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Shelf life of a rig


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#1 Josh Pickering

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 02:57 PM

Hi,

I'm new to the forum. A little background on me first, I've been doing production since 2003 and live in Dallas, TX. I mostly shoot DSLR's, RED Epics, and Canon Cinema EOS cameras. I've always been interested in Steadicam since the beginning of my career, and have made the decision that I'd like to market myself more and do more operating.

I've operated the Zephyr a few times and am taking a 2 day Steadicam workshop middle of this month. I hope to get more and more gigs over the next year.

My question is: if I were to purchase a zephyr in the next few months, what would be the typical life of the rig, if it was well taken care of? Or how long would one expect to use it with normal wear and tear, before the cost to repair it becomes more than than the rig itself. I see Steadicam offers a one year warranty, what does it cover? If outside the warranty, what is general maintenance cost if I had to send to Tiffen for spring tightening, etc...?

Also, possibly a stupid question, should I choose to buy the Zephyr with the SD monitor, does it still work with HD cams? I've only operated the HD Zephyr.

Thanks for any info.
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#2 Josh Pickering

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 03:51 PM

BTW, found out what Steadicam warranties. Please disregard that question.


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#3 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 04:11 PM

unless you have a downconverter a SD monitor can not display a HD signal.

 

Maintenance on a rig?  it could go many ways, it you beat the crap out of your gear you are going to spend some bucks on fixing it. My maintenance cost on my XCS ultimate have been nearly zero in the seven years I've owned it


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#4 Jerry Holway

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 04:39 PM

There is very little that goes wrong with rigs; the Zephyr is fairly simple and straightforward, and with reasonable care, it will last for many years. There are rigs from the early eighties that are still going strong after years of hard work...

 

Jerry


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#5 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 05:34 PM

SD Zephyrs can easily be upgraded to HD later, by replacing the SD monitor with a Marshall HD monitor or something similar, plus a custom cable or two.


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#6 Josh Pickering

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 06:06 PM

Thanks for the replys Eric, Jerry, and Mark. What are some of the areas on the rig you maintain? I'm assuming it's more arm, because that's where the mechanics are. Do you keep the springs lubricated? Check that screws are tightend? Again, just getting all the info I can. I'll be taking the workshop soon and I'm sure there will be a ton of geeky info there!


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#7 Jens Piotrowski SOC

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 06:38 PM

http://en.m.wikipedi...wiki/Shelf_life

?
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#8 Alan Rencher

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 06:48 PM

The Zephyr is a great little rig for a DSLR shooter, but if you continuously put it through the rigors of professional sets, parts will wear. I know this first hand. It doesn't have the same precision as it did in the first year that I owned it. I've taken it in a few times this year to have things adjusted. I tried telling the service staff and engineers that it didn't perform the way it used to, and I've gotten the response, "well, it's a Zephyr." They didn't even believe me when I said that it used to spin perfectly.
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#9 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 07:31 PM

Hi Josh,

 

Rather than thinking of the "shelf life" of a rig which as I understand it from your question as a cost of maintenance issue, you should really think about it as how long a rig will last you through the life of your career.  That is to say how soon will you outgrow it and have to buy another rig?

 

Coming from the very expensive experience of not doing all the right research when I bought my first rig which was an original Flyer, I ended up quite foolishly and some would agree stupidly having to buy THREE RIGS in the first ten months and still didn't make the right decision on the third rig; all new, all from Tiffen.  I quickly realized in 30-45 days the Flyer would not fly the cameras I normally worked on as a camera and jib op so I bought a Clipper 12.  That lasted roughly seven months before I realized I could not fly 24v film cameras and then talked myself into thinking I had to have a multi-telescoping center post.  All together that was about a $90,000 mistake that I could have avoided by listening to seasoned Steadicam operators who had been trying to set me straight all along.  Instead of listening to the people who use and make a living with the rigs I listened to the ones who manufacture and sell them.  No blame on Tiffen there as that is their #1 job and that is to make and sell gear.

 

Rig #3 lasted about another year before I realized that it still was not going to be suitable or acceptable to work in a competitive market like LA.  By then I was ready to listen to what others recommended.

 

Rig #4 was a XCS Ultimate, PRO Arm and PRO Vest which is what I should have bought to start with.  With minor care and upkeep that rig will last me the rest of my career and then still make money for the next person.  I do own a second rig now as well which is a PRO CineLive that I bought so I could keep one in Vegas and LA.  Both of these rigs are 100% modular, built with the utmost precision and will last indefinitely.

 

My recommendation to you is to learn from my not so bright mistakes and take a look at the new PRO CineLive or keep your eye out for used PRO / XCS rigs that are modular and can be upgraded easily as you grow your career and you don't have to buy an entire new system every time you do.

 

While the XCS may be too far out of your price range right now or maybe not, I highly recommend before you buy ANY rig, that you at least look at and feel one or both of them and particularly the new PRO CineLive which with vest and arm can be had in the mid-$30k range.  That sweet little rig will take you wherever you want to go and when you need to fly the monster camera package you buy a new top stage, install it yourself in ten minutes and keep on moving!

 

That's my story and I hope you can learn from it.

 

Robert


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#10 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 07:46 PM

I have only owned PRO rigs but I can say that with literally zero maintenance and totally abusive work conditions they still keep right on working.  I send my rig in once a year to have it serviced but I mostly do it just for the tax write off.


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#11 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 07:47 PM

What's your price range?


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#12 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 08:55 PM

Thanks for the replys Eric, Jerry, and Mark. What are some of the areas on the rig you maintain? I'm assuming it's more arm, because that's where the mechanics are. Do you keep the springs lubricated? Check that screws are tightend? Again, just getting all the info I can. I'll be taking the workshop soon and I'm sure there will be a ton of geeky info there!

 

Maintenance on a pro arm?  remove the spring can's then hose the chassis out with a garden hose, that's it. No sending it back to be cleaned or tuned up, it just works all the time, mine has been back to pro exactly ONCE in FOURTEEN years and that was more of a "Wow it's been forever maybe I should have it looked at"  Tiffen tells you they should see the arm once a year....  I don't fly tiffen


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#13 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 09:21 PM

The Zephyr is a great little rig for a DSLR shooter, but if you continuously put it through the rigors of professional sets, parts will wear. I know this first hand. It doesn't have the same precision as it did in the first year that I owned it. I've taken it in a few times this year to have things adjusted. I tried telling the service staff and engineers that it didn't perform the way it used to, and I've gotten the response, "well, it's a Zephyr." They didn't even believe me when I said that it used to spin perfectly.

That is unacceptable customer service. Don't accept such answers. If you're not already speaking with Derek Hester, contact him directly, and be prepared to be specific and quantify your issues. Good luck. Are you talking about a gimbal issue?  Tiffen has taken care of a couple of issues I've had, but I have had to push them sometimes.


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#14 Josh Pickering

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 09:25 PM

Very good info Robert. Thanks!

 

I have only had a few gigs for steadicam recently. I have another 2 in the next few weeks, so you could say I'm really starting out. There is a local shop here that rents the Zephyr for $400/day. I would love to own the gear, which brings me to Mikes question of what is my budget. The $12k for the Zephyr sounds enticing, and I understand that this rig is very limited in types of cameras it can fly.

 

I'm ultimately looking to get started at this point. $34K for a Pro isn't in my price range(although I'd love to have it), niether is a slightly bigger rig than the Zephyr, the Archer. The 10 years I've been doing production, the cameras haven't been huge, but I want to be doing the big shoots eventually. I've seen guys on this forum selling their smaller rigs and upgrading because they've gotten the bigger gigs.

 

I'm trying to break in and just searching for answers. Thanks so much for the info, it really helps.

 

BTW, haha to Jens comment!


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#15 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 06 July 2013 - 11:07 PM

With patience and educating yourself to some of the better older rigs that can be modernized you can get a much more robust system than those two in the range of the price of $12k-$15k.  They'll have some wear, they'll maybe need some rewiring to HD or you can work in standard def as most of us started out doing.  Only in the last 3-4 years have we seen HD monitors come out that work for us.

 

All I can tell you is I wish I had listened to this same advice.

 

If you can rent a rig for $400 and not have to maintain or insure it that is a cheap price while you build your skills and your business and save your money while you are buying good solid key components as you go.  Don't be afraid of doing this.  A lot of the operators who've been around a long time and even newer people have done just that.

 

Think of it this way:  If you buy used quality gear it has already depreciated.  You use it for a year or two and it will not have depreciated much more.  Take a look at the marketplace and see what used gear is going for and how long some items sit there while others get snapped up right away.

 

Good luck and be patient.

 

Robert


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