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Leveling Aids


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#1 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 02:46 AM

So I have some $5 spirit levels placed at strategic locations on my Pilot
Posted Image

Great for setting up the rig but not to hot as an assist to operating

Now Im not the best operator but as far as I can tell when I pan these lose level due to the 'g' force on the liquid and take a while to calm down after the pan

- is this correct ? or operator error

I see the phrase 'frame line gererator' on the board here

Never having touched a $100k rig i dont know what this is

I guess it is a box that has some kind of level sensor whose information is overlaid on the image on the monitor

Correct ?

Are these available and light/cheap enough to work on a Pilot and pilot monitor or SmallHD monitor ?

Lets guess that the mass/cost equation makes them prohibitive on a small rig

That means another technology is required

What about an Iphone with some app that has a aircraft type level display

Does this exist and is the level in the Iphone accurate when panning ?

Is there a cheaper solution/device than an Iphone plus App?

TIA

SMM
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#2 Brian Freesh

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 03:38 AM

Hey Sam,

You are correct that panning the rig will cause the bubble to be inaccurate, however, plenty of people use them all the time on their monitors. I have yet to put a bubble level on my monitor, so i can't speak personally as to their usefulness. But from what I've seen and heard form others, they seem to be a great cheap solution.

A frame line generator, which is usually built into a monitor (though I believe they can be found separately, don't quote me), gives you a box of adjustable borders so that you can set the frame on your monitor. For example, yesterday I was shooting with an SR2 with an old B&W video tap in a dark stairway. I needed to set lines to see the frame edges because I couldn't make out the ground glass frame lines. Would have put tape on the monitor if I didn't have a frame line generator.

A digital level, which can be built in or found separately, shows you exactly what you think it does. It works on the same principal as a bubble level, but I think uses mercury or somesuch, someone else can tell you better, and translates that right onto your monitor. It suffers from the same drawback regarding panning, but I believe most if not all digital levels are more accurate than bubble levels, and I believe some can be adjusted to better compensate. But pan at a sufficient speed and you will always have an inaccurate reading.

There are levels for the iTouch/iPhone. I have a free one called iHandy level, and an AC yesterday just showed me one made by Stanley. I like the iHandy one better, as it is more versatile. Both seem to be very accurate on a non-moving flat surface (and both can be set to be accurate), but I have not tested it vs. a bubble level while flying. My gut reaction is to go with the bubble level between those two. But yeah, I'd love a digital level!

The usual favorite place to put a bubble level is at the top of your monitor, because you'll normally be keeping an eye on headroom and that way the level will be closer to your line of sight. Some ops will place multiples on their monitor so there is always one close by wherever their line of sight may be.

I usually just call ops that use a level "wussies," but not to their faces, and if I ever did say it to their face I would make sure to never show them my work. :)
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#3 chris fawcett

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 05:35 AM

I usually just call ops that use a level "wussies," but not to their faces, and if I ever did say it to their face I would make sure to never show them my work. :)

It's cool, you can call me a 'wussie' to my face ;)
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#4 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 07:57 AM

Thanks

One of my 'strategic placements' is on my monitor, the other is on the stage for setup

Unless the monitor is level which it is usually not but tilted at 45 degrees only the horizon level is of use

And yes is it of use to me for attempting a shot say going straight down a corridor - no panning

I think the Itouch sounds interesting and affordable as is probably the stanley

I can imagine 'pro solutions' are out of my price game and/or need a monitor that is too (just a guess)

In terms of masking the screen readers may be interested in the small HD monitor I have (not on my pilot yet) has sticky a anti reflection screen coatings - I have drawn not only the 169 aspect on mine with a sharpie but also divided the screen into a thirds based grid pattern

The nikon D3S has exactly what I want - looks like a fighter cockpit and even goes green when you are level
(the horizon bar is red when you are off in two axes and yeallow when you off in one axis)

trouble is..

That is not my camera
Its 720 so wont ever be my camera
It doesnt show when you record !

Posted Image

Still the question is a device that can handle a pan ?

S

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 20 March 2010 - 08:02 AM.

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#5 Jerry Holway

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 08:06 AM

Most electronic levels now use tiny accelerometers, size 5mmx5mmx1mm or so, but all "level sensors" suffer the same problem for reading "level" and showing acceleration as the two are one in the same, with level being the acceleration of gravity.

Unfortunately for us, the indication for level we need is much more touchy than our typical accelerations.

We try to overcome this in mechanical levels (and some early electronic ones) by using a viscous fluid that doesn't react too fast, and with electronic ones we use circuits or software to tame the output. No matter how good the electronics, one learns when one can trust the level indicator, and when to ignore it. The one in the iPod reacts about the same as the ones in Steadicams.

Jerry
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#6 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 08:19 AM

The one in the iPod reacts about the same as the ones in Steadicams.


which is how good compared to a $5 bubble ?

IM not expecting miracles just a little more 'help' with my operating - wussie or not :)

S
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#7 RonBaldwin

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 10:30 AM

I use one of Greg Bubb's elec levels (had it for 12 years, it's wonderful...and $$$) and still use a few little bubble levels on the monitor and sled -- I guess that's kinda like using suspenders and a belt eh? They are cheap and work well. I use the earthquake sticky goop stuff to put them where I want and for a reference to check one against the other (electronic ones can drift in different temps etc...). Having an adjustable graphic on screen is really nice but we've all done fine with a bubble level and a wad of gum.

**always adjust your level to the camera, The monitor and/or sled isn't always the same as the camera. And when you adjust the monitor re-check it with the camera level.

keep it simple -- enjoy

rb
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#8 Brian Freesh

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 10:34 AM

To clarify, the Stanley level that I mentioned is an app for the iPhone/iTouch. I just looked for it and could not find it, but there are at least a dozen level apps, I believe none are more than $.99. I like the iHandy Level, but I haven't used any others.

Ans since I'm already responding anyway...

The one in the iPod reacts about the same as the ones in Steadicams.


which is how good compared to a $5 bubble ?

IM not expecting miracles just a little more 'help' with my operating - wussie or not :)

S



The electronic levels are better AFAIK. In fact, I just did a quick test holding the iTouch with a bubble level on it. The iTouch far outperformed the bubble level in compensating for acceleration. I'll do a test on a rig in a little bit, but I think it's safe to say the electronic level will win.

Chris, you're a wuss. You're also a far, far superior operator than I. :)
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#9 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 12:34 PM

thnak you for the input is there a URL for the $$$ system ?

S
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#10 Brian Freesh

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 12:46 PM

http://www.xcsinc.com/
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#11 Brian Freesh

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 12:49 PM

Unless the monitor is level which it is usually not but tilted at 45 degrees only the horizon level is of use


Always. You'll not need a level to tell you anything else while you are operating.
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#12 RonBaldwin

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 03:28 PM

The XCS level calculates ot and meal penalties as well as the likelihood of hooking up with whoever the camera happens to be pointed at. I won't tell you what the pdl said when I pointed the camera at Brad.
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#13 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 05:23 PM

Always. You'll not need a level to tell you anything else while you are operating.


I mildly disagree - if lens is pointed straight forward then your verticals are good - my photographic backround seems make me notice this in compositions - I like my 28 shift nikkor !

The URL - indeed a little beyond my budget

Thanks everyone for chipping in

S

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 20 March 2010 - 05:23 PM.

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#14 Brian Freesh

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 02:08 AM


Always. You'll not need a level to tell you anything else while you are operating.


I mildly disagree - if lens is pointed straight forward then your verticals are good - my photographic backround seems make me notice this in compositions - I like my 28 shift nikkor !

The URL - indeed a little beyond my budget

Thanks everyone for chipping in

S


In photography, for me, caring about that would be the exception, not the rule. It would be project specific. Which is only to say everyone's aesthetic is different.

In Steadicam, your input is very important, however the DP and Director would both rather you focus on headroom rather than keystoning background verticals. On top of that, you are moving through the space, more often without a flat plane for a background, and with varying focal lengths and distances to the background. Which is to say nothing of tilts! More often than not, straight lines are not going to be parallel to the edges of the frame. This is the most compelling reason I've ever had for using a level on my monitor, for horizon. Often the lines in the frame just aren't useful for judging level myself.

I'm not concerned with where you put levels or why, I'm just concerned you are trying to force an aesthetic that will ultimately make things more difficult for very little, if any, return. Tilts are a regular part of cinema/TV/anything that uses a motion picture camera, large or small. If you accidentally tilt too much or too little, it'll be evident in your headroom, which you should be watching anyway (hence bubble level at the top of the monitor, rather than bottom. Or both)

An iPhone/iTouch level could be set to 0 at an angle, if that helps.
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#15 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 03:26 AM

In photography, for me, caring about that would be the exception, not the rule. It would be project specific. Which is only to say everyone's aesthetic is different.


Absolutely - there is no such thing as a correct aesthetic

I love my PC lens and I love a straight vertical in shot

A background to that comment is my stills business - which pays me decent money - I have hotel and architect clients - I can offer them a new service with my consistent aesthetic to the still and make some money from Steadicam while learning and importantly not lowballing experienced ops

even an image like this.. I have 'boomed down' and shot the subject from its centre and maintain the perspective of the background (note the position of the pool) etc
Posted Image


S

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 21 March 2010 - 03:35 AM.

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