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Good or Evil? Digital Levels!!


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#1 Ashley Carpenter

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 11:54 PM

Hey Guys,

I have a Marell monitor and am thinking about getting a digital level.....wondering what the pros and cons are!

Is it worth the investment?
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#2 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 12:13 AM

There is probably a lot of personal preference.

I got one with my first PRO 11 years ago and I used it for about 3 months. I can't make myself look at the level and not at the compisition of the frame. If it's off level I see it in the frame, not the digital level. Additionally, it seems like I frequently level to the set not to actual level. If I'm on the beach then I would use the horizon as level but if I'm on a set and there is a doorway for example in my frame I might level to the top of the door. I'm not saying that's the correct way to do it or even correct at all, it's just how I do it.

I would imagine some operators use it for reference and there may even be some that use it as their main level maker.

My 2 cents.

mm.
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#3 Charles Papert

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 12:36 AM

Levels are one of those many things that operators are split on.

I myself do like having a level. You have to learn how to interpret it, i.e. know when it is giving you accurate information and when it is being affected by acceleration; but once you have gotten "inside it's head", even when it is being affected it still can give you feedback that may be helpful.

For me, a horizontal line (like the top of the doorframe Mike mentions) is only useful when the camera is parallel to it; walk a few feet to the side, and it becomes a diagonal. Verticals can be very helpful, except when one tilts up (especially with a wide lens) and the lines keystone. And when one is not orientated straight on to the monitor, all of the above take up new angles relative to one's perspective.

For those who do not use levels, these concerns are likely compensated in their brain. Likewise, Mike's sense of having to leave composition mode to watch the level is different than my experience, where I am able to view the bubble in my peripheral vision without compromising my eye on the "big picture".

Probably the best way to make the determination if you are to become a bubble watcher is to use a simple and inexpensive spirit level for a while, and see if you like it and/or find it valuable. If so, you will enjoy the electronic level even more as you can bring it closer to the framelines (I like having mine at the top, as I spend more time watching the headroom and thus find it more visibly in my peripheral vision).
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#4 Erwin Landau

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 12:47 AM

It's pure reference as is the monitor...

The longer you do it the more you will rely on architecture, the set etc. I'm amazed when I see myself on behind the scenes footage how many times I look away from my monitor. Just ask how many Ops have finished takes after the monitor went out without the video village ever noticing...

Also it depends on the operating style, are you more bottom heavy or more neutral. The more neutral you fly the more you will have to rely on an alternate way to find out if you are level and a quick view to the bubble or electronic level will give you that feed back.

After a while you will instinctively know when you are level or if you got the shot etc.

At the end of the day use anything and everything to make the shot as good as humanly possible, if the level helps you to get better buy one... if not, don't.


My 2 cents...

Erwin
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#5 Matteo Quagliano

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 08:17 AM

Hi,

I have to say I'm a complete novice in stadicam operating but it's been a while since I'm operating (7 years). I agree with Charles, the better thing is to try a spirit level first and then you realize how it affects your shots. I suggest a very little one that can stays on top of the monitor hood. Leveling with architecture can be sometimes misleading as Charles point out perfectly, meaning that you have to choose wisely what you take as reference. In steadicam operating I always look at the spirit level when I'm excercising, but almost never when I'm working.

As the big guys say... Just my two eurocents....

regards,
Matteo
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#6 Dan Coplan

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 10:42 AM

I've spoken to top ops who find the level too distracting and others who can't live without it.

Personally, I find it a great reference to keep my horizon in check, less so for simple shots but invaluable for doing wacky turns or tilting and panning off something where there is no reference in the frame and you want to insure you land square.

A bubble level is a great and inexpensive way to get started - to find if it's something that works for you, but there is the issue of the bubble wandering around turns so the reference is off and because you can't overlay it on your image it will be farther away and require more effort to check it.

I use a Marell which I think is great as it has numerous ways of customizing the level as well as built-in frame lines. I generally see it in my peripheral vision - every now and then I'll look at it directly, but not so often.

Dan
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#7 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 10:45 AM

I've always likened the level to a tachometer in a car. Fantastic reference, but you are never a slave to it. That said, I've never bought a car without one (and I always buy stick shifts).
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#8 Frederic Chamberland

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 11:04 AM

I started without a digital level and got away with it pretty good until I had money to buy one. I first bought one of the very few FBX made from the infamous UnitCine company at the time and was very happy with it until I got stolen and then bought a Marell this time with the same results:
I could live without it but I find it a very useful add-on while operating, a quick glimpse at the level will reassure me on how things are going but I look at it only once in a while.
I'll go with the others and say it is a very personal matter when it comes to digital levels .

Fly safe and leveled
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#9 Lawrence Karman

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 11:09 AM

I, like Charles, put my electronic level (XCS) image at the top of the frame line. This is where most of my attention goes during a take, as I am always monitoring headroom and you cant help be aware of the level. This is where an electronic level has it over a spirit level. I would hate to try and stick the plastic level right to the screen above the frame line. Additionally the XCS level allows you to select slower reaction times to counteract the effects of acceleration. Can't do that with a spirit level either. Wouldn't want to work without it.

Just my 10 cents (it actually costs the US mint 5 cents to make a penny)
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#10 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 12:53 PM

I should have added I too keep the level marker (XCS) at the top of frame which makes it much easier to keep an eye on. On HD jobs where there is no safety zone, one needs to be a little careful that the level can't hide a boom mic intruding on frame though (the level is user adjustable to various sizes, shapes, etc).
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#11 Richard W. Davis

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 06:37 PM

I should have added I too keep the level marker (XCS) at the top of frame which makes it much easier to keep an eye on. On HD jobs where there is no safety zone, one needs to be a little careful that the level can't hide a boom mic intruding on frame though (the level is user adjustable to various sizes, shapes, etc).



I also will throw my vote into the digital level being a good thing. (And I believe belongs on the top of the frameline, and the XCS one is awesome ) However, It is a reference nothing more. You as an operator use your experience, judgement and artistic framing abilities to decide how much weight it carries and when to somewhat ignore it (accelerating etc.) .

Re: Alec's note that boom mic's could hide behind it... That is the single reason I will only work on silent films. Really. ! ?

Lisigav for everyone!

Rich Davis
LA

PS Hi Ashley, are you going to visit us at Scrubs this round?
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#12 Ashley Carpenter

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 11:19 PM

I should have added I too keep the level marker (XCS) at the top of frame which makes it much easier to keep an eye on. On HD jobs where there is no safety zone, one needs to be a little careful that the level can't hide a boom mic intruding on frame though (the level is user adjustable to various sizes, shapes, etc).



I also will throw my vote into the digital level being a good thing. (And I believe belongs on the top of the frameline, and the XCS one is awesome ) However, It is a reference nothing more. You as an operator use your experience, judgement and artistic framing abilities to decide how much weight it carries and when to somewhat ignore it (accelerating etc.) .

Re: Alec's note that boom mic's could hide behind it... That is the single reason I will only work on silent films. Really. ! ?

Lisigav for everyone!

Rich Davis
LA

PS Hi Ashley, are you going to visit us at Scrubs this round?


Hope so Rich.....this way I can get some get tips from you on set and also cause your a fun bunch!!! .....But only if it doesn't get in the way of a steadi gig.

Thanks for all the advise guys. I was using a plastic level at the top of my monitor but find it hard to judge by and being a beginner...I feel like I need a reference in certain situations.
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#13 luis castro

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Posted 24 March 2008 - 01:50 PM

Hey Guys,

I have a Marell monitor and am thinking about getting a digital level.....wondering what the pros and cons are!

Is it worth the investment?




the digital level is adapted when inertia is strong and needs to know clearly as it is your horizontal line, is agreed to each operator to see that it needs :rolleyes:
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#14 Chris Callarman

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Posted 25 March 2008 - 10:23 PM

You could use THIS to stay level and book your next gig all at the same time! :P

(I think your iphone needs to be "cracked" to use this app, but with the new developer software out now, a legit one will probably show up soon.)

Edited by Chris Callarman, 25 March 2008 - 10:30 PM.

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#15 Afton Grant

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 06:55 AM

There are actually a number of consumer electronics that use accelerometers that I'm sure could be "hacked" to some extent. The latest round of video game controllers have some incredibly sensitive and sophisticated sensors in them. I believe the Wii system relies completely on them.
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