Magazine article American Cinematographer

Steadicam-35-A Revolutionary New Concept in Camera Stabilization

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Steadicam-35-A Revolutionary New Concept in Camera Stabilization

Article excerpt

This new creative tool for the cinematographer and director permits a fast-moving, hand-held camera to "float" smoothly through the air

This is the era of hand-held shooting for professional cinematography. The desire for realism, the increasing use of location filming, the need to film practical interiors, and the creative need of both cameraman and director to produce new and imaginative imagery have all conspired to cause an enormous rise in the use of hand-held cinematography over the past decade.

Although Arnold & Richter introduced the Arriflex 35mm hand-held reflex camera back in the '3Os, it has not been until relatively recently that hand-held cinematography has become a major tool in filmmaking. More recently, Arriflex and Panavision have both developed extremely fine cameras, the Arriflex 35BL and the Panaflex, that have given added impetus to this trend.

The new wave of filmmakers from post-war France brought us Cinéma Verité, where the hand-held camera was carried about without concern for picture stability. While it introduced a sense of intimacy and immediacy, Cinéma Verité failed in its basic effort to convey a sense of realism. This is because the hand-held camera of Cinéma Verité "saw" the world in a totally unrealistic way. The human eye does not rock-and-roll and bump the way the hand-held camera of Cinéma Verité was wont to do. The eyes are part of an exquisite human servosystem (the brain) that is constantly adjusting and correcting for body motions so that the scene we see is always steady. For example, you could be running alongside a slow moving freight train and easily read small print on the side of the freight car.

This brings us to the fundamental concept of our new and revolutionary camera stabilizing system. The stabilizing system was invented by an East Coast filmmaker named Garrett Brown. He experimented over a period of years with different stabilizing systems and gradually evolved a rough prototype of the system we have developed.

Garrett came to us almost two years ago with a 35mm print that he had shot with his prototype system, using a modified Arriflex camera. We were excited by the film, and immediately entered into an exclusive licensing agreement whereby Cinema Products would design and develop various versions of Brown's stabilizing system, which Cinema Products would manufacture and distribute on a worldwide basis.

So unique and revolutionary is our new camera stabilizing system, so far-reaching in its ramifications, that we have already applied for all foreign and U.S. patent rights to cover every possible aspect of any version or application of the system.

The first motion picture camera version, called STEADICAM-35m, was used by Haskell Wexler, ASC, on "BOUND FOR GLORY". It has since been used extensively by Conrad Hall, ASC, on "MARATHON MAN", and by James Crabe on "ROCKY". Bill Fraker, ASC, has tested with it on the upcoming "HERETIC", and he, too, plans to use it for a number of difficult scenes in that production.

STEADICAM-35 provides total mobility and portability while recording extremely steady and smooth images. It allows the camera operator freedom of movement he never had before. For example, the system permits the camera operator to run at top speed over rough terrain (even skipping over rocks), or run up and down staircases while shooting, and still deliver completely jitter-free shots of dolly-quality smoothness.

The STEADICAM-35 system utilizes an extensively modified Arri IIC as the basic camera mechanism. We also installed a "hard front" to permit use of the exciting new Canon aspheric super-fast lenses (and, for that matter, any other lenses in standard reflex BNC-type mount). The drive circuit was modified so that the reflex mirror always stops in the viewing position. The Arri IIC camera is driven, of course, by our crystal-controlled motor.

A 2/3'' video camera has been coupled to the Arri IIC viewing system to provide full reflex viewing by means of a super-bright, specially designed 3'' monitor. …

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