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Questions from a newbie


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#1 Ami Howard

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 01:08 AM

I just got a glidecam rig and I am planning on taking a workshop asap.. But in the meantime I've been getting as much advice as I can from people I know. There are a couple things that I haven't really gotten a straight answer on and I'm guessing it's because there are not right or wrong answers. So I'd like to toss the questions at a group and to see what comes from it.

Should you use just your index finger and thumb to turn the post or should you use index, middle and ring finger?
I have been placing a level on top of a small post the same diameter as the post with the camera on it and practicing twirling it while keeping it level. This seems to be easier with 3 fingers in the front and my thumb in the back.

When you start the move, which leg should be out in front? Which leg should have your body weight on it?
When you finish the move, which leg should be out in front? Which leg should have your body weight on it?

I read the PDF on the Tiffen website about posture... Even though I am standing straight and my body is pretty relaxed when I start the move, I end up squatting a little as I walk. I am trying to keep my hips pretty in line with shoulders, but I get lower to the ground a little bit. Is that bad, normal?

I am also trying to figure out some exercises I can do to improve specific aspects of the technique, like the example above. If you can think of anything like that which proved invaluable to your technique, I would appreciate the knowledge greatly!
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#2 Dave Gish

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 03:21 PM

Should you use just your index finger and thumb to turn the post or should you use index, middle and ring finger?

Peter will show you this in the workshop, but I'll try to explain it here. Hold your left hand down at your side in a completely relaxed way. When your hand is completely relaxed, the side of your thumb should be opposite your index finger. So that's where I apply most of my pressure for pan control, between the side of my thumb and my index finger. The other fingers stay further down to help control tilt and roll. I also keep my thumb and index finger both lightly touching the bottom of the gimbal. This way I know they're directly opposite one another.

When you start the move, which leg should be out in front? Which leg should have your body weight on it?
When you finish the move, which leg should be out in front? Which leg should have your body weight on it?

I'm assuming you have a monitor on the bottom of the sled. If you don't, get one - see here:
http://www.steadicam...?showtopic=8984

The normal steadicam position is with the sled on your left. The monitor is in front of your left thigh. Your body somewhat angled. Your right shoulder is turned in towards the lens to keep the sled closer to your body. When you walk, it's kind of like you're walking slightly sideways. When you're stopped, most of your weight is on your left foot, and your right foot is forward, with your right side angled in. As for which foot goes first, I don't even think about it. Whatever works naturally is best. Just make sure you start and end with your weight on your left foot and your right foot forward.

I read the PDF on the Tiffen website about posture... Even though I am standing straight and my body is pretty relaxed when I start the move, I end up squatting a little as I walk. I am trying to keep my hips pretty in line with shoulders, but I get lower to the ground a little bit. Is that bad, normal?

Don't squat. Just walk naturally. The arm spring will absorb your body movement. More important is to have a really light touch with both hands. If you let go with both hands, the sled should stay where it is and not move away from you. In other words, you want to control the position of the sled completely through balance, and not with your hands. If you let go of the sled with your hands and it moves away, that means the muscles in your right arm are tense, which makes things less stable.

Keep your shoulders directly over your legs, and control the balance of your sled completely with your hips. If you move your hips forward, the sled will move back. If you move your hips right, the sled will move left. The position of your hips should control everything.

I am also trying to figure out some exercises I can do to improve specific aspects of the technique, like the example above. If you can think of anything like that which proved invaluable to your technique, I would appreciate the knowledge greatly!

Practicing hands-free helped me the most. Turn the camera off. Keep both hands close but not touching the gimbal or sled post, and control the sled position with your hips. Try starting, stopping, changing positions, everything you might want to do in a shot, all without touching your hands to the rig. Keep your hands close to where they will be, but don't touch unless you lose balance.

I did this for a week solid. 7 days, 2 hours a day. The balance thing has to become second nature, otherwise when you start getting challenged with framing, you'll constantly be getting out of balance. Once balance becomes second nature, other things get much more sane, and you can concentrate on the really light touches that make the whole thing work.
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#3 Ami Howard

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 06:01 PM

Thanks so much for your reply Dave! I will definitely keep in mind everything you said. I have a couple more questions in follow up:

With the Glidecam I am waiting it out to get the additional spring arm, so right now there is just one spring arm and no adjustment at the hip. I had a professional Steadicam Op help me balance it and set my vest, spring tension, etc... But, the camera still wants to swing away from my body.
For now, do you think it's better to adjust my body to keep the camera close, or use my arm hand to pull the camera towards me, keeping it from sailing away?

In terms of practicing, I am trying to set goals and I don't even know where to begin. Should I focus on one thing at a time for a certain # of hours? Until I get it? Or should I work on several areas at once?
When you go to the workshop, do they have a kind of "Training Program" that you can take home and do over the course of 6 months or something like that?

I was thinking about focusing on each one of the following for about 10 hours at a time, rotating through again and again. I am trying to do at least 2 hours/day. And setting up a couple shots with a partner at the end of the week to use the skills I practiced. (So if anyone reads this and would like to practice in the Studio City area, please let me know!)
- Walking
- Run forward
- Run backward
- Quick pans
- Tight spaces
- Crane-step off/on
- Stairs
- Long shot
- Low mode
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#4 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 12:32 AM

I second what Dave said.

I actually had to think about what he said and try and duplicate it in front of my computer or I wouldn't have had any idea how to answer your questions. My point is that I don't (or didn't) even know the answer to your questions. I just operate. And I think that 'just operate' might be the ultimate answer to your question.

I did take Jerry/Garret's Class and they showed me how to properly balance the rig and how to stand, and, and, and... But I would suggest that the best way to get good is to 'just operate'. For me at least there is no ammount of practice you could do that would compare to the skill you get by operating. I'm going on my 11th year as a steadicam operator and I have found that I suck less and less each year. I would also say that having a very demanding camera man or director ride me like Zoro has helped the most. Or having the lead actor walk on set hung over and chew out the 1st AD then tell the director he doesn't want to rehurse, just shoot it. Then, when they get the take the way they want it and say, "you got that right" you had better say, "yes sir".

So, everything Dave said sounds right AND 'Just Operate'.

my 2 cents.
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#5 Dave Gish

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 11:42 AM

With the Glidecam I am waiting it out to get the additional spring arm, so right now there is just one spring arm and no adjustment at the hip. I had a professional Steadicam Op help me balance it and set my vest, spring tension, etc... But, the camera still wants to swing away from my body.
For now, do you think it's better to adjust my body to keep the camera close, or use my arm hand to pull the camera towards me, keeping it from sailing away?

I used a Glidecam V-20 on a couple of student films, with only one spring arm section, and no adjustment at the hip. I had to change my normal hip position a little, but I could get sled to be where ever I wanted without touching it. That's how I adjusted to the balance of the rig.

Bottom line, you should ALWAYS be in balance. You never want to use your arm muscle to position the sled with respect to your body. It's all in the hips.

In terms of practicing, I am trying to set goals and I don't even know where to begin. Should I focus on one thing at a time for a certain # of hours? Until I get it? Or should I work on several areas at once?

Practice hands-free for 7 days, 2 hours a day. Turn the camera off. Just practice keeping the sled where you want it without touching it. Keep your hands within an inch of the gimbal and post, but don't touch unless it starts to get away from you. On day 1, start by just standing still and keeping the sled from moving. Then try starting and stopping, all without touching the rig with your hands. Then try different positions, Missionary (normal with lens pointing forward), Don Juan (with the lens pointing back over your left shoulder), Tango (with the lens pointing right or left). Then try switching between these positions, all without ever touching the sled.

When you go to the workshop, do they have a kind of "Training Program" that you can take home and do over the course of 6 months or something like that?

Not really.

I was thinking about focusing on each one of the following for about 10 hours at a time, rotating through again and again...

That works, as long as you get the balance thing down first. I found working on other things fairly pointless without getting balance to be second nature.

Edited by Dave Gish, 16 December 2008 - 11:43 AM.

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#6 Ami Howard

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 06:00 PM

Thanks for your replies guys, I cannot tell you how much all this information means to me. I am beginning the 7 days of balance practice today!

Mike I definitely agree that I should 'just operate', but I do feel like I need some kind of ability before I throw myself out there... I don't want to mess up anybody's work. But, maybe you both just answered a question I had, but did not ask:

What should I be able to accomplish before putting myself out there as a newbie op?
I should be able to control the position of the sled completely through balance; hands free. Then I should get on any production that will let me operate!

I think that might have been the answer I was seeking with all my previous words! Steadicam Forum rocks :D

Edited by Ami Howard, 17 December 2008 - 06:02 PM.

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