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5 year operator - dont own rig - best options for jobs?


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#1 AnthonyI

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 07:34 PM

I've been an operator for 5 years and have become damn good operator. Unfortunately I'm having trouble finding work that asks for only an operator, not a rig. Any suggestions on how to find work for a man with my dilemma? Also, I'm wrestling with the idea of purchasing my own rig. How's the demand for a skilled operator, with a decent reel, and his own rig? Can I get away with owning a zeypher, or is it worth it to spend a bit more for a better rig?
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#2 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 07:47 PM

TV Stations usually have a rig and use different operators, TV stations are a good start. But For the most part, you need to own a rig, or know someone who does so you have access to one all the time or most of the time. A Zephyr can be just fine, so can a Flyer or an SK, but it all depends on the type of work you do. Good luck.
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#3 AnthonyI

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 07:57 PM

Thanks for the reply. I was able develop a high skill level because I was working at a t.v. station which owned a pro vid. I've worked with all different kinds of weights and believe I can handle to fanciest of rigs. Do you think I can find good rigs with a zypher? What jobs do you think a Zypher wouldn't be able to handle. Also, if I decided to one day upgrade, what is the current resale percentage. Would I lose more than 10% of my investment if I ever decided to sell. Thanks again for the response.
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#4 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 08:19 PM

Hi Anthony,
WOW, you seem super Eager!, I guess that's a great thing. However from a ProVid to a big rig with a 30lb camera, + wireless video, Wireless focus, iris, Zoom is a whole different thing. TV station stuff is mostly big wides, There will be a learning curve. Have you taken a course anywhere?
I owned a big rig and worked successfully for just under 3 years and then had the opportunity to take a course. After the course It was as if I learned it brand new again, learned so many new things, and broke ALOT of bad habits. So First and foremost, Take a course, you'll be exposed to several rigs from the smallest to the biggest. Then just advertise yourself and make connections... Good luck!!

As for what gigs you can get with the different rigs, well, that's a question that can be answered in two parts. 1. The maximum weight of the system you have will dictate which cameras and accesories you can put on the sled. and 2. The actual jobs you can get are only limited by the imagination of the producer and director that call you.. ( or have someone else on the team call you)
And on the resale value of a rig.... Definitely will loose more than 10%.
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#5 AnthonyI

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 11:17 AM

Thanks again for the reply. I am only eager because, like everyone in here, I became passionate about steadicam. I am addicted to the rush of a perfectly executed shot. Regarding all your thoughts all can I say is that I actually got really lucky. I learned from an operator who just took the 5 day SOA course, so I learned to practice the right way as well as learning the engineering of the rig. I dont think I should mention what station I worked for, but I lucked out again, because the steadicam for this station was used the way it was supposed to be used. On the pro vid, I would not only have wireless video, but audio, and a front mounted mirrored prompter. So I learned quickly how to handle a lot of weight, and I learned it on a shitty rig. Plus our directors were new to steadicam which game me great creative freedom. But they also were unaware of the physical strain which resulted, on more than one occasion, in me not docking the rig for an hour an a half. A few years in, we upgraded to the G50 arm and it felt so amazing compared to the old one. I have also flown higher end rigs such as the GPI pro sled. I also had the advantage of shooting in studio and in the field. And because it was all live i learned quickly to get it right the first time all the time. So I find myself in a unique position. I actually interviewed for a steadicam position on a new show for OWN and they ended up hiring a girl with zero experience; and it show. With this economy people are more interested in saving money than the look of the show. They probably saved 30,000 bucks by not hiring me. So; I'm frustrated because I'm addicted to steadicam, but I cant get a gig without owning a rig, and I cant own a rig without a guarantee that I will get gigs. Thoughts?
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#6 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 11:54 AM

Anthony,

Zephyr is a good rig for up to 24lb payload (theoretical; there are some practial questions I'm sorting out on my new Zephyr). This should handle many RED configurations, any DSLR (with a weight plate) compact HD cameras, and most broadcast HD cameras. One great thing about it is that it is pretty affordable, so in this economic climate the risk is not as great as you build your clientele. It is basically an excellent rig within its weight capabilities (ditch the crappy SD monitor, though!). But if you want to have more flexibility and payload, then its on to the Archer, Clipper, Phantom, U2 PRO, XCS, etc.

What city/market are you in? What kinds of jobs are available/are you interested in? What kinds of cameras are being flown on those jobs? What kinds of accessories will you need for those jobs (the kit for live multicam is different than for features, the stuff you need to make DSLR gear play nice on Steadicam is different from what you need for a RED, etc.) All these answers will help guide you to a rig.

Resale varies but Tiffen rigs hold their value well. Retain 90%? Probably not, but again it depends. Like a car, the biggest hit is probably between new and "late-model used". So, keep an eye out to buy a used late-model rig and you will probably do better in resale. My first rig was a used Flyer and I sold it 1 1/2 years later for nearly what I paid for it.

If you can't justify buying a rig without a guarantee of gigs, then you've answered your own question. There are no guarantees, there is risk involved. Is your market saturated with good operators already? Can you offer a unique skillset or gear that fits a niche that is not being served? There is some good advice and ideas served up in the Steadicam Operators Handbook, worth looking over.

Good luck!
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#7 AnthonyI

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 12:15 PM

Thanks for the advice Mark. I work in New York/New Jersey and there are plenty of great operators here. But there are also terrible operators that are getting hired because they work for cheap. I lost out to a girl with zero credits to her name recently for a show on OWN. One reason is they wanted a girl, the other is they probably saved close to 30,000 bucks by not hiring me. And let me tell you, her inexperience shows. I learned steadicam in live tv, and hectic live tv at that; so I developed a great skill to get the shot right the first time every time. I have 2 peabody awards and 1 dupont. I have worked with some of the most famous and powerful people on the planet. And I am passionate about flying. Thats what I can bring to the table. Can you hook me up with finding used rigs? I think if I go this route, I would have to buy used. Thanks again for the advice
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#8 Frederic Chamberland

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 02:04 PM

You are at the best place to find a used rig on this forum .
Also try the classifieds at steadicam-ops.com and sometimes ebay but i would try here first .
There's always a few rigs appearing here but you have to check oftently because the "good" stuff always goes fast if the price is right .
Good luck and fly safe .
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#9 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 03:12 PM

Unless you are working for a network that owns a rig NO ONE is going to take you seriously until you do own a rig.

The size of the rig is determined by the type of work you want to do.

Search is your friend here, use it.

Oh and one other word of advice. You might want to dial back the ego....
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#10 AnthonyI

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 03:38 PM

Oh man Eric, I totally did not mean to come off as arrogant. Thats not me. Im a pretty grounded guy. I'm just trying to find out if my experience is enough for people to take me serious, and I was hoping to hear what more seasoned operators have accomplished. I apologize if it sounded egotistical. If anything, I just feel frustrated because it's such huge decision to make for me and I miss operating so much. But I think you are right; I can never have a serious career as an operator until I own my own. I really appreciate everyone's help. I will defiantly search the forum for some used rigs starting with a pilot. If anyone has a shortcut for me I would appreciate anyone's help. Thanks again.
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#11 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 03:46 PM

Oh man Eric, I totally did not mean to come off as arrogant. Thats not me. Im a pretty grounded guy.



Might want to reread your post's then....
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#12 nealnorton

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 04:08 PM

Hi Anthony:

My experience is this:

If you really want to do this job, you will find a way. Nothing will stop you. Everyone does it a little differently but the people I've known who do succeed spend years (and sometimes many years) preparing for a chance - an opportunity. It takes time and a little bit of obsession. Many people discover that the price to make it is way too high and so move on.

It seems to me, right now, that "the girl" you were competing with found a way to kick open the door. Don't complain about some one else finding a way in. . .find your own way in. And where did you come up with $30,000? Maybe you are not ready to be making a big pay check yet. Find out what your competition is making and then set realistic financial goals.

Good luck,

Neal Norton
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#13 AnthonyI

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 04:17 PM

Again, I am sorry it came off that way; I was just trying to list some things that might help me get a gig without owning a rig. I have been very grateful for everyone's help, and I dont want to make enemies with anyone and be labeled as something after one day and a few posts. I'm hear to learn and hopefully use what I learned to launch a successful career.
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#14 AnthonyI

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 04:24 PM

Thanks Neal. God, it sounds like im coming off as an A Hole. But I agree, I cant be a hater. I think the frustration is getting the better of me. I really do have a passion for this and am willing to take some chances to make it happen. Im defiantly going to search for some used rigs and see if can manage it economically. Thanks a lot for all the advice.
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#15 Charles Papert

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 05:18 PM

If you are completely serious about getting into the game, why not buy a full-size rig now. Anything less and you will be constantly worrying about weight limits and stripping down cameras and whether you can accept certain jobs. For every DSLR job there will be a poorly equipped (i.e. extra heavy) RED job.

And I happen to know of a great used rig for sale...ahem...!

http://web.me.com/ch.../steadicam.html
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