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Merlin - Expectations


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#1 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 06:14 AM

Hi

Ive just got a merlin and am finding it hard to use - unsurprisingly

I have been trying to start with a tripod steady composed shot perfect horizontal , make a transition and end at a second tripod steady composed position - maybe with a bit of tilt in the composition

Now I have been thinking

If you jump onto a rowing boat you can flip it over

If you jump onto a cruise liner the wobble is very marginal

Using this theory it would appear that the light merlin is actually very hard to use because the 'control hand' (as I call it - the fingers that touch the gimble) is incredibly sensitive

Is this a correct theory - can anyone do the shot I describe with such a tiny rig?

Further to this thought I am using a Nikon D90 with a 14 2.8 which is light (2.5 lbs) has a very low centre of gravity and therefore needs not much weight to balance

Now if I raised the camera on a spacer the CofG of the camera would move further away from the gimble and require more weight in the set up

Effect - more cruise liner less rowing boat

Is this correct thinking and worth persuing

I figure that this lack of mass may reduce the set of moves that are smoothly acheiveable with the rig in all but the most expert hands

what should be my expectations

Thanks

SMM

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 28 December 2008 - 06:23 AM.

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#2 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 06:31 AM

Further thinking

If the lens is close to the gimble then a small anglular movement will translate to minimal horizontal movement

So I should keep the camera as close to the possible to the gimble

Raising the camera would therefore be a dumb idea but adding weight above it (say a small piece of lead on the hotshoe) would not...

S
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#3 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 10:58 PM

Sounds like you have a rather good understanding of the physics involved. The conclusions you have come to are right on. Making the whole thing a little heavier might help a bit, but then it will be harder to carry if you don't have a vest and arm which could have some of its own problems. Also keep in mind that lockoffs like you are describing are actually one of the harder things to do with a steadicam. I would expect a camera and stabilizer that light to be very difficult to keep locked off even for an experienced operator.


~Jess
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#4 Charles Papert

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 12:44 AM

Now I have been thinking

If you jump onto a rowing boat you can flip it over

If you jump onto a cruise liner the wobble is very marginal

...can anyone do the shot I describe with such a tiny rig?


Which part, the jumping onto a row boat or the cruise liner??! with drink in hand, or not?

The Merlin is capable of beautiful shots but yes, it is more touchy than a big rig and adding weight up to the point where your arm fatigue compromises the shots is a good idea.

Here's some great Merlin work:

http://www.youtube.c...re=channel_page
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#5 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 03:10 AM

Thank you both for your comments - I wasnt expecting this forum and big rig users to be too interested in users of the D90 and Merlin - you do get 35mm cine perspective though and a great look with the 14 2.8 - I am a pro photographer dipping my toes into the moving image - If I get hooked I will get a way to fly something else

This thread could impact pros though - future Reds may have similar issues if rigged with minimal kit

I think you have confirmed about my understanding and expectations of the system

the You tube opens with a vague lock off but all the rest they cut into motion - I see all the usual problems of drunken horizon in that reel - better than me but Ive only had it for a week

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Another thing - I read that dynamic balance PDF - super interesting - lead me to re-weight the rig very carefully

But unless my physics is getting confused again am I correct in thinking that smooth pans really rely on having the pole (?) vertical

I note that proper rigs have a tilting head whereas the merlin you tilt by trimming and make the pole non horizontal

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Ill be fine if I understand the limitations - but knackered if Im fighting a wrong set up

seems like - and this is not widely published - the merlin even when set up correct is..

difficult to 'lock off'

only for horizontal pans

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A further question - acceleration

I am finding when moving from a 'lock off' into walking that the 'nose' tends to dip and the 'nose' rises when pulling to the end lock off - I assume this is a function of bottom heavy and why a long drop time rig is more controllable to the skilled operator although harder to use by the 'newb'

Is this physics again that must be battled by the experienced operator both by accelerating smoothy and subtly fighting the dip ?

S

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 29 December 2008 - 03:17 AM.

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#6 Charles Papert

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 03:34 AM

Only the Steadicams have tilt heads (as the integrated head is patented), and there are many pro-level rigs without this design. While it is tougher to pan when a rig is tilted, it is not only possible but typical.

You are correct that bottom-heaviness factors into the dips that one experiences on acceleration and deceleration. You will see the same thing happen when moving sideways. And this is indeed something that an operator learns to control over time. And yes, it is harder to manage with the Merlin than a full-size rig.

Can't say as I agree with your criticism of the Youtube clip, I think that for unrehearsed shots the operator did a really solid job. Certainly there are occasionally horizon "moments" but it's a pretty high standard to expect truly dolly-like images with perfect horizons out of a Merlin.
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#7 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 11:46 AM

Can't say as I agree with your criticism of the Youtube clip,


I wasnt criticizing the operator for that clip - Im sure he/she is a great operator certainly better than me !

It just doesnt look like proper film/broadcast steadi work (like yours !)

Lets face it $50000 rigs would not be popular if you could do it perfect for $1000

Thanks to the help of those on this board I am tayloring my expectations of what I can and cannot aspire to being able to pull off with this neat little gadget

And clarifying that I have a basic grip of the physics

Thanks again

SMM

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 29 December 2008 - 11:52 AM.

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#8 Charles Papert

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 12:10 PM

It just doesnt look like proper film/broadcast steadi work (like yours !)

Lets face it $50000 rigs would not be popular if you could do it perfect for $1000


Not to belabor the point, Sam, but I have seen far worse operating in both feature and broadcast work, unfortunately, and unlike that footage with multiple rehearsals and takes...

When the day comes that a broadcast or feature quality acquisition solution can be had for under 5 lbs (and that day is soon coming), the $50K rig is going to be suddenly less relevant than the $1000 rig, or at least somewhere in the middle!
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#9 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 03:03 PM

Not to belabor the point, Sam, but I have seen far worse operating in both feature and broadcast work, unfortunately, and unlike that footage with multiple rehearsals and takes...

When the day comes that a broadcast or feature quality acquisition solution can be had for under 5 lbs (and that day is soon coming), the $50K rig is going to be suddenly less relevant than the $1000 rig, or at least somewhere in the middle!


Im not disagreeing

I am aware that money does not buy skill

Ive been whatching that video again really carefully I promise

Now this video appears to be the same guy, he appear to have a vest and arm, something I could stretch to but dont have right now, and also a Z1 or something in the 5lb range at the very top of the merlin spec

My D90 is less than half that weight so possibly 4 times less stable - im not sure of the math - (that was the original enquiry BTW)

If I had the vest I could carry more weight and at that point weighting the camera/rig could be an option that would not be a physical killer

Interestingly to me I have been thinking about the advantages of light weight camera/rigs - I may post a little demo soon !

The film I have been studying is Lock Stock - Peter Wignall seems to be the steadi operator BTW

Thanks for your interest

S
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#10 RonBaldwin

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 03:57 PM

The film I have been studying is Lock Stock - Peter Wignall seems to be the steadi operator BTW



If you want to study a film for steadicam, that may not be the best one. Try steadishots and look at some of the more popular stuff for inspiration/frustration. I love Chris Haarhoff's work in Fight Club as well as Larry's work in most everything (duh).
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#11 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 05:24 PM

indeed im all over steadishots too../...
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#12 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 02 January 2009 - 06:51 PM

Look and laugh :) ... test
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#13 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 04:03 AM

with more mass ... test 2
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#14 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 01:15 AM

A week on

I flew my EX1 for the first time yesterday - which is right at the top of the merlin weight range if not over

The experience is utterly different from the very light little dslr which also has a very low CofG

Being very short and stubby the mass in the DSLR is also arranged not to fight rotation wall

The difference - it is orders of magnitude easier to pull off stable shots

And also easy to trim by changing the angle of the EVF !

I need to build in some more mass into the system somehow to use it with the DSLR

Also it became apparent that the EX1 and all the weights and no vest is not a pleasure for those who have a non robust phisique - that addition of mass will therefore have to be distributed (high) to maximise its affect on stability while keeping the overall weight down

S

Edited by Sam Morgan Moore, 11 January 2009 - 01:20 AM.

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#15 Sam Morgan Moore

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Posted 02 February 2009 - 07:48 PM

Another week on (!)

So I got a canon 5d - great little camera

Im now far better than THIS

But then I bought a vest and arm !

The thing seems to bob no end and any booming skills I was getting have dissapeared

I adjust the tension so it sits at a nice height but the rig now just seems so attached to my body and reactive to it in a really bad way

Ive read all the posts and PDFs I can find and have been practicing no hands - which seems like keeping a ballbearing on a tray - fine Ill get that sussed by christmas (2010)

But the bobbing

I try a light touch (or no touch) and a strong grip and everything in between

Could the camera be too light to be able to tension the springs enough to fight horizontal movement - or do I just need to learn to walk more smoothly - in fact a whole new way of walking

S
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