Get that great camera shot cheap – Jibs and Wire Cams

Have you ever watched an amazing camera move in a big action film and first wondered how they did it, and then wished you could get a shot like that? Here’s some thoughts for you. Utilizing the traditional “sticks” and hand held always works for stuff and is always on the table. But what about a couple other fun ways to “up” the production value of your project with slick, fun, or simply a shot that you really want because its the “right” shot… JIB: Lets start with a jib. This little baby is a wonderful cheap way of getting a lot of shots done, quickly, easily and with some really nice “upped” production feel. I own a 6 foot jib that mounts on a set of “sticks” that we can set up , drop on and start shooting in a matter of minutes. It allows me to track around in a 12 foot area all the way around in a circle, and up and down from the floor to about 8 feet off the ground ( including tripod height ). Managing the jib and “driving” the camera like a handheld is a simple way to do this. What you get is the feel of a number of more expensive items. The Jib arm allows you to steady the camera and creates a very nice smooth “steady cam” look, it allows you to give the apparence of a nice tracked shot, and of course a traditional Jib shot. The best part is you can buy a 6 foot jib arm for around $1000 or rent one for a couple hundred. It goes up from there. The largest Jib i’ve used is around 24 feet. They can go much bigger, but for the indie world stick to around 6′ to 24′. Using a jib can really add to the look of a film and give you the camera moves that would otherwise be out of reach physically or financially. If you’ve ever used a dolly and track, especially cheap dolly and track… you’ll immediately see the value of a jib. Extremely faster set up, easier to move, 90% of the tracking shots can be replaced with a jib and a little practice. Its a great tool for a low budget film to add that ever elusive production value. Here are a couple links to jib arms:
http://www.fullcompass.com/category/Jib-Arms-Jib-Systems.html
http://jimmyjib.com/jjlite.html

WIRE CAM: here’s another fun toy, and this one you can build at home for under $100. It’s a wire cam. Basically a wire cam is simply a wire or cord stretched between to points with a small dolly platform (just big enough for your camera) hanging from the cord. The dolly rides on a couple of wheels down the wire. These can be built with simple PVC pipes or constructed with metal… The wire can be simple clothesline cord or a metal wire.. You can build these as simple as you want or as complex… But heres the fun part. Once the camera is on the wire cam and balanced you can “drive” the camera holding it , or you can push it and liet it roll on it’s own. You can set up one end of the wire a bit higher than the other and let gravity drive the camera. You can shoot down the length of the wire in the direction of camera movement, or you can track backwards. You can also shoot sideways and, again, get those time consuming dolly shots… One of the tricks of using a wire cam is to have a few “extension” pieces for the dolly to allow you to lift the wire 1 foot or 10 feet above the camera. Just be careful of having proper counter weights to balance and smooth the camera and make sure your wire system can handle the weight. If you are using a heavy camera or a lot of weight you may want to consider using 2 wires and a dolly that mounts and rides on both. Again. you can make this as complex or as simple as you want or need and you’ll get some really fun shots cheap, once again “upping” your production value. Here are a couple links to get you started with Wire Cams…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6y9WXRpxjC8
http://filmmakeriq.com/2008/12/how-to-make-a-diy-cable-cam-for-cheap/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4umhOolZPU