If you like movies with car chases as much as I do, then you should know the invisible star of them is the Russian Arm.
The Russian Arm looks like a tank with a gun with two swivels. It is a gyroscopically-stablized camera crane that is responsible for action shots in car chase scenes like Transformers, The Fast and The Furious, and others. The crane of the Russian Arm is designed to keep steady while its SUV mount is moving at high speeds, even if the pavement is uneven. It can even go off-road.
The Russian Arm was developed by Filmotechnic, which was begun by the Oscar-winning Anatoliy Kokush. As you might have guessed, the Russian Arm can swing freely around the vehicle, which can make for some pretty cool sweeping shots. It can go about a foot off the ground, or as high as 14 feet above it. The camera head can also pan 360 degrees in about six seconds, tilt along a 200 degree axis, and roll along a 270 degree axis.
The Russian Arm is operated via joystick, and the film’s director communicates with the crew with an iCom system. Images from the camera can be displayed on eight monitors inside.
The next time you watch a film with a car chase scene, watch for the use of the Russian Arm. I know I’m going to watch The Fast and the Furious again just so I can find Russian Arm shots.