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#1 jmf

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Posted 14 May 2005 - 10:57 AM

I am not in the same league as most of you here.
While I'm pretty good with cameras in general, having been in the commercial still photography business for many years, I am still somewhat (but not totally) inexperienced in video and not at all experienced with stabilization.

I am working with a Canon XL-1 and have a few jobs lined up with one particular client that i've done some video and a lot of still work for over the past few years.

I am not ready to, nor could i justify the expense of buying some $7000 or $8000 system, since what i've just outlined above may end up being the full extent of my video career.
However, I want to be able to get nice, steady shots while walking, interviewing people, touring a facilty, etc.

I've read enough posts here to realize that steadicam operating is a real skill, developed over time, with lots of practice. But I'd like to know if, right out of the box, strapping the thing on and working with it over a weekend, are my results going to be better - smoother - than if I had no stabilization whatsoever, i.e. handheld, walking through a parking lot, say?

Obviously, practice over time, will make it even better, but I'm trying to get a sense of whether i'd be better off with it, than without it, right off the bat.

Would a Mini do the job for me? If not, is there something else you'd reccomend for someone in my postiion that is substantially less than, say $8000?

I know I can rent, which I generally don't like to do, but that will be a fallback position, if purchasing proves to be impractical.

Thanks very much for your input.

J.
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#2 charlesneufeld

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Posted 14 May 2005 - 12:16 PM

"just outlined above may end up being the full extent of my video career. "

If I was in your position, I would rent a rig and try it out for a day. This is the only way to determine your personal ability to opererate the rig. You can compare the footage and see if you are "better off with it, than without it, right off the bat". However, I highy doubt you will be able to get the shots you want without alot of practice. You can ask anyone here how even a simple walk and talk takes great skill to keep the frame level. If this is going to be your only gig then renting is the way to go, otherwise the flyer, or similar rig, would be the one to invest in for your paticular line of work.

Good Luck!
~C
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#3 jmf

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Posted 14 May 2005 - 04:12 PM

If I was in your position, I would rent a rig and try it out for a day. 


Thanks for your input, Charles.
As I mentioned in my post, renting is not my first choice. Though of course if it seems like buying would be a total waste of money, I will.

One more thing I forgot to mention is that in my last project, I did a fair amount of walking while taping and the results were satifactory. While I don't have the steadiest hand in the world, a certain amount of that kind of hand-held look doesn't bother me. In fact, it kind of appeals to me.

That said, would even a novice like me with a Steadicam Mini, improve my steadiness right off the bat, and then gradually get better with practice, OR is the technique involved in using one of these so complex that it will actually set me back initially so much that my steadiness will actually be worse for awhile until I get good at it?

Thanks again.
J.
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#4 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 14 May 2005 - 07:49 PM

[quote name='jmf' date='May 14 2005, 01:12 PM']
[quote name='Charles J Neufeld' date='May 14 2005, 12:16 PM']

That said, would even a novice like me with a Steadicam Mini, improve my steadiness right off the bat, and then gradually get better with practice, OR is the technique involved in using one of these so complex that it will actually set me back initially so much that my steadiness will actually be worse for awhile until I get good at it?

Thanks again.
J.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

[/quote]
You'll most likely be unhappy with your results in this situation. Your horizon will probably be way out of wack and your stamina is probably not where it needs to be to wear the rig for long periods of time. Even the lightest rigs will wear you out quickly if you're not used to them.
My advice would be to try to hire an operator for the job or don't use steadicam. Buying a rig for one job certainly is a waste of money.
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#5 jmf

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Posted 14 May 2005 - 08:40 PM

Grimmett,
Thanks for your input.
Maybe I've misrepresented my case. I don't mean to suggest that this will be the only job I use this for. That's more of a worst case scenario.

I could see this as a very useful tool, replacing the need for a tripod in most cases, enabling me to get a good, steady shot whether walking or standing still. Is that a crazy idea?

While I'm not too concerned about stamina - most of my shots won't be more than 20 - 30 minutes, including multiple takes (plus I am accustomed to hauling around over 500 pounds of equipment to photo shoots in my still work) - I am curious about your comment about the horizon being out of whack. Why is that? Is that one of the things that takes a lot of practice with a steadicam?

Hiring someone to do it is not an option. This is low budget stuff. Unfortunately, either I do it with a Steadicam or I find another way to do it. This is not Hollywood, and never will be. This is small town, local jobs for companies that don't have a lot to spend. But I still want to produce the best product I can.

I'm still looking for an answer to my basic question - when I use a steadicam for the first time, is my ablilty to get a steady shot going to be better or worse? Forgetting all the room for impovement that will follow and all there is to learn about using a Steadicam properly, will I be better off with it or without it, in the beginning?

Thanks again.
J.
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#6 David George Ellis

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Posted 14 May 2005 - 11:53 PM

I'm still looking for an answer to my basic question - when I use a steadicam for the first time, is my ablilty to get a steady shot going to be better or worse?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


It always gets worse before it gets better. Your shots may be more steady, but your framing could end up suffering. Especially if you are shooting with tight lenses. Grimmet's comment about horizon issues will require practice to perfect unless you are a natural, maybe. Best bet is follow Mr. Neufeld's advice and go to a rental house you are friendly with and see if they are able to let you fly, supervised. Or, if you're patient, save the money and wait to go to a workshop so you can get that supervision you need in order to learn good operating habits instead of trying to go it alone. Good luck.

David
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#7 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 03:12 AM

I'm still looking for an answer to my basic question - when I use a steadicam for the first time, is my ablilty to get a steady shot going to be better or worse? Forgetting all the room for impovement that will follow and all there is to learn about using a Steadicam properly, will I be better off with it or without it, in the beginning?

Thanks again.
J.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Well, I thought I'd made it pretty clear in my previous post that you weren't going to get very good results your first time out. It'll probably be worse than your handheld work.
By the way, hauling 500lbs of camera gear is different than flying a steadicam. It takes different muscles than you're used to using. It doesn't matter how strong you are....that's a myth. If you decide to go ahead and use a steadicam be aware that your client may be very unhappy with the results if you are unprepared. You're better off doing a workshop first then you would be just winging it.
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#8 chris fawcett

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 09:48 AM

J,

If you want a tool to augment what you do as a video maker, you could buy a JR, and fly an XL1 very nicely on it from time to time. I think you'd see a rapid improvement on your hand-held work. My feeling is that when you get into Steadicam, it doesn't leave a lot of time, money, or energy for anything else. It's not something you whip out of the back of your car to get a shot.

You should give Steadicam a try, by all means, but beware, it's addictive.

Chris
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#9 jmf

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 10:29 AM

J,

If you want a tool to augment what you do as a video maker, you could buy a JR, and fly an XL1 very nicely on it from time to time. I think you'd see a rapid improvement on your hand-held work. My feeling is that when you get into Steadicam, it doesn't leave a lot of time, money, or energy for anything else. It's not something you whip out of the back of your car to get a shot.

You should give Steadicam a try, by all means, but beware, it's addictive.

Chris

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Chris,
Thanks for your reply.

Someone told me once (I think on this forum, a while back), that the JR is not worth it - that it doesn't have any of the main benefits that they heavier duty units have. Do you concur?

You've got the right idea - I am basicallyt looking for something I could whip our of the back of the car to get a shot. Would the JR do this for me, and would it give me enough additional stability to be worth the price?
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#10 chris fawcett

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 11:07 AM

J,

I got into Steadicam for similar reasons as you are quoting. I needed stabilisation for projects I was shooting. Within a few months, I had ditched the projects to concentrate full time on Steadicam. In my limited experience, Steadicam is too big a thing to just 'add' to your repertoire. (Have you read 'The Road Not Taken,' by Robert Frost?)

I don't have a JR, so can't tell you anything other than that I saw Garrett Brown (the inventor of Steadicam) using one to magnificent effect. A JR is something you can pull out of the back of your car and use when you need it. That it is small, inexpensive, and has limited application seem, in your case, to be points in its favour. Hopefully, someone will chip in with XL1/JR experience.

Chris
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#11 Mikko Wilson

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 12:08 PM

I'll chip in, though with technical info, not experience...

JR is specked to cary up to 4lbs - though i think it cna manage just a hair more with a weight kit that is avaialble to carry a PD150..

A fully loaded XL1 weighs in at a little over 6lbs. - Though you can take off the viewfinder to reduce wieght, and maybe get a little lighter depending on the lense used, i think that it might just be too much for the JR..

The Merlin (JR's .. replacement(?)) is specked for 5lbs. So maybe with some stripping of the XL1, you might be able to push it..

A GL1/2 woudl work well tho...

Just some number thoughts.

- Mikko.
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#12 Matt Burton

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 09:32 PM

I'm still looking for an answer to my basic question - when I use a steadicam for the first time, is my ablilty to get a steady shot going to be better or worse? Forgetting all the room for impovement that will follow and all there is to learn about using a Steadicam properly, will I be better off with it or without it, in the beginning?

Thanks again.
J.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


In plain unpatronising english YES! you could pull it off after a few days practice if you have a good teacher! and you are a good student of course.

What you need is a steadicam flyer or similar rent or buy either way.
see pic -

Posted Image

This is my flyer from optex UK

The main thing you have to understand is that you will only learn so much on your own. You realy need to take a workshop if you plan on getting more work using steadicam. But with some good advice you could be doing some basic tracking shots in no time. One of the most important things to learn befor operating a steadicam is balancing the camera on the sled a and making sure everything is set up perfectly. If your setup is even the slightest bit unbalanced the shots will be unsteadi and operation will be harder.
Hope this helps
Matt.
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