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what is the best Steadicam to get started on?

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#1 Omar Sawalha

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 07:00 AM

I have been using a Glidecam pro 4000 and am looking to upgrade towards a professional steadicam and was wondering what would be a good moderate priced steady cam to start off with, so far my top choice is the Zephyr steadicam. I would appreciate any advice anybody has.

Many thanks
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#2 Victor Lazaro

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 09:13 AM

I would advice attending to a 2 days Steadicam workshop to try out their mid range models and learn the basics of proper operating with them.
In the end it will all come down to what you intend to fly.
The Zephyr is a great medium rig that can carry a Red Epic or Scarlet, but is already a bit oversized if you only fly DSLR, an it is too small for an Alexa.
Scout, Pilot and Zephyr are all designed with a different payload in mind, so choose accordingly.
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#3 David M. Aronson

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 09:54 AM

You have to remember that to owning a rig involves owning a lot more than a rig. You need cables for any camera you plan to use, you need back-ups of those cables, you need batteries for the rig, you need a charger, stand, sandbag, weight cage, etc. Most folks have some sort of wireless follow focus system which can range from $1200 for a cheap JAG35 model to $20,000 for a Preston unit with 3 motors. You also might want wireless video wich has a huge range of prices.
I personally started out on a Flyer LE and for a lot of jobs, I wish I still had it. It's light, it's comfortable, It holds a stripped down ENG rig, and it feels like a big rig with ehough weight on it. Used, you can get one for around $4500 in good condition. A Zephyr is a great choice too and it's even better than the Flyer LE. It has a more comfortable vest, higher weight capacity, even more HD ready, and It's newer. The only down side is the price. It's roughly double the cost new than a Flyer LE. there goes your budget for accesories.
Only fools buy new, and with an amazing used section, check out this forum for a month or so in the marketplace. If you don't find a rig you like, buy new, but you'll be a lot happier with a used rig.

Edit: WORKSHOP WORKSHOP WORKSHOP! I completely forgot about workshops. Take a 2 day one near you or the week long one. The best rig for you is the one that's comfortable, so try out rigs untill you find that one.
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#4 Alan Rencher

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 11:44 AM

Victor and David are absolutely right. I would like to add one thing to that: I started out on a Steadicam Pilot. It was the perfect rig for me when I was in college because I got it when the HVX200 was huge and right as the DSLR explosion was hitting. After a year and a half, I had the need to fly RED's fairly often. I opted for the Zephyr because I couldn't find the perfect used big-rig in my price range (but now I see them all the time here on the board, damn!!)

If I were to do it over again, I would definitely try to find a used Pro or other large rig. It's just better than buying twice! Having said that, I love the Zephyr, and I would not have been able to buy all the accessories that I needed with something more expensive. Remember, you need power cables, video cables, SDI cables, backup cables, low mode brackets, 'L' brackets, weight plates, a stand, a cart, batteries (lots of them!), chargers, a multitude of adapters and converters, and all kinds of other stuff! Not to mention most (if not all) clients expect you to have a reputable brand of follow focus, and now they all demand HD wireless video (most of the time with a director's monitor).

So here's what I say to everyone: If you have to ask what gear to buy, you're not ready to buy it yet! Research, buy The Steadicam Operator's Handbook, take a workshop, interview or shadow an operator in your area, and use the search function on the forum!

Fly safe!

Edited by Alan Rencher, 07 January 2013 - 11:47 AM.

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#5 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 11:45 AM

Take a workshop, that is an investment right there that will save you money in the long run.
As for gear, It doesn't matter if it's new or Old, just that it works.
A perfect example is Larry McConkey's work over the years with every rig made pretty much. I'd say 90% of operators with the latest, most fancy equipment do not accomplish the level of precision and execution Larry was getting with a 3A 20+ years ago. So in part it is more your experience and skill than the equipment. The equipment helps, but not 100%. Folks talk about seeing steps in your walking shots with some arms and not with others, screw that, it's about the feeling of the scene, moving the story with the move. The fancy arms and sleds didn't exist when some of the most famous shots even today were done.

Practice Practice, Take a workshop, then Practice Practice. there is no shortcut to great work.
Enjoy the step up to a 3 piece system from your Single stick, it's a lot of fun.
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#6 John Stout

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 02:54 PM

I just want to show my agreement with what is being said here. Attending a workshop for just $600.00 while trying to decide on a 5K plus purchase is just a good idea.

You may find that the system you thought you wanted might be different after the workshop. The technical information as well as the practice that you receive can help you realize what all is involved in operating a Steadicam Rig.

The book is a great tool to read before the workshop and then again after it.

This should not be an impulse purchase, this is an investment in you, your career, equipment, etc and shoudl be thought about before you plunk down your hard earned money.
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#7 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 04:31 PM

Well.... You're missing the more important question.

What sort of work do you see yourself doing? What gear are you required to fly for that end goal?

Buying a pilot is foolish if you plan on flying an Alexa. Look for rigs appropriate for the work you plan on doing.

Take a workshop but explore the various workshops you can take. Try taking one where you have choice in gear from multiple manufactures
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#8 Omar Sawalha

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 01:05 PM

Thank you all for your informative responses, they helped alot and will be looking into several workshops.
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