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The "What Rig should I buy" question


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#1 Jonathan Pfundstein

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 11:49 AM

I'm sure you've all gotten this question a lot, so I'll try and make the set-up for it as concise as possible.

 

I've recently gotten into steadicam operating and after a couple months using a borrowed Pilot rig and taking a few jobs, I'm ready to make the investment into a rig a bit more substantial that I can work with for the next few years.

For the majority of my work I exppect to be flying the standard array of HD cameras that are out there, so I expect a rig that can carry around 18-20 pounds will be suitable, althought the option to fly an Alexa would be very nice.

Anyone have any idea of what the operating weight of an Alexa can be squeezed down to?

 

The options I've been considering are a Scout, Used Flyer or Possible a Zephry if funds permit.
Overall the Steadicam packages for each seem fairly similar minus the weight capacities.

Are there any key differeneces that I should be aware of? 

HD vs Standard monitor Kits? Power options? single battery vs dual mount on the sled?

Anton Bauer VS. V mount for price, availablility, overall operators preference?

 

Thanks for your input!


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#2 William Demeritt

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 12:10 PM

Jonathan, 

 

Welcome to the forum! 

 

In attempts to answer your question, I guess I would just suggest this: disregarding equipment for a moment, what is your current work pool, and what is the work you want to grow into? What is the "standard array of HD cameras", because my standard array is Arri Alexa Plus, Sony F65, Red Epic and MX, F900, maybe even Varicam. What is the work you're currently doing, and do the "weight ranges" give you enough wiggle room because it sounds like you WANT Alexa gigs. 

 

You may be passionate about Steadicam, but remember you need to view your investment as a BUSINESS decision. To think otherwise would be in error, and hurt you financially down the road. Initial cost, timeframe to break even/become profitable, value of equipment when decommissioned, etc. You should weigh these things first, and then also consider which rig services your current clients and your potential clients. If you're wildly successful, and start getting regular clients who go with heavier-than-expected setups, how will you feel? 

 

I guess I'm just encouraging you to consider the equipment, consider the investment, and futureproof yourself for whatever you buy. Make the investment that protects you for the foreseeable future you're aware of. 


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#3 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 12:40 PM

18-20 pounds is not enough, practically speaking, for most paying jobs. You may think Epic will fly, but by the time you add a follow focus motor, brackets and receiver, battery, and moderately heavy zoom lens, you are tapped out.

 

Based on e ou need something that will hold at minimum 25lb of camera payload. Zephyr is the least costly rig that will do that. Still, it is limited and not a full "big rig"{ But you could easily outgrow the rig sooner than you think. Many take the used route, which can get complicated fast. There are dozens upon of threads on the forum giving opinions on the options.


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#4 Jonathan Pfundstein

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 01:21 PM

When I say standard array of HD cameras, mainly those that are used on lower budget TV and film jobs, C300, Scarlet, Epic, F3.

As of now I'm working with a TV show that flys an Epic super stripped with a Canon EF lens on my pilot, obviously pushing the limit but still managable, so I doubt an 18 lb limit would kill me too much with the prevelence of the Epic being used in production (besides the case stated above).

 

In the immediate future as a fairly new operator I doubt I will encounter many jobs that require me to fly much larger cameras, although the ability to take those jobs (if offered) and not have to worry about each pound would obivously be a tremendous adavantage.  

 

Like you mentioned about outgrowing a rig though, do I need to spring 3k more for a rig that only takes me into a range of cameras slightly above what a scout could fly anyways, at this stage in my work?  Part of me definitely says yes, while the other questions the logic of the cameras I'll be actually using and the money I'll be outlaying.  No financing going on here, stricly paid in full rigs so money is definitely a factor, when I may just being moving up to a whole other level of work in a year. 

 

Thank you for all the advice thus far.  Also does anyone think the dual mount battery option on the flyer is worth it over any of the new rigs with a single mount?


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#5 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 05 April 2013 - 01:00 AM

The dual battery mount on a Flyer is a dummy mount, does not give additional power. It is strictly for extra counterweight. Single mount on the Scout means that you have to extend the post to counterbalance heavier cameras, which is not ideal...especially on the skinny post of smaller rigs like Scout. Zephyr's second battery option provides power as well as mass to the bottom of the sled.

 

The modest increase in weight on the Zephyr vs Scout is weight that is in a range that is significant. In other words, there are a lot of camera packages and accessories that fall in that range between 18-25 pounds.

 

You often don't control the accessories of DP-owned cameras, so the Epic you are asked to fly may have a heavy 19mm baseplate and mattebox, a zoom lens of 5-10 pounds or more, ff receiver/motor, wireless video link, etc. WIth Flyer/Scout, you could be hosed. With Zephyr you are still within tolerence. Also the Zephyr vest is far superior to the Flyer/Scout vest.

 

Used rigs are also a good bet when they offer even larger camera payloads, but you have to know what you want in order to get a good deal.


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#6 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 05 April 2013 - 01:24 AM

I'm sure you've all gotten this question a lot, so I'll try and make the set-up for it as concise as possible.

 

I've recently gotten into steadicam operating and after a couple months using a borrowed Pilot rig and taking a few jobs, I'm ready to make the investment into a rig a bit more substantial that I can work with for the next few years.

For the majority of my work I exppect to be flying the standard array of HD cameras that are out there, so I expect a rig that can carry around 18-20 pounds will be suitable, althought the option to fly an Alexa would be very nice.

Anyone have any idea of what the operating weight of an Alexa can be squeezed down to?

 

The options I've been considering are a Scout, Used Flyer or Possible a Zephry if funds permit.
Overall the Steadicam packages for each seem fairly similar minus the weight capacities.

Are there any key differeneces that I should be aware of? 

HD vs Standard monitor Kits? Power options? single battery vs dual mount on the sled?

Anton Bauer VS. V mount for price, availablility, overall operators preference?

 

 

Okay a few things.  

 

First off either limit your cameras to lighter weight or Understand that you can't just go and "Squeeze down" the weight of a camera package. If the DP wants you to fly two filters and a Pola and that pushes your payload over what you can fly are you really going to tell the DP he can have the filters or focus, because if you're going to fly the filters you need to lose the motor...  Yeah great way to get a negative reputation.

 

Another thing to consider is that unless you are flying a film camera getting a Standard Def NTSC video signal is pretty much unheard of these days.  So now you have a choice, Buy and fly a down convertor or get a HD monitor...  Again do you really want your gear to limit you?  Batteries are a choice of what's in your market. If the cameras you fly are V-lock then get V-lock, if they are Anton Bauer get Anton Bauer.  See where I'm going?

 

The scout, flyer and zephyr all share the same issues IMO.  First off those are closed systems, there is no upgrade paths for those rigs once you buy them you can't really build onto them or upgrade them. There are no upgrades for the gimbals or wiring (24gauge is not suitable for a Red or an Alexa) and the arm is severely load limited being built from folded sheet metal not machined from billet.

 

In my opinion (One that's been earned from being around steadicam since 1980, yeah I'm that old) I'd look at used. Find a old EFP or model 3/3A there are tons of options for those, Smartly retrofitted you can have an amazing rig that has some serious expandability for not a lot of money.


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#7 Jonathan Pfundstein

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 12:57 AM

Thank you for all of your input.  The advice on weights is dully noted.  When you reffer to EFP, I've gathered that's reffering to the older model steadicams that have the plastic housing around the bottum of the sled, correct? Or just from the era that there from.  Was looking at a used model featured on the sight http://www.steadicam...showtopic=18041

 

Looks very reasonable and within my price range, thoughts?


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#8 Scott Baker

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 12:03 PM

I would take Eric's advice and buy a higher end, used model.

 

I have an older Master Series rig and really like it. Quite affordable used.

I've had to buy a Decimator to convert to HD to SD because it still has the original bright green tube-style monitor.

It was made for film cameras so it handles a fully loaded Red One (which I get a lot of) or an Alexa.

I have a machined weight plate (16lbs) for DSLRs and other lightweight cameras.

 

It's not really upgradable, as Eric mentioned, but I've found it serves me well.

 

 

Here's one on the marketplace, might still be available:

http://www.steadicam...17405&hl=master

 

Good luck!


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#9 Alan Rencher

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 12:40 AM

I would go with Eric's advice for sure, but more importantly, are you going to get work that will pay for the equipment you will get? Do you have clients that will hire you to do Steadicam? If you're looking to slide in on the low budget end of the market, you will be competing with others whom have little experience, bought a cheap rig, and will work for $200 a day. And just because you buy a rig that can handle an Alexa, that doesn't mean you can easily penetrate that segment of the market. You may want to look into Robert Starling's Steadicam business workshop before you get in too deep.
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