The Dusty Track

September 6th, 2009 § 0 comments

Zach here. I just uploaded a new video to our YouTube Channel. It’s a clip of us testing out something known as “the Dusty track”. Here’s the back-story:

One day, early on in production, Nandan, Dusty, and I were lounging around watching one of my favorite no-brainer popcorn flicks: Antonioni’s The Passenger. Naturally, we got to talking about that famous penultimate shot (you know the one) and how it was done. I figured it was just a steadicam or maybe a dolly and the only tricky part was splitting apart the bars in the window once the camera was close enough. We looked it up. So much more complicated. Apparently there were all kinds of complex gyroscopic devices involved, and the camera was actually transferred mid-shot from dolly to crane via a mounted hook. Antonioni directed the scene by radio from a van with multiple video monitors.

Dusty’s mouth was watering. He started speculating about all of the complex trick shots that we could rig up. Later that afternoon we were scheduled to shoot the backseat makeout scene, so we joked about the idea of the camera starting outside the car, moving in through one window, tracking across the backseat, and exiting through the opposite window. I explained that the camera moves one time throughout the entire movie – it doesn’t even pan – so such a showy shot would look ridiculously out of place. Dusty was bummed. Sympathetically, I offered him a generous budget of $30 to let him design whatever shot he wanted. We would shoot it, and whether or not it remained part of the movie would be determined later on.

Three weeks later, the Dusty track had been perfected. It was a drill-powered (seriously, drill-powered), camera-mountable, 20-foot-long 2×6 covered with all sorts of screws, pulleys, ribbons, and other things I don’t understand. It was designed to sit across the open windows of my car to track in one side and out the other. We’d been watching the thing grow slowly the entire time. An earlier, undeveloped prototype had come along on our Oregon road trip. I remember being parked on the side of a deserted rural road to shoot a breakdown scene and seeing Dusty making adjustments to it the entire time. Then there was the day we were unable to shoot our scheduled scene for some reason or another and tried to shoot Dusty’s shot instead only to find that the thing still wasn’t ready. Here’s the only image I could find of the track, taken by Rob on that same day:
dusty track
The track didn’t ever work until the gray, drizzly day that Dusty left. But it worked great. To all of our regret, it was never used for the movie, but we shot some test footage, which is now up on YouTube.

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