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Cinematic Oomph with the U-Crane and Gorilla Camera Truck

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Cinematic Oomph with the U-Crane and Gorilla Camera Truck

We dive into our work with the U-Crane (Russian Arm), Gorilla Camera Truck, and Ronin stabilizing systems to show how to make the impossible possible.

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Sometimes the simplest tool is the right one for the job. Sometimes a static tripod shot, a fluid handheld, or simply putting the camera on the ground for a worm’s-eye-view is exactly what’s needed for your story.


And sometimes not. Sometimes what you need is a really, really sophisticated, and upscale tool.
At Barbershop, we’ve been lucky to shoot with some of the cooler cinematic tools – a U-Crane and Gorilla Camera Truck being just two of them – as well as collaborate with some brilliant camera junkies who wield them.


“This is really the golden age of TV and film, where there is so much competition on the screen to deliver a heightened experience. If you’re not delivering that pedigree of imagery for your brand, it’s hard to distinguish yourself from the pack,” said Thomas Buchan, Director of Photography and one of Barbershop’s most frequent collaborators.


“That’s why brands are on board to invest in this level of production. It’s imperative if you want to be in the conversation.”

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One of those brands leading the conversation is Federated Co-operatives (FCL) who commissioned us to create a series six of lively spots that would showcase the fuel side of their business, and would feel like a dynamic car commercial. Naturally, the U-Crane (for the record, formerly known as Russian Arm, it has been given an updated name as a tribute to Ukraine, the actual birthplace of the device) was precisely the right tool for the job. What could it do for us? Pretty much anything.


We teamed with Revered Cinema to utilize the Filmotechnic U-Crane System – a system of which gives video-game like controls of the camera. Shot on our RED DragonX 6K, the joystick controls from the interior of the chase car give almost full freedom to the gyro-stabilized head on the end of the gyro-stabilized remote crane arm. The arm, with a 14-foot reach, can rotate a full 360 degrees in six second and tilt 45 degrees, while carrying a payload of up to 150 pounds. It’s basically a carnival ride for your camera.


What does this mean specifically for our shoot? A huge diversity of shots captured at velocity, with the ability to make creative decisions on the fly. With Revered’s three-person team, a driver controlled the vehicle, crane operator positioned the arm, and camera operator framed the shot, enabling Buchan to control the zoom and focus while the director, Jeremy Drummond, could cue everyone through the communication system.


The results were amongst the most impressive images Barbershop has created. The U-Crane gave us the creative freedom to capture moments like a vehicle careening down the highway, shot at high speeds through tall grass on the road’s edge, or a vintage Datsun gliding with force into a tightly framed shot.


“As a DoP, it feels like you’re being spoiled, sitting in a super nice vehicle, capturing some of the best images of your life,” said Buchan. “The images that came from this shoot are stunning, and that’s due to the creative, the pre-productions, the tools, and an awesome brand like Co-op all coming together to make it happen.”

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But if you want a high-velocity tool that feels a little more chest-thumpy, look no further than the Gorilla Truck – a camera truck designed for maximum versatility. If King Kong were a gimbal, this is what it would be.


Custom built by Jan Schuster, another frequent collaborator in the Barbershop, the Gorilla Camera Truck is a Toyota 4Runner equipped with FlowCine Black Arm and Ronin 2 stabilizing systems, with solid vertical speed rails on both front and back, allowing filming at any angle or speed.


Schuster built it to create a solution for those looking for efficient and smooth stabilized shots, without having to shell out quite as much for a full U-Crane system.


“It hits that nice middle ground. It’s modular in that you can build different configurations, and it’s really easy to set up and take down,” said Schuster. “You can go fast with it or shoot very smooth, dolly-like shots. It gives you the option of ticking all the boxes in a very fast manner.”


With the Ronin 2, the camera truck can handle about a 30 pound payload up to about 100 kms/hr, and is equipped with three monitors in the interior. And the truck isn’t just for shooting your standard highway driving glamour shot or tracking shot along the Sea Wall. The beauty of the Gorilla, said Schuster, is it can be beaten up a bit. In any weather, the Gorilla truck is more than capable of chasing cars and mountain bikes off-road, plowing through a farmer’s field, or even chasing King Kong himself, provided he runs less than 100kms/hr.


Barbershop has monkeyed with the Gorilla truck on a handful of shoots, including these ‘Grown with Purpose’ and ‘We are Co-op’ national ad campaigns for FCL, and this spec ad, ‘The Road’ for Land Rover, to name a few.


“It really can be used for any situation. On one of our shoots with Co-op, we we’re able to cover a huge area of farmland and get sweeping shots behind a seeding machine,” said Schuster. “When you see how much stuff you can do in a short amount of time, people’s heads start spinning.”