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New Flyer HD SDI worth it?


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#1 Johnathan Holmes

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 12:41 AM

Just finished a workshop with Paul Taylor and would love to buy a "training" rig like a Flyer LE for smaller jobs, but mostly for practice on my own.

I suppose there is a revised Flyer LE out recently with a newer gimbal and extendable post. They also come with an HD SDI monitor or the regular SD monitor. $14,795 for the FlyerLE/HD (With AB, Vest and Arm) as opposed to $8,555 without the "HD".

Logically I thought the only small cameras you can fly on a Flyer are things like the HVX, EX1, and other compact HD cameras (RED?), and logically I thought that this would mean getting a rig with an HD SDI monitor would be the right thing to do. As I think about it more I realize there's no point because you would need a downconverter anyways to send the signal out over a transmitter (although I hear there is an HD transmitter out now, but way out of my price range I'm sure since I'm getting the Flyer and not an Ultra2!)

So it seems logical to me now to go with the SD Flyer knowing that I will need a downconverter anyways. Am I wrong here to think that? Should I pony up the extra cash for an HD rig? Realistically I don't expect to own the Flyer for more than a couple years.

I would love to make a jump for the Archer right away, but I feel like I'm not ready for a "big rig" yet, even though I absolutely love the Ultra vest and the G-50 arm. They had four different big rigs at the workshop and my favorite Vest and arm was the Ultra/G-50, and my favorite sled was probably the Clipper 312. I wasn't a fan of the Archer sled because of the monitor and batteries being so fixed. To me it didn't seem worth the extra $10-$15K versus a Flyer as a first rig. Am I also right in that the Flyer LE takes a different socket block connection than all the other rigs? I.E. an Ultra Vest/G-50 will not work with a Flyer?

Am I making the right move to invest in a Flyer for training and small student/indie gigs? I've been asked if I can work on quite a few Red shoots lately and I wonder if it will fly well on the Flyer. I've read countless posts here and elsewhere that give me mixed feelings about it all.

And finally what is the danger in overweighing the Flyer? I've heard that the rig can handle the extra weight (of, say, a 435 or a fully loaded SR3), but the problem is in balancing the rig. Now that the post is extendable, I wonder if you can simply solve that problem by adding weight to the lower stage (I think I should opt for Anton Bauer so I can use the heavier Hytron batteries perhaps). My main concern is busting the rig, or the arm not being able to handle a few more pounds than the rig is rated for. Thoughts?

My thoughts are scattered. I'm overwhelmed with information and the eagerness to get started! Help!


Johnathan Holmes
Camera Assistant turned Novice Steadicam Operator
Toronto, ON
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#2 Charles Papert

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 07:31 AM

Another option is to buy used and older gear that could accommodate a full-size camera payload for not much more than you are considering spending.

The consolation is that if you were to buy the Flyer now, it will likely hold a good amount of its value over the next few years and you will have the benefit of a high-performing rig right away (the older arms would be a bit of a let-down after you have gotten used to the latest models).
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#3 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 11:30 AM

The Flyer is a very nice rig; I bought one and realized within 30 days it would not carry the fully rigged cameras I was accustomed to working with, nor would it allow me to be competitive in my market. You can get a stripped down camera to fly on one (though I seriously question a 435) but you'll never fly a stripped down camera in the real world. Never is maybe an overstatement but I can't think of an instance myself. Mattebox, focus system, transmitters, eye lights, audio kit, downcoverter; the list goes on. It is a great starting rig though and a working rig if you live in the world of "DV" sized cameras. They show it in the catalog with a 235 or something on it but with NO AKS. Just be realistic about what you want to do with it or like Charles said, get one, use it to learn and move up when you're ready and able to.

So, after thirty days +/- I bought a Clipper 2 and then eight months later bought a Clipper 24; three new rigs in ten months. I should have just started with a C24. The C24 and G50 gets through everything I need right now and only rarely am I at the limits or close to the limits of the arm. On the other hand, once I'm working in the world of larger features or episodic TV on a regular/daily basis I'll upgrade to a bigger rig whether that be an ULTRA2 or a PRO. Arms and repairs are super expensive so pushing the G50 to the max daily will wear it out sooner I would guess. Like your car, it may be able to go 120 mph but it's not going to last long if you drive at that speed day after day.

There are lots of good used rigs as well and people who are looking to upgrade. If you tell Tiffen or PRO you're looking for a good used rig when someone else is looking to upgrade they'll bird dog a deal for you. That was how I jumped from the C2 to C24. They still sell a new rig to the guy upgrading and get you into the fold.

As for an HD monitor, I'd love to have on too but for now production has to provide a downconverter for me. If I spent an extra $8000 or so on an HD monitor I don't think the market would bare any more in my kit rental fee than I'm charging now. It also seems like most of the newer HD camera are coming with an SD out now anyway; why RED has not done that beats me...but that is another topic.

Good luck!

Edited by Robert Starling, 31 May 2008 - 11:33 AM.

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#4 Johnathan Holmes

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 12:28 PM

Thanks for the quick replies guys.

I see what you are saying about having to upgrade very quickly. My biggest concern is how deep I should jump in at first. This is definitely something I want to do for the rest of my life, and definitely something I can do, I just need a lot of practice! It is indeed deceiving to see advertisements for the Flyer with a 235 on it and realizing that it is very stripped down.

I wonder if I can get the best of both worlds by buying a used rig like an older Clipper for around the price of a new Flyer and using that to practice for a while until I start getting more and more jobs, and then slowly upgrade the arm, vest, sled, etc. What I like about that is that by getting any other rig than the Flyer, all the components seem upgradable (same socket block, etc), and it allows me to upgrade over time as I get more money from working, rather than needing a whole lot of money up front to get a whole new rig when upgrading from the Flyer.

My only concern with that is how awkward it was for you guys when you upgraded. I wonder how long it takes to get used to the rigs, the arms, etc and whether that was at all a problem for you guys when you upgraded. It seemed to me during the workshop that the rigs felt pretty similar, just smaller differences in weight and monitor position (though we were using all G-50 and G-70 arms).

And thank you for confirming my suspicions about the HD SDI monitor. I believe most of the smaller HD cameras can only put out either SD or HD signals - some cannot downconvert AND simultaneously put out HD SDI (such as the new EX1, if I remember), which means that one would have to go the SD route anyways in order to be able to transmit.
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#5 Bob Woodhead

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 06:03 AM

The Flyer is a very nice rig; I bought one and realized within 30 days it would not carry the fully rigged cameras I was accustomed to working with, nor would it allow me to be competitive in my market. .... Mattebox, focus system, transmitters, eye lights, audio kit, downcoverter; the list goes on. It is a great starting rig though and a working rig if you live in the world of "DV" sized cameras.


I was about to question SD/HD monitor choice in the FLyer LE I'm about to buy, but that seemed to be answered in the thread above (no one seemed overly concerned about lack of HD monitoring).

But your comment Robert got me a bit concerned; I'm planning on flying a Panny HPX500 on the (new) Flyer LE. Of course the 500 is an ENG style HD cam. So here's my list of what'd be flown:
8.2 body
3.5 lens
mattebox = 1lb 3oz
1 4x4 filter = 4 oz
AT1800 (audio) 10.3 oz
Bartech 11oz
M-One focus motor 11 oz
rails 7oz rods + plate 2.5 oz= 9.5 oz
Modulus 3000 7 oz
Ultralight2 = 12 oz
cables = 6 oz (?)
TOTAL FLOWN = 16.12

Have I forgotten anything? Weights are lifted from OEM docs. Seems like there's plenty of room to spare on the LE, rated at 19 lbs. Which is why I was so excited when they announced the LE upgrade from 15, as I knew that would be at the hairy edge. WAIT.... is the battery on the sled considered part of load?? A Dionic90 works (1.7 lb), but the ProPac14 (5 lbs) is right out. And would a Dionic be enough counterbalance mass for 16 lbs on the stage?
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#6 RobinThwaites

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 07:33 AM

Hi Bob

Assuming thge battery is on the sled then it is not included in the 19lbs. Preferred configuration for best balance is for 2 90W Lithium type. I flew that camera without the extras last week and it was well within capacity, just check that the V/F weight is included in the body weight.

Robin









The Flyer is a very nice rig; I bought one and realized within 30 days it would not carry the fully rigged cameras I was accustomed to working with, nor would it allow me to be competitive in my market. .... Mattebox, focus system, transmitters, eye lights, audio kit, downcoverter; the list goes on. It is a great starting rig though and a working rig if you live in the world of "DV" sized cameras.


I was about to question SD/HD monitor choice in the FLyer LE I'm about to buy, but that seemed to be answered in the thread above (no one seemed overly concerned about lack of HD monitoring).

But your comment Robert got me a bit concerned; I'm planning on flying a Panny HPX500 on the (new) Flyer LE. Of course the 500 is an ENG style HD cam. So here's my list of what'd be flown:
8.2 body
3.5 lens
mattebox = 1lb 3oz
1 4x4 filter = 4 oz
AT1800 (audio) 10.3 oz
Bartech 11oz
M-One focus motor 11 oz
rails 7oz rods + plate 2.5 oz= 9.5 oz
Modulus 3000 7 oz
Ultralight2 = 12 oz
cables = 6 oz (?)
TOTAL FLOWN = 16.12

Have I forgotten anything? Weights are lifted from OEM docs. Seems like there's plenty of room to spare on the LE, rated at 19 lbs. Which is why I was so excited when they announced the LE upgrade from 15, as I knew that would be at the hairy edge. WAIT.... is the battery on the sled considered part of load?? A Dionic90 works (1.7 lb), but the ProPac14 (5 lbs) is right out. And would a Dionic be enough counterbalance mass for 16 lbs on the stage?


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#7 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 08:30 AM

So here's my list of what'd be flown:
TOTAL FLOWN = 16.12


You'll need to add a few pounds for the camera mounting plate and viewfinder if you use it. If this is the largest camera you'll EVER fly you're apparently good. I'm not knocking the rig at all; just speaking from my experience as was Charles who has a lot more experience that I do. If you can afford a rig with more capacity and there is EVER a potential to fly heavier cameras, the day you have to turn down a job you'll feel sick about it.

Have you thought about when someone wants to add something like the mini35 adapters or larger zooms? What about a zoom / focus control unit? Two Bartechs? What if they add a Preston and don't use your Bartech. Again, not blowing up your dream but even with my G50 arm I've walked into jobs expecting camera X, lens X, mattebox X and ending up with totally different kit. It's also been my experience that "A" camera gets the nice goodies and Steadicam gets whatever was left over. On a few occasions I've had a loaner G70 stashed in the car because I was not 100% sure of all the parts of the camera package. Thankfully I've never exceeded my arm but I've sure as heck taken it to the last turn of the knobs.

The new Flyer is a very nice rig; definitely a step above the original and more ways than one. I love the new post and the arm is very smooth. Just make sure you make an honest evaluation of the cameras and AKS you'll be expected to fly. It's easy to let rig lust obscure your judgment.

My last comment is to budget for all the specialty cables and back up cables, plus other AKS and extra batteries from the start if you can. That stuff adds up quickly; I have more invested in AKS than the retail cost of my rig... and I still end up needing the odd piece here and there.
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#8 Bob Woodhead

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 11:05 AM

Thanks for the fine advice R & R... did indeed forget the %$%# plate. And on double-checking, looks like VF isn't part of the body weight. So there's 19 lbs. (Figure 3 lbs for VF & plate) Of course, running sans VF is an option.

What I should have prefaced my post with is my intended usage of the FlyerLE - for the most part, as an add-on to our soup-to-nuts production services. Flying our own cameras (HPX500, XL1, probably the not-yet-released HPX170). Only intend to hire out as an operator on lower-budget jobs, using mid-range lightweight cams (HPX200, EX1, etc), or our 500. If approached for a larger production, I'd be honest & tell 'em "I'm not your guy... check out the SOA website". Now, after some years of experience, perhaps that'll change... ;) Better to pass on a job than be remembered as the guy who "bolluxed it up".

So is it safe to assume that other than "it'd be nicer", a HD monitor isn't a huge operating difference to SD, way down there on the sled? Trying to save some $. Camera being out of the equation, as the primary cam for this rig has both HDSDI & composite output.

VERY excited, after 20 years of wanting, to finally being getting a Steadicam.

Edited by Bob Woodhead, 03 June 2008 - 11:07 AM.

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#9 Charles Papert

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 12:07 PM

My impression comparing the SD and HD monitors on the Flyers 1.5 years ago (the newer models may be different displays...?) was that the difference was noticeable, but not day and night and SD was certainly not a deal-breaker. You are more likely to be able to judge focus on the HD version.

Regarding the arms, there is a certain variation in strength of springs from arm to arm and since you are so close to the line with your package, I would make sure to test everything out as soon as you take delivery. If you are lucky your arm will allow for extra weight to be carried (I have heard of at least one arm that was under-rated but the factory took care of that when informed of the issue). So you may find yourself pleasantly surprised to be able to carry a couple more pounds than the listed amount.
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#10 Bob Woodhead

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Posted 04 June 2008 - 06:15 AM

Thanks Charles.
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