When shooting elements of The Classic Car Show in LA in 2014, I was fortunate enough to be able to work with a fantastic team of talented individuals, to create some absolutely stunning visuals to close series one of TCCS. I hope this is the first of many time working with the UA guys.
Camera cars and tracking vehicles are leading edge tools for directors and cinematographers. The Ultimate Arm is a high-speed, high-torque, gyro-stabilized remote-controlled camera crane. It is designed and developed for extreme operating conditions and high-image stability. Unlike the other camera cranes, the arm and counter balanced rear are independent of each other which allows the crane arm to absorb the frequency and reduce the oscillating effect that often plagues more rigid arms.
The UA arrived on location in its own custom-built truck, complete with its own generator and complete repair facility. The setup time is virtually nil, you unload the car, put the camera on and you’re good to go.
The cramped interior is jam-packed with all the equipment needed to operate the crane, camera, and the special “Levhead” cradle, which can turn on three axes. They tucked joysticks, film equipment, hard drives, a radio system to the stunt car, and four TV screens into the car – and it still seats five people.
Our Camaro Crew consisted of a team of 6. First up we had Kevin Frame, an experience precision driver. Alongside him was the crane operator, Mark West. Moving into the back of the vehicle we had George Peters (back left) controlling the camera, with Director Jack Burnford in the centre seat alongside DOP Dan De Castro. Tucked into the back was 1st AC Keon Javenshir pulling focus.
Working with this many experienced and talented people to achieve one incredible shot at a time requires excellent communication and understanding. The 3 core team members that we worked with (Mark, George & Kevin), were so reactive to each other, clearly as a result of many hours working together, but they were equally as good at relaying information and offering a range of solutions to our brief. At the end of the day, strong communication within the team will lead to the best results. We knew exactly what shots we were looking to achieve, and these guys were the perfect combination to help us achieve those visions. Our driver (Kevin), was also constantly in communication with Jodie in the star car, passing on only necessary information and keeping communication simple, safe and easy to understand. I can’t stress enough how important team communication is when using this rig.
During shooting for The Classic Car Show, we used the top of the line Mercedes ML 55 AMG package. This already high speed, performance vehicle is retrofitted with everything to enhance the suspension from coil over shocks, to racing stabilizer bars, to sway bars. The vehicle came with front and rear hitch receivers, steps to access the roof, and runners that can all be used for camera platforms and rigging.
A polymer coating on the vehicle exterior was added to reduce the reflective quality of the car to protect it from extreme conditions and environments, and for the convenience of being able to stand on the car to rig without denting it. The interior is set up with four HD monitors that are all powered on board, and with the AJA recording system allowing for recording and instant playback in HD. Also available are two inverters for running 110v power and access points for multiple cable configurations on both sides.
Summary of key features of the Ultimate Arm
– Rotates 360 degrees in less than 5 seconds
– Crane arm pans up to 90 degrees a second
– Fully controlled from within camera car
– Can be safely operated at speeds over 100 MPH
– Unique flexible design with full image stability in all conditions
– High stability allowing for smooth dolly shots
– Lightweight design allows for easy setup on various platforms
– Can be rigged easily on trains, boats, and virtually any size automobile available
3’-6” wide and 5’-0” tall
The list of credits for UA is quite incredible and includes Iron Man 1 & 2, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Eagle Eye, Avatar, Quantum of Solace, Terminator: Salvation, The Hangover, Shutter Island, Green Hornet, Inception and Salt.
We shot this feature with the Sony F55 with an Angenieux Optimo 16-42mm Zoom.