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The importance of owning your own ff kit


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#1 David Willert

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 12:04 AM

Hello everyone!

Im brand new to this forum, and an aspiring/wannabe (not in the bad sense:) steadi op, and after a little search I couldnt find a topic regarding this.

My situation is the following:

I am about to buy my first rig, which is likely to be a Zephyr setup of sort, and I am weighing off how important it is to own certain pieces of equipment that you need to show up with on any given shoot (which mostly will be for me in the beginning no, student to low budget ones) and which ones I can get away with renting if needs be.

My specific concern in this regard, most integral besides the rig iteself and the various connectors/cables I imagine, is the focus unit.

I was thinking of getting a viewfactor kit. Has anyone had any experience with one of those? or is it generally the best idea to go with the big guns and mix and match a la bartech/preston, arri etc... ? If so, how much can I get away with paying for a one motor setup with an analogue/digital wireless/wired system all incl.?

Then also, how important is it for me, in the very beginning stages, as outlined above, to own iris/zoom control units aswell?

Another question would be backup gear (going a little out of the focus topic here). Which backup parts/pieces are considered absolute vital, or should I have two of "everything"? (this might be a bit of a far reaching question)

By the way, all the posts I read so far have been very informative, and this seems to be a great place of exchange and even innovation (bartch rcvr), truly a collaborative, professional spirit here, niice. So thanks for that already...

Looking forward to your advice,

Best,


David


ps: happy new years eve!
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#2 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 12:43 AM

Hi David,

Welcome to the Steadicam Forum!

Owning a remote follow focus system is pretty much considered an essential item for your kit. I don't know who the first person was who decided to start that "standard" but it stuck with us and is an expectation along with some form of video transmitter system.

When I was first getting started a few ops were willing to rent me their backup focus systems but it gets to a point very quickly where if you are going to make a real go at Steadicam that you need to own your own.

If you don't have the capital to buy a BFD or Preston, you can rent them from rental houses or maybe with small projects you can get production to rent one for you but they'll already be strapped to try to pay you a decent rate and rental.

I don't recall what market you are in but if there are other ops or beginning ops in your area you could buy together and share some systems; working as colleagues instead of competitors.

Buying a Zephyr may not be your best route if you have limited funds and won't be able to step up with another $10k +++ for accessories which will come at you quicker than you think.

There are a myriad of used full sized rigs on the market these days and some of them are bundled with a lot of what you are going to need to get started. Bigger rig, complete expandability, few limits and accessories included. I just sold one a few days ago and the op got a great package.

There seems to be an ill-conceived misconception prevailing lately that the smaller camera packages whether they be DSLRs, EPIC or whatever allow the use of a smaller rig. The fact is that once you load these "sensor" packages with lenses, mattebox, remote focus, transmitters and everything else we tend to stack on these days you quickly outgrow a small rig in many ways.

I started with a Flyer and while it was a great start, to be competitive or at least work jobs at the level I'd been working as a camera operator I had to get a full-size rig within 60 days and move up yet again within eight more months... yep, three rigs in ten months. I'm now on rig four but this one will last me the long term. I should have just bought the right rig to start but I didn't know and I believe too many manufacturers claims along the way. Ultimately you will spend MORE on accessories than even what you'd spend on a new Ultra2, XCS Ultimate or PRO rig; that is a given.

Don't take this the wrong way but there's a very good chance that this early in the game you don't know what you don't know.

Good on you for asking questions before you buy; I learned the hard (expensive) way.

Robert
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#3 William Demeritt

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 12:53 AM

I would recommend you feel out the clientele you're generating, and let that guide your purchase decision. Personally, I wouldn't show up with at least a focus unit that I can trust and rely on. Maybe find some reviews of the Viewfactor unit and decide from there. However, remember the focus unit can grow with you as you grow, so if you buy a Bartech now, you can still use it down the road if/when you grow to a heavier rig.
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#4 David Willert

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 01:50 AM

Hello Robert!

Thank you very much for your elaborate reply.

Yes, its true, I had forgotten to mention the video transmitters. You have mentioned and described exactly the pickle that I felt and now again feel that Im in.

I had weighed off buying a used bigger rig with some accessories vs. buying a new mid-sized rig with very few accessories vs. buying a new small rig with more accessories and a full 5dmk2 kit (cage, lenses, mattebox etc.) in order to be able to work on my own projects as well.

And yea, I read quite a few things before, spoke to a friend who started out a few years ago and came to the same conclusion, if you have a small rig, you can basically not take on shoots with a budget, because the demands are high and they will very quickly outweigh your rigs capacity. Slam on a 2/3 eng cam or a 416/sr3 with the slightest accessories, no chance. A red with accessories plus solid glass without specially carefully chosen equipment, no chance. So yea, where does that leave me...

I am certainly conflicted about this. However the other thing is, that my current situation does dictate some terms. I have originally established myself in the industry in Cape Town (not as steadi op), where I also studied originally. Then I moved to Brazil for personal reasons and was in between there and my home country Germany. Now I will be working in Sao Paulo for 2011 only to move back to Europe for 2012. Hence, its a bit of a mess in terms of establishing myself. The upside is, I will have lots of time and opportunity to practice and focus on my rig and getting my muscle memory up... I doubt though that I will see much viability in financial terms in the first year.

So, this is my situation. I could spend a lot of money on a rig, but I am a bit cautious, also because I have in mind what you said about changing my rig all the time, which wouldnt be affordable unless obviously the nice gigs come rolling in, then its no question...

I have also tried to find used rigs. I came across some attractive ones on the SOC website and here and the mkv forum, but it wasnt plenty. Wheres the myriad of used systems at? Im sure you being very connected and experienced makes it easier?!

And last but not least, Im the first to admit that there is probably plenty of things I dont know I dont know, those are also the most challenging in any ones growth process at any given stage, I think, because you mostly only learn about them once you stumble upon them, and maybe fall on your face (and then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again:), without sounding too dramatic.

I dont want to sound absolutely generalising and naive, but which way do I go about this then? I broke it down for myself like this:

I do not have immediate demand (very few connections), the market I will serve initially (no/low budget) often operates less professional or lower end/alternative equipment (mostly with less weight requirements) and I know once Im ready to tackle bigger projects, have the connections and skills to get those, I will need a big rig anyways, no doubt.

My other thought, having a big rig doesnt mean I get big jobs (obviously) and it doesnt really matter for the above mentioned projects.

DSLRs are popular and still becoming more popular (as well as current and future derived "dslr" camcorders) for indie shoots and even lots of web stuff, like web ads, clips and also corporate stuff. And a DSLR cam with all accessories for this kind of project range will fall within the smaller rigs capacity. And even a RED could fit the specs, if you can cut down on certain accessories, which I think a no budget/low budget production often allows for (and Im not talking Hollywood low budget).

So that was my arguing behind my almost decision. But Im ready to be sobered up if needs be...

Alright, I will stop rambling now,

Thanks again, and all the best,



David

ps: re accessories, what you said William, I had in mind too. Most of the additional accessories like focus/tape measure, video transmitter I will be able to use onward disregardless of the rig. The attractive thing about the viewfactor, looks like quality (I know, you can only see so much from a picture), the good price and its very compact with the receiver being integrated in the motor (not sure if that will pose problems).

Edited by David Willert, 30 December 2010 - 01:55 AM.

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#5 Tom Wills

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 02:16 AM

ps: re accessories, what you said William, I had in mind too. Most of the additional accessories like focus/tape measure, video transmitter I will be able to use onward disregardless of the rig. The attractive thing about the viewfactor, looks like quality (I know, you can only see so much from a picture), the good price and its very compact with the receiver being integrated in the motor (not sure if that will pose problems).


I'm in too over my head in terms of equipment purchasing thoughts right now to help much with that part of your post, but in terms of the Viewfactor, I have read quite a bit about it. There actually is a separate receiver, pictured nowhere on the Viewfactor site, which is needed to connect to the motor. However, that isn't the biggest problem with Viewfactor. They actually have only shipped a small number of follow focus units, even though many put down money as pre-orders. In fact, if you look on Viewfactor's site, all of the needed components for putting together a system are "backordered".

Just something to consider when you're looking at a company without a proven track record. Will they deliver? If they do deliver, can you get service? What about 5 years down the road? Gear in this industry is generally built to last, but that's no good for you if nobody will service it.

Best of luck out there!
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#6 David Willert

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 03:10 AM

In fact, if you look on Viewfactor's site, all of the needed components for putting together a system are "backordered".

Just something to consider when you're looking at a company without a proven track record. Will they deliver? If they do deliver, can you get service? What about 5 years down the road? Gear in this industry is generally built to last, but that's no good for you if nobody will service it.

Best of luck out there!



Hey Tom!

Thnx for that. You are right. I also saw that everything is backordered or out of stock. I asked them, and they said that they would be able to ship out ff kits as of february. Its also true about the receiver, I misinterpreted what it said about integrated features, was only regarding amplifiers/drivers for motor although there indeed is no picture of the receiver. A bit odd. And mostly about service and reliability. Well, lets see. Maybe I can test it somewhere, or take one for the team :)

Ciao,


David
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#7 James Davis

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 06:41 AM

In fact, if you look on Viewfactor's site, all of the needed components for putting together a system are "backordered".

Just something to consider when you're looking at a company without a proven track record. Will they deliver? If they do deliver, can you get service? What about 5 years down the road? Gear in this industry is generally built to last, but that's no good for you if nobody will service it.

Best of luck out there!



Hey Tom!

Thnx for that. You are right. I also saw that everything is backordered or out of stock. I asked them, and they said that they would be able to ship out ff kits as of february. Its also true about the receiver, I misinterpreted what it said about integrated features, was only regarding amplifiers/drivers for motor although there indeed is no picture of the receiver. A bit odd. And mostly about service and reliability. Well, lets see. Maybe I can test it somewhere, or take one for the team :)

Ciao,


David


As a pretty new rig owner myself, and someone facing similar dilemmas, myself and my business partner have been deliberating over wireless FF systems too, over the course of the last year and the various projects we have worked on, i've had the opportunity to try a bartech, a preston, and a hocus focus (basic one).

The preston was out of this world, with a (out of my world) price tag to match, felt lncredible, packed full of features never skipped a beat, kinda like a reliable ferrari.

The Bartech was exactly the same in terms of reliability, rock solid, a lot more simple in its features, and a little trickier to set-up according to my AC, but great nonetheless.

Hocus Focus was good, caught a little interference inside some indoor location environments, but was generally really good.

Price wise I was left with the following:

Preston massively out of my price range, which wrote that one off pretty much instantly.

Bartech, within my price range but a little lacking on certain features I wanted unless I was prepared to stretch to the digital transceiver, which put the price up a reasonable amount.

New Kid on the block, the Hocus Focus Pro, the original seemed to work more than well enough, although it suffered a tiny bit of intereference, and the pro version promises a newly revised receiver, high end motor to comfortably turn cinema lenses, etc etc.

So I am waiting until I have some free time, and then I am going to go pay Pete a visit to test one out, but this may well be my next purchase, and I would say its definitely worth a look, as like the original it appears to offer excellent value for money.
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#8 David Willert

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 07:46 AM

Hey James!

Alright, that sounds good. Yea, from the preston I guess you expect that. About the HoFoPro, its also expected to be quite more than double the price though, around 3500 pounds opposed to 1200 for the standard version.

Well, I will see. The viewfactor you can get for around 1800 pounds (I know, I keep coming back to it), when its available.

Yea well. I will do some more research in all directions...

Thanks,


David
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#9 James Davis

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 09:21 AM

The reason I would completely disregard purchasing something like the standard Hocus focus, viewfactor or any other wireless follow focus that "cheaps out" on certain parts/capabilities to come in at that price point, is durability and performance, a cheap/basic wireless Follow Focus will not turn a compact prime, or any half decent cinema lens, with ease, let alone reliably, for years upon years of service, subsequently it will not hold its value well either when you come to sell it on.
A bartech with a good motor will turn anything and everything that a Preston will do, apparently so will the new Hocus Focus Pro and the accompanying motor (which does look very nicely made).
You should seriously bare this in mind, because with reduced rental house pricing on compact primes now becoming a reality, fewer and fewer low budget productions are going to be relying on zeiss SLR lenses and 5D's, when you can get a panasonic agf100/101 whatever its called, and a set of compact primes for pretty much the same price, and I personally do not want to be caught in a situation where my follow focus will be regarded as useless, because it will reflect on me as not doing my job properly, or it will mean hire costs which could have gone towards paying off a decent wireless FF that I should have owned in the first place, which will cut it, no matter what the job.
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#10 RonBaldwin

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 09:29 AM

The Bartech was exactly the same in terms of reliability, rock solid, a lot more simple in its features, and a little trickier to set-up according to my AC, but great nonetheless....


I always found it ironic that the guy who shows up with a tape measure and a ditty bag can be such a whiner and dictate what you own and how much you spend to make him happy. Sure The Preston or C-motion are the shiznit but at your beginning level who the fack would expect you to have those?! The Bartech is a wonderful unit and pretty stupid proof. When an assistant tells you "it's tricky to set up" what he's really saying is that he's a lazy shiite and doesn't have the extra 15 seconds during a lens change to hit on the cute extras. Start small then work up. And tell the assistant that if he wants you can use his remote focus since he isn't happy with yours.

rb
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#11 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 09:49 AM

Ultimately you will spend MORE on accessories than even what you'd spend on a new Ultra2, XCS Ultimate or PRO rig; that is a given.

Nice one Robert! I'm still wondering how I got up to $10K in cables with very few backups and I still need two !*#$!%@&!?"#@ Fiber Jumpers?!?!
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#12 Brian Freesh

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 09:56 AM

And tell the assistant that if he wants you can use his remote focus since he isn't happy with yours.


I get great looks after they complain when I ask them if I can set up their preston.

It was recently pointed out to me that once you've learned it, it takes less time to calibrate a lens with a BFD than a Preston (or I suppose a BDR). The difference being that that speed comes at the cost of doing it yourself. The only people that complain are the ones who have already used it, if they can't do it quickly, they shouldn't be building cameras.
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#13 David Willert

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 10:29 AM

Hahaha, thats kinda amusing, but reality. Its true, as much as you dont hear a boom swinger complaining about holding a boom (hang on, they do sometimes, I did it occasionally, does that make me a bad person? :)

James, got your point, and I agree. I spoke with an op friend of mine, and he said the same thing about rocking up with dodgy equipment, reflects bad on you no matter what it is.

Ron, yea, was also thinking. You cant have everything to start off with, and luckily most systems are modular in a way, or with each other, so thats cool.

Probably the best idea is to get a bartech set, although if, Id like to skip buying the analogue unit, and only buy the digital one, but apparently thats not an option at the moment.

Anyhow, thanks a lot for the feedback, I have derived some conclusions from this, and Im sure I will pop up with a new topic pretty soon, somewhere, considering that this buying equipment shizzle is quite something.

Alright, take care and see you around!


David
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#14 Pedro Guimaraes SOC

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 09:28 PM

Viewfactor sucks....had many problems on shoots (I didn't bring teh viewfactor to set.) avoid it.

My vote is Bartech with new Digital reciver. Calibrates as easy as preston now. 1 button done.

a BFD, digital reciver and a heden motor mroe or less around 5k here in the US....In brazil....man forget it everything is like 5 times the price....you need to find someone to sneak it into the country.

I should know I'm brazilian but live in LA now.

Personally, I just rented BFD and the occasional cmotion and preston. Saved my money....


Recently I just bought a new C-motion Cvolution set.....$$$ big money. But should pay off quickly due to its 3D capabilities...

Like I said I think in your situation, being new and being far away from any "service" facilities. I would go with Bartech. They are workhorse of hundreds of ops for years.
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#15 David Willert

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 03:09 AM

Viewfactor sucks....had many problems on shoots (I didn't bring teh viewfactor to set.) avoid it.


Oii Pedro!

Thank you for your feedback. Good to hear about some first hand experience re viewfactor. To be fair and out of curiosity, what was some of the problems you encountered or what you found problematic?

Tell me about it. Ive spent a year in Brazil now, and industrialized goods are just SO damn expensive. I hadnt even looked into film gear for pricing. I will definitely be buying all my stuff elsewhere.

You get lots of 3D work? Yea, the cmotion kit sounds bananas! also their top kit goes up to 37 thou euros orso, talking about your accessories costing more than your high end rig... heewwww... one day :)

Cool, yea, with all the feedback I will most likely decide on a bartech.

Obrigado, abraço,

te mais,

David

Edited by David Willert, 01 January 2011 - 03:11 AM.

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