the perfect pan

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redrice
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Joined: Jan 3 2001

hi,

i was wondering if any of you guys could help me with this?

i recently decided that one thing i wanted to have in the new project i'm working on - set in a stretch of northern countryside - is a series of long, slow, almost (but not quite) 360 degree pans, to take in the 'whole' of a landscape as seen from one particular point of view.

(for those interested, the franco-german film makers, jean-marie straub and danielle huillet, have been using similar shots regularly in their movies, since the mid 70s at least).

so out i went to try, and lo and behold: i find that this is VERY difficult to achieve. for (at least) two reasons:

1. it is hard to maintain a constant speed when pushing (or pulling) the tripod head round by hand;

2. it is hard to avoid variations in speed, even if you can keep it near-constant most of the time, when you have to change the position of your feet - and if you pan through the full 360, then at some point this does become an issue, supposing you dont want to appear in the shot.

is there a trick used by professional film makers to get ultra smooth pans? do they have special equipment? or do they simply hire someone who has spent a lifetime acquiring this particular skill?

in other words: what do i need? more practice? hints on how to minimise forearm inconsistency? or a new tripod? (yes: i'm still using a £70 velbon, with a fluid head).

thanks in advance for any pointers that might save me hours, if not years, of stress and heart break:

peter

peter snowdon
gourna films
brussels/cairo

Alan Roberts at work
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Joined: May 6 1999

IIRC, they use either motorised pan heads (the sort that are used in motion control rigs) or geared heads with a worm gera driving a horizontal gear as the pan mechanism. Then just cranking the worm at reasonable speed keeps the pan going slowly.
I've seen both in use, they work and are expensive. The other solution is to keep practicing.

redrice
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Joined: Jan 3 2001

a geared head sounds liek a good idea: do you know who makes them? tho i suspect they will cost the earth, or some significant part of it...

p

peter snowdon
gourna films
brussels/cairo

Mad_mardy
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Joined: Oct 19 2000

hague camera supports make them
don't know the web address

A lot of very smooth pans are done by hand
there is a real knack in achieving this.

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harlequin
harlequin's picture
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Joined: Aug 16 2000

quote:Originally posted by Mad_mardy:
hague camera supports make them
don't know the web address

A lot of very smooth pans are done by hand
there is a real knack in achieving this.

Smooth pan by hand:

Connect a very long ( 5 feet plus ) pole to arm on tripod.

Walk slowly in circle now greater than 5 feet in radius..... Should now be smooth.

If this isn't smooth then the head on the tripod must be the reason.

------------------
Gary MacKenzie
Audio Visual Technician
(email me if you want a quick reply)

Gary MacKenzie

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tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

Good one Garry.

George Markie
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Joined: Jun 6 2001

Hague's website is: www.b-hague.co.uk
Cheers
George

redrice
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Joined: Jan 3 2001

gary -

great idea: tho it wont work in some of the situations i was working in last week (not enough room to set up a circle of anything like 5 ft diameter). still, cant wait to try that out!

mardy -

hague have a reasonably priced electric pan/tilt head, but no geared one that i can see on their web site.

anyone else have any leads to a compact, mechanical solution?

thanks to all:

peter

peter snowdon
gourna films
brussels/cairo

DAVE M
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Joined: May 17 1999

something that I saw many years ago...
with a film camera....

Fit the camera onto a large bobbin (end on) - thread this onto a vertical axle. Introduce either grease or a bearing surfece. Wind a couple of turns of cord around it, and thread the end through a screw eye. You can then either pull the string, or fit a weight.
It worked pretty well.

or construct something from Lego tecknik

davideo0
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Joined: Aug 18 1999

I would think it near impossible to manually and smoothly rotate through 360 degrees. I have,however, found the following gives very smooth results through about 180 degrees:
1.Take a substantial piece of elastic or rubber strand and attach it to the end of the panning handle.
2.Set up the horizontal friction to give a nearly free movement.
3. Set the camcorder to the start position and start recording.
4. While watching the pan rate throught the viewfinder, or better still, a separate monitor get an assistant to gently but firmly pull on the rubber strand with a constant pressure as possible.

The secret is that as soon as the pan begins ease off the pull slightly but not completely to stabilise the pan speed as required. As the end position of the pan is approached call the assistant to ease the pull slightly to slow the pan and finally to smoothly release the rubber strand so that the pan stops precisely as required.

The rubber strand of course acts as a smoothing system between the natural jerkiness of the hand and the panning handle.
It may sound Heath Robinson but it really does work with a little practice.
You may even be able to follow up with the subsequent 180 degrees and join together in post.

Good Luck

davideo0

[This message has been edited by davideo0 (edited 23 June 2001).]