I just bought a Steadicam Zephyr and am trying to figure out what else I need for it. I'm mainly flying a C100 which I own for my own productions and freelance DP work but would also like to get some freelance Steadicam work flying Reds and other cameras.
Batteries: I see the AB batteries are currently on sale with NAB going on. How many should I buy? I was thinking 2-3 Anton Bauer Digital 90 Gold Mount Battery at $242 each, or perhaps I should buy four since they're on sale. I saw Anton Bauer is going to make their Dionic batteries available again at the end of the month and that some people prefer those. Should I wait for the Dionics instead? The Dionics are also .3 lbs lighter which is beneficial in terms of how much weight I need on top of the sled when flying lighter cameras.
Charger: The Anton Bauer TWIN 60-watt seems better to me than the newer Anton Bauer - Performance Series DUAL Charger Gold Mount as the former is only 1 lb while the latter is 7 lbs and as I do run and gun and doc work I'm always trying to keep the amount of weight I need to carry down. I also always like to have enough batteries to last a full day so as to avoid charging on set when possible so the faster charging of the newer charger wouldn't necessarily be that beneficial.
HDMI to SDI Converter: I'll need this for the C100 and if I'm using any other cameras without SDI. I see Blackmagic has one for $280, and also the Hyperdeck Shuttle for $330 which also gives me external recording which is nice. Even cheaper it looks like the KanexPro HDMI to 3G/HD/SD-SDI Converter would work for $73.
Also, I'm curious if an external monitor/recorder with HDMI and SDI would work well to serve this purpose placing it directly behind the camera on the sled. Particularly since I'll be focusing manually (or with auto-focus) with non-cinema lenses with the C100 it seems that having a 1080p monitor really close to my eyes (instead of just at the bottom of the sled) would be useful for focusing. I know it's not standard practice to use a monitor on the sled for framing, but I'm wondering if it would be useful for helping to focus or if focusing is also best done from the monitor on the bottom. Blackmagic just announced the Blackmagic Video Assist and Sound Devices just announced the Pix-E5, which would both do the job at $500 and $1395, respectively.
Cables & Power: I'm not familiar with the various Steadicam cables and terms. What power cables and video connection cables and what lengths would I need for the HDMI to SDI converter setup? I'm thinking it would probably be better to power it off of the AB battery instead of using it's own separate batteries.
Weight plate: When the C100 was balanced with an AB Dionic 90 on the bottom the center post (where the handle is, I don't recall the technical term) had to be lowered above the sled quite a bit to balance properly, which I've read isn't ideal. The C100 in my configuration is about 6-7 lbs, maybe an extra .5-1 lb with the HDMI to SDI converter. I'm considering one of Janice Arthur's 6 lb weight plates. Does that seem like a good solution?
Wireless Focus: The C100 has auto-focus which works quite well and I'm planning to get the C300 Mark II in September which has even better auto-focus. As I'm mostly a one-man-band when I'm a DP on doc and event shoots wireless focus system generally wouldn't make much sense. For freelance Steadicam work I may eventually want or need to get one, but we'll see.
Welcome to the Steadicam Forum. I see you did your research and already have a good few answers, I'll try to give more details of what I did with my Zephyr.
Batteries: I went with A/B Dionic HC (the 90 are an even older design) Good choice. I have 3 (one on the sled two on the charger)
Charger: I'm not a fan of the TWIN charger. Charging time is longer, plus it does not do the battery cycles to keep them healthy (you should always have your batteries on a charger if possible. I rotate mine when I can) I would recommend the LP2 (when it comes out) or the T2.
Converter: I have a Hyperdeck Shuttle. Cheap gets the job done, plus dailies recording is nice. Otherwise that Kanex looks nice. I have the SDI- HDMI from them and use a USP to P-Tap power converter. Check out http://mediablackout.net/to get your regulated 5v cable for it (you can even make it 3 pin lemo straight to regulated barrel for a super clean setup. Monitor on top for your AC, ok. For you, no. You will be looking in the wrong direction, making your position wrong, and risking to injure your. The monitor is on the floor so you can see where you put your feet while walking. Moving the camera is your first job, leave the sharpness to someone who only need to think about that aspect of the picture.
Cables and power: again, Alan Rencher from Media Blackout is the go to guy. My favorite cable, a 3pin lemo to female P-tap, you can also get it with multiple female p-tap. I power most cameras with an on board battery, especially with C100/300/500 which packs up a good amount of hours on a canon battery.
Weight plate: I used a 11lb plate. I like the weight, gives more inertia. 6lb will work too, probably better if you are doing long takes/hours in the rig.
Wireless Focus: This is way more critical than you think. I would not consider going out on a job without a wireless FF. Look into the Bartech, it has a small wired controller to attach on your Steadicam Gimbal for you to control the focus while operating. Not ideal, I always prefer to go with an AC, plus he can help you getting the gear ready, carry the sled between takes etc, don't forget about safety. (the RT-Motion has a similar gimbal control)
Hope it helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.
Thanks for the answers, Victor. Yeah, I've got more questions.
Batteries: I didn't realize the HC and the Dionic 90 were different batteries. I see on B&H the HC is expected to be available in 7-14 days and is $495. It seems to me that at $242 the Anton Bauer Digital 90 is a way better deal. Isn't the only advantage of the HC is that it is a bit more ergonomic in terms of stacking batteries for storage and it's .2 lbs lighter or am I missing something that makes the HC's worth it for twice the price?
The T2 is a 70 watt charger and the TWIN charger is 60 watts. How is there a substantial difference in charge time between the two chargers? Is not the math along the lines of a 60 watt charger would take 1.5 hours to charge a 90 watt battery and a 70 watt charger would take 1.29 hours? Do the chargers charge two batteries at once or just one at a time? From what I've gathered if you're charging two 90 watt batteries at once on a 60 watt TWIN charger it would take 3 hours to charge them, is that correct? What are the advantages of the LP2 and any news on expected availability?
Why couldn't you leave the batteries on a TWIN charger all the time and what does it mean to rotate batteries and do the battery cycles? Are you supposed to leave them fully charged when not in use and the way to do that is to keep them on a charger plugged into an outlet 24/7? So if I have three batteries I'd need at least three ports (so probably two dual chargers) to keep them on a charger when not in use?
Weight Plate: Yeah, I was considering getting both a 6 lb plate and an 11 lb plate to as you suggested, have the lighter option for longer shoots or more run n' gun shooting, but of course that would be twice the cost over getting just one. I've heard different people say different things in regards to adding weight for inertia; some say adding weight is just making your job harder and is unnecessary while others say it is worth the improvement in steadiness. I'd lean towards the latter and agreeing with you but it does seem there is debate on the subject.
Wireless Focus: For the past few years I've been using a Glidecam HD4000 with a variety of focal lengths (from 11mm-100mm, and typically around 18mm to 50mm) at apertures ranging from f/1.8 to f/16 (typically around f/2.8 to f/5.6 indoors) without a wireless focus and can still maintain in-focus shots for as long as I need to in most cases. Obviously there are limitations; you have to keep a set distance from the subject for a shot (which a lot of shots are a set distance even when a wireless focus is in use), or use the center framed auto-focus of the C100, but it's not like I'm limited to wide angle shots at deep focus apertures as a lot of beginners do. I'm not discrediting the need for a remote follow focus on higher end freelance jobs as a dedicated Steadicam operator but for lower budget one-man-band event and documentary work as a DP with a camera that has one of the best auto-focus systems currently available the need and practicality of a remote follow focus doesn't seem very high.
Manually controlling focus from the gimbal is a cool setup which I wondered about but didn't know if something like that is available. Do you know the price of the Bartech "Gimbal mount hard wire focus module remote"? I suspect lens changes with the focus controller attached would take a little longer, but other than that it'd probably be beneficial for solo work in which case the only issue would be budget; I can afford it but right now I'd probably be better off prioritizing my budget toward a C300 Mark II which has substantial auto-focus improvements over the C100. Even when I'm doing handheld, tripod, etc., camerawork, I still often use the auto-focus on the C100 because even though I'm pretty good with manual focus, the C100 auto-focus is often simply faster and more accurate for unstaged work. Like I said, it's something I may eventually get in 6-12 months or so, especially if I have to turn down jobs if I don't have it, but at this point I'm already getting a lot of DP work using a Steadicam without any requests for wireless focus. To put in perspective some of the work I do with Steadicam, I do about 50 weddings per year as a freelancer (having used a Glidecam HD4000 with a Steadicam Merlin arm & vest) and I've never had a wedding company or bride ask me if I have a remote focus for my Steadicam and if I'm going to be bringing an AC with me down the wedding aisle.
Converter: I saw you're mounting your Shuttle from the bottom of the sled which may be a good option if I'm flying an SDI camera and want the recording, but for the C100 I'd of course need the Shuttle at the top Any suggestions for mounting it on top? I'd figure either the Shuttle's mounting plate screwed to the rear of the base-plate or Velcrod there; should be enough room on the Zephyr base-plate for that.
Getting the shot in focus is my job as a solo operator, and I would figure being in focus is generally more important than stability or proper Steadicam technique; I'd also figure that the monitor could be positioned in a way you could hold the Steadicam properly while still being able to glance at it before starting a shot to quickly check your focus. I've read various operators say the difference between a Steadicam monitor being HD or SD isn't that important, I assume because at that distance (at the bottom of the sled) it's difficult to tell the difference. For focusing, though, the difference between HD and SD on a monitor is very important, and so is the distance of the eyes from the monitor. I could definitely be wrong about it, hence why I asked, but I'm just saying that if your only choice is to focus yourself without an AC, and you have time before the shot starts to check focus on a monitor, that it may make more sense for that monitor to be 6-12 inches from your eyes instead of around 36 inches.
Cables and power: 5V cable? Isn't the Shuttle 12V? I couldn't find a cable with Lemo 3-pin to the Shuttle's DC power on Media Blackout's site; should I contact Alan about that or could you point me to a link? I gather you use 3-pin lemo to multiple p-taps to power multiple accessories as opposed to doing the cable as a Lemo 3-pin directly to DC power.
Then to connect the video feed of the Shuttle to the Zephyr, is this (which I saw you posted elsewhere) what I want? And for an HDMI cable, would this or this do well? Is coiled prone to shaking around and not good for Steadicam?
On a side note, I wish I could edit the topic title to fix the typo of "thing" to "things."
Edited by Eric Coughlin, 13 April 2015 - 11:10 PM.
Eric, I'm not sure if it's the same cable, but I have an AV composite cable for my xf100 (practice camera) that I can get HD and SD signal from to run video to my sled. If that doesn't work, I recommend the HyperDeck Shuffle if you need a recorder, or the Atomos H2S for just converting. You can mount almost anything with simple velcro.
Hold off on a wireless FF and save for an analog Bartech.
Buy AB batteries used. I've gotten some amazing deals from the forums and on craigslist.
I bought a 15lb and 11lb weight plate that I use together as a practice cage, and use the 11 or 15lb plate when flying small cameras. Adding more weight to your rig will help your arm marginally, but making your build longer and adding weight behind your camera will add pan inertia. If you're looking to bring up the weight on your top stage, and actually make your rig handle better, I'd invest in a battery plate (linked below) that you can mount to the back, which will make your sled less whippy.
Thanks for the help, Victor. I just bought a used T2 charger for $369 on Ebay. I see they just discontinued them yesterday on B&H. I wonder when the newer one will be available, but I don't think I want to wait for it and I could save by getting another used T2. I'm still trying to decide if I should purchase another charger; I saw on the link you posted to it said you should have enough charge positions for all of your batteries, so if I get three or four batteries I'd need another charger. The Marshall v-lcd70xhb-3gsid has a 12 watt power draw and I couldn't find the power draw of the Shuttle, I'd guess around 3-5 watts, so with just those two accessories it should get me around five hours per battery, 10 hours for two batteries. I probably haven't used a Steadicam for 10 hours on a shoot yet, so two batteries should get me through any of what I've been doing so far, plus I could charge on the shoot if I needed more.
Of course I'd probably want more batteries if I'm powering other accessories such as a wireless focus, camera, etc., but for my own projects perhaps two would be fine to start with. I'll have to figure that out; I have money now and there are some discounts on the Digital Series on B&H now so perhaps now is a good time to buy everything I'll need battery wise.
As mentioned, I have the Marshall v-lcd70xhb-3gsid HD monitor. Interestingly, I just found out the Marshall v-lcd70xhb-3gsid is only HD in regards to the HD-SDI connections for down-converting from an HD signal; the screen itself is 800 x 480 which is kind of lame. I'm really happy to see that expensive field monitors are finally catching up to tablets and smart phones in terms of having 1080p screens.
Chris, would you say the battery and battery plate attached to the back would make the rig handle better than simply using a long weight plate like Janice Arthur's? For example, with the C100 at 7 lbs, would you say it would be better to have a 6.5 lb weight plate with a 3 lb battery setup on the back (so 16.5 lbs total) rather than having just an 11 lb weight plate with the C100 (18 lb total)? It looks like I'd also need to buy some kind of rail setup to mount that battery dock; any suggestions?
Considering it costs $180 + shipping to recell an AB battery and the Digital 90 is selling new from B&H for just $242 unless there's a good reason not to buy the digital series those seem like a good deal as opposed to buying used batteries which I've gathered often also aren't much less than $242.
I use an SD monitor.. And actually a lot of really great operators do as well. We don't need a sharp image for focus, we need a viewable image for framing. But like you mentioned you are a one man band, so I understand where you're coming from in wanting a high res monitor. Unfortunately I rarely use HD monitors, not enough to give you any real recommendations or advice.
If I was flying a 7lbs camera package with the zephyr, I'd do the 6.5lbs weight plate on bottom with an AB brick in the back to power the aks up top, then have my bottom AB power my monitor.
Below is a photo of a c100 build on a zephyr. Incredibly sloppy, wouldn't build it like this again, but I did add the weight of a battery, and bartech receiver in the back. This helped with pan inertia. It will be easier for your to operate a lighter rig with more pan inertia than a heavier rig with less pan inertia.
Wish I could show you a better photo, but this is one of the only times I've flown a zephyr/c100.
Or would I be better off with the Zacuto VCT Universal Baseplate with a Zacuto VCT Tripod Plate as an all-in-one solution? Then I could attach the Zacuto - 7" (177.80mm) Male / Female Rod Set (Black) to the back, attach the ikan Power Dock to that with an AB battery on it, put the Hyperdeck Shuttle underneath of the ikan power dock, attached via velcro (dual lock) (if it fits in relation to how the weight plate is; otherwise I could put it on top...of the non-flat AB digital battery...hmm...), and it looks like the ikan power dock has a 12V DC cable, so I could plug right into that instead of needing to spend on a custom cable (at least for that configuration). Then I'd have around 6 lbs from all of those accessories, plus 7 for the C100, plus 6 for a weight plate, putting me at 19 lbs.
As far as attaching a weight plate to the Zephyr's plate and to the camera or base-plate, what do you typically do for screws; Home Depot?
I gather that the matte box is helping with pan inertia there as well, correct?
I'm considering a Cinetronic or SmallHD Highbright as a replacement for the monitor that comes with it, but those would have to wait a bit as I'd consider them non-essential at this point and my budget needs to be prioritized for more important pieces of equipment. I was hoping NAB would have a 1080p high bright monitor but I haven't seen anything yet.
Edited by Eric Coughlin, 15 April 2015 - 09:48 PM.
My thoughts are you don't need the weight plate at that point. The only time I use weight plates are on my big rig to reach the minimum weight if I'm flying c100/fs100 or similar because they're so light. If you buy directly from Janice, she'll give you all the screws needed. The only way to mount a camera to the weight plate is with one 1/4" screw, so honestly, I use weight plates sparingly when flying an actual camera.
The matte box is helping slightly, but to my recollection, it was pretty light. (it probably caught more wind than it helped with pan inertia. lol)
I couldn't tell you much about the baseplate we used. The AC built the camera for the most part, and that build was a long time ago. All I remember was it was a nightmare dealing with HDMI and cross converting it with the TV Logic, and not having a camera prep day. I would recommend the universal baseplate over the one made for the c100. You'll be able to use the universal one for all different types of cameras, and it will work adequately for the c100.
Cinetronic makes a great monitor, I don't know much about them other than I can clearly see my frame even in direct sunlight when using it. I've only used them a hand full of times (gen1 and gen2)
I'm considering the Bracket 1 - Cradle Mount for Blackmagic HyperDeck Shuttle. Like this setup.
Mount that with a cheese plate to the back of the Zacuto VCT Universal Baseplate. This way I'd have a secure and compact connection for everything. Do that look like a good option? Or is the ikan Power Dock with an AB battery on it and Hyperdeck Shuttle underneath via velcro a better option?
I see a V-mount attachment plate available for Bracket 1 but can't find if an AB mount plate can be attached. Does anyone know if an AB plate could be attached to that? Or would an AB to V-mount adapter do the job well while also being able to serve other purposes?
In my opinion there are way too many adapters between the camera and the Steadicam dovetail. You will gain control and reduce potential vibrations by getting the chip closer to the gimbal. I would also get the Hyerdeck on the back side and move the camera forward. It will help in Don Juan position with a wide lens. I personally prefer having the accessories sitting vertically on the rods, it will shorten the camera setup. That cardle you posted above would definitely help. The issue with the Zacuto universal baseplate is that it is a shoulder mount that adda a lot of waisted space below the camera (ok on tripod, not on steadicam) plus that camera mounting plate is a pain. If you insist on keeping that baseplate, look into investing an Alexa Steadicam plate.
An extra adapter was added to the top increasing the camera height so an 11mm lens could gain clearance above the Hyperdeck which it does (at the expense of being further from the gimbal). I bought the Bracket 1 -Cradle mentioned in the previous post so have that (it came in a bundle I got on Ebay), but I find the Hyperdeck mounting plate in the image to be more secure and flush. The rail block for the Hyperdeck mounting plate in the picture can be mounted on the bottom or side of the plate as well, so it can be mounted vertically. The ikan Power Dock however can only be mounted about 75% vertically.
Chris Loh said in this topic, "making your build longer and adding weight behind your camera will add pan inertia" and you're saying "I personally prefer having the accessories sitting vertically on the rods, it will shorten the camera setup." So shorter or longer?
If I put the accessories in the back, then I'd need to push the camera sensor forward such that the senor is a good amount in front of the post. Don't I want the sensor close to the post to avoid pans looking arched or is a couple or few inches not worth worrying about that?
If not the Zacuto Universal base-plate then what rod setup would you suggest? B&H gives me a month to return items, so I could still return it if it would be wise to.
A long rig is good but if it's as the expanse of getting the gimbal close to the chip it's not worth it. You can align more accessories when vertical you can still move your vertical elements further back in the rods to lengthen the rig if you want. Also remember long me should be thought of in terms of center of gravity and not in physical length. A chip a few inches forward won't make a difference in the image. The issue with the hyperdeck in the front is also that suddenly you risk to poke someone if you a close to the subject
Eric's accessories are good suggestions. (Have a look at SmallRig.com as well they are cheap and good quality)