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Some really basic questions


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#1 Brian Findlay

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 09:37 PM

Hi All,
I'm working on my first documentary, though I have been filming for a few years.. I'm 50, in good shape, relatively coowardinated (though a bad speller).. etc. I'm really happy with most of the stuff I shoot, technically it decent, sound good, etc.. its just after watching a few high end docs I see alot of really good steadicam work.. my personal favorite is "Bueno Vista Social Club".

I've always been a do-it yourselfer, and the investment in a used so-so rig is doable for me, I just really want to know 2 things. But honestly, I can justify this by resale of a used rig, I can't afford to bring in a real operator (besides.. I WANT to learn, I'm just not sure with what I have going on I have the time to learn).


(1) I know like any art, you can plant a lifetime into this, but how long does it take the average guy to get "okay" to do something proficient enough that your average film watcher doesn't think you'll suck, or at least doesn't notice your ineptness in filming. I know like most "arts", the common observer can often see someone who is a relative neophyte do it and think they look good.. often it takes the trained eye of someone who has been involved with something for a long time to judge different levels. I guess I'm off track a bit.. let me recalibrate.. there, thats better. So how much practice (time passage, hours into the thing) would you guess an average person needs so that they can produce a passable quality film that won't subtract from the common viewers experience., not the trained eye of a professional who may be swearing at you when they see the film?

(2) I have searched for a few videos to really see what has to be done for practice, etc. The only "generic" one I saw was "Advanced Steadicam Techniques" which appears to be out of print. Is there any single DVD you would recommend at this point in time? I am looking for something generic as I am not sure who's rig I want to buy.. just know stuff common to using stablizers in general.

Thanks tons.. any comments, even insulting my spelling is welcome.


Thanks!

Brian
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#2 RobVanGelder

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 10:32 PM

Brian, i suggest you spend a good time reading this forum, as your questions have been answered countless times in one way or another.

You will see that the answers are in many cases similar: take a workshop, know your market, know your goal, practice, practice, practice, be prepared to spend serious amounts of money in this, build your reel, don't undercut the market price, etc.

And with steadicam "good enough" is in my opinion not good, it sucks. When you are investing in this "art" you must strive to be really good!

Also, please change your log-in name, everybody uses his/her real name here.
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#3 Brian Findlay

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 10:57 PM

Hi Rob,

Thanks for the reply, I'm looking into a workshop, but it may be some time away in my neighborhood. I'm really trying to flesh out *reality* in my application. I'm a 50 year old software engineer working for Avid trying to make a documentary as a part of my midlife crisis. Instead of buying a Porche, I dumped 100K into making a doc that I have been working on for over a year, though I have no doubt the Porche would have had a better resale value that what I end up with, but this has been a hell of alot more fun.

I'm really trying to feel out if it *realistic* to get one and assume to be able to do something useful with it in a reasonable period of time. And in my case, as I'm about 3/4 the way through filming the doc, rather its a wasted effort and a diversion at this point in time, would a short learning curve get me better results than the shaky cam I am now using even though it would suck by professional standards. So framing it in the terms that I do not intend to do it for a living or spend 10 years as an apprentice, just trying to bring up the quality of what I am doing on this and the next film, is this realistic? I'm not an artist, I am a technician.


BTW: My name is Brian Findlay, I'll try to change it.


Thanks!

Brian
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#4 Kris Torch Wilson

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 12:59 AM

Hi Brian,

I too started operating a Steadi at an advanced age (46). I was/am a very experienced operator before donning the rig. In the "live TV" world I would argue as good as anyone. However for the first couple of years attempting to operate a steadicam, I sucked. I would again argue, I sucked as much as anyone. Just now after 4 days a week, 2 1/2 years, would I say I'm OK. NEVER would I try to sell myself on a feature. The problem/blessing of being a good operator is I know just how bad I was, and how mediocre I have become. I have thrown myself under the bus in hopes of illustrating just how difficult running a steadicam is. You will not master this quickly. You will not become OK quickly. Anyone out there that advises you differently, simply doesn't have the creditials to do so. Wow, I get tough( but sincere) after a third glass of wine. All the best with your project. Maybe a doorway dolly is in your future.

Torch
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#5 Brian Findlay

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 07:15 AM

Kris,
That was exactly the type of answer I was looking for, I thank you. Not the answer I was hoping for, but the answer I was looking for.
Who knows, I may try anyway, but at least I have a very realistic view of this. The driver of the truck you threw yourself under saw you
in time and stopped.. so you're okay. He implores you to continue to be a steadicam operator ;-)


Thanks So much, both of you...

Brian
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#6 Lohengrin Zapiain

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 01:53 PM

Dear Brian if numbers is what you are looking for you might find this useful:

You will NOT learn from a DVD (sorry about this) whoever is a telling you this is just trying to sell you a DVD. You MUST take a workshop, this is a craft, and crafts are learned thought hands on experience.

After you take your workshop I would say you would have to practice AT LEAST for 3 months full time (that?s 6 hour a day flying the rig) just to get some basic control over the sled.

I'm telling you this from personal experience as I took the SOA workshop in 1999 but did not get my sled till 2006. Then I started practising full time (I mean this was my only occupation at the moment -AKA I was unemployed!-) and after 3 months I got my first show operating Steadicam. Thanks god it was a small MOW show and they didn't have too much history with experienced operators as they actually thought I was good (hey... good for me)

I hope this is helpful for you
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#7 EJ Sadler

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 10:36 PM

It really depends on your expectations and your motivation. If your goal is to simply have footage that is less shakey than hand-held, and you're willing to read everything you can find, you can absolutely get up to speed without going to a workshop and produce footage that a general audience won't see anything wrong with. If you can balance the rig and fly a little bottom heavy, getting basic shots just isn't that hard.

If you think you going to get footage even close to what you see on steadishots.org without a few years of practice and professional guidance, then you're asking for too much.
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