by Gary Baum
STUDIO CITY, CALIF. In multicamera television, things normally go through a progression. There's the reading of the script, the load-in, rehearsal and blocking of the four cameras to suit the episode. Then there's "shoot day" with the audience.
Sounds easy, except that when you are working with a director like James Burrows you have to be ready for anything. Not only does he work extremely fast, he's so creative that he's often making last minute changes to improve the story. His impeccable sense of timing and humor contributed greatly to the success of the long-running series "Will and Grace." It was there that I learned that timing—and the right equipment—is everything when you're working with him.
ALWAYS ANTICIPATE THE UNEXPECTED
Gary Baum So, as a DP, I learned to anticipate any last minute changes and unrehearsed shots. On show night he may see something he wants to capture in a different way, and he says so. There's no rehearsal and no time to prep, as the audience is still in their seats watching.
We're now doing a series called "Gary Unmarried," starring Jay Mohr (Gary) and Paula Marshall (Allison), who are recently divorced and dating. In a recent episode, Allison tries to sneak into Gary's house to look for something. Unbeknownst to Allison, Gary is in the house hanging upside down with gravity boots, in a doorway, watching her every move. Jim Burrows wanted a camera to shoot Gary's upside down point-of-view.
I was thrilled with the challenge this presented—it gave me a reason to try the new OConnor 120EX camera head that we had on standby.
We quickly removed one of our Sony F900's from its gear head and mounted it to the 120EX on an inverted hi-hat. The changeover took minutes, and we captured the shot in front of the audience. I've been using OConnor products for years and this 120EX is the best. It's versatile, operator-friendly, and the assistants like the way the geared base plate and counterbalance perform with ease. It helps adjust the center of gravity of the camera effortlessly and the counterbalance has a huge range. It is easy and quick to adjust.
When we were doing "The Class," there was a scene where Richie (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is driving, while trying to swat a bee out of his car and plows into a convenience store.
Just before we wrapped, Jim wanted an overhead shot revealing the whole scene, with reporters, police, news crews and paramedics arriving.
EASY OVERHEAD SHOTS
The difficulty was doing it on the fly. This was stricty a last minute and unrehearsed addition to the day's shooting, and we didn't have a crane. Fortunately, we had an OConnor 2575. So, we mounted a camera fastened to a hi-hat on it, and elevated it with a scissor lift. The sharp downward angle made the whole scene work. We were able to tilt the camera at a 90 degree angle using the head and shoot straight down onto the set. It took very little time, and Jim was pleased.
He's a very savvy director. He knows what he wants. And he knows how to get it. When there is a nonrehearsed, tricky shot, he'll actually turn to me and say, "Can we put the camera on an OConnor?"
Gary Baum began his career in the business as an assistant on "A-Team," "Magnum P.I." and other series. He moved up to director of photography on "Will and Grace." He may be contacted at Garyb.firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information, contact OConnor at 818-847-8666 or visit www.ocon.com.