Shooting on a jib. Living on a jib. It was quite a rewarding experience shooting an entire short film, SUBCULTURE, on a remote controlled jib. You know what a jib is, that long sea-saw arm that swings around with the camera on the end. When used correctly, a jib can be a filmmaker's best friend for speeding up setups and getting really interesting and cinematic angles and shots. We are not just talking about using the jib for those heroic establishing shots, it is about using it for small moves, "push ins," "pull outs," "tracking shots" "overheads" and neat small floating dolly style moves. Even though the jib does take up space, it can also be used in getting into tight spaces where a tripod cannot venture. With SUBCULTURE, I was fortunate to have two things that help, the right equipment and an talented operator in my Director of Photography, Rick Spalla who had a great deal of experience with jibs .
In my years of filmmaking, I have had limited experience with jibs. In the past, ambitions and plans were dashed not having experienced operators or the correct gear. If you plan it right and you have the right kind of project, living on a jib might be the best decision you can make.
the following is a list of things you'll need to LIVE ON A JIB:
SET UP TIME MIGHT TAKE A WHILE BUT IT IS WORTH IT!
It might take a little time getting the jib properly balanced and all the gear working together, but once it is set up you make the time back when you understand you can move the camera nearly everywhere to every angle.
PROFESSIONAL GRADE JIB WITH A REMOTE HEAD.
This is really important, you might be able to get a couple of establishing shots, but if you are going to LIVE on the JIB, make sure you get a sold strong one that is not going to shake or fail. They make a lot of cheap flimsy ones, that might be good for grabbing a shot here and there, but if you are going spend almost all of the time flying the camera, use the heavy duty Portajibs, Intelijibs style jibs, they set up fast and will fly larger pro cameras. These pro jibs also have sections of arm extensions so you can make your 8 foot jib, a 16 foot jib. A remote head is also essential as well. Make sure to use heads that are properly graded for your camera.
GET A DOLLY
Important to have a sold base dolly for the jib, you will need to freedom reposition the arm all around the set quickly and efficiently. The dolly needs to be heavy duty with a solid mounting head.
REMOTE FOLLOW FOCUS & MONITORING
You cannot fly blind, you will need to see everything that the jib sees, moreover you will need a remote focus system to keep the shots in focus.
USE A ZOOM LENS
Prime lenses are great, but when living on a jib, Zooms are king. A light weight zoom that covers from wide to telephoto views is a really good addition to your living on a jib. It will really speed up the lens change situation as well.
HIRE GREAT OPERATORS
Make sure your jib operator and camera crew have experience working jibs. It is essential to have skilled people getting the shots you need. The right people will bring your work to another level.
Make sure you have everyone on set aware of the jib, because if not used correctly or with lack of awareness, it can be quite a danger on set. Everyone not operating needs to stay away from the jib. When not in use, it needs to be locked down and put away from everyone.
DON'T OVER USE THE FLYING PART OF THE JIB
It is all about telling the story and not about the gear. The gear helps us tell the story. While is is great to keep the camera moving, sometimes you'll need to lock off and get that shot without motion. The jib will allow you to place the camera anywhere in the room very quickly and lock it off for a non moving shot with much convenience.
Here is a quick teaser to SUBCULTURE, hope you get to see the finished film at a film festival near you.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!