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steadicam for 5d


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#1 brooksrobinson

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 07:31 PM

A DP friend that I work with is looking for a smooth way to move his Canon 5D while shooting home movies. He would like to find a steadicam-like devise that would be appropriate for the weight of the 5D without any accessories (no follow-focus, transmitter, etc). I would like to be able to advise him, but don’t know anything about the less expensive/lighter rigs, other than there is a lot of junk for sale out there. Does anyone have any experience using one of the smaller rigs in this capacity? I’m sure cost is an issue, as this isn’t going to be used on the set, but will strictly be for personal use.

Thank you in advance for any guidance.

Brooks Robinson
brooksontheroad@pacbell.net
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#2 Brian Freesh

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 10:54 PM

Steadicam Merlin is the standard for that, and very popular. List is ~$900 I believe. Vendors probably have it a bit cheaper. That's with no arm and vest, which it doesnt sound like he needs. There is an arm and vest for the rig but that raises the cost substantially. Glidecam has similar gear that is less expensive, I think I even saw one this year at NAB that was essentially a copy of the Merlin. I'd avoid anything that isn't Tiffen or Glidecam, though the prices may be enticing. Tiffen stands above all others I've seen in terms of quality with rigs at that price range IMHO.
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#3 brooksrobinson

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 03:25 PM

Thanks for taking the time to write Brian. It sounds like the Merlin is exactly what he is looking for. I feel much better suggesting that he go that route with a reputable local brand. Is there anyone specific at Tiffen (Los Angeles) that I should suggest he talk to for more information/demo? If so, does anyone have an email address? Thanks in advance.

Brooks Robinson
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#4 Brian Freesh

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 03:44 PM

Mike Craigs or Dan Ikeda

Mcraigs@tiffen.com

DIkeda@tiffen.com

I've definitely interrupted their demos, so they're the ones to talk to :)
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#5 PeterAbraham

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 09:29 PM

Oh, he's done more than interrupt them. :D

Seriously- the Merlin will do a great job for you. Make yourself watch the DVD from start to finish. The manual is not a mirror of the DVD- it is a companion piece and quite useful as such.

By the time you've watched it through, you will have balanced the camera. Here's a tip to save you a world of heartache regarding DSLR cameras and the Merlin.

Finding the Center of Gravity ( C.G. ) is usually a very straighforward proposition. Not so with a DSLR. I cannot figure out how to get a drawing into a message board so I'm going to do this verbally. Take your DSLR. Hold it upside down so that the bottom of the camera body and underside of the lens are facing up towards you, and the back of the camera body is aimed at your chest and the lens is aimed forwards away from your body.

In this manner, the curved pistol grip is on the left hand side. What is difficult to find with any DSLR is the specfic C.G. If you are using any kind of shorter zoom ( the 18-55, etc. ) or even a 50mm prime, this basic rule of thumb applies:

The center of gravity of this form factor is the area of air space about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch along the lens barrel from where it mounts AND between the edge of the lens barrel and the inner edge of the pistol grip.

That area, that small bit of air space, is where the C.G. will be found. Depending on the camera body, the lens length, etc. it will be in a slightly different space in that area. But if you try to put the Merlin plate with the center of the Merlin Plate in that air space, you will see that the closest hole to use is "O".

Use that hole. The Merlin stage has more than enough side to side and fore / aft adjustment to allow you to balance out your DSLR.

This is a good rule of thumb. It is not an absolute. If you have anything- anything mounted on your DSLR in the way of accessories, lights, clip on mattebox, etc. then this rule of thumb is thrown away and you need to find a way to determine the C.G.

But, for a basic Canon or Nikon DSLR with a short zoom or single focal length prime lens, this works well.

Try it !

Best,

Peter Abraham

Director of Technical Services, Steadicam®
The Tiffen Company

pabraham@tiffen.com
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#6 brooksrobinson

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 02:32 PM

Thank you Brian and Peter for taking the time to respond. I have an email in to both Mike and Dan at Tiffen and look forward to hearing back from them about setting up a possible demo of the Merlin for my friend. Peter, I really appreciate you writing down the CliffsNotes version of the keys to balancing the camera. I will make sure to pass them along, and I’m sure they will come in handy.

Sincerely,

Brooks Robinson
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#7 PeterAbraham

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 04:56 PM

Brooks et al,

A pleasure. I do have a Word Doc that is a cheat sheet for this process for Merlins. It has all pertinent measurements. Did one for 5D and one for 7D- using similar lenses. But as I said, while it is fact that the true C.G. does shift closer or farther from the camera body depending upon the weight of the lens, the cheat sheet is a great place to start.

For that matter, of course, if you zoom in or out you radically alter the C.G. of the mass. The Merlin has more than enough fore / aft adjust range to allow you to trim back to a good flat trim without removing the plate. This is one of the key reasons why we are so "big" on having Steadicam Operators start with the mounting plate in the optimum location.

Anyone interested in this document, feel free to email me. Just title it, " DSLR Merlin Document " in the Subject line.

Again, fair disclaimer: This is a good guideline to get you close. Depending on the body and lens, it will not deliver a perfectly balanced Merlin just by following the steps in the document. It will get you so close that using the fore / aft and side-to-side balance rollers, you can trim the rig up very nicely.

Happy Shooting !!

Best,

Peter
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#8 Keith Moreau

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 03:18 PM

Hello

I have a Merlin and Vest and ARM, a 5D Mk II and a number of lenses. I shot a bit yesterday with it and the 24-105 L f4 zoom. It was ok, but I feel it was still a bit 'squirrelly.' I tried some of the settings suggested in the Tiffen Steadicam user settings site and that didn't work at all. I also have a Small HD DP5. I'm thinking of putting the DP5 off the back in line with the bottom plate to widen the mass. I wound up using 1 finish and 1 mid on the center spar, and 1 start, 3 mid and 1 finish weight at the end.

After reading a bit I'm also thinking of mounting my SmallHD DP6 behind the 5D in line withe back LCD with a small ball head to widen the mass, thinking this might stabilize it a bit more.

I'm also thinking of getting the Pilot Sled, but really what I want is the fine tuning adjustments for right/left and fore/aft knobs, which nobody else seems to have. I have several other camcorders, the heaviest being a Sony EX1, which doesn't seem to work well at all on the Merlin. Any advice is appreciated.

Regards,

-Keith
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#9 PeterAbraham

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 09:50 PM

Good evening.
It occurred to me that this is the easiest way to share this information. Again, a strong word of caution: This data works for the exact camera body and lens listed. They are what I call "Starter Settings"- to be used to get close, then balance up.

It also does NOT include the battery power base that can be screwed into the Canon bodies.

Having said this, it's a good guide for all HDSLR's. If you start with this, you will get close enough if there are no accessories mounted anywhere that you can get the rig into balance using the blue knobs on the Merlin.

Enjoy- and by all means, share feedback regarding these starter settings here.

Best,
Peter
======
CANON 5D AND 7D TO STEADICAM MERLIN BALANCE STARTER DATA

Canon 5DMkII – with 24-135 lens

Nose Weight- 1 Mid, 1 Finish
Bottom Weights- 3 Mid, 1 Finish
Plate Hole- N
Balance line marker on Merlin Stage- set to -4
Measure from stage to bottom weight line as per photos- 13” to middle of alum. Tube



Canon 7D - with 18-135
Nose Weight- 1 Mid, 1 Finish
Bottom Weights- 3 Mid, 1 Finish
Plate Hole- N
Balance line marker on Merlin Stage- set to -1.2 ( move plate to -1, then 2 small lines past it towards the -2 marker )
Measure from stage to bottom weight line as per photos- 11 3/8” to middle of alum. Tube

Notes: The fore and aft balance is a critital element, as is the side to side. Once the settings are put into place as shown above, the fore and aft is affected by where you are in the zoom range. As the front elements move out, the camera will move forward a bit. This is not cause for alarm. It can be adjusted by moving the small blue knurled knob on the side fore or aft.
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