Polecam Production Profile


I have been working in the film and television industry since 1989, starting as a news cameraman and editor at the Manitoba Television Network. MTN is a local independent television broadcaster in my home town of Winnipeg. In 1991 I joined the French television service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as a sound man and advanced to ENG cameraman. I left the CBC in 1995 and became a freelance camera-crane operator. Over the past 15 years I have created and developed a company, Cameleon Film & Video Services Inc, and offer my services as Director of Photography, Jimmy Jib Owner/ Operator, Steadicam Owner/ Operator and most recently Polecam Owner/Operator. Cameleon's activity includes live television events, commercials, music videos, documentaries, low budget independent dramas, episodic television and Movies of the Week. My goal is to offer dynamic movement to the art of visual storytelling.
One Polecam, eight drummers
I purchased the Polecam in July 2008 and have worked with it on various productions including a gardening show, a music video, a concert and three documentaries. One of my most memorable Polecam moments to date was while filming a north American aboriginal drum group. These groups usually consist of a large drum with up to eight drummers sitting around it singing songs from their respective nations. I have often filmed these drum groups using either tripod, a jib, a hand-held camera or a combination of the three. Each of those approaches offers great shots but the Polecam gave me an angle I had never been able to achieve before.
Because of the Polecam rig's profile and the very small size of the camera, I was able to lower the camera into the centre of the drum group and pan around the faces of the drummers. There is no way that could have been achieved with a regular crane and large-size camera. There simply would not have been enough room. The discreet size of the Polecam system also meant the drummers weren’t distracted by its presence.
The Polecam system’s light weight and portability allowed us to change very quickly between several set-ups. We were able to lift the entire crane onto the back of a golf cart fitted with a flat-bed and move it to a new location 400 metres away. At the next location, we moved the rig off the flat-bed and we were ready to shoot again. There is no way I would have been able to move it as quickly and efficiently using a regular full size camera jib.
The touch necessary to properly operate the Polecam is very light. You need to trim your rig for the shot and you need a gentle touch. I normally use the Iconix HD camera and have a choice of two Fujinon lenses: a 4 mm and a 2.8 mm. I tend to use the 2.8 mm most often as this gives me the widest angle of view and the most interesting shots. I record on the Flash XDR in both progressive or interlace mode depending on the production’s broadcast requirements. We also sometime use a Sony EX3 and PVW-350.
Truth & Reconciliation
I was recently hired to shoot three 60-minute documentaries as well as gather footage for the Canadian National Archives during the first ever Truth & Reconciliation Commission National Event to be held in North America. Winnipeg was the host city. I knew the Polecam could add another visual layer to the story. The only problem was that it wasn’t in the budget but, on the last day of our shoot, I decided to use it anyway. The Governor General of Canada paid a visit to the event and we ended up getting great shots of her from perspectives the other cameramen covering the event could not match. Once the director realised the Polecam's potential he was on board 100 per cent. We ended up using it for most of the day. Fortunately, the producer came by to visit and watched some of the shots we had achieved using the Polecam. His comment to the director was very succinct: “Great. Now I have to figure out how to work this thing into the budget!” The realisation of the Polecam’s potential was undeniable.
The first three documentaries need to be completed by June 2011. They will be broadcast on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) as well as being available on the National archives of Canada. If the broadcaster is happy with the first three documentaries they will buy six more over the next five years and I aim to make the Polecam part of the project.
On location in Ethiopia
Another major recent project is 'Le Dernier Jsuite'. This is a biography about Fr Roland Turenne, an 87 year old Jesuit Priest from Winnipeg who has been living in Ethiopia for most of his life. It traces his life from meeting and working with Haile Selassie, his involvement in the Ethiopian famine during the 1980s, his adoption of a daughter and finally his recent victory over cancer. A very interesting man.
We travelled fairly light for this documentary. We had eight cases of equipment, three of which were the Polecam. Our shooting locations included Debre Zeit, Addis Ababa and Gondar. The portability of the Polecam kit allowed us to bring the crane with us to just about any location. If we decided that a crane shot was necessary, we would simply pull the Polecam out of the Land Cruiser and the sound man and I would have it up and ready in about 10 minutes.
One Saturday afternoon, we headed to the Mercato, a huge outdoor market in Addis Ababa, with Fr Turenne and two Jesuit students to do some filming. Thousands of Ethiopians do their weekly shopping there and Saturday is the market’s busiest day. Setup was quick and the Polecam attracted a lot of interest. Filming while trying to avoid goats and chickens at my feet was a memorable experience. I appreciated having only three cases to keep an eye on in such a crowded area. It also keeps shipping costs down.
One of the great things about the Polecam is how little physical space it uses up. This has allowed me to tuck it into areas that would be unavailable for the larger cranes. I had it set up for filming at a fork in the road. The shot was a simple crane down from the tin and canvas roofs of the shops to a street level view of Fr Turenne interacting with the shop owners. And the results were excellent. Smooth and fluid gears made it easy.
Three takes later and three more set-ups then we were done. Wrapping the Polecam took less than 10 minutes. Needless to say, this is great when you are trying to maintain high production values on a tight schedule. All in all, from set-up to shoot, to wrap, we completed in less than an hour. And it was only 8 am so we still had a full day of shooting ahead of us. I still love the big cranes but you can’t beat the kind of speed and efficiency the Polecam can offer.
'Le Dernier Jsuite' will air on the French side of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Tags: Cameleon Film Video Services | polecam | iss045 | manitoba tv | rig | polecam review | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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