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Big upgrade planned, need advice!


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#1 Dean Smollar

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 10:09 PM

Hey y'all! The time has come for me to upgrade to a more serious setup. I've survived off of mostly RED and DSLR work for the last year with my Glidecam X-22 v-lock w/no accessories, but it's become clear to me that it's time to go deeper in. I've got a $20,000 budget, and I thought that I knew exactly what I was going to do with it, but now I'm seriously doubting myself.

The items that are on my original list are -
(from Jim Bartell, brand new)
1 Bartech Focus Device Handset
1 Bartech Digital Receiver
1 7112A Digital Right Angle motor cable
1 3035 A/B P-Tap Power Cable

Heden M26ve Motor package (just got a great quote from Magnus)

Titan Tx/Rx transmitter set
Transvideo AL-15 Power Supply
(2) IDX E-HL9 LiIon batteries

Redbyte Decimator (1 or 2)

and for the finale, I'm getting a great deal from Scott Coleman on his 1.75" X-45 Sled. The package he's selling me includes the following:
X-45 Sled
Stock cables
docking bracket
2 cheese plate
1 Correira Bracket
(2) Sled to Bartech Power
(2) Sled to 12v 2.1 (for the Decimator)
(2) Sled to XLR4 (for my monitor and ENG cameras)
(2) Sled to "Pana" style 2 pin lemo (for the Titan)
(3) Sled to RED1 6pin Power (custom made just for RED, which has been the majority of my work lately)

According to Scott, I'm pretty much outfitted to handle any 12v camera with this setup. However, since he has Anton Bauer and I own a bunch of IDX Endura HL9s, I'm gonna have to get the sled refitted for V-lock. I've already talked to Terry West about it, and he gave me a good estimate.

The final tally of all this gear comes out to about $16,000, leaving me $4000 left over, which I'm considering using for a cart, a weight cage from Janice, new cases, and any other odds & ends that I haven't thought of yet. My plan is to continue using my X-22 arm and vest with the X-45 sled. I'm also going to get my gear insured (Thanks Brian Freesh for the advice!).

Here's my dilemmas:

Am I screwing myself by sticking with the X-22 arm? Part of me thinks that I'll be limited by it's 40 lb. total capacity (I can usually push about 28 lbs. of camera), which will screw me on future potential gigs. I know I can make REDs work, but only by stripping them down (the most I've done is body, pro prime & cradle w/brick). However, with what's left of my budget, there's no way I could afford a better arm (not to mention that I'd need a new vest too).

Should I scrap my V-Locks and buy some Anton Bauers instead of getting the rig rewired?

Is the Transvideo Titan the right choice in transmitter? I've done a lot of research on the forum but I can't seem to get a definitive answer.

Am I wasting money by buying everything new? I know I've gotten plenty of recommendations from other ops that I should go used, but I don't know how I feel about it.

Right now I only get digital gigs, and lately it's been mostly RED, but what about 24v cameras? Will I have to turn them down?

Most importantly, am I being an overthinking idiot?

Any and all advice/suggestions are appreciated :)

Dean

Attached: Me 2 months ago with the RED on my X-22

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#2 Brian Freesh

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 12:41 AM

Dean, congrats on the decision to upgrade! It's good to see you taking this all so seriously and thinking it through.

There are many schools of thought to upgrading, all of which I am sure have been discussed here over the years. If you spend some time searching the forum I'm sure you can find some great information, and much more than you'll get in a few responses to this post.

Before you make any decisions, you should ask yourself where you want to go with Steadicam. If the current plan will get you what you need to accomplish your goals, great, sounds like you're on the right track. However, if the current plan will limit you in some way that costs you more money in the long run when you upgrade further, maybe you should rethink. For example, If you want to be ready for cameras heavier than 28lbs, you definitely need to get a new arm, etc...

Look for some old posts by Erwin Landau, he had some really good advice about working within a limited budget without spending more money in the long run.

It's much easier/cheaper to replace the AB plates with V-lock plates than it is to replace all your batteries/chargers

Take time to research and make the best choice for you.
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#3 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 03:48 AM

Dean,

congrats on your plans to upgrade.

At this time you need the best bang for the buck and I would suggest looking at used equipment. Get a BFD and a BDR, find a used motor and spend the money you saved on spare cables, having only one of each cable is begging for a failure.

skip the transmitter or find something less expensive and used. I don't see any monitors so what are you getting transmitters for?

The rig...

you need to consider your next upgrade when buying gear and you want to be able to interchange parts, getting a 1.75" based system is a bad idea. No one makes 1.75" accessories. You can't upgrade the gimbal (And you will want to) the LEH wont work with any thing and it's too heavy for what it is, and honestly, glidecams are not the best sleds in the world.

I would look for a used Pro1 or pro2 and go from there. I would also look at a Silver Spring Arm.

Better yet before you buy anything, book a flight to Los Angeles for Cinegear and look at some other gear. Fly a Pro, XCS ultimate and a tiffen sled before you commit yourself to a rig that will limit what you can do.
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#4 Janice Arthur

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 07:34 AM

Dean;

Good Luck. All the advice you've gotten is great.

Used is the way to go. Really good rigs to be had, PRO-1, 2 and others.

Remember you don't have to buy all three pieces of sled, vest and arm together buying good deals separately, a la carte is very good. Also you don't have to buy all of them now, you could buy as you find the best deals over the next say six months. Lastly never spend your last dollar, there is always something else to buy in a year. If you've got 20k spend $15k.

Like Eric said, go to Cine Gear and tell everyone when you'll be there. If they're smart all those sellers will be buying you cocktails and dinners.

Remember too just because they're "throwing it in" does not mean its useful. There are lots of cables for Panavision, for example, being thrown in that are useless today. You can always buy cables etc later if you need them.

See, we've all just saved you about 10k and gotten you way better stuff, so the next time you see us you'll be buying us drinks and dinners.

JA
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#5 Henry Gelhart

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 08:50 AM

See, we've all just saved you about 10k and gotten you way better stuff, so the next time you see us you'll be buying us drinks and dinners.


... $10k worth of drinks, please
:D
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#6 Janice Arthur

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 09:13 AM

Henry;

That takes care of Baldwin but what about the rest of us?

JA
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#7 Dean Smollar

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 01:26 PM

Brian:

I am absolutely, 100% certain about being a Steadicam Operator. I want to be able to handle any type of job that comes my way, be it digital or film. I think the reason I've been second guessing myself is because I've spent so much time combing the archives; the people on this forum really know a lot more about the gear than I do. You've seen the rig I fly now, so you know why I want to upgrade, but I need to make sure I'm doing it right.


Eric:
I already live in LA :P. I've flown Tiffen rigs, and I got to try on Will Demeritt's Pro rig once (sometimes I really hate him for teasing me like that). I've already signed up for Cinegear, and I'm also waiting to see if the Stabilizer Gear Expo is happening this year (I've never been before).

If you know people who have all those things and are willing to sell them for prices I can afford, I'm all ears. I'll be posting ads in the wanted section of the classifieds as well.

The transmitter would be for video village; I've actually already got monitors ( Marshall HD-SDI/Composite). It's not something I've been able to successfully do with the P.O.S. $40 RF transmitters that I bought at Radio Shack, so I never even offered it. Am I wrong in assuming it's a necessary component?

I never considered a lot of the things you mentioned. Thank you.

Janice:

I'm absolutely terrified of waiting that long to make the upgrades, but I do understand why it makes sense, and I know you're right. I just feel like I'm in a hurry to get this done so that I'm as prepared as I can be ASAP. I don't want to lose work during said 6 months because I didn't have something. I don't get enough work doing anything else to be able to afford it.

I had a job recently where, when I was hired, I made it very clear to them what gear I had/didn't have. I showed up on set, the DP said, "Oh, you don't have a wireless follow focus?," he disappeared for a minute and came back saying, "looks like we're gonna go without you today. You can go home." it was very frustrating, and I don't want it to happen again. (No, I didn't get paid; I was waiting for a deal memo when it happened. It was a last minute job)

I also don't know how to judge what the "best deal" on a particular piece of gear would be. I haven't been around that long, and while I know how much all the current generations of equipment cost, I don't know too much about the pricing of previous iterations. For example, I saw your post in the market place for the Gold Spring Arm, and even though I'm familiar with the arm and I'm pretty sure that's an amazing deal, I don't have enough knowledge to know how much I'd really be saving, or if I'm really getting the best deal. Also, it's a quarter of my budget. Buying used scares the crap out of me.

I'm looking forward to the day I can give back something to this community for the help it's given me, so drinks and dinners are the least I could do.
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#8 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 02:43 PM

Dean,

Transmitters are not a priority right now (and if you need one There is a modulus for $1500 and a Sony TU-1040 for $150 in the classifieds) What you need is a follow focus and a rig because quite frankly, glidecam is crap and for the same money that you paid for the glidecam new you could have gotten a used Pro 1 and Silver spring arm.

If you're going to do this for a living you need to look at what gear is being used in your market and start acquiring that. As you move up if you don't have gear that people are familiar with you're not going to get asked back. In LA it's a PRO/XCS town
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#9 Caleb Ennis

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 02:53 PM

I agree with Eric. You can rent a transmitter if the job calls for one.
Look into your rig options, start with a good base and work your way into accessories...

Just my .2cents B)

Congrats on the upgrades, its always exciting to get new gear!!!
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#10 Dean Smollar

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 03:50 PM

I am very aware of how my glidecam works and what it is not good at, which is the main reason I'm upgrading. If I could get a used pro1, silver spring arm and vest for $8000 then I would do it in a heartbeat.

I know that this town is a pro/xcs town; I came here from Boston with my rig and I'm ready to move on. Scott has been a good friend to me and I trust him, but there's a reason he just bought a gen. 3 Pro sled.

If I could put together a solid Frankenstein rig for about $12-13k and get a used Bartech then I would be in heaven.
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#11 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 04:41 PM

I am very aware of how my glidecam works and what it is not good at, which is the main reason I'm upgrading. If I could get a used pro1, silver spring arm and vest for $8000 then I would do it in a heartbeat.

I know that this town is a pro/xcs town; I came here from Boston with my rig and I'm ready to move on. Scott has been a good friend to me and I trust him, but there's a reason he just bought a gen. 3 Pro sled.

If I could put together a solid Frankenstein rig for about $12-13k and get a used Bartech then I would be in heaven.



All I'm saying is that buying a non-standard rig you are spending that money twice and in doing so limiting your employment in the mean time. There are people that simply will not hire you unless you have a mainstream rig
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#12 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 05:32 PM

Dean,

You asked for advice and then you get all defensive at Eric's good advice?

You are not the first. I don't understand why people come on this forum asking advice and then get all freaked out when they don't hear what they want to hear. Professionals take the time to reply so please take the time to consider their response.

Eric is not saying spend ten times what you have (I.e. buy a PRO 3 & Preston). Yes, buy a solid used rig, Bartech and add things as you go.
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#13 Tom Wills

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 05:56 PM

Dean,

If your budget is $20,000, you could actually get a very good rig for that. Get a used Bartech, and be prepared that the gear you pick up won't be the newest, but I picked up a full rig (including a used Bartech and motor), with a brand new LCD, for around that price. The PRO I is a very good starting point - I have one and it's incredibly easy to upgrade, modify, and work with. I also was able to pick up a Master arm, but you could easily find a 3A arm in that price range, which is still a viable arm, even if it's a little old. Does your current vest have a standard socket block, if so, then you can probably hold off on a new vest.

The only thing I would do differently after my search (as chronicled in a SteadiShots blog post I wrote: http://steadishots.b...ig-dilemma.html ) would be to budget even more for cables and gadgetry. I thought I had budgeted in more than I would ever need - boy was I wrong.

If there's anything I can do to help in your search for some used gear, let me know, because I certainly feel your pain!
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#14 Dean Smollar

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 05:59 PM

Eric,

I understand. I know that Tiffen, Pro and XCS are the best rigs. I wasn't being hostile when I made the statement, I was serious. If you really think I can find something like that for my budget, then that's what I'm going to go for. I'm willing to take my time and find the right rig, not the "right now" rig. I love being an operator too much to not take this seriously. I need to take my budget and make it work the best way I possibly can. The honesty of your responses makes me glad I asked these questions.

Alec,

I didn't come into this with "what I wanted to hear." I wanted to hear what Eric had to say. I was not being defensive; I was actually agreeing with him. The most important thing to me right now is to be as smart as possible with the money I have, instead of worrying about not having enough money. I'm happy that Eric is the kind of guy who's honest and straightforward, as he has been with me since I joined this forum a year ago. If I were to be defensive of anything, it would be if I felt like he was insulting Scott Coleman or any other operator that I respect based solely on their gear and not on the quality of their work. He didn't do that, so I'm not offended. I bought a Glidecam rig, it's served it's purpose, now I need to move up.

If you have any leads on good gear, I'm all ears! I made a couple of posts in the Equipment Wanted section to start, and I'm keeping an eye out for everything.
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#15 Dean Smollar

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 06:05 PM

Dean,

If your budget is $20,000, you could actually get a very good rig for that. Get a used Bartech, and be prepared that the gear you pick up won't be the newest, but I picked up a full rig (including a used Bartech and motor), with a brand new LCD, for around that price. The PRO I is a very good starting point - I have one and it's incredibly easy to upgrade, modify, and work with. I also was able to pick up a Master arm, but you could easily find a 3A arm in that price range, which is still a viable arm, even if it's a little old. Does your current vest have a standard socket block, if so, then you can probably hold off on a new vest.

The only thing I would do differently after my search (as chronicled in a SteadiShots blog post I wrote: http://steadishots.b...ig-dilemma.html ) would be to budget even more for cables and gadgetry. I thought I had budgeted in more than I would ever need - boy was I wrong.

If there's anything I can do to help in your search for some used gear, let me know, because I certainly feel your pain!


No, my current vest does not have a standard socket block. I saw an offer from Pedro for a modded 3a vest that looks pretty good, but it's gotta be included in the $20,000. The amount of money I have to spend can't change, so I need to make it work as smart as possible. I've seen a lot of posts in the marketplace, but nothing that i can make work in my budget so far.

I don't need a new monitor; my Marshall is brand new and awesome. I should probably consider a backup though.

Great point about the cables. I'm gonna try to see if I can save the last $5k or so of my $20k as a buffer for the "gadgetry." The first $15k will go into Sled, Arm, Vest, & Bartech. This is, of course, just the ideal.
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