The Shining: A piece of Steadicam history
“Stanley brought you into spaces in a really interesting way”
Could you imagine the movie “The Shining” with a stationary locked off camera. Having the big wheel simply pass you by, with a pan shot or possibly a jump cut? How about being in the hedge maze of the Overlook Hotel and not experiencing the amazing smooth as silk gliding shots. Well without Garrett Brown’s 1974 invention of the study cam you might just have had to. In fact to this fewer’s memory, this movie simply might not have had any of the same impact as what we all experienced in the theaters.
As every professional athlete, pilot, race car driver, will tell you, it’s not just the machine, but the lifetime of practice that allows you to become the master of your field. This was never more true then when Stanley convinced Garrett Brown to join him as not just the inventor of the Steadicam, but to be the hands-on operator as well. With Mr. Kubrick’s perfectionism of the multi-take process, Brown got the accessibility and practice to truly become one of the film industry Steadicam greats.
If it were any other director, Brown might not have had the ability to roll through so many repetitive takes. It did not take Brown past even the first day to accept how much work he was in for. 32 takes on day one alone proved to Brown that he was now deeply immersed into what he affectionately called, “The Steadicam Olympics.”
The audience was given the opportunity to truly feel that they were in the hallways of the Overlook Hotel, and have a personal experience running the hedge maze. The sense of space delivered to the audience with the use of the study cam gave a never before felt emotional tie between the characters and the space they were occupying. Without the Steadicam, it is very probable that the Overlook Hotel would feel small and claustrophobic.
Brown has said, “Stanley brought you into spaces in a really interesting way, His storytelling shots walked you in, and moved you into places that were memorably beautiful, beautifully lit, or strikingly presented in some way. But there are no ordinary spaces in his films.”
When it came to Danny’s big wheel scenes, the steady cam proved its value once again. Kubrick wanted shots right down at the kids point of view. With the Steadicam offering a shot as low and variable from 18 inches off the ground to waist high, Kubrick was thrilled. A wheelchair was used to keep pace.