Weightless control with ARRI Master Grips

There can’t have been too many times in the history of filmmaking that a camera operator has had to wrestle with shoulder-mounted gear that he felt was much too light. Cinematographer Marvin Hastert and his team from VPS Media found themselves in that rare situation while filming on a flight that simulated weightlessness. And ARRI Master Grips gave them all the control they needed.

Developed to train astronauts preparing to go into orbit, parabolic flights are one of the few ways that earth-bound people can experience weightlessness. The technique involves a pilot cancelling-out the effects of gravity by flying in a pattern of tightly controlled climbs and dives.

Marvin Hastert was commissioned by BigCityBeats to work on publicity for a festival called World Club Dome Zero Gravity. The shoot involved filming these maneuvers in an aircraft that had been fitted out as a club–complete with a bar, and a DJ. The team was equipped with two ARRI AMIRAs, and two ALEXA Minis, all fitted with Master Grips. It presented some unique challenges.

“You just can't describe the feeling,” Marvin told us, “it's a bit like riding a roller coaster, but more extreme. We quickly found that it was really important to hold the camera tight–during our first attempt the camera stuck to the ceiling above our heads.”

Three of the camera operators had to be strapped to the floor of the plane

The Master Grips gave the ALEXA Mini operators all the fine control they needed, while at the same time enabling them to keep a tight hold of their equipment. “We strapped ourselves to the cameras and three of us were attached firmly to the floor of the plane with climbing harnesses. Otherwise you would just float helplessly through the cabin– there's nothing you can do to stop it.”

The Master Grips provided finger-tip control of every feature. “We had the rocker on the right and the wheel on the left and then, combined with cforce mini motors, the Master Grips gave us the ability to alter the sharpness, the zoom and the aperture.”
Once the cameras were fully in hand, the lack of gravity had some distinct advantages for the operators. “There was nothing shaking,” says Marvin, “we were able to get very smooth shots and there was no need for any gimbals.”

The right tools for the job – ALEXA Mini, AMIRA, and Master Grips

Marvin found the Master Grips were easy to use, and to customize to the specific needs of the shoot. “You can adjust it completely yourself, which gives you complete freedom. I had REC recording on the right red button; then, I had the change between sharpness and aperture on the red button on the left. It was the same with the joystick: top to bottom was ND filters out and in, left to right the zoom. It was all done quickly, and after trying it out three or four times, everything was completely intuitive.”

The shoot was enjoyable and successful, and Marvin believes the Master Grips were crucial to that success. “The Master Grips give you loads of good options, and the handling was awesome. We simply always had the cameras under control, and stable in our hands.”

Photos:
Pictures 1-3: Digitized Reality
Picture 4: VPS Media