can tell you that balancing the camera and controlling a moving arm that large takes many hours of practice. Not to mention physical stamina! A Steadicam with a camera can weigh anywhere from 15 to 50 lbs depending on the robustness of the rig and the weight of the camera. That’s a lot of extra weight to be carrying around. Especially considering how much walking and running Steadicam ops have to do to get those moving shots.
All of the great Steadicam ops will tell you it’s a skill that constantly requires honing and sharpening. Every production leaves a Steadicam operator a little bit better at their job. It’s that experience that separates a good shot from a shot that goes down in film history.
ECG at work
At ECG Productions, we have a talented team available to address each one of the many in-house services we offer. With experienced Steadicam operators, we use our diverse camera selection for a variety of video productions.
Take a look at our Mercedes-Benz | 2018 C-Class Cabriolet Walk Around video. Notice how smooth and stabilized the whole thing looks. That’s professional video folks!
Our team is here to help you create the video you want and choose the right equipment you need to do it. It’s all made possible by the best tools and an even better team. So what are you waiting for? Contact us today!