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Larry McConkey

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Larry McConkey last won the day on April 29

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  1. Larry McConkey


    Heden Website lists the M21VE at 150g
  2. Larry McConkey

    Technique of operating without footsteps

    I am with Andrew Ansnick on this one - do exactly as he says and you can make the Steadicam look as smooth and stable as a dolly, regardless of the equipment. Do anything else and I don't believe it is possible when moving very slowly and there is nothing to distract from the move (like following or preceding an actor, especially if they fill a good portion of the frame. It can't be done without the hard work he detailed so carefully - there are no shortcuts. If you are making faster moves, the arm (whatever the type) and the inertia of the sled will do most of the work. I have spent many hours doing what Andrew described, and I only did that difficult training because it is sometimes necessary, and nothing else in my experience will make the Steadicam move through space without any noticeable deviations in direction, height and/or speed. It becomes a question of "what is good enough" like so many things...
  3. Larry McConkey

    Pro Atlas/Titan vs. G-50X/G70x

    I posted on the G50/G70 - G50X/G70X forum about my experiences to date with several arms if anyone would like to read that. I tried to be as objective as I could. Hoping to test a G70X soon and I will report on that as well...
  4. Larry McConkey

    G50 / G70 / G50X / G70X Maintenance

    I have used Cinema Product’s arms and now Tiffen’s arms for many, many years but I have tested PRO arms very carefully as well from time to time. I have a G70 and have not tried the new X design, but I would like to soon. Filming “Hugo” required me to carry two full size Alexas on a newly designed PACE 3D rig. I hope no one else will have to carry such a heavy package – it was considerably heavier than the IMAX packages I have flown over the years. <BTW: I began eager discussions of a two part ‘M’ version with Neil Fanthom, the lead Arri technician on “Hugo”, even as he coordinated the last modifications to these first factory release full size cameras. I finally used one of the ‘M’ prototypes during the last few weeks of “World War Z” and it was extraordinary: the same quality image with a fraction of the weight and size on my sled, most of the weight being carried by my hardworking grip on a backpack and connected only by a thin, very flexible fiber optic cable. The latest PACE 3D rigs now use the ‘M’.> The Tiffen G70 lifted this incredibly heavy load quite easily after adjusting the allen bolts at the end of the arm links to increase its top end lifting capacity. This weight was clearly more than the arm had been designed to handle, however, and it caused enough lateral twisting of the arm that the gimble handle had a strong tendency to “run downhill”, that is, the arm post was no longer vertical and the handle did not like to stay in the position I wanted it in. I had modified my arm to increase the friction when necessary to offset this precession, which occurs to a much lesser degree with more normal loads (the same thing happens with PRO arms especially with the lower friction design they use but to a slightly lesser extent) but the amount of twist was alarming and the boom response of the arm was not as linear as it normally is – it felt quite “springy”, more like the first CP arms than this much higher tech Tiffen version. I got in touch with Chris Edwards at Optical Support, the Steadicam dealer in London and arranged to test one of their PRO arms with the heaviest set of springs they could find in their inventory. I cranked them both to the top setting and it just handled the load. The overall reach of the arm was less, however, and did not work as well as my longer G70 with my Klassen back mounted harness. I have used a solid socket block that I designed, which does not include the spring loaded hinge design that all stock arms have, as I have found this hinge causes a loss of precision in controlling the sled when using a back mounted harness. Chris and I came up with a design for a long, rigid socket block design which he then fabricated and the Production rented this arm for the run of the show. I never adjusted the springs for the movie, even when changing lenses, as I never had too much lift with the lighter lenses, only slightly less than I would have preferred with the heavier lenses, but the linearity of the arm made it a very small issue. I found the PRO arm to be beautifully smooth and linear in response and I really liked using it. I still had some twist in this arm which I had to counter with a custom friction lock on the post mount, but it was a lot less alarming. After “Hugo” I went back to the G70 and really liked coming home to it as well. At more normal operating weights, they perform quite similarly. I have the bearing upgrade and that has helped the smoothness noticeably. I am anxious to try the new X model. The main differences I see are between the weights of the arms (the PRO is quite a bit heavier) and the ease of adjustment (the Tiffen arm is a joy to adjust) and of course the difference in cost. Overall the PRO probably requires less maintenance with the enclosed spring cartridges and massive structure but more effort adjusting which can sometimes result in operating a shot with a less than ideal setting, which does bother me some. The PRO is much easier to adjust than my previous CP arms, but I really, really like the easy tweaking of the G70 and have even changed the setting during a shot several times to improve the response. Particularly with the back mounted harness, which uses these arms in an orientation they were not designed for, fine tuning of either arm is more critical (I could never go back to a front mount, however, I would have to find a new career instead, the physical strain on my lower back is dramatically greater with a front mount vest - but I know other operators who can't imagine working with the back mounted harness...) That the significance of “ease of adjusting” is more than a convenience for the operator was made apparent to me on my first shot on “Snake Eyes”. I had worked with Brian DePalma on 5 or 6 films previously and so he was well used to my procedures. I called out “Ready” before the first rehearsal and Brian yelled out “Whoa, whoa, whoa!!” in response. It was rare to hear him talk much at all on set, even more so in a loud voice. “Why aren’t you fiddling?” he demanded. It took me a moment to realize what he was asking about. I was using both the new wireless motorized stage controller and the tool-free arm for the first time on one of his movies. He had learned to incorporate the amount of time required to get my Steadicam “tweaked” perfectly before each take into his calculations for doing a Steadicam shot. I now could make those tweaks as I strolled up to the start line and that had startled him. I never realized before that moment that this might impact more than my own sense of preparation and comfort level. Lesson learned… I am now operating my first TV show, “Nurse Jackie”, as an A/Steadicam Operator, and the pace is higher than on most of the features I have worked on, and the ease of adjustments of the sled and arm are a real advantage here as well. There is little patience on the part of the whole cast and crew for “tweaking” when we have many pages to get through before heading home. I would love to have both arms so I could choose the best tool for each setup, but that is not financially feasible. I think they are both extraordinary instruments, much improved over Garrett’s original design, which was an extraordinary achievement in itself, resulting not from improvements, but from a whole new concept never before imagined. The relatively subtle improvements in that design which these two companies have produced are welcome, especially as the requirements and expectations of increasingly sophisticated operators have increased over the years. I love the diversity of choices now, each new design pushes the development from every manufacturer and we are the beneficiaries.
  5. Larry McConkey

    Dishonorable Productions

    I agree. But again, this wasn't a case of being replaced - they are trying to find an Operator/Steadicam Operator to work the next season fulltime. Apparently the PM doesn't think I would do that if offered it and is more hopeful someone else will - they may have done this completely by accident, it is hard to figure out really what the motive would be otherwise, but what I can't stand is they not being upfront and honest about what happened... it seems more and more productions are run on the belief they can and should do whatever it takes to get the best deal from everybody, especially crew, and try to devalue crew members to just a commodity. At least in this case they are willing to give me two days payment, which is the right thing to do (even though they "never booked" me) - so in the end I am not losing out financially, but I have to wonder if someone else in my place might have... I am really ranting about the overall slide this business seems to be taking towards devaluing people whenever possible and making decisions based on what looks best on a spreadsheet instead of what actually gives the product value. I know this incident doesn't fit perfectly into that description of a declining system, but one component of this decline is the growing disregard for honesty and integrity. The single most troublesome component is the long, long hours without serious additional compensation to help control it, especially with ever later call times during the week which result in crewmembers staggering around inefficiently and sometimes dangerously. It rarely makes sense except on a spreadsheet, and almost never in terms of treating people with care and respect. Quite often I see fairly simple setups becoming long, complicated affairs because everybody is too tired to function well, but that doesn't show up on those spreadsheets! The most telling aspect of this decline has been the consistent advice given to a young friend of mine who has become interested in the business through his relationship with me. I began taking him along to jobs and introduced him to my fellow crewmembers explaining that he was very interested in getting into the business. They have all said the same thing without hesitation or exception: "Don't do it!!" Now that is really sad. Larry
  6. Larry McConkey

    Dishonorable Productions

    Thanks Ron. I don't care about losing the work, only about how it was handled. Thanks for your concern. Larry
  7. Larry McConkey

    Dishonorable Productions

    Thank you Rob, but to be clear about this, the operator replacing me had no knowledge about this whole thing (we have talked about it on the phone) and he also made a trip to be here for the three days. There may have indeed been some miscommunication, but it was convenient miscommunication which has clearly been going on as standard operating procedure - a "fog of war" that allows for maneuvering without having to be upfront about it. At best, a very sloppy way to do business. In addition, clearly my agent has been given contradictory and shifting verions of what has happened. There have also been such striking contradictions that clearly somebody or somebodies are lying - and that is something I can't stand. I understand changing your mind, shifting schedules, making mistakes, having miscommunications, but what I cannot condone is lying about this. I don't mind anything done or said as long as everyone is honest about what they are doing. I want to be able to take people at their word. That should happen no matter what the circumstances. Larry
  8. Larry McConkey

    Dishonorable Productions

    A Heads Up about another in the increasing occurences of dishonorable conduct from production companies. I have been happily doing dayplaying every week or so on Ugly Betty and it has been a great deal of fun. Each time I was booked by the Production Coordinator through my agent and although the call times were often changed at the last minute and I was never informed by Production about the change, and often not about the call time at all, the stellar camera department filled in the details for me and I always got to the right set at the right time. As far as I know, it was a mutual love fest. Several weeks ago, before the Xmas break, I was booked for two and subsequently three days this week on the show. At the end of last week my agent reconfirmed with the Production Coordinator. My parents both suffered unexpected health problems and I rushed up last week to help them with all the details of hospital stays and surgery, along with my brother Jim, but my father returned home and then my mother was released from the hospital yesterday, so I made the trip home today in time to get the equipment ready for the job the next three days - and these details don't really matter, but I spent a great deal of money, more than I would be making on the job, to rush home because I had made the commitment to work on the show. Tonight I called the camera department to get a heads up on the call time for tomorrow and was told that they were informed that another operator was booked for the same three days! The "explanation" was that he was interested in doing the show full time next season and the Production Manager had heard that neither I nor my brother Jim (who had also been dayplaying when I had a conflict) were not. My agent had only expressed both our interests in doing the show, however, and I had never said I was not interested, but this is really beside the point! I was booked for three days and then, without even informing me, the Production Manager decided to book someone else. My agent called the coordinator who had done the booking who confirmed that I had indeed been booked, but then the Production Manager claimed that the coordinator never did the bookings (she had ALWAYS done the bookings), so there really had been some misunderstanding. My problem with this "confusion" is that it is too convenient, obviously not true (did I just happen to show up all those other days without being booked and got paid but was never booked??) but more important, is indicative of a growing attitude to disrespect individuals in this business and regard them as mere chess pieces to be manipulated in the grand game of advancing the studio's interests. There should be honor among individuals in this society. It is the fabric that holds us together. To make it always and only about money and advancement, regardless of what is the right and honorable thing to do is indefensible. Enough of the high-handed rhetoric, but the bottom line is beware of bookings for Ugly Betty... it can become ugly. I was really shocked when my agent informed me that the Production Manager than said she had a couple of days next week and would I be interested???k!!@!!!!! Let us all strive to stick together and keep each informed of what is happening in the industry especially as we enter these turbulent economic times. As a footnote, I just got a call from my agent saying that the Production Manager, who still claims I was never booked, now told her that they will pay me for two days! For work she still claims I was never booked for.....and she didn't understand why my agent was disturbed about what was going on!!! Peace, Larry
  9. Larry McConkey

    IMAX - Wired To Win w/McConkey Operating?

    That was me! That was also the best job I ever had!! I was only needed every few days during the tour and so my wife and I split the rest of the time touring France and checking out the Tour with our all access passes! We became instant and lifelong fans of racing with this experience. Unfortunately, most of the work I did was shots of Tyler Hamilton which were all cut from the film when he was disqualified. A lot of the film had to be reshot back in the US to replace all that coverage of Tyler and that was when Dan stepped in. I haven't seen the film yet but hope to soon. Larry
  10. Larry McConkey

    Rental Agreements

    I just did a job for Sony TV. It was a pilot in Chicago called "The Beast". Production arranged for Fedex to pick up the equipment, and one piece did not show up. Fedex finally declared it missing. I had an insurance certificate with my corporation listed as a loss payee. But Sony said they were not going to reimburse for the loss and I should "go after Fedex". I will continue to fight this, but from now on I will ask for a signed contract , and it will specify door to door as well as replacement value! Larry McConkey
  11. Larry McConkey

    High power video transmitters

    The 2 problems with a delay are: 1) using video for cueing actions including focus pulls and zooms and 2) listening to audio at the same time. You can buy fairly inexpensive audio delay units to match the video delay roughly (the delay will vary with bandwidth availability) but then looking at the actors in realtime will be difficult. Most of the directors I work with like to do both: watch the actors directly while referring to the monitor from time to time as well... were it not for the delay, I would be using a WIFI system of some kind because the signal can be so good! Larry
  12. Larry McConkey

    NEW CanaTrans Video Transmitter

    Lentequip has a new firmware upgrade to the Canatrans which fixes all the things I did not like about it... There is a full review in the Monitor section.. Lary
  13. Larry McConkey

    NEW CanaTrans Video Transmitter

    Lentequip has upgraded their Canatrans video transmitter with new firmware. I sent mine in for the upgrade as soon as I heard about it and my transmitter was shipped back after one day in the shop, making good on Emery?s promise to provide expedient service. The cost is only $100.00 US to upgrade from the older firmware and this includes a new antenna (not available yet, but promised soon) which makes it an exceptional value. New units come with the new firmware and antenna, at the same price as before, about $4000.00 US As good as the original was, Emery Soos has responded to every complaint I had about it. The available frequency range has been dramatically expanded and now covers Channels 20-50 and the output is now carefully adjusted so that all channels transmit with equal power. (With the first version, I found it necessary to range check each channel as some were transmitting with less power than others, so just finding a clear frequency was not enough to ensure maximum distance. Now all channels appear to have the same range as long as the frequency is relatively open.) Emery says the new antenna in development will transmit over the entire new bandwidth more efficiently than the current one (which is biased towards the top end of the band that the older version was restricted to). I found the current antenna very useable with lower frequencies, however, so if you upgrade or buy a new unit before that antenna is available you can still use the old antenna on the new lower frequencies with only a small reduction in range. The menu system is far friendlier now ? Previously I sometimes got confused about which line of the display was the active one, it is now clearly indicated. I also got impatient waiting for the startup message to clear so I could adjust transmit power or frequency or video gain after turning the unit on ? now simply pressing the right button after powering on takes you immediately to the first operating menu. Emery has reorganized the menu structure as well so that the most commonly adjusted features (the three I just mentioned) are right at the top AND all three are displayed in the first menu at all times, so a glance at the unit at anytime will tell you everything you need to know. When I received my upgraded unit (one of the very first to leave the factory) I encountered a problem after about 3 days of use. I shipped it back and Emery immediately shipped me a loaner which I got the next day. Before shipping the loaner, however, he checked the transmitters he had in stock and located the trouble - "a cold solder joint on a BGA (ball grid array) part" which meant a small adjustment in the assembly process eliminated the problem in all the units. Emery told me that each unit is burned in for 24 hours before leaving the factory, but this problem only showed up after several days of use. My repaired transmitter was back in my hands a day later. Little glitches like this are almost unavoidable for a new product, but how they are handled makes all the difference. The only unknown about the Canatrans had been how Lentequip would handle service, because my transmitter never even hiccupped. That question has now been answered and I give highest marks possible to Lentequip. I highly recommend the firmware upgrade, and I really don?t have any more complaints!!! Larry McConkey
  14. Larry McConkey

    Finally a Digital Onboard Recorder that Works!

    I have found several over the last couple of years on Ebay - I listed what I wanted, and waited for an email saying it had been offered by someone. I got a response within a week or two each time. The world could be running out, but I bet there are still quite a few available this way. I needed the PC-5 because of the mods I have made or had made by Seitz specific to this model. I even bought one PAL version for use with cameras with PAL taps. If you aren't in need of that specific model it may open up your search - just be sure it has video in and out. Still waiting for the right digital model. I have looked at an INnova A2D recently which is now offered with a basic remote which is one of my personal requirements (although not all features can be accessed without referring to the front panel) but it is a bit large and heavy to be the perfect onboard. I will do a review of it sometime soon. Larry
  15. Larry McConkey

    All about GYRO's

    I have been using gyros for over 15 years and it is only for special circumstances, but that includes: Crane shots Vehicle shots Long lens exterior shots Exterior with wind They do make noise, so sound recording can be an issue, if not, gyros can be a godsend. You must have a system that you can slap on in a few minutes and dynamic balance is easily achievable. You want maximum good effects and minimum bad effects. That comes down to how you mount them, and more recently, I have discovered, matching them. If you have that, you will use them fairly often. I have tried many different schemes for mounting over the years, but the latest system I am using is the best so far, and it uses only 2 KS-6's for body mounting, and 2 KS-8's for vehicle mounts, although all rules are meant to be broken. The key is to get a matched pair that complement each other, that is, balance each other out.. Recently Kenlab has started making the housing in house and with far greater precision that in the past. This makes an enormous difference, and now I found that it was possible to order a half dozen and test them against each other until finding a pair of each kind that really work well together. The current scheme I am using is mounting them at right angles to each other, and each mounted 45 degrees to the axis pointing forward (the line pointing forward through the lens, of the longitudinal axis). I have come up with a couple of mounting brackets that do this, one for the KS-6's and another for the KS-8s that allow dynamic balance on the Ultra. If there is enought interest, I could see about ordering a batch ofthe units to find pairs that match, and manufactuer brackets for other operators. At the moment I have only designed the brackets for the Ultra, but others could follow if there is interest. Let me know!! Larry