Friday, August 10, 2012

The Olympics DiveCam

2012 Summer Olympics Logo

I've been watching a ton of events in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and maybe it's the the filmmaker in me, but more than the actual athleticism I've been fascinated by what I called the "dive shaft" cam. 

Through research like the article below I've found out that it's called the "DiveCam". Below is a great article with the inventor of the camera and some more great camera inventions.


How does the 2012 Olympic freefall diving camera work?

The "Dive Cam" was done by the great Garett Brown, the inventor of the StediCam. The cool thing with the DiveCam is that is it just a camera triggered by simply letting go of a rope!

Garrett Brown Gives You a ‘God’s Eye’ View of the Olympics

Garett Brown
When seven-time gold medal winner Michael Phelps slices through the water in the Olympic Games next week, he’ll be followed by a torpedolike underwater HD camera that will capture his every move.

That camera, dubbed Mobycam, is just one of a half-dozen clever contraptions invented by Hollywood pioneer Garrett Brown, who also
invented the Steadicam.

The Steadicam (not to be confused with the $14 Steady-Cam) allows a camera to glide smoothly even in fast-action shots. It was used in Rocky to film Sylvester Stallone as he jogged up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since then, Brown has gone on to be a camera operator for several motion pictures, including The Shining and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, plus sporting events like the Olympics and the Superbowl.

On Thursday, he spoke with about his Olympic gadgets and how he got started.

Garrett Brown’s Divecam follows Olympic divers as they splash into the pool. So how did this all start?

Garrett Brown: I was a filmmaker in the east — way far away from where Hollywood is — in the early ’70s, and I learned my trade by reading all the film books in the Philly library. That was sort of an idiotic way to do it, since it would teach you how to be a filmmaker in the ’50s. I thought I needed dollies and a studio … so I bought dollies, lights, and a studio and all that. It was a studio in a barn outside of Philly.

Then it became clear to me that I loved moving the camera, but to move it’d have to be on wheels. My 10-pound Bolex had to be on an 800-pound dolly, and that drove me crazy! And I just started pumping for some way to isolate the handle from the camera.

A couple of years later I had a device that was the Steadicam. One of the impossible shots in my demo was when my then-girlfriend and I dropped by the Philly art museum, and with the prototype I ran up and down the stairs. And the director of Rocky saw that shot on a demo, and asked, "How did you do that, and where are
those steps?" Which is basically why that shot ended up in Rocky. A few months later I made the shot where he’s running up the stairs.

The underwater Mobycam is pulled by a cable so it can track swimmers as they race through the water. How did you get involved in the Olympics? 

Brown: The Steadicam was a big hit and it got a lot of attention. And then I did one called the Skycam that flies over football games, [for] overhead shots.

The Barcelona Olympics called me and said can I do something really simple [for the swimming competitions]: It was a tiny little submarine that’s actually pulled by a human being with a crank who’s sitting on the sidelines just cranking it back and forth. We made it human powered because we were afraid if there were motors in the water the Spanish would chuck us out of there.

Then I got asked to do a bunch of things: cameras on wires, rails, the Divecam for NBC — that’s the camera that drops with the divers.

And all of that here [in Beijing], the Divecam and the Mobycam, are now in the hands of my Australian licensee which is channel 7 in Sydney.

They’re all high def now — pretty slick gadgets. There’s one called Flycam, an ultralight wired point-to-point one that weighs all of 24 pounds and flies 2,000 feet over the canoeing venue in Beijing. The trick was to stabilize that thing out in the
middle of a wire. What were some of your favorite projects?

Brown: I shot The Shining, which was amazingly fun; it went on for years. I did Rocky, obviously, which was a blast. I worked on three other Rocky movies just here and there. And I did Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: I shot the rope bridge sequence. A lot of stuff. I’ve had a hell of a good time.

Skycam glides over a field on wires to provide overhead shots of sporting events. Do you have any current projects or movies you’re working on?

Brown: I’ve retired this year from actual shooting, but I’m still working on a lot of new gear. I had a good run this year in making up wild new stuff. We keep raising the bar for the gear. And I teach everywhere — I’ve taught in Russia, this year in Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, teaching Steadicam operating. As you can tell, I like my moving camera shots to be smooth.

All of these gadgets are glassy smooth, and that is the way it should be, unless it’s an effect, like a point of a view or a creature lurking. Otherwise this is sort of a "God’s eye" view, an omniscient viewpoint, and I can’t think of any excuse for the frame to be shaking.

Photos courtesy Garrett Brown, article JonathanSantos

Additional: Check out the Wall Street Journal's interactive graphic 

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