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What comes before GREEN?


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#1 AndyCoates

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 07:23 AM

Hi, im new to this board and new to the discussion of steadicams in general, heres a brief background. Im 24, spent 4 years doing Advanced Mechanical Engineering at college part time and working as a CNC lathe opperator.
The company i was working fo was going into the ground so i decided on a career change.
I left my job and spent 6month working in Greece (Crete) as a barman.
Came back to the UK and have now spent 4 year at uni studying music technology and recording techniques. Also working as a live sound engineer mixing sound at various venues, working as a stage tech, studio recording.
The only camera i have opperated is a cannon mini DV and a Glidecam 2000 :blink: (wow i hear you say!)

Now as you can see i have VERY little experience experience in cam opperating and am looking for directions on how to gain some experience.

Whats the very first step to take?

As for rigs, im currently designing my own arm sled vest gimbal (from my engineering background) etc purely due to the cost of a propper rig! i think with all of the machining cost i could probably do a decent whole adjustable rig for around £1000. Bearing in mind this will probably take a year to do for decent quality and will be financed by my current job/s.
Whats the views on this, is this worth doing just to gain experience?

So as you can see, im greener than green!
Any advice would be mostly appreciated. :D

Cheers

Andy Coates UK
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#2 Larry McConkey

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 07:52 AM

I think without any question your money would be better spent taking a week-long workshop. This will give you answers to most of your questions about how to go about building a career, contacts to help you do so, the right way to operate the equipment (equivalent to several years in the field getting experience by yourself but with better results), not to mention helping enormously to answer the basic question: is this something you want to do with your life? In addition, after this experience, you would know how to go about making your own rig so that it uses the good ideas and tosses out the bad - without the benefit of the workshop you would not know which design was better for your needs. In fact, after your exposure to existing equipment and fellow operators all coming to grips with the same questions, I expect you would find it far cheaper to buy, rent or borrow existing used equipment than build it yourself. You might come up with a hybrid approach that I have followed my entire career: buy parts of existing systems that work very well and build, modify the rest! But again, without the workshop experience you will not know what works well and what doesn't... check the workshops mentioned from time to time on the forum. I personally know that the International Photographic Workshops in Rockport, ME and the Steadicam Operators Association (SOA) outside Philadelphia, PA and the Tiffen Workshop usually held outside LA are all excellent. There are several workshops in other countries on less regular schedules and many other more affordable workshops put on from time to time by manufacturers such as PRO and other organizations (check with Peter Abraham about his college based programs).

Larry
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#3 RobVanGelder

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 11:13 AM

Though everybody is in his own right to get into this trade as he/she wants, I find it a somehow strange that when people have almost zero experience in camera handling, they think that they can start right away, even with a workshop, and make a living, make money.

I agree that taking a workshop is definately a good step, but I am not sure if if should be your first one if you are not actually working in this sector.

Maybe I am old fashioned, but in my experience this trade is mostly about contacts, relations, customer(care) and politics, the handling of the tool is almost at the last place.

So I would suggest you find your way into the filmbizz, video bizz or whatever you want to be part of, take the time to work and make friends/clients and after some (years of) experience you will know if you can or want to proceed into Steadicam.

And about building your own, that´s a good way of getting to understand how it technically works, but it will not help you getting jobs that you can call "professional".
It can make nice holiday movies and wedding movies thought!

Rob van Gelder
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#4 Howard J Smith

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 11:49 AM

Hi Andy

I agree with Larry and Rob's coments -

Training - this way you will know a: if you want to be a steadicam op and b: what the kit should be like.
Also Rob's point - to work your way up, doing steadicam is not just about walking around with a camera there are so many other levels you have to deal with - your assistants, other crew the sound dept (boom swingers) Lighting and grip department, directors, producers, DP's and the overal on set politics. You need to know what is going on in the other departments - so working as a camera trainiee is a great way to start.

I know this sounds like a shameless plug - and it is - I teach Steadicam operating in the UK and I hold 'one on one' workshops, this could be a way for you to learn.
Please email me if you are interested.
All the best

Many thanks
Howard J Smith MK-V
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#5 AndyCoates

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 02:42 PM

First of all many thanks for the great advice, never expected so may replys so quickly.
Ive looked around the net at some of the courses that are on offer and ive heard nothing but great reviews about all of them so it probably could be an option in the future when i could justify the cost to myself.

About making contacts, seeing as you guys are already in the "bizz" whats the best way find someone and approach them from your point of view. Im trying to remember about how i made most of my music contact but it just seemed that i was in the right place at the right time..Lucky Me :D

I know only too well about learning the whole politics thing or "the rule!!!s" from working on some high profile local gigs but im greener than a Carlsberg bottle when it comes to film sets.

Im still wanting to have a go at building my own rig just to satisfy my self gratification of saying "I made this" :D

Howard, ive been looking at the MK-V site for a while now and have to say you have some nice looking "Toys!!" B) .
Whats the deal with the tuition should i just email you direct?
and PS: what the heck is Alien Revolution..would i be on the right track if i compared it to a Segway human transporter?

Cheers again everyone for the advice

Andy Coates UK
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#6 pbalsdon

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 05:48 PM

I think it's best to learn regular camera operating first. Framing, camera movement etc. etc. Even for experienced camera operators the first time putting on rig can be daunting, this contraption that just wants go wherever it pleases and with a mind of it's own. Then when you finally get under control it takes months, years even of practice and operating to really get it together. Trying to learn all the all the other camera skills at the same time is very challenging.
You'll hear us all say it, the best steadicam investment is a workshop. Even if you only want to build a rig it'll give you a vast insight into what's required and what makes it work well.
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#7 Johanwindfeld

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 07:40 AM

lern to work with a normal broadcast camera first. (and that i not a XL1 or a VX, pd )

When you know how the camera works and how to deal with camera problems. Then you can take a workshop and lers steadicam.

If you think that you can work with steadicam and get jobs.. then what about when the camera brakes down? or the DP ask you for a special shot and you dont know enoght about composing a good shot...

And that can take from 1 year to 10 years to lern... All operators have camera knowlege.

And the last thing. as the other operators on this forrum is saying.. the jobs you will get comes from the movie buisness and television.. so you have to make many friends and contacts... that will give you the jobs.. If you dont have that then you will not have any jobs..

It's not so sound like an old man, but thats the reality of this hard buisness.. :D
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#8 AndyCoates

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Posted 22 June 2004 - 08:07 AM

Experience,Experience, Experience.
Cheers again for the advaice and harsh reality of things, i like it when people say it how it is, no messing around. Upon everyones advice im currently writing off to 2 local tv stations to plead with them for work experince.

Can anyone recomend any good books then to learn the basis of broadcast cameras as it seems like it could be a hell of a long time before i would be able to get near one!
And also what the general split definition between the Broadcast cameras and pro-consumer ones? where Does the XL1 lie?
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#9 TJ Williams

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Posted 26 June 2004 - 10:43 AM

Hi Andy.
Just a suggestion. since you don't have much experience shooting, lighting, composing, etc. why not beg borrow or buy whatever type of motion camera you can lay hands on film preferred but DV or whatever. Go out and shoot documentary subjects, I'm sure there are a lot of agencies, or groups or political or social action groups that would want a nice free documentary about their issue. find student films and shoot them for free. Find no budget indy films and shoot them for free. There is no experience like experience. It's really true before you become a steadicam operator you neet to be an operator.

Engineering is a great background. Mine is teaching. engineers love craftsmanship, and exactness. These are at the heart of operating camerawork. Making Steadicams is a different career from operating. Making steadicams or other custom parts is an interesting and challenging career itself! Perhaps making steadicams or parts, will make you a better living than flying them? If this is your interest then you need a whole different body of specialized knowledge, beyond basic mechanical engineering.

When I first thought of becoming a steadicam operator I also thought of making my own rig. I had a good friend who was a fabricator and brought him a very elaborate set of drawings and photos. He told me he could make somthing that looked like this but that the devil was in the details and that it might take years of tuning before the final rig would work like the professional rigs. Well I listened to some of the same advice you are getting. Went into debt for a used rig and took a workshop. Garrett taught that workshop. during the workshop he said approximately. " Many people don't believe how long it took after I had this concept to work out the details, and tune this so it would work. It took me years, I have a closet full of failures." Well I at least believed him.

All The Best on whatever new career you find.
TJ
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#10 AndyCoates

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Posted 26 June 2004 - 11:35 AM

Cheers again for sparing me some of your time and some great advice. Im looking around and asking friends of friens who know anyone whos doing any film making type projects who i can get some experience on.
I still would like to have a go at building a rig although after you advice i may spend alot longer on the design.
I know i need tons of experience in opperating so ill just bide my time before "getting myself in debt".
Ive sent away 12letters so far to local prodcution companys and expect about 1 back at the most!! but ill see how it goes. I gues its just about getting to know the right people in your area.

Cheers Again

Andy
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#11 Steadiman

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Posted 28 June 2004 - 02:04 AM

Hi Andy.. I dont know how it works where you live.. But here in Europe when a new boy wants to work in the broadcasting/film business, then dont send letters and dont sent emails.. the big production companys will just put the mail over to a big mail box with other ung guys that want's to work with television.

YOU have to show up and show your self.. thats how it works in europe! be naughty and smart... take a chance and knock on the door.. offer your self for free and start as an assistrant or runner.. and then you can lern from the olf camera operators and lers about the cameras.

So thats what I would do... ;)
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#12 AndyCoates

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Posted 28 June 2004 - 05:16 AM

So would you advise, finding ut where some filming is going on and hanging around a set? Blagging? B) my way in?
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#13 JakePollock

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Posted 10 July 2004 - 02:47 AM

the most important advice anyone can give you in this business is to "get out there." find out where a movie is being shot, go there, hang out. find the camera crew, tell them who you are, and ask if you can hang out and watch. if there's down time, you can ask them some questions, but don't bug them or they'll never want you back!

additionally, the workshop can kill so many birds with one stone: learn more about the rigs, learn some fundamentals of operating, and meet people. i'll tell you, i was nervous about spending all that money for just five days (including airfare to australia and hotels) and i've already got 10 years experience in this business. but by the end of the first day, it was apparent that i'd made the best investment of my life with that money. my only regret was not having done it five years earlier when the notion first entered my brain.

and don't worry that you don't have any film experience. at the workshop i went to, there was a college kid who was also new to the business. he'd never been on a real set or had his hands on a film camera, but he'd already made a bunch of little shorts with his video camera. during breaks and meals, he was talking to everybody-- picking our brains about all sorts of technical stuff. point being, by the end of the workshop, he had offers from some of the other aussies to come and hang out on their sets in the future.

so you want to meet people and get on sets? you can totally hook that up by going to a workshop; not only that, but the other students will realize how committed you are to the process.

the other thing, don't be discouraged by the daunting committment you're about to embark on. there's no reason why you can't try to work with your xl, earn some cash to support yourself, and slowly expand your skills. shooting video is a great way to get started, but there are so many fundamentals to being a film cameraman. it's really a lifelong learning curve, but damn good fun.

as far as building your own rig, i think everyone on this forum can sense your itchy fingers, dude. how many prototypes do you want to build? and if each one is the cost of a workshop, why not go to the workshop first and know that your first prototype would probably come out better than the first two if you hadn't gone to a workshop? in the end, you'll only be saving yourself time and money.

however, you could still try to build some accessories. learn about the various cables needed for steadicam and build a few. why not try to sell them to some local ops? or even work out some sort of deal where you sell the cables at cost and they let you practice on their rigs? learn about low-mode brackets... tilting heads... transmitters/receivers/shark-fin antennas... there's always going to be a market for steadicam accessories. hell, you could even try to apprentice at some of the supply houses in your area. put the engineering background to good use, get some hands-on experience, meet people, make a few bucks. could be a better way to break in than shooting some local bands on miniDV.

cheers,
jake pollock
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