Technocranes 101: What Is a Technocrane, & How Is It Operated?

Technocrane Modeled in Maya
Credit: Matt Workman
Of the many camera movement technologies on the market today, the technocrane is easily one of the most versatile and powerful.

Throughout the history of cinema, the technocrane has been the foundation of some of the most stunning long takes and complex camera moves ever captured on film. The 8-minute opening scene from Robert Altman's satirical thriller The Player is perhaps one of the finest examples of what the technocrane can accomplish, although a quick YouTube search will yield countless others.

Here's an awesome BTS example of the Panavision Supertechno 100 being used on the set of "The Borgias."

Video is no longer available:

Unfortunately for low budget filmmakers, the technocrane is also among the most expensive camera movement technologies, both in terms of the sheer cost of the equipment and the cost of the multiple specialized crew members needed to operate that equipment. With that said, the technocrane is ubiquitous in high-end filmmaking applications, as it's used in everything from features to commercials. For that reason, having a base knowledge of how the technology works and what the on-set protocol is for operating a technocrane can be extremely valuable information for someone looking to break into the industry.

Luckily, our friend Matt Workman, who DP'd the awesome Rube Goldberg machine commercial that we featured a little while back, put together a one-of-a-kind set of tutorials aimed at teaching the basics of technocrane.

First up, let's take a look at the what exactly a technocrane is, and the terminology used to describe its various components and the moves that it can create.

Video is no longer available:

Now that you know the basic terminology, you're probably wondering what the on-set protocol for operating a technocrane is. Which crew positions are responsible for controlling the various functions of the crane? Do those positions change depending on the budget of the production? Here's the second part of the series in which Matt answers those questions and then some.

Video is no longer available:

In the next part of this series, we'll take a look at some reasons why the technocrane is sometimes the best movement option for a given shoot, as well as some awesome examples of the types of shots that can be pulled off with a technocrane.     

Your Comment


In other news, No Film School has announced it is now changing its name to "Cinematography Porn".


October 25, 2014 at 7:31PM

Manning Bartlett
Children's Television producer

One word............"DRONE"!

October 26, 2014 at 4:16AM, Edited October 26, 4:16AM

Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker

Drones are nowhere near as precise as technocranes. They're two entirely different tools that serve different purposes.

October 26, 2014 at 8:09AM

Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom

Nice intro article.

The control cables link up to a panel we refer to as "the desk" which typically has a 17" monitor, pan/tilt/roll and other controls depending on the setup.

The movement of a TC is much more controlled than a drone will ever be. That being said, they weigh 1/2 ton or more and can really hurt someone if not handled by trained personnel.

October 26, 2014 at 5:19PM, Edited October 26, 5:19PM

Jeremy Parsons
1st Assistant Camera / Photographer