“On Star Trek and MI3, I was A-camera and Phil [Carr-Foster] was B-camera, and on this film, he’s A and I’m B,” [Colin] Anderson explains. “It’s great, because there are no egos with us. We try and stay out of the way, and still get something that’s complementary.”
Adds Carr-Forster, “We know each other well. What we do is try and hide the cameras somewhere and talk to each other – ‘Do you see me here? What about if I’m here?’ It’s all done quickly,” though, as Anderson laughs, “We still shoot each other sometimes.”
Abrams’s energetic visual style added another layer of complexity that inspired a mantra for the entire team: “With J.J., the camera is always moving,” notes Anderson. “Anything that makes the shot feel alive, he wants.”
And at the core of each scene is the A-camera master, which Abrams describes as the “hero camera telling the main story.” A hero-cam, that is, of course, never a static, wide master, augmented by close-ups and cut-ins.
“There is always an effort to make sure every shot – from the beginning to the end of the master shot – is very interesting,” [DP Larry] Fong laughs. “And by ‘interesting,’ I mean elaborate and complicated.”
“[The master] is invariably an intricate move, whether we’re on a Steadicam or a Technocrane or a dolly,” Anderson adds. “That’s because J.J. designs these wonderfully elaborate moves that tell so much in one shot.”
The A-camera on the Technocrane often sat on a Chapman-Leonard Maverick™ Mobile Arm Vehicle (M.A.V.), giving Abrams even more flexibility in his shot designs. The rubber-tired Maverick is capable of moving at high speeds, and as Abrams describes, was something that, “in many cases, proved its value in its flexibility and ease of use.” Operating a Panavision® Millennium XL, usually outfitted with an anamorphic 40mm Primo or 60mm close focus lens, Carr-Forster would descend from high above to a mere foot from one of the child actors in a single move. One such example begins with a vista of the train depot as the kids arrive in a car. The crane pushes in over the tracks and, as the wind picks up and script pages fly from the hands of one of the kids, the camera pushes in on his face.
“These [type of] shots are remarkable,” Carr-Forster relates, “because they bring you from well outside the canvas all the way into the scene.” (via Mystery Train : ICG Magazine)