Let out your inner Scorsese with these cinematic grip rig maneuvers…
A popular term that seems to be thrown around quite frequently in film circles (and, you know, in every Facebook movie discussion) is the word cinematic.
Merriam-Webster.com defines “cinematic” as “of, relating to, suggestive of, or suitable for motion pictures or the filming of motion pictures,” whereas Martin Scorsese notably seems to define it as anything but Marvel movies…
But for filmmakers and video professionals, what does the term actually mean these days? To me, I believe that when people say “cinematic,” they simply mean “of high quality,” or perhaps something akin to “what we see in great cinema classics.”
These cinematic elements are more often than not production-related as well, with most of these great cinematic examples having to do with great cinematography.
So, for anyone looking to make their shots or projects more cinematic, one of the best ways is by adding movement. And we're not just talking about simple and easy camera moves like pans or tilts, but more complex and sophisticated moves which require different rigs and setups.
Let’s take a look at these various grip rigs, from tripods to dollies to car mounts and technocranes, and how they can be the secret to unlocking cinematic movement in your films and videos.
The Most Cinematic Grip Rigs
As you can see more in-depth in the video above by In Depth Cine, movement has long been one of the best ways to make a shot or scene more dynamic, exciting, and memorable.
In the earliest of days, a film camera couldn’t even move at all. However, as technology has evolved, simple pans and tilts have given way to more advanced techniques like zooms and dollies.
Filmmakers have since unlocked all types of movements and controls, but as shots and movements become more sophisticated, so does the need for more advanced rigs and setups.
Let’s take a quick look at some of these best grip rigs for adding cinematic movement.
Fluid Head Tripods
The first type of grip rig which the video discusses is a pretty standard one. Fluid head tripods can be found on most professional film and video sets as these have pretty much become the most popular form of tripod in recent years.
As their name implies, these “fluid” head tripods are great for a wide variety of movement types. You can pan or tilt with ease as these tripods are quite responsive and very customizable.
These tripods come with different leg attachments as the video shows, as well as plenty of options for what you can do with the fluid head tripod once you start combining it with other rig types (more on those below).
I like how in the video we get a shoutout for a specific brand and even model as the industry standard. And it’s true, the O’Connor 2575D is one of the best options out there and can be found on most top-end production sets.
Tripods are pretty standard, though, and I’d argue you’re not really looking at “grip rigs” until we move on here to dollies and the like. Simply put, dolly movement will absolutely look cinematic to most audiences.
If you look through cinema history, dolly shots have long been fan and audience favorites as filmmakers have consistently found new and creative ways to utilize the smooth and nearly-limitless movement which dollies provide.
In the video, we get a basic breakdown of what dollies are and how they work. They are indeed quite heavy and cumbersome. And at times laying tracks can be quite laborious both in terms of crew and hours.
However, the results speak for themselves, and if you do have the budget, investing in (or more probably renting) options like the Chapman Leonard Super PeeWee II will help your projects look quite… cinematic.
Taking a major step up from dollies, we can find technocranes. These behemoth contraptions are what you’ll most likely find on major blockbusters and action movie sets.
With a technocrane you truly unlock all-axis movement as nearly any shot type that you can dream of is pretty much possible. However, as the video points out, these things do not come cheap.
To rent a technocrane you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars in rental fees, plus tons of other expenses as you’ll need to rent a truck plus massively crew up to handle all the functions, controls, and safety precautions.
If you are in the market though, the video recommends the SuperTechno 30 which can extend out to 22 feet, unlocking all sorts of cinematic moves and controls.
Finally, the video settles with one of the many car mount options available to filmmakers these days: the hostess tray. I’m not sure why this is last as it pales in comparison to the technocranes, but car mounts are indeed a huge part of grip rig filmmaking.
If you’ve ever watched a student film where the filmmakers didn’t quite figure out how to fit a camera into their car, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
A hostess tray is a great option for pretty much all types of car shots or scenes. It’s also, in terms of how complex rigs go, not too hard to set up and manage.
The hostess tray is unique too in how it mounts both to the underbelly and the side of the car, and when mounted properly it's one of the most secure options out there.
It also has its own unique quirks as it will pick up all the same bumps and vibrations as your car actually will, which can help create authenticity—but at the risk of unevenness.
What do you think, though? Is movement the key to making your projects more cinematic? Or are there any other techniques or grip rigs that you prefer?
Let us know in the comments below!