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View Full Version : Battlestar Galactica Camera Zoom Technique



Nigel Baker
02-21-2014, 03:53 AM
Hi All,

I was sure that there was some examples or discussions on the camera zoom technique used in BSG, (where the camera spots a viper far off in the distance and then zooms into it and tracks it).
Can someone point me to any tutorials or examples for this please.
Thank you.

Regards,
Nigel

djwaterman
02-21-2014, 05:14 AM
Zoom the camera, use an envelope in the camera's 'Lens Focal Length'. If necessary use a target null for the camera if you have difficulty keeping the subject in shot.

Nigel Baker
02-21-2014, 05:23 AM
Hello DJ,

Thanks for the reply, yes I am doing that but am also looking for some additional top-tips ;-) to help hone my LW camera work and to try to get it up to BSG quality.


Regards,
Nigel

m.d.
02-21-2014, 05:45 AM
alot of those early zooms were to hide issue at edge of frame as i understand it...
later turned into a style....

Kat is the man to ask about this as he was on the BSG team....but really this is more of a cinematography issue...your just looking at emulating a style. A handheld live style...

As a professional cameraman myself...I could tell you to add some randomness into your moves...dont have the final zoom keyframe and the pan/rotate keyframes in exactly the same place

Usually in a live situation a camerman will snap zoom...then make a framing adjustment...in that order. They will rarely happen at the exact same time (even though we try)

Also to emulate handheld....pitch and bank moves are more twitchy/random then heading. To move heading the cameraman has to turn his body...pitch and bank will jitter around lots....mostly pitch...as they are just small adjustments even from breathing.

I would use a null as a target and put a bit of noise on the nulls position. Mostly on Y channel....less on X.

It's funny emulating things that I spend 10's of thousands of dollars on equipment to make sure doesn't happen...the real world likes things nice and smooth...for the most part.

raw-m
02-21-2014, 10:56 AM
A nice little tip which may (or may not!) help - while the timeline is playing, if you rotate of move the camera (or any other item) the movement will be automatically recorded. Could be useful but I find it difficult to control.

TalleyJC
02-21-2014, 02:03 PM
I'm sending up the kat signal now... stand by

djlithium
02-21-2014, 02:14 PM
I have covered this technique in the past in videos and written tutorials (now lost to time).
The use of a target null is something I generally discourage honestly. Snap zooms work best with shots of moving subjects traveling sideways in frame or towards camera. Although there are instances where you want to reverse that concept. Snap backs (reverse of a snap zoom). The idea behind it in the show was not just to give you the hand held look but also to "reveal" things in the shot, motivated by storyline. If you want kungfu movies from the 60s and 70s especially bruce lee movies, they do this weird zoom in and out kind of thing at crucial points. The purpose was to get the audience to "focus" on something important as a shot would then transition by a cut to the next shot in a flow that locks the audience into what is going on.

The handheld part can be easily overdone. I cover something called "soft stops" in one of my Practical Production Techniques Videos (I think volume 3) which details how to use the graph editor to give you nice motions without hard knocks that look artificial. I also recommend doing this by hand and again stay away from the target null technique. It can be incredibly limiting and you can encounter all kinds of problems in a shot. All of the hand held camera work on BSG was done using just key frames by hand. No tracking of footage and then pasting it in as a camera motion or any dumb **** like that was done. Noisy Channel modifiers can be used but I find they look artificial and also difficult to control. Use of those is best for when you need to rattle the camera at its origin and not a target null.

If you insist on using a target null, you can parent it to the subject and then offset it as much as you want for appropriate framing and then move it slightly around, but again if you try this on a very long lens you will find its a pain in the *** to get right, more so than by hand.

djlithium
02-21-2014, 02:19 PM
Usually in a live situation a camerman will snap zoom...then make a framing adjustment...in that order. They will rarely happen at the exact same time (even though we try)

That's good advice M.D., something also to consider is "focus" to be animated as well so when you zoom in the focus is out of wack normally on a camera if manually controlled for a fast action like that and one would adjust focus in the process after the framing is done.

spherical
02-21-2014, 02:49 PM
The handheld look is fine, as long as it isn't overdone. Pointing jitter, when done for effect, usually is far too exaggerated. Yeah, we get it, handheld. Small moves communicate this just as much, if not better. It is when you notice, consciously, that it is happening that it becomes a problem and is difficult to watch. I've watched whole productions be ruined because of this, "we have to keep their attention span up" thing.

m.d.
02-21-2014, 04:26 PM
That's good advice M.D., something also to consider is "focus" to be animated as well so when you zoom in the focus is out of wack normally on a camera if manually controlled for a fast action like that and one would adjust focus in the process after the framing is done.

absolutely....and almost always overshoot and then return to correct focus