In early 2014, I left a whirlwind Location Scout that encompassed Paris, Torino, Trento, Milan and Venice and looked to my future. That future includes the film Fathers and Daughters that I started shooting in Pittsburgh. It stars Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Paul, Diane Krueger and Jane Fonda. The Director is Gabriele Muccino, a very talented filmmaker who challenged me in so many new ways. He is a master at emotion, heart, soul and great drama.
When I signed onto the project, I was given very little prep. Then the location scout to Europe for another project cut another nine days off of much needed time. When I was starting out on features, prep was everything to me because I was new and not comfortable with the whole process. Now I am a prepping machine with a ton of help from a team that helps me stay on point and excellent. The team is so important in bringing your vision to life.
This time the pioneering spirit will be shooting 80% of Fathers and Daughters on the Freefly Systems MōVI gyro stabilized handheld device. Gabriele is a huge steadicam guy and loves the way it moves and how quickly he can block and shoot with it. I sent Vincent Laforet’s MōVI film to him and his first two words were F%$#ing Awesome.
“Embarking on the MōVI Journey”
Well, the train has left the station on this concept, which has cost a good amount of money and a ton of R & D. You see people using the MōVI with the Canon 5D, Canon 1DC or the Epic but I wanted to go about it a little differently. I wanted to shoot our movie on the Canon C500. I feel that it is the perfect camera to tell this emotional story, which includes several flashbacks to the 80s. The MōVI was not really ready for this style of cinematic capture.
“Kitting Out Your MōVI”
Along with a ton of love and support from Tabb, Sam and the Freefly team, we started to go down the road of setting up the MōVI M10 with the C500, onboard Gemini recorder, Redrock Micro Remote Follow Focus and a Teradek wireless SDI transmitter.
“Chris Herr’s MōVI Accessories Package”
Nexus 7 Tablet
2.5mm & 3.0mm Allen Wrenches
Dual Lock Velcro
LiPo Battery Meter
LiPo Battery Alarms
LiPo Batteries and Chargers (lots of them)
LiPo to P-Tap Adapter (for powering accessories)
LiPo to 2-Pin Lemo Adapter (for powering Redrock)
Modified Bike Rack Mount
MōVI Floor Stand
Extended MōVI Handles
Extended MōVI roll arms
Freefly Rod Adapter
Freefly “Ninja Star”
Gemini 4:4:4 Recorder
Teradek Bolt Wireless System
Redrock Micro Remote Focus System (x 2 for Iris Pull)
Easy Rig with Extended Post
Modified Bike Rack Mount
Appolo Bicep Arm Blaster
Hyper Thin HDMI cables
Thin 3G BNC Cables
and backup parts of everything! ! !
Nexus 7 Tablet – The MōVI can be interfaced with via Mac, PC and Android powered devices. For normal on set work, the Mac and PC options are not practical, unless you have one of these:
The compact form of the tablet allows me to adjust tuning and operating values in the field on the fly. It can adjust how the MōVI reacts to inputs in Majestic mode (very important when switching to tighter lenses), how it reacts in inputs in remote mode and many other parameters with the new 3.07 Firmware update.
Bubble Level – The MōVI is great at keeping your shots straight, but mounting a bubble level to the camera body itself is a great way to visually verify that your shot is level before your image goes live to the DP and Director.
Modified Bike Rack Mount – The MōVI M10 ships with a wonderful table top cradle, but we needed a way to dock it in any location, table or not. A wall mounted bike rack from Home Depot and a grip head did the trick. Now we have a way to mount the MōVI to any C-stand or baby pin to give our operators a break every once and a while, as well as to serve as a locked off shot.
Extended MōVI roll arms – The stock MōVI M10 ships with a set cradle size that limits the cameras that are compatible. Freefly has now released the new M15 with longer roll arms, which enables larger cameras and lenses with more crucial accessories. We were lucky enough to get this upgrade early for some testing, and it has made a world of a difference. Balancing a Cooke 135mm is no longer a 15 minute ordeal involving counterweights and sweaty brows.
Freefly “Ninja Star” (with custom Mitchell mount adapter) – The Freefly Ninja Star is an all purpose mounting solution for the MōVI. It replaces the standard handles with a small round cheese plate. It offers multiple threaded mounting points to attach to the jib or slider of your choice. On Fathers and Daughters, we needed to go between Handheld mode and “Underslung” mode very often. The Ninja Star enabled us to do that. With Freefly’s new “Toad In The Hole” Quick Release, this process will be even smoother.
Easy Rig with extended post – This custom built easy rig with an extended arm allowed us to hand hold the MōVI for long durations without our operator’s arms falling off. The only limitation is that you have to be relatively stationary or the motion from your foot steps would transfer into the MōVI.
Apollo Bicep Arm Blaster – The Bicep Blaster allows our operators to maintain the freedom of movement that the Easy Rig does not offer while still having a place to rest their arms if needed.
Thin 3G BNC Cables (custom made by Terry West) – The MōVI requires a precise balance to stabilize its heavy load. Standard 3G cables are too thick to run between the camera and the gimbal. We needed something that would be “invisible” to the gimbal, and Terry West had the answer for us in the form of 3G cables as thin as spaghetti and as flexible as dental floss.
“It’s About the Cart”
Now that you have all the necessary accessories, you need the ultimate cart to roll this baby out. We have been testing many set ups with the MōVI and finally came across pure GOLD. Inovativ Carts has adapted their Steadicam cart to take the MōVI units. They have a cradle system all set up and a nice flat work area on top, all padded and ready to rock. It has storage underneath and a drawer to store necessary tools.
These carts are pretty impressive. The way they transport is intelligent as well.
“It’s All About the Glass”
Why the C500? Why not the Epic? Image quality, weight and the lens quality. The Epic is about four pounds heavier than the C500 and a pound on the MōVI can go a long way. I wanted to fly Cooke S4s, which weigh about 3.5 to 4 pounds each. Choosing the right glass is part of the storytelling process. If we were going to use the MōVI for a shot here or a shot there, then I could compromise, but we are looking at 80%, which is a substantial amount. Finding the right recipe of lenses, camera, follow focus and a recorder that could also be used as an onboard monitor was the brilliance. This is where the Gemini knocked it out. I did not want to have to tether a Codex S recorder in a backpack. That would defeat the purpose of this wonderful tool. Once we were able to balance it, we moved on to figuring out the best way to operate.
“Keeping This Baby in Focus”
Because of the C500 being so much lighter than the Epic, we are able to add many cool things. Cooke cinema glass is one of them; the other is a dual motor system with the strength of the Redrock Micro remote follow focus.
This dual motor system has been absolutely essential in bringing our vision to life. Having the ability to not only focus but control Iris is huge. We tried the C motion system at 45K. This system is known throughout the business as commotion, not C motion, because there is always a ton of commotion when you are trying to use this system. We sent that system packing within a week when we realized its range was about 100 feet. Redrock’s range was 2000 feet. OK, Redrock. We have been trailblazing this follow focus as well and Brian Valente at Redrock and his incredible team have delivered huge. They have been writing new code to address all of the 1st AC’s issues and doing it within 24 hours. They changed the direction button from an immediate switch to a 3 Second Hold, which eliminated accidental bumps that reversed the focus direction without warning and lowered the torque during the lens calibration for super accurate and repeatable manual calibrations.
This is the kind of support that I am talking about and respect. Thank you!!!
“The Game Changer”
Many of you have heard this term overused to its fullest. The 5D was a game changer. The Red Epic was a game changer, the GoPro Hero 3, the list goes on and on. But at this point, there have been two ways to operate a MōVI.
Majestic mode is the most intuitive way to operate the MōVI. It follows your movements while maintaining perfect stability and fluidity. When you pan, it pans and when you tilt, it tilts. With the new firmware version 3.07, you can now introduce “Shaky Cam,” which adds a programmed amount of shake into your shot. You can now have a consistent visual feel throughout a film production or television series.
RC Control Mode
The second way to operate this baby is an RC control with little joysticks for Pan and Tilt. I grew up in the 60s and 70s when video games consisted of B & W pong games, not Xbox 360 and PlayStation, so my learning curve has been steep on this. It does, however, offer a high level of precision when you utilize the proper sensitivity and exponential settings.
What Revolution Cinema Rentals and this wonderful coding genius Mehran did for me was to hack into the MōVI system and give me Hot Gears wheels for Pan and Tilt as well as roll. I feel this is truly a game changer for me. Now I can have my dolly grip be the physical vehicle of moving the MōVI while I sit back on a nice director’s chair and operate a tool that I have operated for over 16 years.
“Mounting This to the Dolly”
What I love about this tool is that it has so many unique ways to exploit all of its pros. One of them is the fact that this is a gyro stabilized head. We have been mounting this on the dolly and using it as a remote gyro head and loving it. With the game changing Hot Gears, we are using this to slide down bars into screaming close ups along with operating with the precision of wheels. My Key Grip Bart Flaherty and MōVI tech Chris Herr pioneered this Mitchell mount to be able to energize one of the oldest motion makers in the business, THE DOLLY to assist with the MōVI as a gyro head.
How do you rock out your MōVI?