This all started with a director showing me a reference video and asking if there was anything we could do in a similar vein. It was wild. It was crazy. It was something I had never done before… and I LOVE a challenge. So began the research…
The behind the scenes video of the reference music video looked like they used a three axis manual camera head similar to the Cartoni Lambda but the base part looked different so I’m not exactly sure what model they used. Something like the Lambda would definitely get the job done though.
My research continued to find something called the Round-D-Round that sounded like it would fit the bill. Unfortunately, Matthews Grip has a dolly called the Round-D-Round that is much more prevalent and 99% of all my internet searches resulted in dolly equipment rather than a camera head.
Enter the forums. For anyone who isn’t participating in any film forums, I think you’re missing out. They are great communities with very helpful information and members. I’ve met some of the nicest, coolest, and most talented people through the forums – my “go to” forum is often RedUser.net simply because I’ve been shooting RED since 2008. After many proposed solutions – many being similar to the Cartoni Lambda and one simply being “just do it in post”, one of the members noted that they do similar moves with their motorized 2-axis remote pan/tilt head and posted a quick video of the configuration. I happen to own two different remote pan/tilt heads – both a Varizoom and the Kessler Revolution head. I did my first test with the Kessler head and here’s how it went down…
By pointing the camera 90° off it’s normal horizontal axis – I now had a way to roll the camera on the vertical axis; the tilt axis was transformed into a vertical roll when the camera was repositioned. I needed to remove the large brick battery from the back and a lot of the standard accessories that I have attached to the camera to make sure that all the parts would clear all of the boundaries of the pan/tilt head and power the camera through the RED side handle and a small Redvolt battery.
The next point of interest was making sure the roll point was at the optical center of the lens (or make the necessary adjustments so that camera move wasn’t too weird (or at least weirder than it should be considering we’re doing multiple 360° vertical rolls. As luck would have it, the RED Epic was aligned pretty much perfectly at optical center with the Kessler head.
The rest was simple. To get as much of a topsy-turvy effect, I ended up working with my cinevised Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 so we could really see the world turn as much as possible – I think the video either had it at 11mm or 14mm. I honestly don’t remember. I did a few camera tests at home and sent a video to the director. He gave the thumbs up and then it was go time for the music video.
During the shoot, the system worked flawlessly and as it turns out Riff Raff’s “Ace of Space” music video (originally titled Ace of Spades) received more than a million hits on youtube. I think everyone involved in the music video feels fortunate that we were able to pull together the vertical roll camera gag for the video. Here’s the end result:
*Note – In the near future, I will set up the camera on the rig as described above and take some stills and footage of the set up in action so you can see how everything was set up.