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Jib for Special Performances
We're a little late in planning our Christmas program this year, and I brought up the idea of using a camera jib for it. We do a singing christmas tree which consists of about 9-10 tiers of people. In the past, I've enjoyed the flexibility the jib offers us because it practically covers any shot anywhere in the building. And also allows us to get on level shots of soloists and choir members in the tree itself. During a special event we run a left, center, right plus either jib mounted or dolly mounted camera close up on stage.
The only major concern besides rental cost is that it detracts from the live performance. Obviously having a crane does create a bit of a sight line issue especially when doing close ups of soloists. We do run IMAG during performances to help alleviate some of those issues however.
Any ideas on how to persuade people on the use of a jib?
Derek Van Winkle
FBC Biloxi, MS
There is no right or wrong as it pertains to such things as it is a matter of artistic taste and how you block a performance as opposed to how I would. That said, my sensibility would dictate that when using a jib for a Christmas type special its use would be primarily as a transitional tool between “tight follow” and “loose follow” master shots and cut-away or secondary shots. In other words for each act and item within the performance I want to dedicate a particular camera to give me “tight follow” of the principle talent in that act/item. This is typically a waist shot or tighter. I also want to dedicate a second camera to give me a “loose follow” of the principle talent in that act/item. This is typically a head-to-toe shot. Both of these are usually on center-line of the stage. Cut-away or secondary shots would be reactions, or in a musical performance coverage of secondary instruments, etc. Typically my use of a jib would be (1) to add motion (2) to create a visual transition between additions or changes of principle talent and (3) as a transitional tool between primary and secondary shots.
If I understand your post you wish to use the jib as a “tight follow” primary camera of the talent in the tree at varying elevations, which might mean that it is with few exceptions static with little or no movement. I don’t see how you are going to accomplish integration of a jib used this way without creating an audience sight line problem for extended periods of time. The only way I would imagine accomplishing this with minimal distraction would be to put the fulcrum fairly deep into the house with the arm perpendicular to the downstage lip so the arm is fully extended facing upstage with a standard ENG (18x-22x) lens (not a wide angle as normally would on a jib).
Secondarily I have a bit of unrest about shooting the top rows of the tree head-on for extended periods of time as this angle is not conveying what the audience in the house is seeing.
If I had to shoot a living tree I would try to work one or two PTZ (“hot-head”) cameras into the scenic design … for example if the tree was set in a “street scene” or “park scene” one could mount the PTZs on prop lamp posts. I would not use these as head-on tight follow primary shots but rather as 22-45 degree off center side shots. Another idea would be to incorporate lipstick/Go-Pro/etc. cameras mounted on magic arms to the tree itself. This may work for a very limited number of principles. If you had a BIG budget a tower-cam would accomplish what you are looking for without the diagonal arm cutting across the stage.
New York City by day & Monmouth County, NJ by night