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Introductions! And Initial Questions


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#1 Justin Hayes

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 10:21 AM

Hi everyone. This is my first post so go easy on me, or better, be as harsh as possible. = )

I am looking for anyone who's keen, to give me any tips or advice to building out my kit. or Learning the system in general.

I have been lurking around the fourm a bit, and doing alot research so far, so please point out if there are holes you see in my strategy, or problems you see I could run into.

Thanks for your time!

My Background, and Story
I work a dayjob fulltime with corporate video, commercials and docs. About once or twice a month I shoot Music Videos on weekends with a friend who owns an entertainment company.

Since forever, I have always wanted a Steadicam, but could never justify the cost, but recently bought a Pilot-AA for a ridiculously good price, because someone in a neighboring city upgraded their kit, and just wanted to let it stop collecting dust.

At my dayjob, we use HVX200's and DSLR's, hence the choice for pilot, since the weight class fits what we already shoot with, and I don't need anything too fancy anyways. Our DP usually just uses our sliders, cranes, and handheld for all of our gigs, so I figured I'd take up steadicam to add some more fun to the stuff we do, as well to show my interest in cinematography with our DP, since I am new to the company.


My Goal
I am leaning towards purchasing a DSLR and two or three good lenses, then voila, I have my DSLR STEADICAM KIT, so in the future, whenever the situation deems, I can pop off neat a shot or two. I can have fun and practicing this art-form in my spare time, and with music videos, and eventually work it into my dayjob when I am well practiced.

Please keep in mind I'm just glad I have a steady job in the industry and my main focus is to just absorb and learn the artform, not "blow all my money on trying to make the biggest and baddest steadicam rig."


My Self-Training Strategy
My tools thus far:
-The Exercises in the Flyer manual - http://www.steadicam...r_Manual_Lo.pdf
-Steadicam Posture Article - http://steadivision.com/steadipos.html
-Dynamic Stabalizer Primer

And I plan to, over time:
-Purchase EFP Training DVD
-Purchase Steadicam Operators Handbook
-Trolling through this forum, and reading up posts here and there,
-All the while, patiently waiting for the next Steadicam workshop to come to the region I live in, Toronto, Canada.

Do you feel there is anything else, or resources that would help me learn the rig? any tips?

One problem I have, is ever since I bought the kit, my friend wants me to come shoot music videos with him immediately, every weekend, for the next 2 or 3 months, on all the gigs hes booked out.
I am not ready to do any shooting yet, at what point would it be safe to say "after you have learned how 'X' and 'Y' works, your ready to start practicing on real video shoots"

I am not sure if shooting immediately with the rig, will just build bad habits, or if it'll actually be beneficial to learning the rig.

And again thanks for your time if you took the time to read this!

-Justin
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#2 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:09 AM

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DSLR ?

Very poor images with wide angles, very short DOF, No AF, (and for general use -no sound)

Sony FS100

No moiree with a wide, same DOF, auto focus, XLR sound inputs, 60p 'slo mo'

IMO the difference really shows with a wide lens, DSLRs can shine with a 50 or 85 but just look POO once you stop them down enough for focus with no puller

I doubt you will be with a 50 or 85 on a Pilot - I certainly am not nearly Steadi enough for the longer glass

My Credentials? I own a Pilot, a 5d, and and FS100..

S

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 04 July 2012 - 11:12 AM.

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#3 Justin Hayes

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 12:45 PM

Thanks for the advice on the camera choice sam! These are things I should have considered, I still have yet to buy my own camera, and I'm glad you brought this up, because it always seems to be a sticky subject.

As a 5D and a FS100 owner, are there anymore pro's and con's you would say there are, when it comes to pilot operating between the two cameras? Or even, some tips for dealing with lighter cameras on a pilot?
-I've heard I'll probably need to buy some more of the weights the kit comes with. The kit came with 4 middle weights, and 4 top weights. How much weight is good measure for a heavier rig, to get more inertia and stability?


Do you feel that a FS100 will be a good investment, for at least long enough to make the money back through gigs?
-I've heard some good things about the FS100, but I always like to hear from an owner.
I feel the camera technology seems to be going so fast, that am very hesitant to buy. But I don't have any camera, and I can really shot anything until I purchase one, see my dilemma?

I really appreciate your advice, thanks!


-Justin
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#4 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 01:03 PM

5d another con - The 5d has only one mount point which is a pain if you use a follow focus of any nature, the FS100 will mount better
Also the AV and HDMI ports are in a poor position on DSLRs right in your operating space unlike the FS100 which has HDMI at the rear and AV/Comp on the dumb side

As for owning the FS100 - the fatal day to day flaw is the combo of lack of ND and a base of 800 ISO - which probably means you need a matte box..

This can make it an inconvienent camera for keeping small (for doco use for example)

The FS700 is clearly better with the nd - but at a price point

I would suggest a used FS100 (everyone is grabbing 700s) could hit a very sweet spot for both steadicam and general budget film making

As for the mass - well rails and a matte box will be needed and will beef it up a bit..

One sideline point (on payback)- the 5d is popular with budget producers - they 'want it' even though it is not the king of its price point they are suspicious of the FS100 because they have not heard of it - it was really eclipsed by the C300 (at twice the price)

As he 700 becomes popular with the slo mo I think you can say about the 100 - its the little brother of the slomo sony camera

At least with an FS100 or DLSR your depreciation is limited to the purchase cost, with an F3 or C300 the damage to the pocket from progress can be far greater..


S

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 04 July 2012 - 01:08 PM.

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#5 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 01:10 PM

My Self-Training Strategy
My tools thus far:

-Dynamic Stabalizer Primer



Forget dynamic balance until you have some serious time under your belt
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#6 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 01:17 PM

I forgot..

One Pro of the 5d and other 'full frame' dlsr cameras is that a nice wide lens is 24 or 28 - both can be had used for $300

On an S35 chip your wide options are limited to 18-XX crappy consumer zooms - which tend to be pretty bendy at the wide end

Or an 18mm prime from zeiss or nikon, either of which will set you back $800-1000

That difference is quite a chunk of the purchase cost

Sony also do a 16mm AF pancake lens which is AF and $200 or so woth considering

S

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 04 July 2012 - 01:19 PM.

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#7 James Davis

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:16 PM

I don't own a camera and it hasn't restricted me one bit, in fact I bet a lot of the operators on here don't own cameras.

Don't get me wrong there are plenty of operators here that are ten times more experienced than me, but I think you need to spend more time around other professionals in a professional working environment before you start buying kit.
At the moment it sounds like you don't really understand the market you work in very well.

Do you think people will hire you because you own a camera or because you are a good operator?

If you can't make it to a workshop first then buy the steadicam operators book and read it cover to cover.
Then practise, then attend a workshop, then think about doing some simple jobs for your mate on some cheap music videos once you've put a 6 months to a year under your belt practising in the rig, but be clear to people about your capabilities as a steadicam operator.

As an experienced Dop once said to me: "You don't yet know enough to know what you don't know"

Now go say 20 "Hail Jerrys" and repent to our Lord Garret Brown for your sins.
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#8 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:26 PM

You asked about 'payback times' on cameras, return on investment, depreciation etc

I was commenting on what camera was likely to be a good ROI

I was not commenting on whether a camera model is specific to the business model etc

I was just saying that at the lower end a lot of prod houses think the 5d is 'cool' and sony is not 'cool' which could work against you in the arena where cameras matter

Im not suggesting that being in an arena where cameras matter is a good thing, or that I think cameras matter!

I have at least two three jobs where I was suggesting my FS100 but was forced to use my crappy 5d

Personally I think the moiree in a wide shot matters, but no client has ever moaned..

S
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#9 Sarah Thompson

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 12:21 AM

You asked about 'payback times' on cameras, return on investment, depreciation etc

I was commenting on what camera was likely to be a good ROI

I was not commenting on whether a camera model is specific to the business model etc

I was just saying that at the lower end a lot of prod houses think the 5d is 'cool' and sony is not 'cool' which could work against you in the arena where cameras matter

Im not suggesting that being in an arena where cameras matter is a good thing, or that I think cameras matter!

I have at least two three jobs where I was suggesting my FS100 but was forced to use my crappy 5d

Personally I think the moiree in a wide shot matters, but no client has ever moaned..

S


I picked up a mint AF100 at just over $3k recently. This is an overlooked camera, I really don't understand why. Maybe because it was first, maybe because Panny didn't do as good a job at PR as Canon or Sony. Image-wise, it's extremely similar to the FS100, but its ergonomics are far superior -- built-in NDs so shooting in bright daylight is no problem, usable audio, variable frame rate (with 1080p up to 60fps), intervalometer for time lapse, long exposure up to 0.5s, HDSDI, really solid top handle with 1/4 and 3/8 threads, autofocus if you're using m43 or 43 lenses, etc. My thinking was that it's good enough (easily) for the stuff I do, and if I need something significantly better for a specific job, I can just rent it. I've always preferred to own my own cameras because whilst I can pick up just about anything and manage to make sense out of it, there is nothing quite like really getting to know a camera when you want the most out of it. With the AF100, the scene file system is extremely tweakable and can get a lot more out of the image, but that's something I'd never attempt just picking a camera up for the first time.

The way I see it, $3k doesn't buy you much rental time, so this was a nobrainer for me.
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#10 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 05:55 PM

Justin,

My 2 cents...

1) Buy a cheap practice camera, for you that may be a DSLR, but for practice and review even a mini-DV camera that a friend or family member has gathering dust in a closet is fine. But if you are looking to justify buying a DSLR camera, then fine, go ahead. On a crop-frame camera like 7D or 60D you can get a decent wide zoom (Canon 10-22 or Tokina 12-24 or 11-16) for $600-800 if I recall. That plus the kit lens is enough to get started with for practice and for personal projects.

2) But before you buy any of that, buy the EFP DVD and Steadicam Operators Handbook. Do it now. Don't wait. Devour it and practice the exercises.

3) Dynamic balance: it's pretty easy on a Pilot, so play with it, get it close, but don't obsess about it. No need for an overly-technical approach. It's pretty far down the list of what's important for a beginner...but I liken it to tuning a guitar. Why practice a guitar that is way out of tune, just because you don't have the "ear" yet to tune it to perfect pitch? Tune it as well as you reasonably can, and start practicing.

4) Only you can judge whether you're "ready" to work on the music videos with your friend. You are potentially in a great position, where you can get on-set experience without huge pressure to perform beyond your current abilities. But you must have a frank conversation to set realistic expectations. Good news is that music videos often chop up the moves into tiny chunks. I've also had directors ask for "bad" operating.

5) That said, you should master some basics...panning, tilting and booming with control. Keeping your horizons level. Keeping a subject centered (or the place where you want it in the frame) Maintaining headroom on a subject as they approach or recede. Smooth starts and finishes (lock-offs). Slow moves. Switches. Walking backwards with confidence.

Hope this helps.
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#11 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 07:41 PM

My 2 cents...

3) Dynamic balance: it's pretty easy on a Pilot, so play with it, get it close, but don't obsess about it. No need for an overly-technical approach. It's pretty far down the list of what's important for a beginner...but I liken it to tuning a guitar. Why practice a guitar that is way out of tune, just because you don't have the "ear" yet to tune it to perfect pitch? Tune it as well as you reasonably can, and start practicing.



disagree, Unless you are learning whip pans dynamic balance is of no use to a newbie who is just learning the basics.

Face it most of the major historic shots were done long before there was the interest in Dynamic Balance
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#12 Joe Lawry

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 08:48 PM

I can't remember the last time I bothered to dynamically balance.. The work I do never seems to call for it.

Buy a cheap DSLR so you have something to fly on the Pilot in your spare time. I wouldn't go spending too much money especially if you have access to other cameras at work.
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#13 Justin Hayes

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 04:23 PM

Thanks for all the tips and advice everyone. It is greatly appreciated.

I think for now i'll just save money, and make a "smarter" camera purchase, rather then a "faster" purchase. As you all mentioned, having no camera is not as of an big issue compared to operator skill, and budgets.
Although the FS100 seems alluring because our company has a ton of cannon and nikon lenses, and when that NEX adaptor with the built in ND's comes out, I really might consider getting it. Until then I will just worry about practicing.
I have a feeling the other camera competitors to sony will be trying to keep up within the next 3 years anyways.

I've ordered the DVD, and pre-ordered the second edition to the operators manual, so hopefully they'll be on their way soon.

I don't have much issue getting dynamic(not perfect, but good enough) balance, Every once and a while I like to un-balance the rig, then try to re-balance it to work on my understanding of the physics. I'm sure over time i'll get better with being able to balance it faster.

For now. I'll just practice with my 1.25lb mini AVCHD camcorder and put some of the additional weights on it to make it tolerable.

Does the weight of the rig you practice with matter?
-I'm under the impression practicing with such a light rig, will be beneficial, because it will be more sensitive, and challenging.
-I mean, it sends a video signal, thats all that matters for practicing, right? In some cases, I know its good to practice without the monitor, for learning proper forum, but thats not what I'm referring to.

Cheers!
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#14 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 05:48 PM

Justin,

I recommend you practice near the top end of your rig's weight range. Buy one of Janice Arthur's weight plates, I believe she has a 6-pound plate that should be about right.
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#15 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 06:06 PM

I recommend you practice near the top end of your rig's weight range.


Reading this on set where I have Steve Fracol operating with me today and we both agree Mark, your advice is wrong. Practice with the lightest rig practible. It will teach you to not over control
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