The overhead shot is a simple, yet powerful one. It’s a viewpoint the viewer rarely notices but they are able to gather so much information from it. It is also one of the most specialized shots to rig and requires some creative design if you have limited budget or limited space.
SPARK Studios recently partnered with Junto Architecture for a video production project and we knew that overhead cinematography would help tie their story together and explain the precision required in their business. However, we knew the main hurdle to overcome was limited space in our shoot location.
Knowing the space was limited in Junto’s boutique modern office in downtown Tampa, we needed to create an overhead rig that would allow us to balance 17 lbs. of camera gear. I always sketch ideas before going into production – it helps me visualize from a holistic level. The sketch below depicts a setup I’ve never seen or used before until this shoot. Typically, because of the weight of a camera build, we use two combo stands that connect an 8-10’ pipe, essentially requiring 15’ of clearance to erect the entire rig – a luxury I did not have at the Junto location.
I sent the sketch to our go-to grip and lighting company, Sunwolf, to see if they believed I could pull this off considering the weight of the camera. After a little back-and-forth we settled on the following list of gear: double riser combo stand, 4.5” gobo head, mini ball leveler camera mount, 2” pipe (6ft long), pipe ear, and 1’ pipe with connector. The ears and connector use 3/16” allen keys so they’re easy to tighten and strengthen.
Overall, it was the perfect rig for the situation. In filmmaking, there is never a right or wrong way to do things. There is only what needs to be done to capture the perfect shot. This rig allowed us to be flexible in the limited space and shoot in areas of Junto that had interesting light. In total, the rig cost us $75 to rent for the day.
One of my favorite filmmakers is Wes Anderson. He’s mastered the effectiveness of overheads and uses them to add texture, further the story and put the viewer in the moment. Check out this fun montage created by
Kogonada featuring some of Wes Anderson’s most striking overhead cinematography.
Hope you enjoyed the article. Please leave any comments/concerns below about the rigs you’ve built for overhead cinematography.