Hello Everyone and Greetings from Hamburg, Germany!
I joined this forum because for the last several months I've been very interested in purchasing a Steadicam. I've never used one and I'm lost with where to start. They are very expensive pieces of equipment, so I'm trying to gather as much information as possible first.
A few notes about me and my upcoming project (in other words, my requirements):
I am just shy of 5'-0". I am female and I am absolutely not flat-chested. It's important to mention I wear an F cup when considering vests. I've been working out at the gym three times per week for over two months (since June 2015) and though I am petite in stature, I have become quite strong within a very short time span. In the second week of October, I will be flying to Japan to film for one week and will be filming all day. It's an ethnographic documentary and thus there is no script and no detailed plan. I will be following around the main characters for one week and filming as much as I can while waiting for a story to unfold in front of the camera.
So, where should I start? Throw whatever ideas and suggestions you have at me. I appreciate them.
First of all don't buy anything without trying it. Especially the Vest could be a problem considering your cup size. The most obvious way as suggested to every novice is to attend a workshop where you'd learn the basics and try different rigs.
If time is an issue due to your project in October and there is no workshop in that timeframe you could ask for a Operator near you to show you the basics and help with selecting a rig based on your needs.
Maybe the guys you cold find via google https://goo.gl/dfvc24are willing to help.
1) no time to learn, less time to get it and practice; what if your model shows up a week before you leave?
2) probably not much money (less than 3k is my guess.)
3) no assistant to get stand and batteries let alone pull focus
4) you're going to be on the "dumb side" of the camera with steadicam and can't see exposure etc or reach them easily.
5) you're going to have many locations and getting from A to B quickly is harder with no experience with a steadicam.
6) you can reach camera controls with easy rig but it will make shots somewhat smoother but take some of the weight too.
7) vest fitting is a harder discussion and may not be ideal on smaller vests
8) several other but that's a good start.
Thanks for your advice. Finding a Steadicam workshop to attend before I leave in October will be very difficult, I'm afraid. The Germans love to plan. Were I to find a workshop taking place in September, it will have been sold out months in advance. That's just the way things are here. I'm surrounded by organized, punctual planners!
I did follow your Google link and called the first rental shop on the list Xinetix. I left a message on their answering machine and am awaiting a reply. I'm hoping they will let me stop by and maybe be able to make some suggestions. The Germans are usually really great at consultation.
Thanks for your advice about holding off on a Steadicam for my October project. I don't want to be completely frustrated and hate the filming process or hate Steadicams, so I will hold off until I can find a Steadicam workshop to attend at some point in the future.
I had a look at the Easy Rig from Sweden. Since my camera and lens and microphone weigh about 1.2 kgs (2.6 lbs) together, the smaller backpack, the "Mini" would suffice and it runs around €1000, only I can't figure out how to rent or purchase one here in Hamburg. I called Easy Rig, but only their fax machine answered, so I sent them an e-mail and am awaiting a reply. I am definitely considering something like this which could take the weight off because on Saturday, I filmed for 13 hours, mostly hand camera and I now have a pain in my neck which refuses to disappear. Multiply one day by seven days and I can only imagine what that pain would be like.
The only thing I worry about with the Easy Rig is how it looks. It would make me very visible and one of the things I love doing is shooting when most people have forgotten I am there. I'm also worried my mom will not let me wear it because I will "embarrass" her. She's Japanese and really sensitive about these kinds of things.
Sunday evening, I was super happy to see that your book Steadicam Operators Handbook was available at my local library. I got there Monday morning, two hours after the library opened and it was already checked out!!! I ordered a copy from Amazon and it arrived today, so I will start reading right now.
Thanks to everyone for their quick and detailed replies,
Having a such a light camera package definitely helps create a stabilization rig that you can shoot in all day, but the light rigs, in general, need a lot more finesse in your operating hand to keep stable. With just over a month to go, it will be difficult to get it down, unless you practice for hours everyday.
If you decide to go the steadicam route, ditto to everything everybody said about training. A steadicam Pilot or steadicam Solo with vest may be appropriate for your camera package, but the comfort of the vest with your cup size will determine how suitable they are. I don't recommend handholding the Solo for long lengths of time.
To add to Janice's recommendation, plus a bit of steadicam blasphemy... if the client NEEDS solid steadicam-style shots, do consider easy rig plus a small gimbal like the M5 or Ronin M (egads, did I just recommend that?). This does introduce the general problems of gimbals vs steadicam, but with such little time to train, this may get you by.
Hello from a fellow female op on the shorter side! As everyone else said, definitely take a workshop. It is more than worth it and you will learn things you never expected to.
If you do take a workshop, make a point to test out an Exovest while you're there. It's a more female-friendly design, and places the load of the rig on your body differently than a regular vest. It does take some more careful fitting than a regular vest, so have one of the instructors help fit it to you specifically. Once I did that, I fell in love and decided it was the vest for me.
like Janice said, Easy rig way to go for your situation. check out local rental house in Germany where you are or close by, see if you can come in and try it or ask them to do a quick demo for you.also, Also, if this is something just for one time, I won't invest in steadicam, but definately take the workshop see if you like it, something for you before you invest the money into the gears.
You should call Christian Betz, he is in Munich. Very very cool and knowledge guy. super friendly. He has Walther Klassen stuff, maybe you can check that out too...you can ask him who has Easy rig for rent or maybe he has one for rent... you never know.
IF you could go online and search to see which rental house in Japan has Easy Rigs, what is the weekly rental cost? etc..etc.. maybe it is easy for you to just rent the Easy rig over there without having buy one and bring along with you to Japan for your project. I know couple Japanese DPs rent Easy Rigs in Japan from the rental houses, but I just didn't ask them last when I worked with them. Anyway, they are there.... look it up. :-) Good luck!
Ok, I've rethought this shoot and now I think even a simple easy rig is too much for this production bases on the tiny camera size and lack of budget; size of the shoot which is small; and desire to be invisible.
Now I think a simple monopod, screwed into the camera and Akiko can carry camera much more stabilized than handheld and yet still rest it on her shoulder when needed then extend the monopod when needed for "tripod like" shots with the monopod resting on the ground.
This is a $30.00 solution and can solve every issue as I see it.
I think sometimes shoots are so small any gear is too much.
These days no one is quite sure when someone posts if they have any experience with "the right gear" or not and God forbid we would tell someone who wants and may insist on a particular device.
So along the way as we get to know more about the project and the person a discussion of the better gear comes up.
So yes that's why I went for a possible alternate to Steadicam.
I also have to say that in the almost weekly request from newbies we're all kind of brain dead at answering the same questions asked differently so as a way to get would be ops up to speed the best answer starts with take a workshop, buy the book and DVD and we're happy to help further. I find many ops are still happy to help with more info and that's perfect, when I'm tired others can answer.
Akiko is a very nice person who has interest in steadicam and who knows may end up doing more work in the field.
Don't worry about your height. Most steadicams can be set up and balanced to achieve the height of 6'6 person. My two vests are Pro - I stuff em in there. And the one I wear the most is Walter Klassen. He's made me a cross your heart style vest.
However, if you are leaving in October, you don't have much time to buy -let alone practice. If you are just trying steadicam out on this shoot, I'd rent something suitable for the weight of the camera and style of shooting. If you are wearing it all day following someone consider renting a light-weight rig. Remember learning to balance your sled is key!
When you decide you love doing steadicam, look into a course and the cost of more expensive professional gear.