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Steadicam Merlin problems - camera keeps "rocking" like a boat

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#1 Salomon Meij

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 11:46 AM


I recently bought a Steadicam Merlin, to use with my HV20. However, after trying to get it balanced for a couple of days, I'm ready to pull my hair out. I just can't seem to get it to balance properly. I tried both Cookbook settings, as well as trying to balance it from scratch extensively. However, though I'm now able to keep it from just falling over completely to one side, I can't get any further than to a point where it stays upright, but will rock back and forth in all directions like a boat swaying in the ocean.

I read the manual a couple of times and watched the video, but I can't seem to find any advice on how to fix this. From what I understand the rocking is probably what they call the "pendulum" effect and might be caused by bottom-heavyness, but the manual basically just suggests to keep trimming. I have tried trimming for HOURS but even though I can get it closer and closer to being in balance, I can only get to the point where the rocking is very subtle, yet still very noticeable, and any trimming in either direction, however slight, will make the problem worse.

I feel like I'm doing something wrong, or maybe I should be trimming even more delicately, like half nudges, but it seems to me like it shouldn't be "that" delicate of an instrument, though I know it is quite delicate. It shouldn't require hours of saint-like mini-trimming to get it to balance properly without rocking should it?

The one other thing I was wondering is, is it normal for it to rock back and forth? Because I realize I can put my other hand on the guide to stabilize it, but I can't imagine you're supposed to stabilize the stabilizer with your hand to stop it from rocking back and forth?

Maybe I'm missing something really obvious, either way, I was hoping someone could give me some advice, it would be much appreciated.

I also uploaded a video to youtube which demonstrates the effect I'm seeing, as I thought it might help clarify my problem. I've gotten the rocking to be "more" subtle than it is in the youtube video before, but it got worse again since then, and I figured having the effect slightly exxegerated might be more helpful anyway.

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#2 James Elias

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Posted 03 August 2011 - 03:27 AM

It's rocking because you have put motion into it (possibly when you picked it up?) and not stopped it. The Merlin is on a Gimbal and it will happily rock forever until you stop it with your operating hand. Place your fingers lightly on the guide ring, as you do when you operate it, and gently stop the motion. If it's tilting in any direction then use the blue trim controls to correct it, but don't forget to stop the motion again (this time caused from your hand trimming) by assuming the operating position again and then check your trim.
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#3 Stephen Wymer

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Posted 03 August 2011 - 11:11 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you are not operating correctly. Just like Elias said, it sounds like it's rocking because you are not influencing it with your operating hand, which with the Merlin, will be your left hand if you are right handed and vice versa. Your "arm hand" will hold the handle, taking the weight of the Merlin and the camera and basically boom the rig throughout space, while your operating hand will influence the panning, tilting, rolling, and keeping the camera level. Remember to do this as close to the gimbal as possible. If you haven't invested in the "Steadicam Operators Handbook", do so, as it is imperative at all stages of Steadicam operation. Also look up videos of balancing and operating the Merlin on YouTube. There are plenty. Best of luck!

Stephen Wymer
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#4 Salomon Meij

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 04:03 PM

Thanks for the tips, very useful!

This tip in particular was very helpful:

Place your fingers lightly on the guide ring, as you do when you operate it, and gently stop the motion.

I got it to the point where it'll stay almost perfectly still when I stop all motion with my guide hand. However, whenever I move, even slightly, it'll still begin rocking.

I think that's what they mean with "dynamic balance", correct?

Any chance you guys have some tips for me on how to achieve that? Or a resource I could read for the Merlin?
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#5 Mark Britton

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 05:19 PM

It's been a few years since I've played with a Merlin, but from the short video clip posted, I'd say it looks like the center of gravity might be a smidge too high. Try adjusting the guide ring slightly, probably 1 turn or less to move the center of gravity ever so slightly lower.

And I'm sure you already did this, but double check that there isn't anything dangling off the camera that is swinging free. A lens cap swinging free on a retention cord will wreak havoc here :)

I think that's what they mean with "dynamic balance", correct?

Nah, dynamic balance has to do with camera panning. You really won't need to worry about that until you're down the road a ways!
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