Last week, we took a look at some technocrane basics. But did you know technocranes can actually save time and money on set? Bonus: a look at a few quintessential technocrane moves.
To recap, the technocrane is an extremely versatile - and extremely large - piece of camera movement machinery. Like all cranes and jibs, the technocrane has the ability to boom up and down, swing left and right, pan and tilt (with a remote head), and slide back and forth given that it is placed on a dolly track. What sets the technocrane apart from ordinary cranes and jibs, however, is the telescoping arm, which offers anywhere between 15 and 100 feet of additional z-axis movement beyond what is provided by the dolly track.
The number and specific nomenclature of crew members required to operate a technocrane vary depending on the size and budget of the production. Dolly movement is controlled by the dolly grip. The swinging and booming of the crane is handled by the technocrane grip, or "crane grip" for short. The telescoping arm can be controlled by any number of crew positions on lower budget films, including the crane grip, but that role is usually handled by the technocrane operator, who is sometimes also called the "pickle operator." Lastly, the remote head can either be operated by a dedicated remote head operator, but it often falls into the hands of the camera operator or DP.
With the basics out of the way, here's LA-based cinematographer and pre-vis artist Matt Workman once again to explain how technocranes can actually save time and mone, and to demonstrate a few technocrane moves.
One of the biggest misconceptions about technocranes is that they're almost always an additional and unnecessary expense for a production, and that they're really just a fun toy for productions with large budgets. However, despite the up-front cost of technocrane rental and the cost of labor to operate the machine correctly, once it's all set up and ready to shoot, it's usually far quicker and more efficient than any other method of moving the camera around. Because of its extreme versatility, the technocrane is often the only camera movement tool needed to acquire all of the shots on any given location, even for extremely simple camera movements and static shots. Add to that the fact that the technocrane allows for everything between tiny adjustments to the frame to full-on improvisation, and it's no wonder why it's such a ubiquitous tool in filmmaking.
Here's the final video in Workman's technocrane series in which he demonstrates a more complex move, a Hollywood-style establishing shot that utilizes all of the possible axes of motion that the technocrane offers.
Ultimately, the technocrane is an incredibly versatile tool that you're very likely going to encounter if you spend time on professional sets. For that reason, it's important for up and coming filmmakers to understand the basic terminology, capabilities, and limitations of the technocrane even if it's not something that you will use on a regular basis in your own work.
Last, but not least, Matt will be producing more tutorials of this nature in the future, and he's wondering what you guys would like to see next, whether it be a series on operating gimbals such as the MōVi or the ins and outs of using high end dolly systems like the Fisher 10. So let us know down in the comments what you would like to learn about next!