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Making the jump to steadicam: Some questions about rigs, preferences, advice

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#1 Mike Lemnitzer

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 01:30 PM

Hey everyone, 


Long time lurker, first time poster. I've been a working 1st/2nd in Los Angeles for a year and a half now. And although I love what I do, I've always had my heart set on operating. And steadicam is the funnest form of it. I'm a novice in the realm of steadicam, but I have used a poorly maintained rig from my school. If memory serves, it was a 3A arm and sled and there was a couple classes that focused on steadicam/glidecam which I took at my school as well. I've firsted for a few steadicam operators who showed me a few things but some of their advice and knowledge didn't quite stick. I've been considering steadicam for a few months, and decided I should do this now and not later (More debt never hurt anyone, right?). So I've been diving deep into the forums here which as been such a huge help, and I think I've finally gotten a base understanding of where I'm going in terms of starting out. But I wanted to pose some questions to everyone here to clarify a few things. 


I will be taking a Tiffen workshop, but probably not until next year. Most likely against everyone's better judgement, I'm going to get a rig and jump right in. 


I don't have a budget 100% set, but I'm maxing myself at $20k. From my research, this seems doable for a used starter rig. In terms of which brands, that's to be fleshed out.


- If I was configuring a rig from different brands or styles, is there anything I should watch out for? Like don't use this arm with this sled or vest? I saw something about a Pro1 arm (??) needing a different bracket for a back mounted vest. Stuff like that.


- How closely should weight limits match between the arm and sled? Or do most midrange rigs sort of cradle the same weight limits? Just watch out for extreme differences in weight limits? Which would be the better option to handle more weight if need be?


- Preferences on front mount vs back mount vests. Does the arm lose any field of motion between either mounts? 


- Setting the tension in your arm. I know that it matters on the shot, if you need camera higher = more tension, lower height = less tension so you aren't having to fight the resistance, but what about tension between either section of the arm? How do you know when you've set the tension properly on either side of the joint? 


- Lastly (for now), any kind of preferences or advice about starting out? I've got a couple friends who are willing to crash course me on wearing the rig and operating, and I'm hoping to head to the Tiffen Steadicam office to possibly test some of their products. I found a thread that noted someone specific to call there, I just can't seem to find it again. Any kind of info about anything steadicam related would be appreciated and savored! 


Also as it stands, I'm looking at an updated Master sled, Master vest, and either a 3A arm or Master arm as my first rig. Any insight about this would be great. Or any potential sellers too haha. 


Thank you to anyone with answers, and I look forward to being a part of this forum!

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#2 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 03:47 PM



I hope this doesn't come across wrong or as mean, but its very clear you know enough to be dangerous but have yet to really apply yourself and do your homework.  There is no such thing as a PRO 1 arm…..  And, everything else is answered on this Forum.  Read, read, read….  The archives here, while albeit daunting, are amazing.  Come back with narrowed down specific questions…..  And, yes, take a workshop…. And, yes, buy used.  $20K will get you something, but its best to know what you are getting so read baby, read…...

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#3 Mike Lemnitzer

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 07:03 PM

Not mean at all, I appreciate the honesty. I'm not sure where I saw PRO 1 arm. Might've been a PRO Atlas or Titan arm and I mistakenly combined it with something. I'll have to find the thread again. 


And yeah, I've already answered multiple questions going a bit deeper in the forums. IE the 3A arm post would need an adapter to properly use the Master sled gimbal. Just gotta keep reading and researching. 

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#4 Blaine Baker

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 07:58 PM


No need to go into debt, keep working, keep saving, take a workshop. I saved half my paychecks from my day job at a grocery store for a year and a half (pays significantly less than full time AC'ing mind you). Fresh out of school, it was a daunting idea saving for the thing, but I wound up with a used, full-sized rig for somewhere around $18k. I'm coming up on 3 years since my first workshop (and about a year and a half owning my own rig), and the gear has already more than paid for itself. 


Alec is right, and I will encourage it too, do your research! That paid off in a big way for me because I just continued to learn about all my options as I saved for all the parts. No need to put yourself in the hole with a loan when you're not getting the big jobs, working your way up will keep you focused on getting good and keeping yourself humble! In the mean time, bug the operators you're working with to give you a day of practice in their rig in exchange for food and/or beers! Costs a ton less than a workshop and you're making connections that might get you operating jobs in the future.


Good luck!

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#5 Chris Loh

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Posted 11 July 2015 - 01:45 PM

Mike, I don't suppose you're the one looking at buying my friend Quaid's full Master Series set up with transmitter and focus are you..?


Anyways, feel free to shoot me a text, I'd be happy to show you my rig and answer as many questions as I can.. I'm still very new, maybe you could teach me a thing or two!


For starters, you read that a PRO arm, Atlas or Titan, cannot be mounted to a back mount vest. I remember the post vaguely. PRO arms can.. I know for a fact, Peter Robertson uses a PRO with WK vest, along with many other operators. You may have also read that Chris Harrhoff uses the first PRO arm with serial number 001. He used it for the first time shooting Saving Private Ryan.


Different sled manufactures use different size posts. When I use a master arm with my PRO sled, I need a different post.. nice thing to have in my kit.


There are a lot of different circumstances that come into play with weight. Too many variables to answer in one post.


I prefer front mount, that's why I chose the PRO vest.


Each arm is tuned differently. Each rides and floats differently. Tiffen arms should float about 5 degrees upwards, PRO arms should float about 5 degrees downwards.


Call any of the guys at Tiffen, they're all great. I can give you Rey Reyes' contact if you need it. He's easy to reach.

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#6 Jerry Holway

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 08:09 AM

The gear is much less important than knowing how to use it and what works; all the tips and tricks. New gear is coming out all the time, old gear still works great.


The most important pieces of kit are your brain and your body, and the best place to start the training is in a workshop. It's intense, deep, and you get lots of information and practice and different points of view on every subject, including the gear and how to use it.


And you make world-wide connections to other operators.


Best of luck.

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#7 Mike Lemnitzer

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Posted 19 July 2015 - 01:56 PM

Thank you for all the advice, I've definitely been re-thinking my route going into this with everyone's tips. Getting further into the book and trying on a few friend's rigs has definitely shown me I'm a lot farther than I thought. More and more and more research!

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