I’m currently the DP on
“Mixology,” a single-camera ABC comedy
slated to begin airing at mid-season. The
show is mostly shot “handheld,” however,
in my version of “handheld” we use the
same tools as any major production. We
have a crane, hot head, dollies, and also
OConnor heads—a pair of 2575s.
The 2575s are used any time we’re
working with a longer lens—the long lens
shots with a camera move. We dial in the
drag settings on the 2575 very loose and
this provides the sort of feeling you get
with a handheld camera, even though
the camera is really on a 2575 head that’s
mounted on a dolly.
VERY PRECISE DRAG ADJUSTMENTS
That’s really the beauty of these OConnor
heads—they’re so adjustable that we
can dial the drag all the way down and
move the counter spring all the way down
so there’s practically no drag at all. When
you do this the operator’s heartbeat is
enough to make the camera move in a kind
of a quirky, handheld way.
We’re shooting the show with Arri’s Alexa
cameras. These aren’t huge cameras,
but they’re not toys either. For lenses, I use
Angenieux’s compact zooms, but I also
have Fujinon 85-300s for the long end of
things. And when you’re working with the
Fuji zoomed out to the long end it’s nice to
have a head that has some real mass to provide
maximum control. You could put this
camera on a smaller head, but it wouldn’t
be as nice to work with.
BALANCING IN A FLASH
Any time we change a lens, batteries, or
any of our configuration, we have to rebalance
the head. With the 2575 this is easy
to do, as it has a nice big lever that gives
you a really silky smooth, fine adjustment.
You just pop the thing loose, balance the
camera just like you want it, and lock it
back down—all done in seconds. That’s a
really great feature as it makes this operation
so easy to do.
It’s really an operator preference when
it comes to adjusting the counterbalance
spring. Actually, I like to have a little push-back
when I’m operating, so I crank the
spring a little on the heavy side so that
it pushes back at me. My operators, Joel
Schwartz and Alan Caudillo, both prefer
a spring setting that allows the camera
to stay wherever they leave it in the tilt
range. Joel has his own 2575 and says that
the head just seems to disappear when
it’s correctly balanced. It’s the kind of tool
that provides maximum creative flexibility
without getting in the way.
I have a long history with using OConnor
heads. I started as a camera assistant
with the OConnor 100—which was the
best head out there then—and still have
very fond memories of it. However, when
the newer generation came out, I thought
that they were better still—fantastic really.
Actually, I’ve used OConnor heads on just
about everything that I’ve shot.
Mike Mayers is a director of photography
for episodic television and feature
films. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information, contact
Oconnor at 818-847-8666 or visit www.ocon.com.