How did they do the camera move in this old Cabaret Voiltaire video?
February 10, 2013 10:33 PM   Subscribe

Ever since I saw the video for Cabaret Voltaire's Sensoria a gazillion and nine years ago, I've wondered how they accomplished that freaky, vertiginous camera move. You see it at the beginning of the video, with lots of quick little inserted shots to break it up, but then it turns up again a few times later without any cuts. It seems like the camera is on an overhead track, but you never see a track as the camera is swooping around. Was it on some sort of a crane? The shot's wide enough that it would seem like you would see the crane off on one side or the other. (If you've never heard the song, plan to spend a good part of your work day tomorrow muttering, "Do right... Always work... Go to church.")
posted by Ursula Hitler to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I would have done it on a wheel with a long enough arm that you can't see the wheel itself.
posted by CarlRossi at 10:38 PM on February 10, 2013

I can see the shadow of the crane or arm or whatever it is, in the indoor shots like around 1:00.
posted by moonmilk at 10:42 PM on February 10, 2013

Response by poster: Jeez, as many times as I've seen the video over the years, I never noticed that shadow. The wheel idea makes some sense... But in the indoor shots, I'm not seeing how the wheel could be far away enough that it'd be out of the shot.

I've always suspected it would turn out to be a pretty simple, cheap trick behind it. That was back in the days when arty bands made videos for like $45, using duct tape, rubber bands and a couple of gizmos from the shelves of Spencer's Gifts.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:56 PM on February 10, 2013

See also the video for Pulp - Do You Remember The First Time. It takes a little bit before it goes "full circle", so to speak.
posted by Magnakai at 12:42 AM on February 11, 2013

Response by poster: Magnakai, I hadn't heard that song before. It's pretty great, and I was kind of amazed to discover the video is 19 years old. If I saw it on MTV now, I don't think it would seem dated. Or maybe I'm just that out of touch, that 1994 can still look new to me.

A quick Googling turned up this site, where the writer talks about the Pulp video being influenced by a short film called Downside Up that uses the same gimmick. That film seems to have been made a year after the Cabaret Voltaire clip, though.

That writer says that in order to accomplish the camera move, "special mounts were used to oscillate the camera in a pendulum-like orbit around the subject" That's not much of an explanation, but it's something. The camera stays a lot closer in the Pulp video than it does in the Cabaret Voltaire clip, so it would've been easier to hide a rig just out of sight.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:06 AM on February 11, 2013

Best answer: That shadow @ 1:00 that moonmilk mentions looks to me like it could very well be the shadow of an overhead crane, something like this. In the outdoor shots in the beginning, where they're in a junkyard or whatever, it looks like there's a "regular" crane on either side, which might look further away than they truly are due to the lens.

So I'd guess they rigged something up with ropes/wires & pulleys off the cranes, and they could afford to do it that way because they were shooting in locations that already had those pieces of machinery there anyway - the infrastructure was in place, so to speak.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:21 AM on February 11, 2013

Also in U2's Even better than the real thing (does the full 360 degrees).
posted by Hugobaron at 7:18 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Camera rig genius Tony Hill originated the Satellite crane used in his Downside Up short; Peter Care, the director of the Sensoria video, borrowed Tony's rig for the shoot.
posted by progosk at 1:52 PM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Progosk has found the answer! On the Tony Hill link, there is a clip called Satellite Rig where Hill talks about the rig and even shows it in motion.

This shot has baffled me for years, and now that I finally know how it was done, it's a little bittersweet. Sort of like finding how a magician does his tricks. On the one hand, you finally know! On the other hand... Well, now you know.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:00 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Late in the video, at about 7:08, you can catch a glimpse of the apparatus they used reflected in the truck windshield.
posted by neckro23 at 4:13 PM on February 11, 2013

Response by poster: Good eye, Necro23! I never noticed that, either.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:08 PM on February 11, 2013

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