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#1 Graham Robbins

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 10:33 PM

Hey all first of all hello my names Graham I have been following these forums for a while but this is my first post!

So I am still young but I have been working for 2 years now freelancing myself out as a cinematographer and getting some decent paid work. One of my best friends since we were kids is actually one of my go to operators for larger scale stuff. We have been talking about picking up a Steadicam package and using it as a second income, and a way to sub rent to the productions I am Dping to make more off them.

However my problem is that for the kind of money we would be spending on a Steadicam, that can fly the cameras we use regularly like a loaded red one, I could buy my own red one package, which is very appealing to me seeing as I personally love the crisp image of the Red.

So I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this, Should we invest in a nice Steadicam setup? I feel like that will last us longer? or should we pick up a Red. Or is it dumb of us to even want to invest in gear.

I like to be on top of technology and try new things my only concern is we will spend a ton of money and all the sudden what we have is out of style.

My last question is a technical one if we end up picking up a steadicam what is a decent starter rig that can fly the Red one. I was thinking of getting the Flyer LE, but I have heard it cant handle the weight all that well of a loaded Red. We currently have about 10 grand between us, and can probably muster another 5, would it be better to pick up a used rig? or to go with all new gear.

Thanks guys,

Graham Robbins
www.grahamrobbinsdp.com
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#2 Brian Freesh

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 11:12 PM

Welcome Graham!

This is such a loaded topic, and you'll probably (hopefully) get a lot of different opinions. I'm just gonna breeze past some things:

Operating Steadicam isn't as easy as putting one on, not by a long shot. You should take that into consideration.

Operating Steadicam consistently well tends to take a big commitment. "Wanna sub rent for money" doesn't sound like a big commitment. And why not rent it to them, why go through another rental facility if you're DPing all the jobs it goes on anyway?

A steadicam you buy today will be just as useful 10 years from now. Any digital camera will not. That doesn't mean the Red One will be less profitable in the short or long run. Every shoot will need a camera, every day. Not every shoot will need a Steadicam any day.

If you go for a Flyer LE, get a Zephyr instead. Either way, same weight limit. I'd recommend instead of going by what you've heard, actually build a Red One with what you like on it, then strip off everything you don't absolutely need for steadicam. Weigh it, that's the MINIMUM weight you need to cover with a steadicam. It is possible with the Flyer LE, but you have to strip the F&@$ out of it, it's not cool.

For $15,000 I doubt you can get a complete enough Steadicam package that will carry your preferred Red set up, used or new. I know you can't get a complete Red package.

Good luck, I'm sure others will chime in here with other insight. :)
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#3 Sydney Seeber

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 11:36 PM

save your money and don't buy anything. If you get a job, rent what you need. Your $10,000 will come in handy to pay for silly things like rent and/or food. I would say the indie market has been hit hardest in the industry and competition at that level is cutthroat no matter what department you work in. Buying a steadicam or any other expensive item means you need to apply all of your resources and concentration toward finding ways to first use it competently then pursuing ROI. It is not a secondary goal. Any piece of gear you buy will not sell itself. First you sell yourself, then the gear. You would need to find a competent operator for your Steadicam. If you are the cinematographer who is just starting out, you can't possibly play both roles. Is your camera operator friend wanting to become a steadicam operator? Why not just subcontract the job completely, gear and all. Let your friend continue to operate and improve those skills. Buying a rig in the hopes of finding some dude out there who's "Between Rigs" at the moment is a bad idea. Would you trust a plumber to come to your house... But once he got there, he'd need to borrow all your tools to work?
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#4 Graham Robbins

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 11:45 PM

Brian,

Thanks for responding that was some really good info. First of all ill say; I see what your saying about it being a big expense if im just planing on bringing it onto projects I dp. I agree with you there I didn't really think about it that way.

but at the same time my partner in this is a camera op full time as well and has a lot of experience with Steadicam so he would be teaching me what I need to know. I will also be using it on projects with him working just as a Steadicam operator. However it is true that my main goal is to rent it to projects I am shooting.

Also I will clarify we have 10k-15k about in cash we are willing to spend, but we are ok taking out a loan on the rest of the rig and paying it off over time. So I kind of expect to pay more haha.

Another side question where are some good spots to look for used rigs?

Thanks,

Graham Robbins
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#5 Graham Robbins

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 11:49 PM

Sydney thats an interesting take on it. So you think that as a Dp I should be 100 percent focused on that and not bother with all of this? I guess for me I was kind of also hoping to learn a new craft that I could bring to the table but then again, I don't know any other DP's who op Steadicam.
And yes my buddy is working to just be a steadicam op.

Question: do most steadicam ops own there own gear? or do they rent it when they pick up jobs? or is it an even mix?

Thanks,

Graham R

Edited by Graham Robbins, 30 October 2010 - 11:51 PM.

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#6 Pedro Guimaraes SOC

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 12:58 AM

Hi,

Buying a digital camera is always a risky endeavour. Technology moves so fast as soon it will be outdated and loose alot of value. leave cameras to rental houses is my thought...

...unless you can put the camera to work constantly where it makes financial sense.

as far as steadicam,

I would just say focus on your DP career. The guys are right, save your money for lean times etc...

Then again, you know best.....it's you bank account.

I would recommend the glidecam gold below. 16k in great shape, cases cables etc.....this will work great for RED work....its a very capable system

http://www.steadicam...h=1
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#7 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 01:19 AM

On buying a red my thoughts match those above

My perspective as a stills photographer

In 2005 I wanted a stills camera that could equal film - I bought the only thing that could - a £20k hasselblad digiback

(A high quality device from a small manufactuer that trumps what the majors produce - see the analogy)

Fast forward to 2010 and you the majors (canon/nikon) produce film equalling still cameras for $3k

My $20k Blad is worthless junk, the speed and convenience of current cams from the majors make it a non economic tool, while the image quality is there the package is a bit clunky compared to todays offerings

Extrapolate forward and you see you may need a business model that needs to profit from the Red camera in three years

Your choice

On a steadicam,

Those future cameras may be light so the same could be true with a big rig investment

but of course a big rig will always have more inertia and create a better shot

So to argue the future death of the larger rig is harder to do, even if those rigs may not be needed just to lift future cameras

To me renting is a funny thing to do because I like to know and practice with my kit - never could this be more true than with a steadicam

I would buy..

Stuff that helps your business right now - and that might be a Red
Stuff that will not become eaten by future technology
Stuff that will last for ever

I have sticks bought in 1993 that are still good and valuable (probably more valuable than when I bought them)

grip ? lights ? steadicam? remote focus? Ronford head?

Personally I see the current video capable DSLR as the perfect practice cameras

I would put together a physical kit set where the everlasting bits are the best and the digital capture box is a cheap one - let someone else take the hit on the technology curve and rent that technology when you need it

Another thought on developing a business, looking back I realise that if I had been less kit intensive an spent more money intangibles; models, locations, a smart van, test shoots, advertising, logos, dinner for clients, creating amazing stuff, an office in the hip part of town, I would probably be further along the road than I am now

S

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 31 October 2010 - 01:28 AM.

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#8 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 02:34 PM

I would not recommend doing Steadicam on projects that you DP. I am a competant steadicam operator and DP but when I do Steadicam I have far too many other concerns to be focussing on things like lighting.

You would be hard pressed to find a competant Steadicam operator that doesn't own their own rig. It is basically a job requirement.

If you want to get into a big rig with all of the accessories you are going to need (wireless follow focus, wireless video, etc) you are looking at spending about $70,000 new(that is not top of the line stuff). You might not need it all at first but you can get to that number very quickly. Many guys here have closer to 200,000 invested so keep that in mind. I have seen reasonably complete used packages go for around 35k but they are of course harder to come by and you will end up wanting new things and to upgrade things.

-Jess
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#9 Sanjay Sami

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 03:12 PM

Hey all first of all hello my names Graham I have been following these forums for a while but this is my first post!

So I am still young but I have been working for 2 years now freelancing myself out as a cinematographer and getting some decent paid work. One of my best friends since we were kids is actually one of my go to operators for larger scale stuff. We have been talking about picking up a Steadicam package and using it as a second income, and a way to sub rent to the productions I am Dping to make more off them.
Graham Robbins
www.grahamrobbinsdp.com


Graham,
If you want to make your career as a DP, then focus on being a DP. You are young, dont think about money as the criteria to get into something like steadicam. It is way better for you to hire a skilled steadicam operator. He / She will make you look better as a DP. By experimenting as Steadicam Op and DP, you (as an inexperienced op) will look bad as both a DP and operator.
Make a name for yourself in the field you have chosen. Dont spread yourself too thin ...

Just my humble opinion.
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#10 RonBaldwin

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 04:21 PM

many buy rigs because they think they can make a quick buck renting it out -- almost always ends unhappily (but not for the beginner looking for a good deal on lightly used, half priced equipment).

Here's a 10 step program that many adhere to:

1 - buy rig.
2 - buy 1 years supply of ramen soup and Jerry's book.
3 - hide in your house/apt/flat/hovel/refrigerator box/wherever and practice for one year...occasionally stopping to eat afore mentioned ramen soup and check book for new techniques.
4 - register on the steadicam forum.
5 - change cute nick name to your full name after being bugged about it
6 - when 1 year is up, try to figure out why phone isn't ringing off hook with lucrative offers by oscar winning directors and dp's
7 - put add on craigs list and undercut everyone in town.
8 - venture out into the daylight to your 18 hr job where you will make $100.
9 - try to defend yourself to the steadicam community for upsetting the space-time continuum by giving yourself and your rig out for nearly free.
10 - decide to go back into your house/apt/flat/hovel/refrigerator box/wherever and practice some more because you now realize that it really does take time and a lot of work to be a successful steadicammer. Good thing you didn't get into it for a quick buck.

**some skip step #7, which then negates 8 and 9 allowing for reading more of Jerry's book and watching all seasons of Dexter
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#11 Charles Papert

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 05:13 PM

Someone repost Ron's 10-step program as a sticky, please? it's right on.

Graham, my opinion as a longtime DP/Steadicam dual-hat-wearer is that it usually sucks. You can either focus on the nuances of operating or lighting but never both, at least not fully. You need all of your mental energy to run the set efficiently as a DP and using it up physically by flying the rig is another compromise. There are those out there who will disagree with me but there has not been a single instance in two decades that I haven't wished I had a good operator working for me instead of me doing it myself. You know that cliched sitcom bit where the main character has committed to be in two different places at the same time and they keep excusing themselves then sprinting down the hall or into a taxi to go to the other place, and eventually end up forgetting which one is which? It's like that, but without the laugh track.

If your business model points you towards making back your investment in a Red One package within the next year, it's worth considering as an investment. If not, realize that when the next best thing materializes, be it the Epic, Scarlet, next gen Canon (or Panasonic or Sony), your camera will suddenly be considered outdated and you may start hearing "we'd really like to use the [whatever], we hear it's great".

As Ron points out, these days the rental rates on low-budget Steadicam jobs is pretty much a joke. You think they are paying guys that you bring in little money, just wait until you have your own rig and the pressure starts to just throw it in with the camera package. Steadicam operators can get into tussles with production over money, DP's cannot.

If your buddy is serious about becoming a Steadicam operator and he's ready to commit to doing it for real (here's one test: is he ready to take a week long workshop? If he thinks its too expensive and he doesn't really need it, he's probably not serious about the commitment, both financially and otherwise), maybe it will be a good idea to invest into his rig purchase. While it's not as good as it once was, there are plenty of operators out there who have paid off their rigs and are making good money on the rental on a regular basis. If you think you will get more and better work owning your own camera and lenses, that may be a more direct investment in your own future as a DP.
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#12 Sydney Seeber

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 05:57 PM

If I were to buy anything and I were in your shoes, I'd seriously look at cinema lenses, not the camera. Depending on what mount you get them in, the shelf life is a lot longer than the camera, and a complete lens kit is actually something that you could rent out from time to time on your productions. You won't get shit for $10,000 - Well, maybe one or two - but it's a start. There are plenty of high end brand names creating complete lens sets for the mid budget in mind, so instead of a $30,000 t1.3, you may end up with a 1.8 or something. To practice with, a decent idea might be to get one of the Canon or Nikon video DSLRs and modify the mount so you could get used to the look and know what to ask for when you're working.
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#13 Graham Robbins

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 06:13 PM

Thank you guys so much for all the advice I really appreciate the quick feedback on this forum!

Also Charles I really took your post to heart so thanks, and
ps. nice IMDB resume you have shot a lot of stuff.

Ron's ten step program is gold haha.

But anyway guys yea I think I will be holding off on buying a Steadicam, at least until I know I have a big market for it quite frankly I diddnt know it was such a big investment I thought I could skate by for less than 20grand. Ill just pimp out my 7d, and wait for the 5d Mark 3 hopefully it will be RAW, and my life will be complete :)

Thanks again you guys rock,

Graham Robbins
www.grahamrobbinsdp.com
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#14 Nicholas Davidoff

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 07:18 PM

Love your 10 step Ron. Great stuff!
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#15 richard bellon

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Posted 02 November 2010 - 08:14 AM

hiya

i wouldnt buy a camera, to much admin

i would howeva as a DOP buy stuff like, filters, lenses, camera assesories (might annoy a couple of assistants)

a DP i worked with quite a lot when i was an assistant has approx 50 or 60 filters maybe more (4x4 and 6x6) as well as a full set of ultra primes, (10mm-180mm) 2 or 3 canon zooms, both optimos (24-290& 17-80 i think)
angenuix 25-250 and the 17-102
maybe he has added more to the package i dont know :P

he has stayed away from assesories as he believes that an assistants investment area.

so i would start with that as that stuff will last you your whole life

regards
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