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One Hand Steadicam


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#1 Steve Ware

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 08:27 PM

Does anyone know of Steadicam operator with one arm? I am a DP/Operator and last year I was in a car accident that has left my right arm partially paralyzed. I can use my shoulder, but the rest of my right arm is immobile. I have been working on various hand held rigs, but I am wondering if Steadicam might be a better way to go.

Has anyone ever successfully worked as a Steadi Op with only one arm? Assuming I would have an assistant to help with set up an the heavy lifting, is it even possible? It looks feasible to me, but I have never used a real Steadicam. Any insight or suggestions on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Steve
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#2 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 09:53 PM

Hi Steve,

Sorry to hear about your accident but in the same, I'm excited to hear about your enthusiasm. The way the rigs function is that one hand (usually the right) does most of the power of working the rig... booming and adjusting the sled to the shot. The left hand is on the gimbal handle with a very light touch to control slight pans and tilts to whip pans and even the occasional role. This said, in its present state no, one with a paralyzed arm would not be able to properly operate in its current design scheme... some out there can't properly operate with two good arms.

Now, you have come to the correct place, because many of the design modifiers and even Garrett himself frequent the forums and maybe they might have a solution or even already thought about how... even got me thinking (i only do that occasionally)...

Please keep us updated on your findings.

-Alfeo
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#3 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 09:56 PM

Sure you can! If there's a will there's a way.

Last night during operators night at the Tiffen Lake Arrowhead Workshop Peter Abraham showed us all a video made of Garrett Brown back in the mid-late 70's demoing the Steadicam 35; most of it one-handed at the time.

Contact Peter Abraham with Tiffen / Steadicam via the board here or via Tiffen.

And one more thing; we all use our full names here so please sort out your profile before one of the mean and evil moderators zooms in with their laser guided delete button! :D

Robert
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#4 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 10:05 PM

Sorry to hear about your accident but in the same, I'm excited to hear about your enthusiasm. The way the rigs function is that one hand (usually the right) does most of the power of working the rig... booming and adjusting the sled to the shot. The left hand is on the gimbal handle with a very light touch to control slight pans and tilts to whip pans and even the occasional role. This said, in its present state no, one with a paralyzed arm would not be able to properly operate in its current design scheme... some out there can't properly operate with two good arms.



Not going to agree with you Alfeo, back in the day that was how you operated.

The answer is Yes, you can you just need to either learn that way (like the original poster) or adapt. It's also not a bad skill to have as an emergency backup.....
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#5 Steve Ware

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 10:26 PM

Thanks for the replies fellas. So, as I begin to pursue this, what do you think my limitations might be? Certain big moves (rolls, very high angle) are probably out, but what else? Assuming several years of classes and practice, do you think I would be limited to lighter cameras and rigs? Would the inersia of running be too much to over power with one hand?

Who are the best people at Tiffen/Steadicam to talk to about this? Maybe they have ideas on special modifications that would make operating easier. Certainly in 40 years of Steadicam someone must have had an injury similar to mine. Lee Daniels (Slackers, Before Sunrise) had his left arm paralyzed, but I don't think he did Steadicam. Rich at Abel Cine Tech helped him with a hand held harness, and Abel NYC is currently helping me with my hand held set up. In the Steadicam world, who do I go to?

Thanks to all.

Steve
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#6 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 10:42 PM

Peter Abraham lives in NYC and works for Steadicam. Like I said, contact him and I'm sure he will arrange a demo for you of the smaller to larger rigs.

Frankly, the physical appearance of the rig in the late 70's, the one Garrett operated one-handed in terms of vest, arm, socket block on the outside looks freakishly similar to the same rigs we fly today... at least in looks.

If this interests you at least give it a try and demo; you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Robert
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#7 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 10:52 PM

Honestly I don't think much if any modifications will really be necessary, it is all just a matter of technique. As already mentioned for the first few years of Steadicam (up until The Shining I believe) two handed operating hadn't been invented yet so everyone operated one handed despite the rigs being essentially designed the same way they are now.

With two handed operating one hand does the positioning allowing your post hand to maintain a much lighter touch. With one handed operating your post hand is doing positioning and aiming so at times a slightly heavier(but still very light) grip will be required. It will be more difficult to get good results but with proper technique and a lot of practice it is definitely doable. The extra inertia of heavier rigs will actually be easier for you than lighter ones and when running I often use a one handed technique myself so that shouldn't be a problem for you.

The other challenge is of course going to be figuring out how to suit up, adjust things, balance, etc with one hand. You will want someone to assist you when you start out but I don't see any reason that you can't figure out ways to be self sufficient.

~Jess
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#8 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 11:29 PM

Garrett Brown back in the mid-late 70's demoing the Steadicam 35; most of it one-handed at the time.

in its present state no, one with a paralyzed arm would not be able to properly operate in its current design scheme

Not going to agree with you Alfeo, back in the day that was how you operated.

The answer is Yes, you can you just need to either learn that way (like the original poster) or adapt. It's also not a bad skill to have as an emergency backup.....

I was not referencing archaic rigs, but the rig in its current state. You failed to quote my last paragraph about finding a modification that would work for his needs. Now, did I fail to overlook his desire to over come what many would doubt, most likely yes. Did I even consider that the loss of sensory in one area increases the sensory movements and responses in another to an almost super ability state? Nope, I just stated the simple mechanics of how the rig works in the current scheme.

I operated for a few many years before you pointed out that my forefinger was on the topside of the gimbal. Was it wrong like you blatantly chastised me? No, it was just comfortable to me from my youth of playing an upright acoustical bass. In fact, that might even be a solution that could work for Steve, by grasping the gimbal between the fingers, for booms and lateral movement???

I just don't see a way to operate one handedly without severely affecting the fluidity expected of the operator, particularly on shots that require a nice range of booming without having a modified rig adapted to Steve's needs.

-Alfeo


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#9 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 11:40 PM

what do you think my limitations might be? Certain big moves (rolls, very high angle) are probably out, but what else? Assuming several years of classes and practice, do you think I would be limited to lighter cameras and rigs? Would the inersia of running be too much to over power with one hand?

I wouldn't rule out anything with the proper modifications... infact, I have an old friend, Myron Parran that use to work with Para-olympians and designed prosthetics. He actually think he pursued steadicam and took a workshop, he would be a great person to talk. PM me for his email and phone

-Alfeo
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#10 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 11:28 AM

Garrett Brown back in the mid-late 70's demoing the Steadicam 35; most of it one-handed at the time.

in its present state no, one with a paralyzed arm would not be able to properly operate in its current design scheme

Not going to agree with you Alfeo, back in the day that was how you operated.

The answer is Yes, you can you just need to either learn that way (like the original poster) or adapt. It's also not a bad skill to have as an emergency backup.....

I was not referencing archaic rigs, but the rig in its current state. You failed to quote my last paragraph about finding a modification that would work for his needs. Now, did I fail to overlook his desire to over come what many would doubt, most likely yes. Did I even consider that the loss of sensory in one area increases the sensory movements and responses in another to an almost super ability state? Nope, I just stated the simple mechanics of how the rig works in the current scheme.

I operated for a few many years before you pointed out that my forefinger was on the topside of the gimbal. Was it wrong like you blatantly chastised me? No, it was just comfortable to me from my youth of playing an upright acoustical bass. In fact, that might even be a solution that could work for Steve, by grasping the gimbal between the fingers, for booms and lateral movement???

I just don't see a way to operate one handedly without severely affecting the fluidity expected of the operator, particularly on shots that require a nice range of booming without having a modified rig adapted to Steve's needs.

-Alfeo


Alfeo,

The answer is YES especially with todays rigs "in it's current state" and with UNMODIFIED Rigs. The basic design of the steadicam system hasn't changed since the Steadicam 35 was introduced. It's a post with a gimbal, a camera mounting platform, lower batter mount and monitor (The S35 had the monitor up on the camera but that's the only difference) and suit and a arm, NOTHING FUNDAMENTALLY HAS CHANGED and we operated those with one hand.

Last night for grins and giggles I did a shot one handed, it was FINE.

As for your finger being on the topside of the gimbal and wrong, well Buddy, hate to break it to you but it is wrong and WILL affect your operating.
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#11 Charles Papert

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 11:42 AM

Then why is it OK to operate low mode from completely above the gimbal, or use a split grip in that circumstance?

On the original subject, I have a shadowy memory of a Cinema Products ad from AC magazine showing how they adapted a chopped down Steadicam vest to create a handheld setup for a customer in a similar situation--the camera was a GSMO as I recall. Anyone think they can pull that one out? I'd guess late 70's, maybe early 80's?
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#12 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 11:53 AM

I'd suggest you contact Peter Abraham at Tiffen, as a longtime operator and instructor he has a good perspective and an inventive mind. Also try Jerry Holway. Heck, why not reach out to GB. Who better to suggest an inventive idea or some sage counsel? All three drop by the forum from time to time.

Not much to offer you on your technique questions as a relative newb myself, but I do believe that rolls & high angles are not automatically out, nor would you be automatically limited to lighter rigs. Remember that the vest and arm springs bear the weight. The forces for booming and aiming are relatively small. The key for you would be to develop your one-handed technique that achieves results comparable to "normal" two handed technique. It may involve adjustments to c.g./drop time, a tighter than "normal" grip on the post, and so on. A challenge but not impossible. In fact, a common running technique is to use one hand.

With ingenuity and persistence I don't see a reason you couldn't succeed, as others have already stated. Best of success to you.

Thanks for the replies fellas. So, as I begin to pursue this, what do you think my limitations might be? Certain big moves (rolls, very high angle) are probably out, but what else? Assuming several years of classes and practice, do you think I would be limited to lighter cameras and rigs? Would the inersia of running be too much to over power with one hand?

Who are the best people at Tiffen/Steadicam to talk to about this? Maybe they have ideas on special modifications that would make operating easier. Certainly in 40 years of Steadicam someone must have had an injury similar to mine. Lee Daniels (Slackers, Before Sunrise) had his left arm paralyzed, but I don't think he did Steadicam. Rich at Abel Cine Tech helped him with a hand held harness, and Abel NYC is currently helping me with my hand held set up. In the Steadicam world, who do I go to?

Thanks to all.

Steve


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#13 Janice Arthur

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 01:02 PM

Hi all;

Precision and Balance are what the right arm provide!

I'm not going to disagree but point out what has changed in the evolution of steadicam is the precision. We're not a just wide lens device anymore.

Whether someone can pull off the precision needed today with their operating skill using only one hand is the question. Clearly feature film screens demand more finesse than a smaller TV screen.

Lastly, yes you let go with the right hand to run so you do operate with one hand but that arm does serve a function when running; it is a rudder to balance you with. It is a key balancing element when stopping/turning too. Being able to throw it out as far as necessary when running even at a jog is important. (Running with one arm at your side is hard/impossible/uncomfortable.)

I think our guy here should be cautious of speeds he gets to in running.

I think it is possible for him to operate one handed but the work is going to be harder, from getting in the vest to the operating but if he's up to it could be done.

JA
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#14 Iain Baird

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 02:12 PM

As for your finger being on the topside of the gimbal and wrong, well Buddy, hate to break it to you but it is wrong and WILL affect your operating.


I wasn't going to enter into this debate until I read this. I guess we should all operate with our right hand on the arm instead of the yoke, as I seem to recall seeing in a video of you? You later explained you do whatever feels right for the shot, fine then allow the possibility that perhaps some people may differ with your opinion on that!!! I operate with a my forefinger over the gimbal and it works perfectly for me, I've seen many others do the same. Some guys are goofy foot but you're not, does that make them WRONG? We all have techniques that we've developed that work for us. Perhaps some may be the long way around in your thinking but if we arrive at the same destination then that's what's important.

As for the one handed Steadicam I think it would be entirely possible if your slightly paralyzed arm was only responsible for the booming and positioning of the yoke. Some sort of attachment could possibly be designed to hook onto your arm with your shoulder responsible for the lifting forces.

Go for it and Good luck!!!

IAIN
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#15 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 02:29 PM


As for your finger being on the topside of the gimbal and wrong, well Buddy, hate to break it to you but it is wrong and WILL affect your operating.


I wasn't going to enter into this debate until I read this. I guess we should all operate with our right hand on the arm instead of the yoke, as I seem to recall seeing in a video of you? You later explained you do whatever feels right for the shot, fine then allow the possibility that perhaps some people may differ with your opinion on that!!! I operate with a my forefinger over the gimbal and it works perfectly for me, I've seen many others do the same. Some guys are goofy foot but you're not, does that make them WRONG? We all have techniques that we've developed that work for us. Perhaps some may be the long way around in your thinking but if we arrive at the same destination then that's what's important.



By putting your finger above the gimbal on the pan ring as Alfeo does you add drag and impart influence to gimbal, something that the gimbal is designed to remove...

As for the location of my right hand on the arm or the yoke, that position has no bearing to rig stability unlike covering the gimbal
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