06 Jun 2014

Defeating aliens with a Steadicam arm

  • Written by 
Joe McNally with a  Model 3A Steadicam arm Joe McNally with a Model 3A Steadicam arm Phil Rhodes/RedShark

Index

You sometimes even see a Steadicam arm in front of a camera

Most of us are happy to make a camera last two or three years before the creeping wave of obsolescence catches up with us. To some people, that's a reason not to own camera gear, or at least not if you aren't sure it'll be in profit within ten to fourteen months. What's always been a better bet is lighting, lenses, camera support, grip equipment – and things like jibs and Steadicams, because these things remain relevant indefinitely.

 

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The use of Steadicam arms to support machine guns in James Cameron's 1986 classic sci-fi actioner Aliens is fairly well known. The idea was revisited – perhaps with rather less success - in one of the Predator sequels. What's less well known is that at least one of the two arms used as props in the film is still alive and well and supporting cameras. Jimmy Jib and Steadicam operator Joe McNally, a fixture of broadcast production and television based in south London, has owned Model 3A Steadicam arm #506, reputedly used by Jenette Goldstein as Vasquez, since the complete package including it was sold by Channel 5 News (other Steadicam components used by Mark Rolston as Drake were sold to operator Vince McGahon). Channel 5 had used it in studio operations and purchased it from the late, great Steadicam operator John Ward, who supplied two vests and two arms to the Aliens production.

 

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Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes is a Cinematographer, Technologist, Writer and above all Communicator. Never afraid to speak his mind, and always worth listening to, he's a frequent contributor to RedShark.

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