First post over here! Such an incredible ressource for learning and giving courage to keep going, thank you all for that.
Here's a little bit of my background, which could help for my question... I'm actually working as a cameraman for a news network and I always ad the will of working as an operator in a more artistic way, taking time to make nice shots. I finished school in television production about 4 years ago, and I'm trying to get out of news as rapidly as possible, cause I hate that...
I'm actually learning steadicam, I did a one-day workshop with a local operator here in Montreal (btw, forgive my english, I'm french -.-) on a master series and it gave me the thrill to continue and to study more about it. That's why I'm actually reading the Steadicam operator's handbook and consulting everyday this forum.
My question is : I'm looking forward on operating steadicam proffessionnaly as soon as possible, and I was asking myself if I would rather be buying a rig to fly dslrs (pilot) this summer, or going to the workshop in Pennsylvanie; which is about the same price. I mean, would it be better for me to begin on my rig over here, doing little gigs, getting used to it, or going in pennsylvanie, and try to rent the master series a couple of times a month over here to practice...
IMHO, there is no better training than training every day a little. I would recommend getting your own sled over the workshop.
It won't stop you from renting out a larger rig if needed and doing the workshop at a later date. May I also recommend watching the EFP DVD sold by Tiffen and any other video training you can find.
I personally did the 2day workshop and have been working off a friend's zephyr that I am now planning on buying back from him.
I'll swing the other way: I think you (and anyone with even the smallest bit of interest in Steadicam) should take a workshop. While the price is the same (or close), the lessons you learn from other operators will transcend any rig you buy, informing and helping you perform every shot you do during your entire career.
Access to a rig is fantastic, so maybe that's something you continue to budget or work out with local operators who are willing to help you out in pursuing your goals. However, a workshop (even if it's manufacturer specific) will give you the skills and insights that will save you time, teach you the nuts and bolts of Steadicam (science, engineering, politics, etc), and really give you a wealth of knowledge that it would take you YEARS to accumulate.
I still use skills and lessons learned from my workshop on set, and since my workshop I've "regularly" flown a super lightweight rig, a mid-size rig and now my personal full size rig. The workshops really help facilitate your current and future growth, which you can then take to ANY rig. Buying a rig is an investment in equipment for your career, but a workshop is an investment in yourself.
I'll second Will's vote on a workshop. Not only will the workshop provide wisdom/instruction from more experienced operators but you will also meet new up and coming ops that will become your comrades-in-arms as you begin your career as a steadicam operator.
I third what Will and Grant have said. Take the workshop. In addition to the benefits they mentioned, you will also break any bad habits before they really set in. Learning to operate properly, in good posture, while under the close scrutiny of your steadi-elders will not only help you achieve better results, but you'll improve at a much faster pace. Learning good form early on is important as it prevents injuries and will help you maximize the longevity of your career, plus it helps muscle memory set in.
I don't meant to disrespect Victor's opinions, but you should note that he took a workshop also. I had never ever picked up a rig before I took a workshop and in retrospect this was absolutely the right way to do it. I had Garret critiquing my form on my first day! How can you beat that?? It is so easy to pick up bad habits with a steadicam, particularly with a lightweight steadicam like the pilot. Furthermore there are plenty of fantastic operators who don't own a rig particularly in live television. Take a workshop, then find someone with a rig and do their laundry, then their taxes, then buy them some dinner.
Edited by Michael Hauer, 24 February 2013 - 05:11 PM.
Over the years I took six. Every time I thought I had mastered everything that could be done with this instrument, I was humbled by a more seasoned operator. I learned something on every single one I took, no matter how long I was operating for.
Whatever you learn will make you a better operator in the long run.
The Flyer, you will out grow within a couple of months and then you have to invest again in a bigger rig. And again and again until you end up with a big rig or you get stuck in whatever midlevel steadi job you just got, to be able to pay off all the intermediate rigs that you collected. After the first big rig workshop, and flying the real thing, you will not want to start over with the little guys. At least I didn't.
Do a whole week workshop and completely new horizons will open up... But then again it's your cash and you can do whatever you please... If your goal is to fly DSLR Camera your whole carrier go and buy the Flyer... but if you want to do anything bigger... skip the little stuff, practice, borrow or rent a rig and work on your craft.... if you're good enough, you will earn enough to buy the big toys eventually...
I'd say workshop. I learned by using a friends rig and then buying my own(still need to take a workshop at some point. Insurance and liability stuff) and just from hearing/reading other operators talk, I already know I've learned some bad habits that I'll need to break if I want to get any better.
Buy a rig if you want to be "pretty good"
Go to the workshop if you want to actually learn how to operate
Yeah I'll have to agree with everyone that supports the workshop. I myself just took a workshop this past October ran by the SOA in Pennsylvania. I have to say I learned so much from the workshop and I grew more hungry to learn more about steadicam. I started to meet more operators after the course and also worked with Michael Hauer, who just an earlier post on here. Michael and other operators that I have talked to helped me in the right direction on where to start when looking for gear. The class really goes in depth in the different operating modes. Every night you hear from a different operator about their experience working in the field and Garrett also does a lecture on how he invented it the steadicam. Which you will enjoy hearing. You are in for a real treat when you go to take the workshop! Good Luck on what you decide to do.
I am a steadinewbie going through the same financial debate, and I recently got some advice from a friend who is a respectably experienced op that possibly finding a happy medium is the right fit for some people. He recommended finding a 2 day workshop with an operator and also buying a rig. The proposition sounded beneficial for someone like me, I thought. I've had some experience on three rigs: Steadicam Pilot, Steadicam Fyler and Steadicam Video SK (AHHHHHH!!!!!) and took a class at my University centered on steadicam operation and theory. With my lack of experience and knowledge, I still believe that I have no true concept of what is the best option for me, so any comment/advice is greatly appreciated.
If you want to do that as a living, it is mandatory to take a week long workshop. Can you do it on your own? Sure and it will take you ten times as long and you will make every mistake imaginable in the book. Why repeat all the wrong things when an experienced op as instructor can push you in the right direction without the wasted time of trail and error. You still make mistakes but you will be instantly put right back where you should be.
Imagine that Camera Operating is like driving a car and Steadicam is like learning to drive a tractor trailer truck. You have to get your driver license first and then you learn the needed additional skills to navigate the big ass truck... with an instructor. Not to do so is like renting a big truck and trying to move your room mate... good luck! I know my analogy sucks but I think you'll get the point.
If you don't have enough cash to afford a workshop and a rig, you might wanna wait and make some money first. Do a proper workshop, it also will show you if you are able and in fact the right person to take up that line of work. Usually by the 3rd or 4th day you already see people dividing into two camps... the ones that can't get quickly enough into the rig when it's there turn and the ones that take forever and do less and less... It could actually save you money two fold. First see if you actually want to do that for a living and then you might like the bigger rigs better and saves you the cash wasted on a smaller set up.
But at the end it comes down to what you want to do. What do you expect us to tell you... actually it doesn't matter as you will be doing what you want anyways...
I think you have enough information to do an educated guess and go from there... any advice you take or don't take is up to your character and will determine your future and were you are heading...