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One-man steadicam operation for doco?


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#1 Craig Anderson

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 09:39 PM

Hi everyone, 

I wanting to start shooting a series of docos and am looking to increase the cinematic production value of the productions.  I am used to shooting handheld/easyrig on a variety of prosumer to pro cameras, but know little about steadicam.  

 

However, as a camera man who is often shooting unassisted. I was wanting to know if any one-man solutions are possible?  Are there any solutions which allow the operator to pull focus and operate steadicam at the same time?  Or is it a lost cause?  

Another question I'd like to throw in the mix is how well do these rigs hold their value?  I see cameras basically becoming obsolete every year, making them a very financially difficult decision.. but I wonder about rigs?  I really would want to put in a lot of practise and can't imagine how without actually owning one.  

 

Thanks for all the help,

 

cheers


Edited by Craig Anderson, 25 February 2014 - 09:39 PM.

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#2 Shawn Wang

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 09:57 PM

yes it is . just get your aperture down to F8 , go wide. as wide as you can from starting out, like 16MM on full frame. thats about it 

 

and shoot slow motion whenever you can, cuz when slow down,it forgives the shakiness of the moves you screwed up during shooting. 

 

checkout Glidecam HD4000 and  go youtube : Devinsupertramp . he is probably the most well-known one man Glidecam operator, and arguably the best. 

 

I guess this will be enough for your one-man crew. 

 

Oh, a little advanced technique for you if you get better and really want F1.4 (I assume you will not use cine lenses cuz of your budget) 

 

prefocus, and use your body to focus! what I mean is, keep the same distance, if you can. for example, set at 1.4, focus at 5ft or something. walk from 15ft to 5ft, and always keep 5 ft distance, then you are good. (unless your actor is a monkey ~ ) 

 

------

 

but when it comes to real stuff, then you obviously need to take a 5 day course first before asking newbie questions here, otherwise you will likely to receive some angry comments. 

 

 

----

 

In terms of the value thing , I have a quote from Dan, sales manager of Tiffen Steadicam 

 

"Its just like cars" 


Edited by Shawn Wang, 25 February 2014 - 09:58 PM.

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#3 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 11:19 PM

Hi everyone, 

I wanting to start shooting a series of docos and am looking to increase the cinematic production value of the productions.  I am used to shooting handheld/easyrig on a variety of prosumer to pro cameras, but know little about steadicam.  

 

However, as a camera man who is often shooting unassisted. I was wanting to know if any one-man solutions are possible?  Are there any solutions which allow the operator to pull focus and operate steadicam at the same time?  Or is it a lost cause?  

Another question I'd like to throw in the mix is how well do these rigs hold their value?  I see cameras basically becoming obsolete every year, making them a very financially difficult decision.. but I wonder about rigs?  I really would want to put in a lot of practise and can't imagine how without actually owning one.  

 

Thanks for all the help,

 

cheers

Craig,

Steadicam Rigs hold their value,  at least they hold their value better than cameras, way better than camera's.

 

Pulling your own focus zooming and operating a steadicam is possible, I do it every day.

 

Unfortunately there is not many options for focusing these prosumer cameras because of the type of lenses they have.  Putting in alot of practice is an understatement.  

 

I would suggest finding a local operator that use your type of camera's and offer up some trades for training and practice sessions with their rig before plunking down your hard earned money.  Of course taking training courses would be your best bet and should be your first stop.  

 

Hope that helps

 

Fly safe


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#4 Craig Anderson

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Posted 25 February 2014 - 11:45 PM

yes it is . just get your aperture down to F8 , go wide. as wide as you can from starting out, like 16MM on full frame. thats about it 

 

and shoot slow motion whenever you can, cuz when slow down,it forgives the shakiness of the moves you screwed up during shooting. 

 

 

Thanks shawn, that guys looks like he has a lot of fun.  Im really more interested in knowing about options that actually allow you to pull focus, as opposed to work-arounds which affect what you can actually shoot (such as shooting f8+).
 

 

Craig,

Steadicam Rigs hold their value,  at least they hold their value better than cameras, way better than camera's.

 

Pulling your own focus zooming and operating a steadicam is possible, I do it every day.

 

Unfortunately there is not many options for focusing these prosumer cameras because of the type of lenses they have.  Putting in alot of practice is an understatement.  

 

I would suggest finding a local operator that use your type of camera's and offer up some trades for training and practice sessions with their rig before plunking down your hard earned money.  Of course taking training courses would be your best bet and should be your first stop.  

 

Hope that helps

 

Fly safe

 

Thanks Rob, so what camera/s do you use which allow you to pull while operating?  And how do you do it?


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#5 Shawn Wang

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 12:18 AM

well, in general, pulling focus and zooming is only available for those ENG cameras ~  just plug a cable in and you are ready to go since they have motors inside the lense 

 

Film people don't do it cuz of the budget ( too high to risk) , better have someone to do it for ya.

 

but for indie (Im talking about 6k worth cameras and down, from Canon C100 and down to Canon 5D) , there is no cheap option for you to pull focus on the steadicam 

 

Ive heard the Dual focus upgrade on the C100 is pretty good. you can try that first. I think 70D or C100(with dual focus upgrade just available this Feb) is the only way for autofocusing )

 

but for manual focus on steadicam ~ especially handheld steadicam like Glidecam HD 4000 . don't even think about it. not possible. you have no hand for it. 

 

 

On the other hand. if you have steadicam pilot or scout ~ there is another possible option for doing steadicam while focus yourself. 

 

the cheapest wireless follow focus solution for now is Redrock micro that sells at 1600.  they have a finger wheel fuction that allows you to pull focus while doing handheld stuff. 

 

you can somehow mod the finger wheel and attach that to the gimbal handle , then you can do steadicam while finger focus that. 

 

this is possible. but nobody did it before. think you can msg redrockmicro see if they can make an gimbal handle clamp or something for ya. 

 

 

----

 

nonetheless, if you go the second option, I think the first thing you have to spend is 3500 bucks for a 5 day course. they tell you how to battle all situations you are going to have when doing steadicam, like wind, rain, sand etc etc.I think these situations are common for doc. Highly recommand if you looking for more than just Glidecam HD4000 

 

 

Fly safe


Edited by Shawn Wang, 26 February 2014 - 12:25 AM.

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#6 Lars Erik

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 01:45 AM

Hello Craig,

 

first, doing steadicam on documentaries is a good idea. Given it serves it's purpose. It can really add on the production value.

 

Second, you say you have little knowledge about steadicams. The first few years you'll have enough keeping the rig steadi and composing the frame. Keeping focus also will increase the difficulty of your operating. May I suggest that the first years you rely on not pulling focus? Use the rig when it allows you to have a F stop of 5.6 or higher. As you get better at steadicam you can add the focus unit. Rob has tons of experience doing steadicam and pulling focus simultaneously.

 

Last year I did a TV show about luxury houses. I was a one man crew shooting empty rooms. (a second full tv-crew did the scenes with the people in it). I shot at F 5.6-8 usually all the time with a Sony XDCam 700 with a Canon 11x HDLens. So basically most is in focus all the time. so it can be done w/o focus unit, even though it limits your shots.

 

Don't go down the slow motion path. Doing documentaries and relying on slow motion to have decent footage, will leave you with documentaries with slow motion footage only. Rely on yourself to be able to control the rig. If you must use slow motion to have decent footage, you shouldn't be doing steadicam.

 

Before buying a rig, may I also suggest taking a steadicam course or at least buy Jerry Holway and Laurie Hayball's book; "The Steadicam Operator's Handbook"?

 

http://www.amazon.com/Steadicam®-Operators-Handbook-Jerry-Holway/dp/024082380X

 

Whatever you do, good luck.


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#7 Frederic Sturm

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 05:41 AM

Hey Craig,

what Lars said, the book and then a Workshop is the perfect starting place.

Depending on your camera there are many, many possibilities for pulling your own focus from the gimbal handle, and of course, it has been done before, a lot. And with the redrock micro, too (done it myself). Depending on your budget, for smaller cameras look for a lanc remote control, for "real lenses" have a look at devices like the stanton, or a combinazion of a good follow focus motor and the Betz "Schnitte" and their nice "Stick" Gimbal Controller (betz-tools.de). You can come up with countless solutions, spending anywhere from $300 to 30.000 just for this.

However I strongly recommend rather than investing in gear to pull your own focus, investing in a good wireless follow focus like the bartech (or even a hocus-focus may serve you well if budget matters) and an assistant to do it for you. If you're just starting out, you'll have enough work framing and operating the steadicam, believe me and those who've said it before. I've been doing this for just about 3-4 years now, and though I feel I could maybe manage some additional focus workload sometimes, I always prefer an assistant. Why risk compromising your main job which is great framing.

If you absolutely must go on your own, you might also try attaching an AF-on remote to your gimbal handle (on your own often means lower budgets and chances are you might use a DSLR or similar where this works), focus for the right plane, then work through the shot somthat you dont need to change focus. Cheap, quick and dirty, and a real option when things happen fast as they do sometimes on documentaries.

Happy Flying =)
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#8 Kris Torch Wilson

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 12:01 PM

Craig,
Several of us TV guys use the Stanton Controller that allows one to zoom and focus from the handle attached to the gimble.
Shawn is partly correct in that it works best with ENG lenses but not exclusively. We were able to use it as a focus controller on a DSLR lens by adding these:

http://www.filmtools...ns-z-zg-16.html

I should add, that we used the right angle motor mounted on a rod.

Another option for you might be this:

http://www.filmtools...om-control.html

Here is the link to Stanton:

http://jimmyjib.com/price_list.html
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#9 Mike Germond SOC

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 12:30 PM

Another zoom/focus gimbal controller option worth mentioning (my personal preference) is the G-zoom. It's made by a Steadicam operator so he's in tune with what we need. Small and compact, and very smooth. If you don't already have a focus system to slave, the G-focus package includes a focus amp with the controller at $1699 http://www.g-zoom.co...m7tjk4o0f3vamn3 You'd still have to buy a motor, many use the Stanton motor. If you're buying gear to expand on later, I'd recommend buying an used analog BarTech package (generally $2500 depending on motor) and the G-zoom controller-only with BFD adapter ($860). Then you have a wireless follow focus kit that can also be slaved to the gimbal controller when you need it

Edited by Mike Germond, 26 February 2014 - 12:33 PM.

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#10 Scott Baker

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 02:18 PM

I would second previous comments; having an assistant is your best bet (for more than just pulling focus), but if that's simply not an option for you RedRock also has a finger wheel controller that can be added to your rig so you can pull your own focus.

I have the RedRock Micro Remote wireless focus system but haven't tried the finger wheel controller.

 

http://store.redrock...com/microremote


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#11 Craig Anderson

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Posted 26 February 2014 - 05:16 PM

Very helpful replies guys, thanks a lot, really appreciate it. Lots or research to be done!
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#12 Craig Anderson

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Posted 01 March 2014 - 04:12 AM

Hey guys, if you don't mind me briefly reviving this thread, I've since been looking at some basic Tiffen rigs, and was wondering on what your thoughts are on the Pilot as a means of basically building up my skills (and potential client base), before moving up to a more expensive rig.  If I were to practise a lot on a pilot with a smaller camera like a DSLR and build some good skills, would they translate to a bigger rig if I upgrade down the line, or would I be back to square one?
cheers! 

 

EDIT - may have found an answer to my own question in a review at dvinfo:

"I got to play around with the Pilot a few times at trade shows and at a friend's house, where I discovered that the device acted uncannily like my full-size rig, yet I could wear it seemingly endlessly. All of the fun, none of the pain! After a few glasses of wine and an hour of joyous galloping around in the back yard, they had to pry the rig off me. Later I borrowed a unit from Tiffen for a marathon shot on a feature, where I had reasoned that by using the Pilot for rehearsals I could save my energy for the actual takes (to be captured on the beefy Panavision Genesis with my full-size rig, weighing in at a cool 84 lbs) while still delivering a respectable image back to the monitors. Even with the size and weight differential between the two systems, the operating choices I had learned during rehearsals translated perfectly." 


Edited by Craig Anderson, 01 March 2014 - 04:18 AM.

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#13 Marc R. Berger

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Posted 01 March 2014 - 05:07 AM

Hi Craig, just want to second Lars Erik´s post. Buy the steadicam operators handbook. Studying it makes you want to take a workshop, which is a great thing: It saves you a lot of time and gives you the insides you´ll need to make a good decision.

I never looked back to the the money I spent on the first workshop, and will for sure invest some more in the future.

Cheers!


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#14 Frederic Sturm

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Posted 01 March 2014 - 11:17 AM

Hey Craig,

I can only recommend getting a pilot, even before taking a workshop if you want. Many of the workshop instructors like people to be steadicam-vorgins at the workahop so they don't need to unlearn bad habits, but for me it was Handbook, EFP video, more videos, lots of forum reading -> hundreds of hours with a pilot -> workshop -> getting a real rig -> many many hours more training on that before taking the first job -> constantly trying to improve. I certainly don't regret having gotten a basic feeling with the pilot before going for the workshop, so I got the most out of it, rather than spending the first three days just wrapping my head around the very basics. Just make sure you alway reference the handbook from the start so you don't learn too many wrong habits. Maybe you can get an operator close to you to give you a little intro? Thats what I did.

You will feel a big difference later with a big rig, but only in the good way, meaning the pilot teaches you a very sensitive touch and the bigger the rig, the more stable it will get. Also, your back will appreciate hundreds of ours in a pilot much more than in a big rig.

Happy Learning =)
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#15 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 02 March 2014 - 05:11 AM

disclaimer - im not a top level op and rarely post outside the newb section.

 

i do shoot doco and corporate though.

 

I think when I started I thought that Steadicam would be my key to shoot everything smoothly. I then learned that holding long static telephoto shots and the need to pull focus did not really lend itself to an affordable Steadicam and newb skills.

 

I have found Steadicam a secondary tool on doco/corp/pop vid shoots. 

 

Now let me tell you about a shoot next week. Big office, couple of interviews (sticks), Broll of 'stuff happening' (probably sticks or handheld) and opening sequence of interviewee walking into the location.. Steadicam.

 

Now the office is far from parking, time schedule is tight bla bla..

 

Well I don't think I can carry my Pilot/Vest arm combo (a big peli) -  (and the sticks and maybe a light and other garbage) with my single assistant.

 

Bottom line is even though I own a Pilot I'll use my handheld 'Blackbird Stabilizer' for the walkie shot

 

(a cam is F3, but Ill use my FS100 on this little rig)

 

Ive chosen the 'worse' stabiliser due to time and size constraints on the shoot.

 

I note steadicam have launched a new small stabiliser - the Solo - I think you should consider the practicality and speed advantage to going 'vestless' in fast moving/small shoot environments

 

I don't know the mass limits but a Solo can probably do a C100 or FS700 and of course a DSLR, the AF of the C100 looks very good - almost game changing - not for serious cinematography but for large sensor, small crew work.

 

The Pilot is useful to me but only on more considered shoots with more crew and bodies around..

 

S


Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 02 March 2014 - 05:16 AM.

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