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Movi Operating Rates??


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#1 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 10:46 AM

So a few weeks ago, I turned down a well known, high profile DP doing a show that he told me he wanted to do primarily on the Movi.  He mentioned he did a lot of that on his last movie and like it.  There was also going to be Steadicam, but he said, "a lot on the Movi".

 

After nearly 1/2 hour long phone call from him and a week or so of thought, I called him back to let him know I was going to pass on the project. 

 

But it got me thinking.

 

I'm sure there are going to be future calls like this, since a DP of this level was using it on his projects already.  And what of shows that may say, "we really don't need Steadicam but want to do the show with a mix of handheld and Movi, and dolly work for long lens stuff."

 

I have yet to use the Movi, but know that with the larger versions, it's going to be just as physical as Steadicam.  With Steadicam we carry as much as 75+ lbs on us, but it's carried on the body, distributed over our back, hips and legs, with our arms using some strength especially when having to lift the arm up for extended length shots.

 

However, with the Movi, you are carrying most of the weight directly in your arms.  Like holding a shot bag, or even a ball buster out in front of your chest while walking.  It's going to take a lot more arm strength, but less leg and back strength as you aren't carrying as much weight overall.

To me, however, this is like a Steadicam and should not be done at regular scale operator rate!

Sure handheld work you are carrying similar physical weights, but to be fair, it's resting on your shoulder and most handheld shots are done standing in one area or at most moving short distances.

 

With the Movi, I'm sure walk and talks and going up and down stairs, running over obstacles and other terrain is going to become common, just like it is with Steadicam, that was kind of the point in making the Movi, to be able to move quicker than you can with a Steadicam, and get into smaller areas and do shots you can't even do with the Steadicam, but without the handheld shakiness.

 

So, as I'm now in my 16th year as a Steadicam operator (wow I can't believe it's been that long) who still loves the job of operator and therefore has turned down DPing opportunities, I can see in the next year or two more of these calls using the Movi is going to come, and I'm going to surely need to at some point use it and accept jobs that want to use it.  But I don't think I want to do shows like that IF they are going to tell me it's union operator rate, and I don't think any of us should either, period!

 

So do we continue to ask for our Steadicam rate, even though we aren't using the Steadicam on those jobs.  Steadicam operator rates have literally been going down for the past 10 years and it's harder and harder to fight for our rates, accepting Movi jobs at scale (or even a few bucks over scale) will surely destroy Steadicam operator rates even more.  

I do understand we'd have to give up a large part of our rentals in that regard as we can't ask the same rental rate for a piece of gear that costs vastly less money.

But our hourly rate is for our skill and physical demands using devices that's not sitting on a dolly or resting on our shoulders?

 

My feeling is we still ask for our full Steadicam rate on a Movi intensive show.

But in the case of the show I turned down a couple weeks ago, BOTH A and B cameras were going to be operated on the Movi.  So if the other operator is not a Steadicam Operator, does that person know he/she needs to ask for a rate that's significantly higher than scale rate for his/her work as a Movi operator too, or will conventional operators accepting jobs doing the Movi dismantle any chance of us getting higher rates for Movi operating?

 

Sorry so long winded, but it's going to be a hot topic in the rate discussion in coming years as more productions are surely going to use the Movi for action sequences and "cool" shots that can't be obtained with a Steadicam.  Or in some cases, regrettably and hopefully not successfully, as an alternative to using Steadicam at all if producers start to tie the hands of DP's and Directors budget wise if they feel they don't need to pay higher rentals for Steadicam (and are getting operators to do it for less than Steadicam operator rates) if they feel the Movi can get the job done on a cheaper tool like the Movi?   In that regard to me it's IMPERATIVE for us Steadicam operators, and ANY conventional operator learning or using the Movi that they understand they must ask for Steadicam operator rates for Movi work too.

 

Thoughts?


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#2 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 01:02 PM

There are a bunch of things you just brought up but I can throw a few thoughts out........

My operating only rate (on say a commercial) is generally about 65-70% of my steadicam operating rate.  I'd argue that makes some sense based on the level of skill required to operate a steadicam, the amount of time and practice over and above the amount of time and practice it takes to operate a regular camera.  I have also operated a MOVI and (while my MOVI operating skill level is no where near my operating skill level or my steadicam operating skill level) it definitely takes an additional skill set over and above traditional operating.  And again, while I'm no MOVI master, it is, in my opinion, not quite as skill intensive as steadicam.  So perhaps you could split the difference and charge about 80-85% of your steadicam rate to operate a MOVI?

Now those are just ball park percentages and obviously your overall skill as an operator effects your ability to negotiate your rate on a MOVI.  I've noticed that many people that do 'MOVI or Ronin' work charge less per hour than I do for straight operating.  The few thousand dollar investment on a MOVI and a DSLR can make an assistant an 'operator' in a day.  And if your used to 650/10 and $50 a day in kit rental for your cart then getting $1000 for a day for you and your rig seems like a good deal.  And this of course goes to the whole 'how little do you charge when your new' debate.

I'd also make the point that a fully loaded MOVI or Ronin with wireless focus, video and 2 monitors for the dolly operator and the stick operator (and perhaps the wheels you can buy for them) can easily run 20-30 grand.  At the same time, the price of the steadicam has actually come down and you can quite easily get away with a $2000 monitor and a $6000 wire less focus system (and they would for all practical purposes, be good enough for any operator on any set).

 

I do like using and working with the MOVI (mostly when somebody else is operating it).  On the pilot I start next week, I'm doing 'A' camera / steadicam and the 'B' operator is doing the Ronin.  I'm still getting my normal television rate and the 'B' operator is likely getting a bit over and above scale.  I also feel that this 'issue' is really not that big of an issue at all.  Skilled operators will still work regardless of the new tools.  Much like skilled DP's still work even though every PA owns an Epic.  The 'standard' rate paid for the operating will probably sort itself out in due time.

 

My 2 cents.


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#3 Philip J. Martinez SOC

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 02:09 PM

An other question. If you are the camera operator, remote operating the MOVI, like on a techno crane, who is carrying the rig? Is it the dolly grip or an other operator? I would say in majestic mode it is for sure the operator working the MOVI but.... Is the union going to have anything to say about that?
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#4 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 02:10 PM

Mike,

 

You were on a similar mindset I was, with the split rate deal for Movi work.

At first I thought, maybe a bit less than Steadicam rate, but more than regular scale operator rate.

 

But the reason I brought the question up to see what people think is, will producers accept that, or is it just better to go for full Steadicam rate even on a show that is saying they won't use Steadicam.  Personally I turn down any show that calls and just wants regular operator and says, "we aren't using Steadicam on this show".  Mainly because I tell them, "well I can't commit to the full run of the show then, as if a week in a show calls for me to do "A/Steadi" then business wise that is my priority.

 

But I do like the idea of a Movi rate, my issue is, I also generally don't take shows where they say, "it's a 35 day movie shoot, we have 5 days of Steadicam, so we will pay regular scale (or a few bucks over) for the 30 days then day play the Steadicam"

I'm usually an all in kind of guy.  Make a weekly Steadicam rental and a normal combo Steadicam rate whether it's being used or not, so DP and Director have ability to use it whenever they want, and I as an operator have the ability to just put it on if I suggest to the DP and Director, I'd like to do this on Steadicam as it'll be easier for me than to lay down a huge dance floor and set up a 10 point dolly move with booms and so forth.

 

So I like that you mentioned and echoed my first thoughts of a Movi rate.  If we accept a job where there is little to no Steadicam, we should all negotiate a rate above scale operator rate based on skill on the Movi.  If it's a Movi intensive show and you are great at the Movi, you could command near or even equal to Steadicam Operator rate for it.  New at the Movi, but still a veteran and skilled operator, you still ask for a decent bump over your normal operator rate (especially if that's union scale) for the Movi operating.

I just hope regular operators (even veteran and skilled ones) who might be inclined to buy Movi's or are asked to use Movi's don't start a REALLY BAD precedence of doing so at their "normal" operator rate, especially if that's scale.  Thanks for your thought Mike.  Hope you are well.  


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#5 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 02:13 PM

An other question. If you are the camera operator, remote operating the MOVI, like on a techno crane, who is carrying the rig? Is it the dolly grip or an other operator? I would say in majestic mode it is for sure the operator working the MOVI but.... Is the union going to have anything to say about that?

 

My thoughts on this would be the DP or the other operator.

As an operator I would want to be the one carrying or working the Movi, but in the mode where someone else operates, I'd give it to the other operator if it was just a one camera shot, or if the other operator is working, the DP.

Granted that also takes time to learn and practice so the other operator, or DP, may not be skilled in operating the controls in that case.

It will definitely need time to work itself out in that mode. 


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#6 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 04:22 PM

Why split the rate for a Movi?  Hopefully they're not paying us for "schlep factor" only and are paying for our ability to choreograph and move the camera most of all.  The weight is a factor in our fatigue but my guess is you're going to be just as tired or moreso supporting a Movi / Ronin or whatever else we move.

 

Robert


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#7 Alan Rencher

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 07:03 PM

I know a high-profile Movi op, and he has said that most productions use single-operator (AKA majestic mode) as their preferred method for anything that doesn't require remote operation. That kind of operating will still need skill to eliminate the bobbing motion that is inherent in gimbal operation, and it definitely needs the choreography that Steadicam operator can bring to the set.
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#8 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 07:25 PM

Robert, I guess my thoughts on split rate come down to end results.  We've all heard the phrase, "your not paying me for what I do but what I can do".  I guess with steadicam, I know what I can deliver (pretty much any and everything they can imagine).  I've done it for so long and in so many different situations that it's basically impossible to stump me.  I frequently get hired to do commercials at my full day rate for literally one shot that I could have done perfectly ten years ago in my sleep.  But the high profile actor, director, dp, etc doesn't want to take chances so they tell production, "I want this guy". 

For me at least (I have yet to meet the Jimmy Muro of MOVI) I can do some cool stuff with the MOVI and I can frame shots and come up with nice compositions with a MOVI but I'm not a super hero with one yet (and It's kind of quirky so I'm not sure I ever will be).  But I guess I just don't see the same end result possibilities (for myself) with a MOVI.  I have no problem charging my "holy shit" rate for a Nike commercial when I'm doing steadicam but I would be (I'm not sure embarrassed is the right word) but I wouldn't feel right charging that kind of money for my MOVI skills. 

 

Does that make sense?  And I guess I'd be curious to know, do you charge your full steadicam rate to operate a MOVI?  Do you feel your as good with the MOVI as you are with your sled?

 

Good questions, good topic.


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#9 brett.mayfield

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Posted 16 March 2015 - 12:14 PM

Why split the rate for a Movi?  Hopefully they're not paying us for "schlep factor" only and are paying for our ability to choreograph and move the camera most of all.  The weight is a factor in our fatigue but my guess is you're going to be just as tired or moreso supporting a Movi / Ronin or whatever else we move.

 

Robert

 

Robert makes a good point here, and before I even read his, my thoughts were concurrent.

 

To me, steadicam operating, GENERALLY, is less taxing on my body than a handheld stabilizer (without an easy rig, which I really dont like...). When asked to shoot Ronin/Movi, my starting rate is the same as my steadicam rate, especially since I wont be making much with rentals, which i absolutely consider since this is a business and theyre asking me to do something i enjoy less than steadicam. While my skills on a gimbal may not be at the level of my steadicam skills, I often consider "effort" when establishing my rate. I pretty much go balls to the wall for any shoot paying my rate, and lately ive been shooting olympic-hopeful track athletes on the ronin, so the rate stays high. If I were able to swing a rickshaw with steadicam, hell, Id give em a discount and hope they pay the grip who's pushing me a little more.

 

I also keep the gimbal rate up because i dont want steadicam rates down, and i dont want production feeling that gimbals are cheaper. sure, the hardware and rental is, but if they want to shoot the gimbal all day, then its going to add up with either a second operator or some other hardware for saving an operator's back. frankly, i also dont want to shoot the gimbal nearly as much as i want to shoot steadicam. ill shoot anything, but if i had my druthers then it's in the vest. my hope is that they also start to see the gimbal operating as something that requires a significant amount of practice, finesse, physical fitness, and technical knowledge somewhat similar to that of steadicam. if steadicam work is going to start moving in the direction of gimbal work, then id rather make my steadirate than my handheld rate. better to establish that now than down the road.


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#10 Benjamin Verhulst

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Posted 16 March 2015 - 05:43 PM

MōVI operating rates are on par with Steadicam operating rates - they both require very specific (though very different) skill sets. To believe the marketing and think that someone can just pick up a gimbal and get perfectly framed shots would be disingenuous at best (notice that most of the demo reels are in slow motion).

 

As far as rental goes - MōVI requires a LOT of accessorizing, custom pieces and R&D to make it work flawlessly on a real world union set. In addition to that, the gear is constantly changing and improving - it's following Moore's law and requires constant re-investment (like DITs do). I find in reality that MōVI rentals have to be higher than Steadicam rentals to make the math work. If it doesn't pay itself off in less than a year, you're losing money.

 

Related to the conversation above - I think the future of MōVI is definitely body-mounted solutions. Most of the rigs out there right now are a little ridiculous, but we're working with a really good company with some ingenious solutions in prototype. Should be a very cool NAB!


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#11 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 17 March 2015 - 01:22 PM

I get called for a Movi or Ronin gig, I say yes, charge the same as steadicam and tell them I have one that goes out with me and the rental will depend on the accessories.  Next call is to find the gear and cut a deal so I make partial rental as well as steadicam rate.

 

JM2C

 

and agreed, NAB is going to be 70% drones and Movi's  


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#12 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 11:29 PM

Just got my Pizza delivered from Pizza huts Drone...It was cold.


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#13 Daniel Stilling DFF

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Posted 05 April 2015 - 07:06 AM

I must say that after doing a ton of gimbal work in commercials, you guys are selling yourself short.

Yes, you don't have to use a part of your brain to monitor and keep level at all times, but that's about it. All the skills you learned and honed in moving a camera, designing shots, having a perfected sense of timing and all the other factors that make a great Steadicam shot, are still in play when working with a gimbal.

Therefore I charge the same for operating Steadicam or gimbal, and I also charge same for the gear package, as all of the accessories are the same.

 

And I also use my Klassen vest with an EasyRig adapter, the EasyRig arm and a Serene arm with the Ronin. So it's basicaly a mutant Steadicam :) 


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#14 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 05 April 2015 - 08:07 AM

Interesting stuff......  I still question how good any of us would rate ourselves as movi operators vs steadicam operators.

 

My steadicam operating rate has gone up over the course of time because I'm a better steadicam operator now than I was 5, 10 or 15 years ago.  Joe 'new steadicam operator' doesn't get the same rate I do because he's not as good.  So applying the same logic to the MOVI rate, I'm not as good at MOVI as I am at steadicam.  Yes, I can still compose a shot and I can still run a set and talk to AD's, actors, directors, etc.  But my technical operating ability is not on the same level with a movi as it is with a steadicam.

 

I'd make the case that if I ever do enough MOVI work to feel as confident with it as I do with my sled, I'd happily charge the same rate but until that time I don't feel right charging the full 'big bucks' rate for MOVI work.

 

On a related note, I'm pretty darn good on a techno crane.  I'd say I'm every bit as good as I am on my sled...  I have yet to charge my full steadicam operating rate for a day on the wheels.  How do other types of operating compare to steadicam (under water, aerials, hand held, crane, russian arm, etc)?

Or another way to look at it, operator 'X' (super operator) is exactly as good (a 10/10) with steadicam as he is with a MOVI as he is hand held as he is under water, on a crane, in a car, in a helicopter.

So his commercial day rate to operate is $1850/10 (not including gear)....  What does he charge to do a day of hand held?


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#15 Janice Arthur

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 01:56 PM

Mike

I haven't followed all of this thread but in terms of the equation of am I as good at steadicam as movi goes and therefore ethically can I charge the same issue which u raise; I'd say go with 1) whatever rate u can get for operating at the level u are working.

2) what they're really buying with u is operator experience, maybe not just MOVI experience. You have tremendous problem solving skills in framing and operating shorthand to know what they want or is needed in the moment. 'Yikes the lead actress just changed the framing and u know how to adjust from experience.'

3) these days u take what u can negotiate and don't put too fine a point on some deals. Yes this time u maybe got some extra for some modest MOVI work but next time they got more than they're money's worth

It always works out even

Good luck

Janice
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