Sachtler sticks have been the de facto choice on just about every show I've worked on for so long that I can't begin to remember the first time I used them.
One of these is "The Electric Company," which is often shot outside in Manhattan's parks and gardens and on sidewalks and rooftops.
The first, and most important, thing to me is the stability and security of the camera platform. We use two Panasonic AJ-HPX300 cameras equipped with cine-style zoom lenses, matte boxes, follow focus and zoom and iris motors, so the weight really adds up. The cameras work all the time and we don't have dedicated first assistant camera operators.
SECURE AND STABLE SUPPORT
Having a Sachtler Cine 30 HD supporting my camera gives me the confidence to be able to walk away from it when I have to. In addition, we often have a bunch of setups where—due to space limitations—I have the tripod legs skinnied up beyond any of the stops on the mid-level spreader on one camera, and yet I can still feel very secure about the safety of the rig. The second camera sits on a Sachtler Video 20 SB and that gives us great support as well.
Sachtler's speed and ease of adjustments, as well as the smoothness of the head is also a plus. The legs remain twist-free even when extended to the top of their range. Such small details are incredibly well thought out. And I love the flattened bottom of the 150 mm ball on the Cine 30 HD. It makes throwing the head on our 150 mm bowl "hi-ha,t" flat plate ladder cam rig and other supports incredibly quick.
EASY SOLUTION TO A DIFFICULT SHOT
Earlier this year, we were outside on a late winter afternoon and losing the light fast. We had to shoot both sides of a cell phone conversation with the two actresses walking down different streets in matching medium shots. We had to allow for cutting back and forth between them, as well as split screen effects. The thought of shooting each side individually with audio playback going to earpieces was a non-starter because of the short time left to shoot.
We laid about 50 feet of dolly track down the middle of the sidewalk, put an appropriate camera mount on our dolly and set both heads at the extreme outsides of the plate. My A-camera operator, Aaron Medick, and I mounted up with our cameras facing opposite directions—one towards the park and the other towards a residential building across the street. We had our actresses walk and talk along at matching speeds, while dolly grip Nick Maczka took us for a ride. Two takes later, we had the entire scene with time to spare because the ladies were able to play off each other in real time.
I'm constantly pushing Sachtler to the limit. We've mounted the heads to a hi-hat rigged to the lighting grid, mounted it normally on sticks but with the camera sideways on it to shoot in portrait mode for VFX work, have had it down in the dirt, on top of 14-foot ladders that were in turn on top of trucks, etc. Sachtler has never disappointed me or given me a moment's concern.
Bill Berner is a New York-based cinematographer who has won four Daytime Emmy Awards for his lighting direction on "Sesame Street" and "Between the Lions." He may be contacted at Billbernertv.gmail.com.
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