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Using the Pilot as a rehearsal rig


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#1 Charles Papert

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 12:41 PM

A few months back, while prepping a feature, I was "warned" of a shot being planned that would run six minutes long, with plenty of stairs, 150 extras and cover a wide area. Being a Genesis show, we were due to get the first run of the SSR1 flash mags specifically for this shot as the two-piece setup would have been difficult to pull off with the camera weaving through the subjects--did I mention that all of the talent were young ladies, stretching and preening? at least there was some good news...

I borrowed a Steadicam Pilot from the good folks at Tiffen with the intention of using it to block out the shot, work with the director and AD's to sort out all of the timing and choreography and then when it was finally time to go to picture, I would swap out to the "big rig". I put an HDV camera on the Pilot (Canon A1) and visually trued the focal length to the prime we were using on the Genesis, also adding the appropriate 2:35 frameline within the camera (if we had had a video finder on set, I would have used that with the Primo onboard). Mounting the Modulus became a bit tricky as I discovered to my chagrin that there was no P-tap on the Anton Bauer plate on the Pilot and I was relying on this for 12v service--I tried to cannibalize things to work with the supplied 12v to bare end cable that plugs into the top stage of the Pilot but didn't have time and ended up having to run BNC to the Modulus powered from a battery outboard of the rig.

The important thing was that we were able to run through the shot, learn what we needed to learn, show the director a perfectly acceptable image at video village and best of all, I got all of the operating information I needed with the Pilot while keeping myself fresh for the actual takes. The boom range and the overall feel of the Pilot arm is quite comparable to our big arms, the sled is obviously far less inert but operates smoothly and overall the experience translates very well and it took very little mental adjustment when I switched over to the big rig.

If one was so inclined, the Pilot socket block has a common hole pattern with the traditional one and you could fly it off your own vest, although it would take a bit of time to switch out so this would be less than desirable unless you had a backup vest for this purpose.

At $4000, the Pilot is comparable with some of our less exotic "accessories" and could be a real back (leg/brain) saver for these marathon shots, especially when multiple rehearsals are required. I can think of many times over the years where it would have been fantastic to have such a thing at my disposal.

In the light of this positive experience I reviewed the Pilot over at DVInfo.net.

Oh, and the shot we did that day turned out to be far less impressive than rumored, lasting perhaps 90 seconds, with possibly 12 steps and all within a 50 foot radius. Just another day at the office really.
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#2 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:41 PM

Sounds like a good idea to me. I might want one rehearsal with the big rig first if there aren't likely to be a lot of takes. It would definitely be a welcome tool in all of those situations where the director/dp don't really have the shot all that well planned out. Of course a directors finder might be a better tool for that... So are you going to buy one? Have you tried out the Flyer? Might also work well for this situation while also being able to function as a lightweight running rig.

~Jess
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#3 Charles Papert

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:48 PM

Have you tried out the Flyer? Might also work well for this situation while also being able to function as a lightweight running rig.
~Jess


It might although it does start to blur the line between the rehearsal rig and the picture rig. Also the Flyer being more expensive (unless you buy an used one I guess).

I have built my own running rig that is compatible with my other sled (plates, cables etc) so I'm good there, although I am pondering a Flyer LE arm for it as the PRO arm tends to manhandle it a bit.
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#4 Janice Arthur

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 08:29 AM

Charles;

I bought a Pilot for the reasons you suggest and because "little camera" jobs come up every-once-in-a while.

It is nice. Works great.

I too put on the Modulus. I modified a Modulus cable to run to the "M" connector on the rig. The trouble is the camera has only one video out and you need to split the video to the monitor and the modulus. Bad idea to split the signal.

I velcroed on one of the 9v powered Video DAs you can buy for $150. it works great to service both sources.

If you need to run a transmitter off these rigs that's the way to go.

JA
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#5 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 11:27 AM

The trouble is the camera has only one video out and you need to split the video to the monitor and the modulus. Bad idea to split the signal.

Does it by any chance have an s-video in addition to the composite video out? If so you can use an s-video to composite adapter to get a second video out from the camera.

~Jess
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#6 Janice Arthur

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 12:01 PM

Jess;

Some of them do but I've had the experience that its an either/or senario. I've never been able to get both to work at the same time.

Those crazy menus, maybe I missed it.

JA
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#7 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 06:20 PM

It has worked every time I have tried it but now that I think of it the only video camera I have really tried it on is the HVX.

~Jess
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