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Necessary Equipment to get Started

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#1 Aaron King

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 08:11 AM

Hey everyone, I am beginning to make the transition from AC to Steadicam and this is my first post. I am signed up for a training course in Maine for July and have already had a couple good opportunities to try on an Ultra rig to make sure this is something I truly want to pursue. My question is, for someone just getting started, what are the absolute necessary tools you need to begin working? I live in Nashville, and our work is with ARRI, Red, and now the 5 & 7D shooting primarily music videos and commercials. On occasion things are shot with Panasonic and Sony ENG cameras, and Varicam. There is so much out there, but I just want to get the basic materials needed first, and will get additional tools and accessories as needed and money is there. Also, with certain pieces (follow focus, wireless transmitters...) what are the recommended brands and models that people use and are at a comparable price range? Any and all advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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#2 Andrew Stone

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 08:21 AM

Hi Aaron,

That question is a rather sprawling one to be answered in a single post and not knowing your knowledge base on the subject makes it difficult to answer.

A few suggestions. One, your course is in July -- not that far off. Most of what you need to know will be dispensed in a meaningful way in the course. I assume it is a 5 day course. Second, pick up a copy of The Steadicam Operators Handbook and studiously read it between now and when you take the course. Third, poke around the forum archives for a few months and read posts and threads here as they develop. There is a lot of information here that will reveal itself as you become more acquainted with the art and craft of Steadicam.

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#3 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 10:08 AM

Fortunately you can add extra kit and AKS as you build your skills and rent some of the more expensive items as your first jobs come up. Don't forget to budget for marketing, additional training, insurance etc..

My current sled, arm, vest, monitor cost about $65k but my overall system is approaching $180k.

Bare minimum you'll need to acquire:

Focus system: Single channel Bartech about $5k - three channel Preston $30k+

Transmitter: Low-end $600 - CanaTrans $5k - HD $6k and up

Receiver monitors: $75 - $1000 for monitors and $2k+ receivers

Batteries: At least $5k

Cables: $5k - $15k

Cart & Shipping Cases: $1k - $5k

Kit for live shows: $1k - $5k

Vehicle to carry all this crap: ?

Insurance: $1k - $3k

Misc items like weight plate, downconverter, rain/ dust covers, tools, back up cables and monitor, adapters, fiber jumpers, Triax to coax adapters, extra stand and docking bracket, zoom/focus controller... that is easily another $6k and the list goes on.

You don't have to run out and buy all this at once but to be competitive you'll need it and when they sell you the rig they won't tell you about all these other items nor their cost.

I think most everyone adds as they go along and in some specialties such as live work you don't need wireless focus and transmitters.

Just be sure to budget for at least 30-50% of the cost of your rig for accessories and that percentage will be higher if you're buying small rig because even though the cost of the rig is less, the cost of the AKS remain about the same.

This is a VERY GOOD REASON to look at used systems; there are tons of used systems on the market at the moment where you can get a more capable rig with some AKS and be ready to hit the ground running... but we don't encourage running :rolleyes:

It's early and the espresso has not fully kicked in so I may have missed a few things but this is a good start.

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#4 RonBaldwin


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Posted 11 May 2010 - 10:42 AM

Talk to as many workimg ops as possible about their gear and their wish list. Don't believe anyone if they say theirs is the best, they all have advantages and disadvantages. Look at what people start with and what they end up with -- ask them why.
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#5 Brian Freesh

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 11:24 AM

A place to start with what Ron is talking about is This thread. Absolutely find out why people like different things and what use they have for each feature. You'll start to figure out how that relates to your own opinions. There are more manufacturers than the 3 specified in that post and you never know what you might prefer.

But as for bare minimum: Vest, arm, sled, monitor, batteries. From there, what Robert said. Except I'd put insurance at the top of his list!

But honestly, my rig is the best.
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#6 Kevin Andrews SOC

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 11:40 AM

Get in touch with John Perry. I believe he is from Nashville and might be able to give you insights into the market there.

My list.

Good pair of sneakers

Sweat band for wrist

Red Bull cup holder adapter for vest

All the gear in the world won't help if you don't market and have the ability to get work at a decent rate. Take Robert's advice there. I think he has a good post here somewhere about the business side of things. Starting out it's about 90% small business stuff.
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#7 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 12:02 PM

... forgot to mention Lisigav for your gimbal and other squeaky parts; pretty much something every op has in their kit.... priceless!
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#8 Aaron King

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 04:07 PM

Thanks everyone for your response. I recently picked up the Steadicam Manual and have been reading it as well as going through the forums for a while. For someone new, it can be so overwhelming learning about new tools that you are unfamiliar with and trying to weed through to find what it is you are looking for. Also, the cost of it all is mind blowing as well. Thanks for the advice and pointing me in proper directions. I am excited about the prospects of Steadicam and am enjoying learning a new trade. Thanks again.
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#9 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 08:51 PM


Crazy week this week but let's get together next....
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