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Zephyr & A30 Arm with Alexa

zephyr A30 Alexa

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#1 Paul Wegschaider

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 09:33 AM

Hello, 

 

although I´ve been working very successfully with my Glidecam HD2000 (FS700+7Q), I´ve really big problems starting with my Alexa on my new Zephyr rig.

 

Actual state:

The down rigged Alexa Classic is about 16-17lbs (7-9kg).

I use 2 V-Mounts for sled weights with the optional small dove tail, static and dynamic balance is very well, drop time about 2 sec.

The zephyr arm was changed to the new A30 from Tiffen while purchase, the vest fits perfectly, no shoulder space here.

 

Unfortunately there are no Steadicam workshops in middle europe, so I haven't visited one.

I already ordered the operators handbook, I watched all YT tutorials (Ted Churchill is a god!) out there and I read lots of topics in here.

I know, yes, there is lot of practice needed and can´t be learned in weeks, but with my huge experience with the Glidecam, the basic sled balancing is not the point. 

 

I am an absolutely newbie working with an vest+arm!

 

My problem is now:

The shots are not floating, nearly every step is visible, by walking normally, missionary.

No vibrations here, the post is as short as possible for both balancing types successfully done.

I use the arm goofy now, but I tried it regular as well with no improvement in the result.

So, some basic questions concerning the arm are still open, maybe one of you can help me here fixing my problem:

 

1) I know that the gimbal hand should touch the post very slightly, so I do. (like i did on the Glidecam)

But what about the other hand? Should it touch the gimbal handle also just slightly or is it better to hold it more stronger, to avoid transferring steps to the sled?

 

2) All the basic sled stabilization should be done by my body. 

So if I walked down a line (missionary), touching the gimbal+handle with my hands is not necessary - is that right?

The hands are just for directing and lifting the sled, but only if needed?

 

3) The Zephyr operation manual tells me to setup the arms about 5-10° up horizontal.

But what about the weight with e.g. Alexa? Would it be better if I set the arm down for less stiffness with the heavy Alexa?

What is the best arm setup for slow following/walking shots?

 

4) The Zephyr operation manual tells me to set the side crews on the arm socket differently on the top and bottom.

If I just turned the bottom screw all the way in and leave the upper screw a bit out, is the arm&sled&cam still secure?

What about the rollers, how should they be set for using an Alexa/16lbs? All in or out?

(Maybe there is an experienced operator, who can tell me this in german, the operation manual is really written dizzily in this point...)

 

and:

 

5) If somebody knows: Is there a hot swap available with the Alexa by using the small dove tail (V-Mount)? If yes, how to plug??

What is the 1/2 switch for? 

 

 

Thanks  a lot for any help, I´d really appreciate.

I don´t know any operator (with a similar rig) in my area for asking directly.

I swear I practise every free minute, but these points above really make me mad...

 

Cheers, Paul

Austria 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#2 Erik Brul

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 02:21 PM

Hi Paul,
 
First, welcome on this great board of steady knowledge. Let's see if we can assist you in getting better shots!
Second, are you left or right handed? (i mean, do you write with right or left hand?)
I'm right handed, so in my case i operate almost always regular (sled on the left side of the body).
Right hand controls the handle, the left hand controls the gimbal. It was almost directly second nature to gentle touch the gimbal with my left hand.
 
1) I know that the gimbal hand should touch the post very slightly, so I do. (like i did on the Glidecam)
But what about the other hand? Should it touch the gimbal handle also just slightly or is it better to hold it more stronger, to avoid transferring steps to the sled?
 
Well, you are right.. your operating hand which moves the sled in all dimensions needs only a gentle touch/light grip. How bigger the rig aka how heavier the load, it is 'normal' to have a bit more tighter grip on the gimbal. How lighter and smaller the rig, a really soft touch is enough. If you learn to manage it on a smaller rig, you find it easier in the future to operate a bigger rig.
A normal grip on the handle is fine, this hand will guide the sled horizontal from left to the right (vice versa) and also for pushing the arm down and 'pulling' the arm up. A really tight grip is not needed.
 
2) All the basic sled stabilization should be done by my body. 
So if I walked down a line (missionary), touching the gimbal+handle with my hands is not necessary - is that right?
The hands are just for directing and lifting the sled, but only if needed?
 
Not really, always have both your hands on the Sled at all times to operate the system in any direction you want. With no hands can be a 'trick' to see if you really
setup your arm/vest connection right. It is possible if all is tuned fine to even walk arround your own sled. If you stand still, with a good posture the rig should
float in space besides of at front of you. But be carefull at all times!  EDIT: when running use your operating hand on the gimbal and stretsch your gimbal hand/arm a bit horizontal like your are a bird to keep balance at speed. Ofcourse the help from a assistent would be even more save !!!
 
3) The Zephyr operation manual tells me to setup the arms about 5-10° up horizontal.
But what about the weight with e.g. Alexa? Would it be better if I set the arm down for less stiffness with the heavy Alexa?
What is the best arm setup for slow following/walking shots?
 
Besides tuning your arm knobs for the weight, it is also a way to achieve a certain 'eye' level of your lens. I like my arm a little bit below horizontal for slow walking
and running. But most of the time this is a personal preference.
 
4) The Zephyr operation manual tells me to set the side crews on the arm socket differently on the top and bottom.
If I just turned the bottom screw all the way in and leave the upper screw a bit out, is the arm&sled&cam still secure?
What about the rollers, how should they be set for using an Alexa/16lbs? All in or out?
(Maybe there is an experienced operator, who can tell me this in german, the operation manual is really written dizzily in this point...)
 
The settings are 100% important to achieve and remain a good posture, it has also a lot to do with your body size aka big or no big stomach for example :)
Just play arround with the 4 settings without putting the sled on. Adjust them so that your arm is floating 'free' at front of you in stead of moving
from you when you let it go or the other way .. (in your face!) so be carefull when trying this!
 
and:
 
5) If somebody knows: Is there a hot swap available with the Alexa by using the small dove tail (V-Mount)? If yes, how to plug??
What is the 1/2 switch for? 
 
As far as i know, the Zephyr is 12V only, the switch is for use 1 or 2 batts at the same time. Both plug in below at the back side of the sled. 
Besides that, a battery straight below the post is also nice to achieve a good balance. Be carefull, i have no idea how good the cabling is inside
the sled for powering a Alexa. 
 
Can you show some pictures of your setup and maybe some video of your issue's?
 
Cheers,
Erik

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#3 Scott Monk

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 03:41 PM

Paul,

 

I used a Zephyr for quite awhile with the dovetail extra battery hanger and flew Alexas with it with no problem.

 

If you have the extra battery dovetail hanger, the rocker switch is for changing between 12 & 24 volts when both batteries are mounted. 12v position = both batteries are in parallel. 24v = batteries switched to series.

 

Use a voltmeter at the sled power pins to figure out which setting is which voltage and mark it clearly on the battery hanger where you can see it when you're flying - saves time and hassle.

 

To get around expensive hot-swap units, I just use a 2-into-1 dual battery plate on the dovetail and regular battery mount on the Zephyr. It adds more run-time with the extra batteries and extra weight so you don't have to fly with the sled extended so far, and it's easy to hot-swap batteries on either part of the sled that way.

 

http://www.ebay.com/...yAAAOSwYmZXN3lT

 

There are cheaper ones, but they don't fit as well, I've found.

 

Warning: I finally had to have Terry West upgrade the wiring in my Zephyr, cause the post wiring gauge is just too small for powering Alexas. You may have to upgrade your wiring if you plan on flying high-amp cameras like Alexa, or you'll be switching batteries often - a lot of current is lost in wire resistance.

 

Good Luck,

Scott


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#4 Paul Wegschaider

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Posted 10 August 2017 - 09:54 AM

Hi, 

 

first of all: THANKS Erik for your time, you really helped me in point 1), 2) and 5)!

Those things really nobody could tell me yet.

 

Thanks a lot Scott too, I really will look into that!! This serial circuit is not the nicest way to work with, but well, lets see...

 

------------------------------------------------------------

@1)

 

 

A really tight grip is not needed.

This is really what I needed to know, thanks!!!

I addition to that I studied all the YT clips and I noticed, that every operator is holding the gimbal handle just at the inner end. I always grabbed it with completely my full hand, that seemed to be a big mistake.  

I am right handed. I tried regular as well, but it didn't make any improvement to the footage. I changed to goofy because I´ve been really good using the Glidecam right handed in the past...

 

 

@3):

 

Besides tuning your arm knobs for the weight, it is also a way to achieve a certain 'eye' level of your lens. I like my arm a little bit below horizontal for slow walking

and running. But most of the time this is a personal preference.

I thought too much stiffness of the arms are the main reason of transferring the steps into the footage?

 

 

@4)

 

Adjust them so that your arm is floating 'free' at front of you in stead of moving

from you when you let it go or the other way .. (in your face!) so be carefull when trying this!

:-) this is still a funny thing, I am still not figuring that out, because while leaning 1cm in any direction the sled says good bye...

But it bothers me not so much anymore, because my sled flies fine and steady in front of me while standing. So the screws seem be okay now.

 

------------------------------------------------------------

 

After my posting here I put on the matte box for increasing the weight. Somebody in this forum wrote that Zephyr arms work better with more weight. 

Here is an example of a little test with 21mm. Its really not smooth.

https://vimeo.com/229126721/ce2f3cde57 (A pic of the setup is the thumb.)

I know the horizon isn´t fine here, but thats not my problem, I´ll practice that enough in future.

 

I just want the steps to disappear, because any soft stabilization in post is not able fix that...

 

 

 

Now, the actual state, some minutes ago: 

I increased the post length and did a new balance with a longer drop time of 3 sec - and I feel a bit better. ( I don't have a test footage online yet)

 

I see on most YT clips, that the sled is mostly positioned beside the body while following a person strait forwards.

What about holding the sled in front of the body while following?

Its more exhausting and it is hard to watch the monitor, but wouldn´t it be better to get well stabilized footages?


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#5 Paul Wegschaider

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 03:31 AM

Hi there,

 

well, I just wanted to tell you, that I´ve fixed my problems. I put a 16mm on and all slow "dolly"-footages are perfectly smooth...  :)

Cheers


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#6 Francisco Orozco Jr

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Posted 16 August 2017 - 06:06 PM

Would you mind sharing a pic of your Alexa build on the zephyr?
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#7 Paul Wegschaider

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 02:39 AM

Here it is without the matte box:

https://www.facebook...327604827356340


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#8 RobinThwaites

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Posted 17 August 2017 - 03:50 AM

Hi Paul

 

I would just like to pick a couple of things out of this thread. Firstly, the A-30 arm is exactly that, rated to 30lbs and not above, that includes camera, sled batteries, anything that sits on the arm post. As the Alexa has become more freely available since the Mini is more vogue we have recently seen quite a few Zephyr and A-30 arms damaged from overloading.

 

Secondly I would not recommend using the arm tension for headroom. The arm works best in it's sweet spot and anything different will change the performance. 

 

Third, as a goofy, your grip on the gimbal handle can be quite firm (but still keep your gimbal hand (right for you) light. However, it should not be working hard to position the rig or compensate for the fact that the socket block is not right. As you have discovered, major position is from correct posture.

 

Finally you don't need to spin the sled that fast for dynamic balance - you are unlikely to pan the camera that fast. In fact spinning it fast can hide inaccuracies.

 

Keep an eye on FlySteadicam.com for workshops, even if you have to travel you will find it a worthwhile experience!

 

Robin


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#9 Paul Wegschaider

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Posted 18 August 2017 - 05:15 AM

Robin,

 

thank you so much for helping me, that means a lot for me, I really appreciate that!

I´d love to join your workshops in the UK, but it´s still too far for me at the moment, my newborn baby son and my wife need me very close in the next months.

 

 

 

 

we have recently seen quite a few Zephyr and A-30 arms damaged from overloading.

 

That was very important for me to know, because my rig with the matte box (plus additional counterweights at the bottom) is already over 30lbs (with sled). I´ll be more careful, thank you!

Some guys here wrote, that Tiffens´ recommendations are always below the real payload of any arms, so I didn't really care about some lbs more.

My payload is now a bit below 30lbs. A tiny bit.

 

 

 

 

I would not recommend using the arm tension for headroom. The arm works best in it's sweet spot and anything different will change the performance. 

 

I hope I understood this correctly:

I should not tighten the springs too much in starting position to get the cam just higher?

So, for my marginal payload it would be better and more secure to use the arms horizontal or better below that, so the springs are quite soft (to avoid to be broken)?

To get the cam higher I have to extend the length of the centerpost, but not touching the arm tension!? 

 

Well, I´ll study the ordered operators handbook (hopefully be delivered in 1-2 weeks) concerning the arms´ "sweet spot".

I guess it is the arm tension where the sled is steady while jumping in the starting position!?


Edited by Paul Wegschaider, 18 August 2017 - 05:18 AM.

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#10 Francisco Orozco Jr

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Posted 18 August 2017 - 05:19 AM

Interesting to hear that arms have been getting damaged for being used at 30 lbs of combined sled & camera weight on the arm? I've found that my zephyr arm floats fine and horizontal up to 43 lbs! I'll keep that in mind as well. I try to keep the camera payload below 25 lbs to be safe on the gimbal & top stage.
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#11 Paul Wegschaider

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 08:26 AM

May I ask a last question:

 

I have 2 V-Lock batteries on my Zephyr with over 30V power! (Zephyr battery V-Lock + 2nd dove tail) 

Why does Alexa need about 24V to work at this setup??

Below 24V it shuts down immediately!!

 

I am really confused, because Alexa normally works fine at about 11V minimum with 1 battery at the onboard V-mount. 

Is there any Zephyr setup I don't know?


Edited by Paul Wegschaider, 19 August 2017 - 08:26 AM.

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#12 Paul Wegschaider

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 09:00 AM

Ok, I just read a couple of topics here.

The problem seems to be bigger than I thought.

No easy solution on Zephyr... :(


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#13 Francisco Orozco Jr

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 11:26 AM

There's a whole topic already on the forum related to those two question. It boils down to whether or not your camera power cable is wired for 12v or 24v, a menu setting in Alexa for voltage warning, and the zephyr having too thin wiring for the load required by the camera!
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#14 Francisco Orozco Jr

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 05:25 PM

http://www.steadicam...ic=15550&page=1
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#15 Paul Wegschaider

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 04:19 AM

Thanks a lot!  :)


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