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An introduction and a request for a direction

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#1 Michael Collier

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 08:05 PM

So I got a steadycam from a director friend of mine to use and learn with. I have been a DP for about 5 years (operator and AC before that) and I need to learn SC. Even if its just to know what its like to fly so I can better communicate with my OP.

I have always had a very steady shoulder when doing off the shoulder work. I know thats not the same, but it seems to be helping me keep that soft touch and careful evaluation of motion in frame. I am starting to get the feel for it but I need advice on where to go from here? What drills can I run to become more effective off set? I will have a small short film to do coming up where I can put the skill to use in a lower risk environment than a full feature, but how should I prepare for that short?

To give you a background on my extensive SC history....I picked up the glidecam (V16) today. Balanced the camera (an old Beta cam SP) and have spent the afternoon flying it. I am getting some moves down. Walking forward, walking backward, sideways, pickups (follow one imaginary actor, then pan and pick up another imaginary as they walk through frame) 360s, odd angles etc.

I understand the best bet is to have one hand on the gimble yoke and another on the sled. It feels right to keep a very light touch, everytime I grab the post it feels wrong, so I keep two fingers on the post and put very slight inputs and use the gimble to correct horizon and tilt. Is this correct? Someone point me a crash course, or give me some custom advice given my current 5 hour history of flying.

I am having trouble (IE its not as easy, smooth or feels right) when I want to tilt up or down, is this because I don't have the camera right or is there a technique to achieve these moves?

(I feel I can be a good operator, given I am proficient at every other concievable rig, I just have to at least know how to fly and have empathy, even if I don't end up operating on set. I have no preconceptions and no expectations it will be quick or easy....I want to put in the time and work to get good, but I need a direction to go from here.)

Thanks in advance.
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#2 Philip J. Martinez SOC

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 08:24 PM

Get a copy of the EFP Instructional Video from Tiffen. It will answer a lot of questions.

The part number is DVD-200504

Try to get to a workshop!

Good Luck
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#3 Kris Torch Wilson

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 11:13 PM


At least once a week a new aspiring steadicam operator asks these very questions and the answer is always the same. I guess it's my turn to reply. You must find a workshop. It all becomes clearer when you have a teacher walk you through the steps. Set up is SO important. You will never manage the beast until it is in balance and I don't think one can achieve this without expert help. Then there's posture, footwork, etc. You have stated you are an operator and I applaud you for that. Too many (in my opinion) want to operate a rig with no knowledge of framing, set procedures, etc. You have a jump on many simply because you acknowledge you are struggling. There is NO crash course. This is a career of learning. And a workshop is your first step. It will be the best money you can invest and will provide you with and excuse to get out of town! Since you know good from bad, are you willing to put your name on this "short" with your current ability? Might be best to pass, bad stuff has a way of haunting us for a very long time. I speak from experience, not from arrogance. Best of luck.

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#4 David Williams

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Posted 09 August 2008 - 08:45 PM


It's about the Pilot specifically, but it's all applicable, with a few links to further information. It's funny too :)
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#5 Nick Tsamandanis

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 08:14 AM

Its critically important to download the Dynamic Primer: http://www.steadicam...amic primer.pdf and memorize the
mathematic equations. Or you can do what I did and watch that funny video :D
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#6 Michael Collier

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 04:54 PM

Thanks for the advice. DVD is on its way. Dynamic balance...well that would explain why it took me nearly 2 hours to balance the first time, without it going all funky when rotating (I think I got close to dynamic balance, but only by shear luck). I have a friend teaching me, while not exactly like a training course, its the best I can do until next month.

Kris, excelent advice. Its what I was thinking I would get. After all, I am 10 years into operating and I can't say theres nothing to learn about handheld or jib or operating from dolly, etc. I feel this short is the perfect place to operate SC in a set environment. Its a 4 day short spread into weekends, so my body has time to recover if its not as strong as it would need for a 6-day a week feature. Its a micro-budget, so them getting SC is actually a boon to their production values, and best of all, my normal steady cam operator is directing, and I know 1. he will be patient with me on set, 2. he will help me when I need it or give me tips, 3. he will be able to take the rig if it just isn't working out and most importantly of all 4. he won't cut me any slack. None of the people I work for ever cut me slack, and always push, and that in itself is the best thing I can have behind me.

I feel like that will take away any anxiety from the next shoot, to operate on set in a low-pressure environment with a fallback. The problem becomes how to get profficient enough now so that I only pass off the most difficult shots to my operator. I think the links and guides you have provided (along with hours of practice daily) should help me get on my way.
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