How to shoot the Michael Bay spinny hero shot in your own backyard

Apr 8, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to shoot the Michael Bay spinny hero shot in your own backyard

Apr 8, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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There are certain things in some films that clue you in as to who directed them. J.J. Abrams, for example, is synonymous with over-the-top lens flares and camera shake. In the case of Michael Bay, it’s that hero shot, orbiting around the subjects with a long lens and the background whizzing by behind them. It’s not always an easy shot to make perfectly, but Josh Yeo at Make. Art. Now. seems to have figured it out.

It’s thanks to a new tool he’s developed for the Marbl Orbit, launched in 2021. It connects to the head and allows you to place speed rails of any length inside it, rather than being limited to the length of the Orbit’s arms. This allows you to get the camera out further from your subject to be able to reproduce that Michael Bay spinning hero shot. It’s not an inexpensive solution, though.

It’s a great effect and one that’s difficult to shoot manually, just holding the camera. You can do it using a gimbal, but it takes a lot of practice, and you’ll probably have to do the take several times in order to get a shot you’re happy with. Josh’s solution with the Marbl Orbit helps to take out some of that randomness, giving a higher chance that you’ll be able to pull it in fewer takes.

Of course, there’s a fair bit of setup time with the Marbl Orbit vs just grabbing a gimbal and hoping for the best. But once it’s set up, it’s pretty much just a case of balancing things out, standing in the middle of the orbit and letting it do its thing. And even though it does take a little more time than a gimbal to get up and running, it can still be set up rather quickly.

Josh used a slackline between two trees to mount his Marbl Orbit. With the adapter on, he just needs to slide through and affix the long speed rail with his camera at one end and a counterweight at the other. I suspect you’ll need pretty calm weather conditions in order for this to be at its most successful, but if you can get a day with little wind and good light, it’s a great effect.

The Marbl Orbit Cinema Arm Kit Josh uses in the video is currently available to pre-order from the Marbl Orbit website for $289.99. Then you’re looking at least another couple of grand for the Marbl Orbit itself and the extra grip gear to attach your camera. It’s not an inexpensive shot to try and achieve, but if it is the shot you want to get, this is probably the easiest way to do it.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “How to shoot the Michael Bay spinny hero shot in your own backyard”

  1. Ian Hecht Avatar
    Ian Hecht

    Since most of the examples of Bay’s shots are low to the ground and pointing upwards, would the simplest solution not be a dolly on circular rails?