Warm November greetings from St. Petersburg, Russia. Mostly I work as DoP and was not planning to be a professional steadicam operator. However, a year ago one of my projects called for a lot of steadicam shots, producers couldn't afford to hire a steadicam operator for so many days, so I bought a Tiffen Zephyr HD. I enjoyed it very much, until I hit its limitations. It never failed me though.
I thought it’s nice to have a rig always on set, flying it when needed, but never actually considered using it outside my own projects. It was only when fellow DoPs started calling and asking me to fly their cameras, I realized it was time to upgrade.
In September I made up my mind finally. The choice was anything but easy. So I want to share my experience with others, who might find themselves in the same situation. Being based in Russia, my choice was less affected by the place where the manufacturer was based. I just wanted the gear to be reliable and, well… the best I could afford.
I started with the arm. Just reading through this forum the PRO arm felt like the best choice. Concerning reliability and simplicity mostly. So I quickly found out that the closest place I could get one was Betz Tools in Munchen. By that time I knew something about the Betz RIG, but VERY little info could be found on this forum or elsewhere.
Writing all this because I basically feel that I could have used this kind of info myself while still choosing. For some reason Christian is very conservative with advertising his sled. Although it's just great. It shows more than 30 years of Christian's experience in the business. All the tiny details are thoroughly thought through (typically German). The precision and quality are also top notch, of course. The thing is pricey, that is true. In fact it is as expensive as any hi-end rig, but well worth the money. If any of you want to know more about my personal experience with the rig, I'll gladly share.
However, it's not just the rig that was worth the trip to Munich. It is something I would call "the Betz Experience". Christian really helped me with everything and I spent two pleasant days with him, Isabel and Alex in Munich. There was no rush so I could try on all the different vests, sleds and arms. Christian never pushed or urged my decision, and honestly gave his opinion about everything. It felt more like a friendly workshop, rather than browsing the store. It was fun.
I quickly understood that, while choosing the right steadicam, you don’t have to be committed to one particular brand. For example, my system now consists of a Betz HD rig, PRO Titan arm and a Sachtler vest. I have tried every vest they had in store, including the Exovest and Klassen. Sachtler simply fitted me the best. Christian gave his advice on what in his opinion was needed and which gadgets and parts were actually of less importance. Some of the parts he actually modified on the spot, specially for me. For example he upgraded the tilt plate with 2 additional locking nuts, so that it felt absolutely rigid. We called it "Russian edition"
To conclude, I feel like it was the right path with Betz Tools. It is great when people care more about your long term involvement with the craft. So if you feel strong about your passion with steadicam operating, you should definitely rely on such people.
Hope this opus of mine came out not too long )
My first steadicam. Home made with my dad.
My second steadicam (for sale), with my lovely wife (not for sale).
There great people. `i had my 2 mk-v nexus sleds upgraded by him to have proper power and hd. Alex did a great job, christian fixed, upgraded, serviced all other parts, and isabell made us a great lunch. Christian took us out to diner during our 2 day's stay. The are our regular service point in europe. Need a cable, a day later its on your doorstep. There great people, you just can't go wrong with them. And indeed, we have been playing with his RIG, and its a great piece of equipment.
Betz Tools is a superb crew, I can only second that. Isabell, Christian and Alex are infinitely friendly and helpflul from tiny details to big decisions.
Having come across Betz on the 2013 Munich Workshop they organized, it was easy enough to realize that these are the right warm welcoming
people to deal with when you need a rig or your rig deserves some special attention. While sure, their services are not cheap, they are well worth
it, and I have always been approached in a very fair way when it comes to the finacial part.
While I myself am still on a used medium sized rig (Zephyr, too) and waiting for the right time to upgrade, I purchased an Exovest from Betz
and got several other things, like cables, made and will happily come back next time I need something. Another thing worth mentioning, after I had
the chance of some rather interesting insight: If it weren't for their experience and expertise in handling the sometimes ouright weird ways
manufacturers handle purchases and spare parts deliveries, the part wouldn't be at your doorstep the next day as it is, but rather take weeks.
I am very grateful for living and working in Munich, having the Betz(st) friends you can have as Steadicam dealers / service right at my doorstep =)
I've had a Betz top stage since 2006 and it's great! Heavy duty and practical. It should last forever. When I needed some spare parts, they got me what I needed quickly and it barely costed me anything, from Germany to New York.
same here. The Betz crew is has been a close companion on my steadi path. When I started thinking about entering the steadi world Christian would invest hours of his time to talk to this new guy, who for sure wouldn't invest money in the next years. He let me practise with his gear for free, help me out with advice whenver needed. Now that I am a grown up in the Steadiworld I love it to have the Betz crew close by, always having an open ear for my troubles. Isabelle is very helpful and super fast in responding to my strange emails. And I think there is nothing that Alex can't do. He is the guy who would sit in the shop late just to fix my cables so I can fly my gear the next day. I love every tool I bought over the years from them, never had the feeling they would want to talk me into something.
Service is a rare good in the service desert germany, but the Betz crew knows what it means to us, to have the feeling that there is someone you can rely on when you are in trouble.
So thank you very much for making my steadi live a lot easier.