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Compatible Equipment Advantages

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#1 Afton Grant

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:39 PM


I'd like to first introduce myself as this is my first post to this forum. I've been working in the Boston area for the last couple years running cameras and directing photography. I'd be the first to admit just how green I am, as all of my experience is in the digital realm (yes, I know some people think "digital cinematography" is an oxymoron, but I have no better term to use). I've been able to keep very busy with just a DVX100A, a Glidecam V-8 and a bunch of accessories, but as you can imagine, the work is nothing more than a small stepping stone to the real industry.

I'm at that point now where I believe I've gone as far as I can with my current skills and equipment and, as I've planned all along, it's time to move to bigger and better things.

With that, I've enrolled in the Rockport, ME Steadicam workshop this summer. With the knowledge and advice I take from that and other resources like this forum, I will be investing in a much more professional rig and then relocating to NYC.

I've been reading as much as I can about the equipment. I'm assuming Steadicam, being the original and still the dominant brand for this type of equipment, makes a quality product across the board for all components. However, I've noticed many people choose to use components made by PRO, MK-V, XCS, etc.

Many comparisons I've read discuss only the advantages of Steadicam over systems like Glidecam, Basson and so on. Those I have no question about. I'm curious about the advantages of the other manufacturers like PRO, MK-V, etc OVER Steadicam. Or, perhaps to put it a different way, why choose the other manufacturers over Steadicam for certain components? How is a PRO arm superior to a SC Ultra Arm, if that is so?

I thank you very much for any comments or dialog that is to follow. It seems the users of this forum are very helpful and informative. I look forward to talking with you all in the future.

Thanks very much,
Afton Grant
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#2 Bryan Fowler

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 05:05 PM

Hi Afton,

I can't really answer your questions with experience, so I'll leave that to the others, but I can say welcome to the forums!

I'll be in Boston next monday and tuesday. We plan to shoot at a beach near the city, (can't recall the name) and hopefully at some locations around the harbor...yet to be determined.

Have fun at the workshop. I attended one, and it's well worth the money. The stuff I learned there saved me lots of stress i'm sure. The week goes by very quickly.

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#3 David George Ellis

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 07:51 PM

Hey Afton,

First, congratulations on taking the workshop. Well worth it.

I would say IMHO, that the #1 advantage XCS PRO MKV and others have over Tiffen is that to some extent of the law, are partially if not fully modular to be compatible instead of compete with one another. I would be analogous and say it's similar to buying a component vs. a rack stereo system. You may like Sony's tuner, but hate their CD player. So you buy an Onkyo. This isn't to say Tiffen makes a bad anything, but if you prefer a manufacturer's something over a Tiffen something, it can be a task to Frankenstein them. Not impossible, but possibly a pyrrhic victory.

Sure you can take that Sony rack system apart and cram an Onkyo into it, but what's the cost to modify vs. getting comparable units that you can mix and match? I personally can't say who makes a better overall product. But for my level, I preferred to buy used parts I could eventually swap, upgrade or sell whole when I'm rich enough to buy an entirely new system. Which at that point I will probably mix and match as well. Right now my rig consists of components made from PRO XCS and Tiffen.

I know I just said it could be difficult to use Tiffen with others, but luckily the mod that had to be made was fairly easily for it was mechanical rather than internally electrical. With that being said, Tiffen makes great stuff right out the box. You'll see at the workshop. Everything works with one another and I haven't really heard many gripes on this forum about Tiffen prods.

But then again, you'll see the same story about the other companies here. If you feel like researching and taking the time to build a "personal" rig out of parts you find that fit or can be made to fit, you may end up with just as good of a rig, and maybe for less. I know I've left out other things but I don't want to bogart this thread. This is my #1 advantage. Good luck and stand straight. You'll remember this and understand it later.


P.S. PRO's arm advantage is that you can switch canisters to fly heavy or light camera setups in mere moments vs. Tiffen's MS where you would have to "de-tune" the spring by loosening all the screws on the arm covers, secure the pulley cords so they don't twist, use an 8" long 3/16" Allen Key to turn the spring back a certain length, repeat on the other bone, test, then try again if it doesn't work to your exact liking till you get it. You do that to go light, then go back to the original setting to fly heavy.

I spent the time at home fuc... er, testing around to find my lightest "de-tuned" arm/sled combination, and I will only have to figure that once since I know how far down the rabbit hole I went to get to get it.

Now the Master's advantage over PRO is the fact that when you are on set and need to make those fine adjustments to get the sled's seating height perfect, you can do it on the fly with the no tools adjustment knobs located at the end of each arm segment, whereas with the PRO you have to get into the rig, see if it sits where you want it to. If it doesn't, either:
(1) Dock the rig get the Allen Key and make the adjustments or,
(2) Get the Allen Key wherever it is, have someone hold the rig up for you and make the adjustments or vise versa if you feel really boss (honestly, I'm not sure if you can even do this, but it couldn't hurt, right?)

Step back into the rig and test it out. Repeat till it is to your liking. I think aside from that, I can't really say who can hold more weight. I've heard PRO arms can, but I flew a 535B with nuts to spare using my Tiffen arm & PRO sled. I've had the opportunity to use the MS, PRO and Rig Engineering as well and overall, I liked the feel of the Master most. I think it comes down to the individual's feeling when using each. Once again, more research, more informed.

**Caveat: The thing about Tiffen is the legacy of their arm. I happen to have a bionic arm whereas some were stigmatized with poor performance.**

OK, took too much space and I'm sorry guys. I'm lonely. Got tired looking at porn. Need a date. Will go and read more on this King Pyrrhus fella. More than likely will look at more porn. ;)

ONE Once Again,
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#4 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 10:41 AM


"whereas with the PRO you have to get into the rig, see if it sits where you want it to. If it doesn't, either:
(1) Dock the rig get the Allen Key and make the adjustments or,
(2) Get the Allen Key wherever it is, have someone hold the rig up for you and make the adjustments or vise versa if you feel really boss (honestly, I'm not sure if you can even do this, but it couldn't hurt, right?)"

Afraid you've been misinformed here, mate. For ease sake, I'm dropping in a quote from Dave Emmerichs off the old AOL board (and currently listed on GPI's site:)

"The springs are easily adjusted with an allen wrench while you are wearing the rig. This suprised me as I always had to remove my IIIA arm to adjust it. Only two springs need be adjusted at any time with the PRO arm and they are easily reached while the arm is under load. Yes, you can still adjust the springs when you are not wearing the arm. Repeat: no load is necessary to adjust the springs." For Dave's more complete review, goto: http://www.pro-gpi.com/comments.htm

I'll add that no one needs to hold the rig up for you while you do this. Very simple. I keep an allen wrench on my vest (I made a sheath for it on my Klassen vest nestled between the carbon side & the carbon arm) so I can adjust while walking to "ONE." Is this as convenient as two sexy red knobs? No, but I do like being able to ball park the springs into place without wearing the rig - something that always annoyed be a tad bit with the Master arm (if you go from a 535B to a SR-3, you have to muscle the arm down while wearing it to remove tension).

All said & done, I've owned a 3a arm, a Master, & a PRO. They all get the job done. It is my opinion the second two do it FAR better than the first, but there are many who still swear by the 3a (hey, many - if not most of the shots on my reel were done with my 3a arm - and even a 3a sled). As always, try them all. Decide for yourself.

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#5 David George Ellis

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 02:20 PM

Afraid you've been misinformed here, mate...  As always, try them all.  Decide for yourself.


As you know, I'm not too proud to admit when I'm wrong. So there goes my Wednesday dissertation. Your final summation is the only right answer. Maybe I should take my own advice by researching things a bit more. But I still love My Master Arm. At least I know I'm right about that.

Back to the bottom,

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