April 9, 2013

What Would Stanley Kubrick Think About the MōVi?

Reading through the comments on our post about the innovative new camera stabilizer MōVi, I was reminded of something I saw recently at LACMA's amazing Stanley Kubrick exhibit. It is a 1976 letter from producer Jan Harlan to Kubrick himself, in which Harlan talks about a new device he'd just discovered: the Steadicam.

If that's hard to read, here's the transcript (with spelling corrections, emphasis mine):

10. Feb. 76

ED DI GUILIO CAMERA BRACKET

Dear Stanley,

I saw this new contraption for hand-held shots in action. It's just terrific. Enclosed is a photograph of one of the prototypes. The whole secret is a perfect balance of the camera and the arm AND a spring-loaded tension arm which separates the body movement from the camera to an astonishing degree. The operator can run and the camera moves through the air as if held on a string from above. I saw a roll of film this morning shot by Haskel where the operator sits on a crane -- the crane comes down the the ground, the operator gets off the seat and walks away, no cut. Not only will this thing save a lot of money and time by avoiding tracks, but you could do shots and think of shots which would not enter your mind otherwise. You see, I am sold on that thing, although it costs $30,000. Ed will be in London on Feb 25 for 4 hours and I told him to send you that roll of film which I saw. I promised him that you will send it back to him within a few days. He will just arrange with someone that the roll is delivered to you.

Ed will be in Copenhagen in 2 weeks and I have asked him to see Mr. Jakobsen and find out for himself what is happening. I assume that Jakobsen has not contacted you in the meantime.

best Jan

Exactly. "I am sold on it, although it costs ____." He was sold on it for creative reasons. Many commenters took issue with the pricetag of the MōVi, as if it were meant for personal ownership. But this is not something one buys to stash in a closet -- it is a rental item. As I wrote in a comment: "What is important is A) does it allow you to get shots that serve your production that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise? B) does it allow you to get shots more quickly/cheaply than you would otherwise? and C) what does it rent for a day?" The Steadicam was expensive -- $30,000 in 1976 is $120,000 today, accounting for inflation -- but many of the most iconic shots in Kubrick's first film using the Steadicam, The Shining, were only possible because of the technological innovation of the device. A snippet, because why not:

Kubrick heard about this wonderful invention, found ways to use it to better tell his story, and rented one (which happened to come with the inventor himself, Garrett Brown, as operator). The second I saw the MōVi I knew that I wanted to use it for many of the basketball scenes in MANCHILD, and yet I have no intention of buying one or even thinking about the price tag, other than considering how it impacts the cost to rent -- and even that has more to do with the dayrate of multiple skilled operators than it does with the price tag on the device itself.

Kubrick would do the same thing with the MōVi as he did with the Steadicam, and that is to concern himself with telling a great story. And if you think "Kubrick wouldn't have to worry about the price, he's Stanley Kubrick (and not alive)" that may be true, but keep in mind that the MōVi is eight times cheaper than the 1976 Steadicam was in today's dollars.

[image via Letters of Note, from The Stanley Kubrick Archives]

Your Comment

58 Comments

If something appreciates in value...buy it. If something depreciates in value...rent it.

April 9, 2013 at 12:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

WAKA TAKIN BOUT BRIn??? U be takin no tinc an motafuk reesun wtf... no reNt

April 9, 2013 at 1:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jenna Jameson

Some Clozapine and a few trips to the psychiatrist.

April 9, 2013 at 1:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Best comment I have read on this site in ages.

April 10, 2013 at 12:11AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Phil Jagger

taNkz

April 12, 2013 at 1:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jenna Jameson

I think it all comes down to dollars and sense.
MOVI is a great piece of kit, but the price point is high for the weight it fly's, $15K for 10lbs which limits the size of cameras it can take.
Steadican Zephyr V is $9.5K and fly's about 23lbs giving it broader appeal in the size/types of cameras it takes Both do similar jobs, it's all about bang for the buck and production needs
MOVI will mostly find a home in the rental market at that price. Steadicam will continue to be a mainly owner/operator kit. Both will play happily together

April 9, 2013 at 11:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Geoffrey Brown

I was ASTONISHED by a thread I saw on Facebook from a steadicam operator that I have worked with and who is a friend. He was mentioning "the laws of physics" as if he was Scotty on board the Enterprise. The rest of the comments from his steadicam buddies were equally as negative. They sounded like a bunch of old men lamenting the demise of the VCR! Rather than critiquing and accepting an exciting new product, they were deriding it in an attempt, I can only assume, to protect their own profession. Luckily we have forward thinking people in this profession or we would still be shooting on film stock.....

April 9, 2013 at 12:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Richard Aughpin

The "classic" film stock lovers arrive in 3...2....1

April 9, 2013 at 12:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

Yep. Forward moving people. Going from a possible 50 megapixel image (imax film) to an 8 megapixel (4k) digital one is really progress. Not to mention it's ugly. Great thinking there.

April 9, 2013 at 1:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Robert Shue

Yeah, because everyone who is shooting 4K now would absolutely have shot on IMAX otherwise...
...What?
IMAX is still out there for those who really want to use it and can afford its incredible expense. So too is regular 35 film, even if it has become less common. You can look at the advent of 4K+ and digital cinema as ruining the images of professionals able to choose whatever they want to shoot with, or you can see it as enabling many more to produce content in unique, experimental, and economical ways.
I prefer the optimistic outlook.

April 10, 2013 at 4:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Blah

Richard, the problem with practical long term use of the Movi as a creative tool is that ergonomically it doesn't make sense. Humans are not robots or helicopters, the Movi is based on flying nose mounts. Handling the Movi will lead to serious back and shoulder problems. Think about holding 10Lbs in front of you by just your arms for even 10 minutes.

April 9, 2013 at 1:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

Yes, this is exactly what I see as well.
I love the potential of the MoVI for shots like we were shown in the "MoVI" short, but the Steadicam will always have a place in productions under the right circumstances. The MoVI seems ideal for shorter, more complex shots, and the Steadicam for longer, more conventional ones.

April 10, 2013 at 4:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Blah

I agree, Scott! My last station I worked at sent a couple of us to "Stedicam school", I leaned a lot, and I had to practice a LOT in order to get footage that was usable. This product, The Movi, is a game changer. And as far as the "old timers" who are whining, well I am 40 and getting there and think it is fantastic. Anything that advances our craft and gives the DP more options is a great thing. 15 grand is steep, but I will be renting this on my next music video for sure.

April 9, 2013 at 2:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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pacifcbeachca

Just like when DV arrived and the Die Hard Beta SPCameramen felt threatened.
Now, ANYONE can film almost Broadcast Quality.

April 9, 2013 at 4:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tulio

What the MōVi says to everyone in the DSLR community is "here's a rig that allows for creativity." That's why all the excitement. There are already plenty of stabilization options. This is omething designed for how we shoot Right Now. Surely that excitement is worth a one day or one week rental.

April 9, 2013 at 12:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Bravo, Mr. Koo.

April 9, 2013 at 12:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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chris

I am so excited for the MOVI to come out - I've had several shorts that I've wanted to film, but felt that a steadicam might be limiting. This opens up a range of new possibilities, and as I've seen quoted on NFS before, "Your only limit now is your creativity."

Side note: I had the chance to check out the Kubrick exhibit while it was in Amsterdam, and it looks like it's out in LA now until June. Definitely recommend it!

April 9, 2013 at 12:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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The marketing/hype machine is why people responded negatively.

April 9, 2013 at 12:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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+1
that 5DmkII comparison wasn't necessary.

April 9, 2013 at 2:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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hansd

Yup, it's a good product that they are obviously trying to overcharge for so they had to hype it up as much as possible.

They're are just two types of people in the world, those that blindly leap first and those that wait to see what happens. Us skeptical types see that but if you're the type that sees something good and ok with paying anything for it just to be first then more power to you; they always need people like that to take advantage of before they can bring out the "real" product for the smarter consumers :)

But why are we still talking about this supposed "game changer", didn't you hear Black Magic's news?

April 9, 2013 at 6:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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P337

Well. What would Harlan and Kubrick know about making films and film gear?

There's plenty of people on the Internet who knows this product isn't good without even using it.

April 9, 2013 at 12:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Eh. If it was less than 500 dollars I'd be interested.

April 9, 2013 at 1:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jesse Mccartney

Stop trying to make us like the Movi.

April 9, 2013 at 1:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Will Thomas

I for one think its really cool and would LOVE to have one to use as my go to rig for everything (why set up rails and cranes and tripods, do everything handheld but smooth! The problem is the price is way outside of Indie budgets, everyone keeps saying Rent Rent Rent, but the fact is some of us dont have the luxury of living in the United States or Europe where you can just go pick up whatever cool new cinema device you want for a few days. I work around South America doing video productions on a shoestring (working with people in poverty to tell their stories), I cant carry a crane or slider with me, I can barely carry all the camera gear. I am so excited about the new Black Magic Pocket Camera specifically for that reason. If this was in the sub $5,000 range I would buy one in a heartbeat, suddenly I could use trucks, skateboards, ropes, pvc pipes and all sorts of cheap and weird stuff to get interesting shots on the go. I really hope they take a page from Black Magic's book and price a smaller version at a cutthroat rate so they sell millions of them for a thousand dollars instead of hundreds of them at an inaccessible price. Maybe they cost a ton to make, I dont know, but I can dream. Maybe I will win the twitter competition...

April 9, 2013 at 1:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dovahkiin

that vincent laforeplay dude only wants to sell that thing so bad cuz the man has money on it. it's a cool product but its no "GAME CHANGING, REVOLUTIONARY, MIRACLE PRODUCT" that he makes it out to be hahaha funny dude

April 9, 2013 at 1:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jalapenis

In a way, it actually is. Sure it isn't super innovative, it's only a gyro on a steadicam after all. But they are the first ones to think of it and market it as a product. Often times the most "revolutionary" products are also the most obvious.

There will be knock offs and cheaper versions coming from other companies. Then everyone on here will be able to afford one and guess who will have made that possible? That's right, that Vincent Laforeplay dude and the Movi.

April 9, 2013 at 1:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Vincent will be responsible for bringing the idea to the limelight, but the idea has been around.

Like the Zenmuse Z15: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6TWct7VqCY

April 9, 2013 at 7:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Can't wait to see the diy version ;)

April 9, 2013 at 1:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mitch

I've been wondering why nobody has created a shock absorbing mount that attaches from above. Well, apparently I'm not the only one who has thought of this. Safe to say my DIY idea probably won't make me a million bucks and I don't have the retainer for a patent lawyer anyway. They have those surgical rubber bungie like cords at Home Depot, Lowe's, etc..... or you can go to a sporting good store that sells them in the Pilates section. With those, you can select different thresholds of resistance. The trick is to have a camera mount in a sling with enough weight on the bottom to slow the response down substantially. Will it handle the jerkiness like the Movi? Hell no. However, I see un stabilized camera jerkiness even in big hollywood productions like Black Swan. Will it smooth out handheld work enough to delete motion sickness. Hell yes. The thing to remember is, we now have products that liberate us away from Hollywood. Light compact cameras that work well enough in low light to be projected on the big screen. That's all we ever needed. Now back to work.

April 9, 2013 at 1:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Matt Stivers

Thanks for the post Ryan.

April 9, 2013 at 1:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

DUDE I CAN'T WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON ONE OF THESE. THAT SHINING SHOT WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY SO FRIKIN EASY WITH THE MOVI. MOVIE ASIDE SILLY STEADICAM "OPERATORS". YOUR TIME IS UP AND OVER BITCHESS

April 9, 2013 at 1:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Classic.

April 9, 2013 at 1:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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ryan koo likes little kids. just kidding. awesome post.

April 9, 2013 at 1:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Homer Simpson

good post

April 9, 2013 at 2:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Peter Kelly

In my opinion the more expensive the better. If everybody has a muvi we'll all be out of a job

April 9, 2013 at 2:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jason Clairy

Creativity and skill should be the limiting factors, not bank account.

April 9, 2013 at 6:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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P337

"Many commenters took issue with the pricetag of the MōVi..."

and they did JUST BECAUSE laforet called it a "game-changer like the 5DmkII was".
I think that's the only reason why there has been this discussions. He maybe shouldn't have used that comparison.

April 9, 2013 at 2:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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hansd

Agree!

April 9, 2013 at 3:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kyle

No question it's cool, but can we really call a rig that costs more than 7x what a camera capable of shooting RAW will cost a 'game changer'? I'd love one, but the price is off by a factor of 10.

I will concede that if it were any cheaper, we'd be saying goodbye to any static tripod shots you'd see on YouTube for a good 3 years or so!

April 9, 2013 at 2:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Scott

Did you read the article?

April 9, 2013 at 2:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kenneth Merrill

Clearly, no.

April 9, 2013 at 2:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

The whole idea of the article reminded me a scene from south park: "What Would Brian Boitano Do?". In other words, I think it is a cheap trick to correlate Kubrick with MōVi. I agree, it is a nice tool but come one guys !!!

April 9, 2013 at 3:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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alex sanroman

Man, I just do not get the constant stream of negativity in this "demographic". I get fed up with it increasingly easily.

FWIW: Nice article, really interesting new piece of kit with some really interesting potential uses. I've said it before, but I always enjoy reading NFS, often find the articles useful, and don't have a fit when I disagree with one. So, thanks Koo and everyone else, just in case you're ever feeling unloved!

April 9, 2013 at 3:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Luke

Thanks Luke!

April 9, 2013 at 8:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Yup. I don't get this constant negativity too. I'm a negative person by trade (born in Finland so it's in the genes) and I think the Movi and several other stabilizing systems are great. So someone called it a game changer? Maybe it is. Have you actually used it?

April 11, 2013 at 3:08AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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mikko löppönen

I wonder what would happen (and if it's possible) if one would use the heavy version with an easyrig... would love to see the f55 on the heavy duty version

April 9, 2013 at 4:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Didier

The only shots it can get you that a steadicam or other similar options can't (granted you might need some digital stabilization) are handoff shots where you pass the camera among multiple operators. That is the one thing this type of rig gives you, and then to see the benefit you'd need to do it in a dialogue scene where you need sync sound.

Other than that, I can't think of a shot I couldn't get otherwise. Well there's one thing but I'm not going to write about it and give people ideas.

Cool tool; maybe I'll rent one for some camera tests, but I'm not going crazy over it the way everyone else is. It's an octocopter, without the helicopter....

April 9, 2013 at 4:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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MD

Funny thing is, it probably wouldn't change the way Kubrick shot very much. He had a particularly formal approach to camera movement. I think he'd look at MoVI as maybe a more efficient tool to use in place of the Stedicam for certain shots. But I don't think we'd be seeing him whizzing the camera all over the place or anything.

April 9, 2013 at 5:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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MutinyCo

"But I don’t think we’d be seeing him whizzing the camera all over the place or anything."

that´strue. his last movie is a proof of his belief in elegant camera movements and wide lenses... and since he was a huge fan of Max Ophüls, probably would never make such kind of erratic move with his camera.

April 9, 2013 at 5:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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guto novo

While I think it's great that this allows you to do a couple different looking running shots, I'm surprised at the huge buzz on this item. About the same price as a steadycam rig. You are still going to need an operator and practice means skill, so you're going to hire a pro. Cameras on skateboards and rollerblades is hardly new. What am I missing?

April 9, 2013 at 5:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kevin

With time DIY tutorials and not so expensive versions of this new toy will hit the interwebs, so it may please everyone in a not so far future...
http://youtu.be/-6xY6DfD8Kw

http://youtu.be/l62wq4hEKEk

April 9, 2013 at 5:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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guto novo

Well I'm sold on the MoVi. I do commercial ad production and I negotiate a fair price for my services so over the course of a few months it shouldn't be hard to justify a 15k purchase. I know that is not the case for everyone who reads this blog but for our company and our shooting style I think it makes perfect sense.

April 9, 2013 at 6:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Why is this still being defend and debated?

Is it because everyone wants to be part of history by being an early adopter(especially bloggers)? Because no one wants to be thought of as being left behind or holding on to old ideas (like the film guys were)? And they want to be able to say "I was one of the first!" which really means nothing in the long run. Can't you see this for what it is and what's really going on here?

WE ARE NOT SAYING THIS IS A BAD TECHNOLOGY THAT DOESN'T WORK

This is simply an improvement to make it easier to acquire a certain type of shot (the stabilized shot) it does not change the fundamentals or looks of that shot, nor is it a new kind of shot, and it is not more practical to use than any other stabilization gear; all this does it makes it easier to preform the shot.

Yes this TECHNOLOGY is the future but this product is a rushed out, "first to market", re-purposed gimmick. This technology has been advancing rapidly and professional stabilizers like this are on the way but this product is just trying to jump in ahead of the game with a bloated price tag to grab as much money as they can from this segment of consumers before the real ones start hitting the shelves. In six to twelve months we'll be looking back at the MoVI the same way we would look back at that IGUS slider compared to the new RedRockMicro "one man band" slider.

April 9, 2013 at 7:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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P337

"it does not change the fundamentals or looks of that shot, nor is it a new kind of shot, and it is not more practical to use than any other stabilization gear; all this does it makes it easier to preform the shot. "

agree!
cinema, after 100yrs. has developed a solid language. Like literature. The fundamentals, the basis are solid. There is no more space for structural "revolutions" in literature, I guess William Burroughs has made the last one with his cutup techiniques, anything later is just a copy of old mavericks from the letters, so now literature is free to make it´s main goal: to tell stories, to make people imagine, to make people dream and to think, with a pletora of tools developed over centuries (since the advent of press -that accelerate the experimentations with language).

Cinema probably has reach the same state with the use of language, structure and so on, after a little more of 100yrs. of filmmaking and experimentations. And maybe ´cause of that those who still follow the idea that to be a maverick, to be bold you need to be "revolutionary", these folks go around falling in love for every new tool in the game as the last resource, since the language, the most important part, probably is well stablished by now. Also cinema is a son of technology, sure, but as a language (that happens to be a technology too), with a particular grammar, it has boundaries and limits... and to accept it may be the most 'revolutionary' act, since by accepting limits we can be more creative with what we have in hand, and also to make the main goal better: to tell stories and create narrative and emotional arcs (as in music).

So, this tool is revolutionary from a narrative point of view? It may allow to complicate camera movements, or to make with less money some moves with the camera that before would cost a lot of money, but it add nothing to the language and structures that makes movies what it is, but I guess that is because the language is well established after a little more than 100yrs. of experimentation with it.

but a cool toy anyway.

April 10, 2013 at 2:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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guto novo

The movi is the most over-marketed, overhyped device of all time. What "game" does it "change"?

April 10, 2013 at 1:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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john jeffreys

What's funny about the LACMA exhibit is the case full of Kubrick's lenses - at least two of the lenses are misidentified. I've owned both in the past. The only one I remember is the big 500mm lens (Or was it 600mm? Old guys can't remember well.) that was labeled as a 90mm Makro-Kilar. I wrote to the museum about the error, including proof of the proper identification and haven't heard back. I don't know if they made the change. I also wrote to the Kubrick people on Facebook and heard back a couple of weeks ago after a long delay. I don't know if they initiated a correction.

Anyway, slightly off topic, sorry.

April 17, 2013 at 12:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kubrick actually owned a lot of gear himself. He then rented it to his productions.

April 17, 2013 at 10:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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That is pretty standard. steadicam operators will buy their steadicam, then get paid a day rate to work, and rent their own steadicam to the production. It happens a lot with DP's and lenses as well.

April 18, 2013 at 3:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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