RIP Tommy Ramone
img by Yoshitomo Nara
Monkeys + Synthesizers.
The 4th episode of HBO’s True Detective contains one of the greatest single-take steadicam shots I’ve ever seen.
Chris TJ McGuire was the steadicam op for the shot that ultimately got used. The second steadicam, Ramon Engle, provided some background info on steadicamforum.com:
First of all I wanted to thank Chris McGuire for bringing me on to tag team this shot. The Director, Cary Fukunaga designed the shot in a way so at no point did anything feel contrived or unmotivated. He has a knack for oner’s. The man knows how to use Steadicam. Many thanks to Mr. Fukunaga.
We rehearsed for 2.5 days in the actual location. Stunt coordinators and AD’s were incredible in their thoroughness and preparation. Hats off to them. Stunts and actors actually had a mockup set of the main house on stage and used that to rehearse and refine the details in the 2 weeks prior.
I think we both had 2 takes each with a 5th take where I handed off the shot in the clothesline to Chris. He was literally waiting on me to round the corner, his camera rolling and we nearly touched cameras and he was off to the races. Cary opted to use one of McGuire’s complete takes. We would shoot a take, 45 minute reset, then the other operator would shoot the next take. As you could imagine, it was exhausting. The last third of the shot, beginning at the clothesline was a killer.
McGuire is a big dude and operates goofy-footed and the first house presented some difficulties. Tight spaces, architecture was fighting against him but Chris, being the problem-solver that he is, found a way to make it look effortless.
One of the real heroes of this shot is First AC Don Steinberg. We had a modulus on the camera as well so that he could have a small monitor mounted to his Preston. At times he was not even in the room and would have to gauge focus on instinct and a 4 inch SD monitor. One of the critical moments was the grenade next to the hidden stash. That was a key moment that needed to translate visually and he found it. Of course we were at the bottom end of the barrel as far as exposure and had very little depth of field. He rocked the entire take. I can’t tell you how easy Donnie made this shot despite the first house being small and restrictive.
The other key focus was the over-the-shoulder to the group of people outside through the window. Again, Donnie made it look easy. He’s one of the best in my book.
We used a Boxx Meridian array of receivers. We had 3 receivers placed strategically along the route and the signal would hand off from one to the next. It worked beautifully.
Timing was critical throughout. Police cars, extras, stunts all had to be coordinated with precision. The AD’s had a huge undertaking in staying on top of multiple cues and remaining unseen.
The helicopter was CGI.
It was a massive undertaking and well-executed. I have to give credit to the DP Adam Arkapaw. He was able to create a natural environment that was very believable and never felt lit. His task was gargantuan lighting 3 houses, both interiors and exteriors over 250 yards and looking everywhere. We were seeing everything. Yet I believe you see nothing that gives it away.
McGuire is a beast and pulled off the best take. Truly one to be remembered.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Matthew McConaughey. He worked with us both to ensure we had what we needed to achieve Fukunaga’s vision. Mr. McConaughey did everything he could to accommodate our needs. Delivering an intense angst filled performance and never missing a mark. The guy is a real pro.
After 17 years as a steadicam operator, I realize to be involved in a scene like this one, that remains intact as a single shot is truly rare. I consider myself lucky to have been a part of this challenging shot with such talented technicians and artists.
I’ve walked around with a steadicam rig once for about 30 seconds. It’s incredibly difficult. The length, intensity and close-hand choreography of this scene is astonishing.
Vector graphics for the win
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