I’ve been very fortunate to know Makoto Hirano over the years and to see his work grow. When I approached him about doing some tests with the GH1 and the Pegasus II I thought it would be a wonderful way to collaborate and to help him document and explore his newest solo creation “Boom Bap Tourism” which he recently performed at the Asian Arts Initiative. Actually for many years, I’ve seen Makoto perform with his own company of dancers, OMNiBUS, as well as with Bill Irwin, Pig Iron Theatre Company, Nichole Canuso Dance Company, Kate Watson-Wallace, and others. This was the first time in a long while that I saw Makoto perform solo and it is truly an amazing treat to see live and in person and I wanted to investigate and see whether we could capture some of the essence of his live work within a film context.
Years ago, I used to do a lot of physical theater and abstract movement when my body was agile and I was physically fit so it was nice to bring some of those sensibilities with me in this shoot. Joseph Santarromana, a well known California based installation and video artist, once told me that he would tell his students when filming dance to move with the camera and to have that camera be an extension of your body. When filming Makoto, I found myself taking Joe’s advice and really dancing with Makoto and feeling out his emotional journey in each piece. Each time Makoto performed it was different and unique. We never scripted or talked about the shots we just sort of rode the moment. Each take is sort of a living memory of that experience and it will never be performed in that way again and I think that is why I wanted to post the process to show not only the technical use of the Pegasus II and GH1 but also how we as filmmakers must throw out the technical aspects and limitations and just allow for that organic process of collaboration between subject and viewer to naturally unfold. Obviously in doing these types of shoots, you got to practice and learn the plusses and minuses of your gear so that when it comes to that real take it’s already in your body and not your head.
In the documentation of dance, usually, dancers and choreographers want to see the whole movement and space and prefer a much wider shot. I find that most filmmakers, including myself, like that tighter look to see the emotion and facial expression as well as to capture strong intimate movement. So in many respects, the clips in this test capture more of a tighter feel and what I was also feeling in the moment as the viewer of the piece. If I were recording the work for Makoto to view and study, I would definitely have gone for wider shots. But since we also had the Pegasus II to test out it was my goal to see how we can use it well and push it to see what it could do.
Clearly Makoto’s influences as a B-Boy, break dancer are present especially in “Elemental Dance” where he merges B-Boy elements with everyday pedestrian-like body movements as well as organic abstraction.
Here is a version that mixes segments from Take 1 and Take 2.
One of the challenges of course was that each take was a little different and “Elemental Dance” had very specific movements that were coordinated with the beat of the sound track so it was tricky to keep the continuity. Overall, it’s interesting how each take and even this mix takes the piece to a different place. In looking at the footage, you’ll notice that it does sway and bounce a little definitely much less than when I first started shooting. The nice thing is when you have someone like Makoto who really pulls you in, the slight sways and bounces are not going to be noticeable to the everyday viewer. To us DPs and gear heads that’s the first thing our eye goes to. Everyone else was pretty drawn into watching Makoto’s intensity and movement. Overall, it’s really nice to see how the Pegasus II can be used for many types of shooting situations and it is definitely a go to piece of gear not just for the “steadicam” look but also for just everyday stabilization with the GH1.
If and when Wondlan creates a Pegasus III geared for the DSLR market here are a few things that I hope they could integrate for the future.
Wondlan Pegasus III Wish List:
- I definitely would want to be able to turn the handle from a vertical position to a completely horizontal position. Currently, you can only turn the gimbal handle half way between a vertical and horizontal position. In order to get lower body movement or a subject that is low to the ground you need to physically bend down pretty low to the ground which is really difficult to do. Also, when you place the handle in that slightly horizonal position the handle completely rests on the gimbal system frame and not the spring and you lose it’s steadicam abilities.
- I wish there was a way to adjust the tension of the gimbal in terms of it’s side to side and up and down movement. If there was some king of tension screw that you could tighten or loosen it would help with the use of the Pegasus II in different shooting scenarios. If you need to move a round a bit, a feature like this would help keep the camera head from drifting to the right or the left all the time.
- As I said in an earlier review, I think the unit needs to be slightly modified to work with DSLRs, possibly having a longer plate to set the balance as well as a little bit of a space cushion between the plate and the camera. Currently, the stock lens sits pretty darn close to the plate. One user on DVXuser forum used metal washers from Home Depot to give a little cushion between the camera and the plate.
- I’ve used a little chopstick to wedge between the plate if I need to move the camera or if I need to just stabilize the shot better. It would be nice to have a very tiny grip handle that we could connect to the back of the plate in case you need that extra bit of guidance. I find that touching the camera creates a little more camera shake.
- The front to back locking knob sits right above the left-right fine adjusting knob and one of these knobs needs to move to a different spot. Currently, I have to move the left-right adjusting knob all the way to the left before I can loosen the front to back locking knob before mounting the unit and it’s a little bit of a pain.