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Steadicam Pilot, setup/usage questions


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#1 Adam Vesely

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 08:08 PM

Hi guys,

I purchased a new Steadicam Pilot VLB in October of last year. I have been practicing with it for the past few months and am worried I am practicing incorrectly and picking up bad habits. I am planning on attending a workshop in San Francisco in March, but in the meantime, I had some questions. I am using the IDX battery that came with Pilot VLB and an Sony EX1 camera with no other accessories. I have the sled extended about 4 fingers width and have 1 mid/end weights at each of the 4 positions.

1) First of all, I am operating on the left side as usual. I always thought my right lower back should be receiving the workout, but, it turns out my lower left is the muscle getting a workout... Is this a balance issue or am I leaning over without realizing it? When I put the vest on, I'm always checking to make sure it is on straight, but sometimes it feels like when I have the rig on that I have to lean slightly to make the spar vertical.

2) Also, in the manual it says to let the upper side-to-side adjustment screw out a bit, which I find makes the rig fly radically to the right. I instead have the bottom screw out a bit. Is that unusual to have to let out the bottom screw? I am 5'-11", weigh about 195 lbs. and have a bit of a stomach, so I also have my top screw for fore/aft adjustment out more than the bottom screw.

3) While practicing switches, I notice whenever I go to Don Juan, I find my shoulder in the shot if I try to keep the sled in the same position I have it in Missionary. Do I have the sled in the wrong position, or does the EX1 have a very wide lens? I am trying to angle my body 45 degrees toward the sled, but I have to have the sled uncomfortably far from my body or slightly behind and to my side to avoid having my body enter the shot.

4) I've tried running with the rig on a few occasions and always see a harsh jitter with each step whether I'm holding onto the gimbal or the sled post. I don't think it's my rig because my cousin has ran with the rig and these jitters aren't present with his operating. Even when walking I sometimes see an ever so slight "bob" in the image. If there is no obvious subject (like an actor) this "bob" becomes more apparent, even when moving slowly.

If anyone has any insight on any of these issues, please reply, otherwise, I guess I'll find out at the workshop. :)

Thanks!

-Adam Vesely
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#2 Dave Gish

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 09:03 AM

Hi Ryan,

I got my Pilot a little over a year ago. These links should help:
http://www.steadicam...?showtopic=9173
http://www.dvinfo.ne...m-workshop.html
In particular, the extra weights and hands-off practice helped me the most.

The side-to-side trim adjustment is a personal thing. Set it to how it works for you. I use mine the way Steadicam suggests, but other people are different. Play around with it. You'll know a lot better where to set the this adjustment after you start the hands-off practice described in the 2nd link above.

By the way, when you're posture is correct and your body is in balance, you're back shouldn't really hurt at all. Even when I used a heavier rig for a student film, it was my upper thighs that were hurting a little the next day, not my back.
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#3 Dave Gish

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 09:35 AM

I also flew the EX1 on my Pilot for a couple of student films, and I used the following configuration:
• Sony EX1 & BP-U30 battery
• Manfrotto 577 tripod adapter & plate
• Wireless video transmitter & cables (3 oz.)
• On the stage (top), 4 of the larger middle weights (2 on each side) and none of the smaller end weights
• On the bottom, 4 middle weights (2 on each side) and 2 end weights (1 on each side)

I always run the bottom with 4 middle weights (2 on each side) and 2 end weights (1 on each side), and then just adjust the top weight depending on what camera and accessories I'm flying. Together with the Pilot's battery, this totals 2 pounds of bottom weight, so I try to get the total top weight as close to 8 pounds as possible without going over.

If you fly just the EX1 with no tripod adapter or wireless video transmitter, I would suggest loading the top stage with 6 middle weights (3 on each side) and 2 end weights (1 on each side).

If you fly the EX1 with the Manfrotto 577 tripod adapter & plate, I would suggest I would suggest loading the top stage with 4 middle weights (2 on each side) and 2 end weights (1 on each side).

Hope this helps.
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#4 Dave Gish

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 09:48 AM

4) I've tried running with the rig on a few occasions and always see a harsh jitter with each step whether I'm holding onto the gimbal or the sled post. I don't think it's my rig because my cousin has ran with the rig and these jitters aren't present with his operating. Even when walking I sometimes see an ever so slight "bob" in the image. If there is no obvious subject (like an actor) this "bob" becomes more apparent, even when moving slowly.

Most likely, your body is out of balance. This means you have to use more force with your hands to control the sled position. The net result is that your back is stressed more, and the shot is less stable. For steadicams in general, and especially for lighter rigs like the Pilot, you need a really light touch.

Try the hands-free practice method described in the 2nd link above. This helped me with the problems you describe.

Edited by Dave Gish, 31 January 2009 - 09:53 AM.

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#5 Janice Arthur

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 12:13 PM

4) I've tried running with the rig on a few occasions and always see a harsh jitter with each step whether I'm holding onto the gimbal or the sled post. I don't think it's my rig because my cousin has ran with the rig and these jitters aren't present with his operating. Even when walking I sometimes see an ever so slight "bob" in the image. If there is no obvious subject (like an actor) this "bob" becomes more apparent, even when moving slowly.

Most likely, your body is out of balance. This means you have to use more force with your hands to control the sled position. The net result is that your back is stressed more, and the shot is less stable. For steadicams in general, and especially for lighter rigs like the Pilot, you need a really light touch.

Try the hands-free practice method described in the 2nd link above. This helped me with the problems you describe.


Adam;

I'm sure the other guys are right with all that they have posted.

Here is my input, almost certain to remove the "bobbing".

Your right hand, arm hand, is not working hard enough. Turn off monitor. Pick a point on the rig, anywhere, and stare at it.

When you walk, make your right hand lift the rig enough to get rid of the "bob".

Good luck.

JA
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#6 Adam Vesely

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 02:14 PM

Thank you for your feedback and information. I will definitely try all of these things today. We really need rain here, but it is nice to have good weather to let me practice outside.

-Adam
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#7 Adam Vesely

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Posted 02 February 2009 - 03:22 AM

Does anyone who uses a Pilot with a Sony EX1 have any information concerning the Don Juan question above?

-Adam
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#8 Dave Gish

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Posted 02 February 2009 - 09:07 AM

Does anyone who uses a Pilot with a Sony EX1 have any information concerning the Don Juan question above?

Hi Adam,

Yes, I've used the EX1 on the Pilot in Don Juan. Most of the footage from my first reel was student films using the EX1:
http://www.dvinfo.ne...dicam-reel.html
This includes Don Juan running and on stairs.

The lens on the EX1 was wide full for all of this, and it seems the same as my HVX wide full. Yes, my left shoulder does get in the frame sometimes in Don Juan, both on the EX1 and the HVX. This seems to happen more for me on stairs or other tight spaces.

One thing that seemed to help was moving the monitor all the way to the end of the post and angled down a bit (see picture below). This forces me to angle my body more toward 45° in Don Juan. By the way, when you're angled 45°, it feels like you're kind of walking sideways. I also tend to hold the sled a couple inches further away from my body in Don Juan to avoid the shoulder issue, which means I have to move my hips a little to keep my body balanced.

By the way, on the Pilot, the easiest way to get dynamic balance is to move the monitor all the way forward, the battery all the way back, and then just move the whole bottom crossbar forward or back using the hex nut in the middle. This gives the most inertia, makes dynamic balance much quicker, and makes it easy to pack up and then set up again the exact same way. Note that with the monitor and batteries all the way out, you need to mount the balancing yoke to the balancing stand using the back hole, otherwise the monitor hits the stand when you spin it.

Hope this helps.

Posted Image
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#9 Chris McClain

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 12:49 AM

Hey There everyone!! I'm so pumped that I just got my Pilot today and have since been humbled the past few hours getting it balanced. Just wondering if anyone out there with the EX1 and wide angle adaptor lens had any suggestions for weight ect. I'm using the normal size battery, wide angle lens, with the manfrotto quick release:) Any advise would be greatly appreciated:) Thanks guys
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#10 Dave Gish

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 07:10 PM

Just wondering if anyone out there with the EX1 and wide angle adapter lens had any suggestions for weight etc. I'm using the normal size battery, wide angle lens, with the Manfrotto quick release:) Any advise would be greatly appreciated:)

I've used the EX1 on my Pilot for a couple of student films. Here's what I would suggest:

1) On the bottom, with the IDX batteries, use 2 of the larger mid weights on each side.

2) On the top, try to get everything up to 8 pounds. The mid weights are 1/4 pound each. The end weights are 1/8 pound each.

Looking around on the internet, it seems your stuff weighs:
• Sony EX1 (w/ normal battery, lens hood, and 1 SxS Card) = 6.25 pounds
• Manfrotto 577 adapter & plate = 0.5 pounds
• Sony VCL-EX0877 0.8x Wide Angle Lens Adapter = 0.75 pounds

If I've got this right, it totals 7.5 pounds, so add 1 mid weight on each side of the stage (top) to get it up to 8 pounds. If you're running without the wide angle adapter, you'll want 2 mid weights and 1 end weight on each side of the stage.

3) I've flown the EX1, EX3, and V1U, and they were all heavy on the lens side. In all 3 cases, I had to move the QR plate back one hole on the Pilot's top plate. See picture below:
Posted Image
This example is an EX3, but you can see how the QR plate is mounted much further back on the Pilot. It hangs off the back a little, but works just fine.

4) Set the battery position all the way back, as far as it can go. Set the monitor position pretty much all the way forward - leave around 1/4" or so to let the monitor swivel down before it hits the weights. See picture above. Always use the Pilot with the battery and monitor at these positions. When you do dynamic balance, just move the whole bottom crossbar forward or back using the hex nut in the middle.
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#11 Chris McClain

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 04:12 PM

Just wondering if anyone out there with the EX1 and wide angle adapter lens had any suggestions for weight etc. I'm using the normal size battery, wide angle lens, with the Manfrotto quick release:) Any advise would be greatly appreciated:)

I've used the EX1 on my Pilot for a couple of student films. Here's what I would suggest:

1) On the bottom, with the IDX batteries, use 2 of the larger mid weights on each side.

2) On the top, try to get everything up to 8 pounds. The mid weights are 1/4 pound each. The end weights are 1/8 pound each.

Looking around on the internet, it seems your stuff weighs:
• Sony EX1 (w/ normal battery, lens hood, and 1 SxS Card) = 6.25 pounds
• Manfrotto 577 adapter & plate = 0.5 pounds
• Sony VCL-EX0877 0.8x Wide Angle Lens Adapter = 0.75 pounds

If I've got this right, it totals 7.5 pounds, so add 1 mid weight on each side of the stage (top) to get it up to 8 pounds. If you're running without the wide angle adapter, you'll want 2 mid weights and 1 end weight on each side of the stage.

3) I've flown the EX1, EX3, and V1U, and they were all heavy on the lens side. In all 3 cases, I had to move the QR plate back one hole on the Pilot's top plate. See picture below:
Posted Image
This example is an EX3, but you can see how the QR plate is mounted much further back on the Pilot. It hangs off the back a little, but works just fine.

4) Set the battery position all the way back, as far as it can go. Set the monitor position pretty much all the way forward - leave around 1/4" or so to let the monitor swivel down before it hits the weights. See picture above. Always use the Pilot with the battery and monitor at these positions. When you do dynamic balance, just move the whole bottom crossbar forward or back using the hex nut in the middle.


Great! I seem to have everything balanced great!!! One more questions. As far as tension goes, how tight are you running with it. I found that I had to tighten the tension all the way so the arms would have slight inclines. Is this what you found as well?? Thanks for your help.
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#12 Dave Gish

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 08:03 PM

One more questions. As far as tension goes, how tight are you running with it. I found that I had to tighten the tension all the way so the arms would have slight inclines. Is this what you found as well?? Thanks for your help.

For now, adjust the blue knobs so that both arm sections are level with the floor (no incline or decline). After you take the workshop, you may want to use some other arm settings.

Edited by Dave Gish, 07 March 2009 - 08:07 PM.

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#13 Adam Vesely

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 01:33 AM

Hi everyone,

So, today I actually called Tiffen technical support about the harsh vibrations I'm getting while trying to run with my Pilot and was told the vibrations were due to the Manfrotto quick-release plate I am using. This afternoon, I tried mounting my EX1 directly to the top stage camera plate and still have the exact same vibrations. As a secondary test, I tried stomping my foot on the ground while standing still and lightly pounding the socket block with my fist as if you were pounding it on a table. It didn't matter whether my hands were on the rig or not, both of these tests produced noticeable vibrations and image jitters that lasted almost a second, even at the widest angle zoom. From these tests, it almost seems like the arm is the problem, but I can't see how. I'm not sure if my rig actually has a defect or if the rig was just not built to withstand the rigors of running.

Is anyone else who uses a Pilot experiencing these same problems?
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#14 Amedeo Fabroni

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 09:30 AM

Hi everyone,

So, today I actually called Tiffen technical support about the harsh vibrations I'm getting while trying to run with my Pilot and was told the vibrations were due to the Manfrotto quick-release plate I am using. This afternoon, I tried mounting my EX1 directly to the top stage camera plate and still have the exact same vibrations. As a secondary test, I tried stomping my foot on the ground while standing still and lightly pounding the socket block with my fist as if you were pounding it on a table. It didn't matter whether my hands were on the rig or not, both of these tests produced noticeable vibrations and image jitters that lasted almost a second, even at the widest angle zoom. From these tests, it almost seems like the arm is the problem, but I can't see how. I'm not sure if my rig actually has a defect or if the rig was just not built to withstand the rigors of running.

Is anyone else who uses a Pilot experiencing these same problems?


Hi Adam,
the steadicam pilot is designed and built to withstand the rigors of running. I have watched the clip you have published on Vimeo. You have checked the quick release plate and it’s OK. A question: do you “feel” the vibrations in the gimbal (hands)? If yes, it could be an arm’s issue. If not, it could be the gimbal that transfers the vibrations to the post. You can see at www.ciakframe.com/runningshotsteadicampilot.htm a shot I have done running (not very fast). Have you checked with SteadyShot Image Stabilization on and off?
Amedeo
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#15 Charles Papert

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 10:15 AM

Adam:

The stomp test should have delivered excellent results. Have you checked that every tiedown (screw) on the rig is firmly engaged? Also check for play in the lower spar--can it be moved by hand if you wiggle the batteries? It's unusual for a rig this small to deliver this kind of jitter. Definitely not a design flaw, I myself have run with the Pilot and it looks fine.
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