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am i insane?


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#1 tony flanagan

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 08:28 PM

hi all.

i'm a dp but i feel like i'm sort of shooting the same things over and over so i'm looking to broaden my skills by becoming a steadicam op. thing is, i'm the age of most veteran ops (43). the several times i've flown a rig has been tiring but the more i fly it, the better it feels. even with my meager newly-learned abilities, the results are nice enough to make me want to do it more and more. but before i invest $30-40K in this experiment i need to know: am i 10 years too late to try this or can i survive as an operator long enough to pay off the rig?

i appreciate any advice.
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#2 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 10:53 PM

There is no simple, one-size-fits-all answer, but taking a weeklong workshop will help answer several questions...

I took up Steadicam at 55 years old. It offers an artistic, physical and technical challenge that I enjoy immensely. For several reasons I have currently limited myself to a Flyer, which I bought used, and which paid for itself in less than a year. It fits a market niche (documentary, local commercial and corporate work) that is serving me well. I continue to also work as a DP, camera operator, and video editor.

My advice is to invest carefully, practice incessantly, network with other operators. Make a business plan, market to our existing clients and be prepared to lose money for awhile, while you gain skills and experience. Decide what kind of operating you like (films, music videos, multicam video, corporate communications, events, etc.) and make sure you have the special gear bits and skills to work in that area.

If you have the passion, drive and innate talent, you can have a satisfying career even if you are starting "late." Remember that starting at your age gives you advantages, too...on-set experience and communication skills, maturity and professionalism, negotiating ability, technical skills, a practiced "eye", etc.

Good luck!

hi all.

i'm a dp but i feel like i'm sort of shooting the same things over and over so i'm looking to broaden my skills by becoming a steadicam op. thing is, i'm the age of most veteran ops (43). the several times i've flown a rig has been tiring but the more i fly it, the better it feels. even with my meager newly-learned abilities, the results are nice enough to make me want to do it more and more. but before i invest $30-40K in this experiment i need to know: am i 10 years too late to try this or can i survive as an operator long enough to pay off the rig?

i appreciate any advice.


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#3 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 12:54 AM

hi all.

i'm a dp but i feel like i'm sort of shooting the same things over and over so i'm looking to broaden my skills by becoming a steadicam op. thing is, i'm the age of most veteran ops (43). the several times i've flown a rig has been tiring but the more i fly it, the better it feels. even with my meager newly-learned abilities, the results are nice enough to make me want to do it more and more. but before i invest $30-40K in this experiment i need to know: am i 10 years too late to try this or can i survive as an operator long enough to pay off the rig?

i appreciate any advice.



Well it depends on what sort of work you're looking to do, what you've been doing where you are located and who you know. Tell us a little more about yourself
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#4 Andrew Stone

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 11:19 AM

Mark's post is excellent. Read it carefully... a lot in their to mull over Tony.

Your question of age is a valid one but it shouldn't prevent you from pursuing Steadicam as long as it makes sense financially to you and your family, assuming you have one. You mentioned you're a DP but that really doesn't tell us much. If you will be controlling what goes on the rig and you aren't going to be flying rigs that are RED sized or bigger, you can stay with a rig like a Flyer or the new Zephyr which has a 24 pound payload capacity and has wiring for motors, HD monitor and so on. A lot of of the "middle production" cameras are getting lighter as well.

As Mark infers taking the WEEK long course will sort out most of the questions for you including whether or not you even want to go with a big rig or venture into big payload based work. Be careful what you ask for. There is a lot to be said for being limited to a rig (arm, sled and camera) hanging out in front of you that weighs under 30 pounds.

I got into it at 46. I am still debating to go to a bigger rig to get more headroom but I am not interested in flying some of these massive rigs that some ops are doing these days. Too old for that s...

If you buy used there is a much better chance of you getting a return on investment when you go to sell the rig. Take the course and spend some time around here to get a sense of business (it is quite complicated), the equipment required, etc.

Your cautiousness is warranted but the door hasn't slammed on your butt.

Good luck.

-Andrew

Edited by Andrew Stone, 19 November 2010 - 11:29 AM.

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#5 tony flanagan

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 10:03 PM

thanks for all the thoughtful advice. sorry it took so long to respond, but my winter has fortunately been busy, until now.

i particularly can relate to staying in a comfort zone of the smaller rigs and smaller cameras. i shoot a lot of small productions, often with smaller cameras (hvx200s, ex3s) so that is a world i'm in already. but i have very very few producers right now who have steadicam even on their radar. so i feel if i make the move to steadicam, i'll need to venture into indies, student films, and other productions that have a demand for it.

in addition, i shoot a lot of sports ENG, some docs and some local lower-budge commercials. mostly sports though. i've found the steadicam so much more comfortable than handheld but the sports producers aren't yet willing to pay for a steadicam for the types of things i shoot. there is the occasional feature pieces following players around a park/stadium but it's still mainly talking heads. i know there are many uses of steadicam in sports tv, i'm just not in that world yet. for these productions, we're usually shooting on an F900, so i feel if i want to expand in sports broadcasting, i need to step up to a larger rig.

i took a 2-day class with peter and loved flying the rig. a week-long class seems like a great idea.

i am leaning toward getting the zephyr. it's not too expensive and can carry most of the cameras i use for now. even an f900 with no focus motors, etc should fly well. i am also looking at used rigs that presumably would be beefier and include more accessories.

thanks again for the advice. it really is a great community you have here. all the newbies asking silly questions and vets like you taking us seriously and giving extremely helpful answers. it makes me feel better about making the plunge.

thanks for the time and insight.
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#6 Douglas John Kropla

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 12:24 PM

Hey Tony,
sounds like you and I have similar stories. I am a youngish 48 this year. Too old to start? Never! I love working with the young directors, actors, bands. Keeps me young. My gear accommodates a niche market, meaning the HDSLR market. Lots of little productions here in Montreal shooting on these things. These lighter loads means I can be in my gear for hours. Less wear and tear on these middle age joints. It sounds like the right rig (Zephyr or used FLYER) would be another tool in the tool box and would be a nice little addition to your portfolio/CV. Comes down to what you want and where you want to be in say 10 years. For me, will I ever fly a film cam on A list set? Not likely. But right now I'm having a lot of fun and making a living.
Cheers.

Doug "Not a Vet" Kropla.
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