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Stairs and the demanding Director/ DP


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Thank you one and all for your essential insight and kind words of support. I posted my particular question because it had been on my mind - the whole stair and hardest shot possible concept - for a while, and I knew that you would all approach the question with respect and wonderful professional insight. In spite of the problems that exist on this sight, time and again it has proved to be an invaluable resource. One that has helped me save a ton of money, learn about new products, and share concepts and creative ideas with peers that I honor and respect.

I survived the 8 week madcap ordeal with the brilliant but...... goofy Russell Carpenter, relatively unscathed. Wrap was last night and with the hugs and kisses behind, soon its off to the more secure confines of Rescue Me.

But first a few moments to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday.

Rest well.


Ps Dailys were great and they loved the way the stair scene was shot.

Thanks again.

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Always tough, stairs are. I personally found the transition moments to be the worst. You can dial in your angles for the actual staircases, and get yourself into a decent rhythm but hitting the landing ahead of an actor when you are going full bore is brutal.


I always worried about the "bottoming out" stuff, and how to finesse the headroom while still running. And of course, how not to crash out. I am a huge advocate of doing Don Juan with one hand on the railing, I feel safer and therefore happier churning along fast. To be fair, I haven't had to do narrow stairs running. The staircase stuff I had to do that was fast was pretty wide work, with a spotter running ahead of me.


You did do the right thing, you presented your concerns early on and offered/requested alternatives to be considered so that the powers that be could think ahead and perhaps go with your suggestions. Cannot ask for a better approach. It sounds like you protected yourself and gave them clean good coverage.


This business of working down stairs in Don Juan. I happen to adore Don Juan, and use it frequently. After a lot of unnerving shots, I finally came up with a reasonable method of having someone spot me as I DJ'd my way on stairs.


They move ahead of me, a few steps down. That way I don't worry about tripping on them. They have a hand on the railing for THEIR safety- and their other hand is up in the air, an inch from the hinge on my arm. In this manner, they are able to do two important things as we both move down the stairs:


1. They are holding on, and therefore safe.

2. They are in a position to shove violently inwards against the hinge. See, if you have a spotter shove against the portion of the hinge that hits the lower section of the arm ( that section that attaches to your vest ), the mechanics of all arms dictate that the arm section will shove into your lower torso- just near your personal c.g. You will be shoved backwards- into a sitting position on the staircase. The rig's forward momentum ( which is considerable ) has been slowed by the spotter having shoved the arm backwards. The upper arm section and sled may move forward for a few seconds, but a spotter who is on their game will have shoved you backwards onto your bum, AND reached with their other hand to shove the sled at you as well.


The alternative to what may sound like a lot of ungainly shoving is a serious accident. No spotter moving down stairs ahead of you can save you by grabbing the gear- they are more likely going to down the stairs along WITH you.


I've shown this technique to folks at Workshops and have had spotters shove me down onto the stairs. Works like a charm. It is of equal importance that your spotter does not give one rat's ass what kind of an operator you are or how lovely your shots are. Their whole world needs to be whether or not you are pitching over, moment to moment. Dicey stuff, but I've ( almost ) always had someone spotting me on the steps.


Stairs == kneepads too, lest we forge the basics.


Peter Abraham

New York

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Good tip, Peter, thanks.


suggest a place to get some good keepads... sporting goods store?


Salomon makes great in-line skating kneepads that are better designed than the usual ones. They are less clunky and restrictive, and you really can forget that you are wearing them.


They make different protection levels too. here's a review of one set: http://inlineplanet.com/Articles/areviewofsalomon.html


Fly safe!



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