"Mannequin Challenge"!?

March 21, 2017

Couple of months ago I had a sudden call. "Igor,... we have a shoot,... something like a Mannequin Challenge shot,.. you know,... people frozen and you move around them with Steadicam!? Are you free tomorrow?" It was supposed to be simple shooting, 6 hours, 3 shots,... Mhmmm,.. yeah why not.

 

And this was really a simple, extremely enjoyable 6 hours shooting. DOP was amazing Crispin Dominic, and director was, Joe McCormick, very young and very talented guy.

 

He new very well how to choreograph the takes, how he will add the confetti in the post,... the only doubt he had were the transition between the takes!? He had several ideas, like warp in/out, zoom in/out,.... and then, one "Steadicam Oner" immediately came to my mind. Opening scene from "The Snake eyes"! :)

 

Brian De Palma's masterpiece, shot by one of the best Steadicam Operators. Mr. Larry McConkey.

 

And if you have the will to see the first 13 minutes of the Snake Eyes, here it is:

 

 

Actually this opening scene was made from several shots. We must consider one thing. This was shot on film, and one 120m (that is standard for Steadi Magazine) roll last about 4 minutes, so 13 min shot was impossible to take,... in one take! Roughly I counted 5 takes, but it could be more :)

 

For transitions De Palma was using walls, people, and what I really liked,.... whip pans. Now this is very tricky thing to do, because the cut is depending on couple of things. First of all, on actors. If you look this shot for a couple of times (yeah, this is a sever geek disorder), you will notice that the expression of the actors is a little bit different. For example cut at 10'06". It also depends from the background that is whipped over. In this case this wasn't such a problem, because the background was always the same between the cuts.

 

But the most important thing in this whip pans is the beginning of the shot. Ending is simple, you just whip pan the sled and that is it! But the begging,... you start with the whip pan, and you must stop the sled at exact position where the actors are. (7'09")

 

This kind of thing is extremely difficult for Steadicam operator. The gimbal on the sled is practically friction-less! In theory, perfectly dynamically balanced Steadicam, will rotate over it's vertical axes,... forever! In practice, that is a little bit different! :) Anyway, to stop a Steadicam, precisely, with 20Kg of weight in inertia, with the fingertips, demands a huge amount of skill and practice! There were some takes that were not so perfect. 11'41". The headroom was a little bit missed here. But again, it was a two shot, with actors who had a different height. Nevertheless, amazingly done.

 

And this is just a technical side of it. We shouldn't forget that this is the sequence shot, and the plot of the film (the murder of the secretary of the defense) is happening in this 13 minutes!!! Probably one of the best done plots in the movie history!!!

 

When I saw this, I was practicing whip pans in my storage room, for months, . :))) Used it a lot on Live TV shows, as this is one of the most effective transition you can have in a Live TV. This kind of shots in Live TV are actually huge team work, and Steadicam operator is just one link in the chain,... but this is anther topic!

 

And here it is. My little homage to the master, Mr. Larry McConkey,... with a huge help and understanding from everyone involved in this TVC. Thank you all.

 

 

Director: Joe McCormick

DoP: Crispin Dominic
Steadicam Ops: Igor Savatovic, soa
Production: Air3 Creative JLT

 

and some making of pics of course:

 

 

 

 

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