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Old July 12th, 2005, 04:54 PM   #1
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Stabilization System Advice Needed...Filming Racing Coverage

Hello,

I am looking for some advice/recommendations on a stablization system. I've searched the forum and read a lot, but wanted to get some thoughts on what may be best for my application. I have a PD-170 and film drag racing. The issue I am presented with is when I am filming from 100-200 feet out from the starting line and then have to pan to follow the cars. It's probably a 140 degree change or so in a second. It is difficult on a tripod because of the angle of rotation I have to go through in such a short time, while trying to make sure the camcorder is still on the cars. I try to get a position where there is a lot less rotation required, but that's not always the case. The only way then is to hold the camera and twist to follow.

I have been looking at something like the Glidecam Pro 2000 or 4000, or those types of systems. I am debating if I should look into an external monitor to help maintain the view as well but with how fast the action is, I don't know if that would be a benefit. Are these the kinds of systems that would work best? I am generally spending about 1-2 hours filming at a time, with little breaks if a car breaks or a class is run I don't film. I run the PD170 with the 960 battery and that's it. I have not used the WA lens yet, but may try. I may add a Firestor drive in the near future but that's it.

I would appreciate any thoughts or recommendations on what to look into.

Thanks,
Frank
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Old July 13th, 2005, 11:23 AM   #2
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From what you are saying, it sounds like it would even be more difficult to use a stablizer. The interia of the 140 degree swing in a second would cause serious tilt of the horizon that you would have to suppress. The tripod is a better solution. Stabilizers are about weights and balances and swinging all that around will be almost impossible to control.

An external monitor is your best bet with a really good head, I think. Otherwise, you would be looking at some powered head with remote controls and that gets expensive... But you know that - "The faster you go, the more money it costs" ;)
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Old July 13th, 2005, 11:30 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by George Ellis
From what you are saying, it sounds like it would even be more difficult to use a stablizer. The interia of the 140 degree swing in a second would cause serious tilt of the horizon that you would have to suppress. The tripod is a better solution. Stabilizers are about weights and balances and swinging all that around will be almost impossible to control.

An external monitor is your best bet with a really good head, I think. Otherwise, you would be looking at some powered head with remote controls and that gets expensive... But you know that - "The faster you go, the more money it costs" ;)
Thanks, that makes sense...I hadn't thought of controlling that. Right now I have a 503 Manfrotto Head with the 525MVB legs. I didn't get a chance to test it at my last race because the airline forgot to send my luggage with me. I could work more to get an angle where I do not need as much rotation.

I will have to look into some external monitors. I thought that might be a good solution too.

"How fast do you want to spend?" :)

Thanks again,
Frank
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Old July 14th, 2005, 01:34 PM   #4
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Agreed that a stabilizer is not the way to go, but more because it's not needed in this lock-down situation and wouldn't make sense to wear for all that time (handheld stabilizers out of the question). I think an outboard monitor that is not attached to the camera (could mount on the legs of the tripod, perhaps) will make this type of shot pretty easy with some practice.

However, the concern George raises regarding the 140 degrees in a second pan on a stabilizer might be worth addressing for those interested. This would qualify as a whip pan, and thus requires a particular technique to achieve. While it takes a LOT of practice to get good at, it is certainly achievable and a good tool for the arsenal.

The idea is that you use your wrist as a crank and spin the rig as fast as you need it to go. Getting it started is not the hard part--stopping cleanly is. You must imagine your hand as being akin to a drum brake as part of an ABS system; you clamp down to stop the pan rotation, but just before the rig comes to a complete stop, you need to release your grip for a split second, then re-apply LIGHTLY. In the same way that ABS pumps the brakes to avoid "lockup", you are keeping the rig from stopping dead in its tracks which will cause a kickout in all axes due to the stopping inertia. The whole procedure takes but a fraction of a second, but it is absolutely critical to success. A DV sized rig is able to whip incredibly fast because of its reduced inertia, and if balanced correctly it's relatively easy to stop on a dime.

I have a shot on my Steadicam reel that is about 10 years old which has a number of whip pans in rapid succession, including one that is over 200 degrees. It can be seen HERE. The camera in use was an Arri BL4, which is one heavy mother (about a 75 lb setup!) and thus very cumbersome to whip around, but pretty stable once you get there!
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Old July 14th, 2005, 01:46 PM   #5
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Hey Charles, I did not think of a pan on the gimble's bearing, and that is what you mean, right? Jeez, I have done that before (more like a 1080 for a "Hey y'all, watch this" moment for the kids). This would be easier on an "armed" rig while waiting for the lights ;).

And yes, I forgot to mention that and had even thought about it... Practice! with the external monitor. You have to learn that hand-eye coordination to get your hand to pan what your eye sees and time it with the high-speed pass.

Also, another limiting factor with a stabilizer rig is doing a zoom of you plan to follow the car down to the 1/4 mile point. With a Glidecam 2000, there is no good place for a LANC style controller to do a zoom. A zoom using the camera controls requires a "third" hand or using your control hand and that will upset the balance.
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Old July 14th, 2005, 07:52 PM   #6
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Thanks for all the info, saved me some money and a lot of time. So, I am going to look into an external monitor for this and see about mounting to my tripod. Are there any recommenations for brands that are good or one what would work well? I'll be doing some research on the boards, or rather have done some but nothing is really sticking out....

This site is an invaluable resource...

Thanks
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Old July 16th, 2005, 03:56 AM   #7
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Just a thought...

How about using a pan head with something to softly limit the rotation in the direction you want? Maybe a rubber stop or bean bag against a clamp or bracket or something that will give you gradually increasing counter force as you reach your limit. Obviously you preset the stop ahead of filming to a known position on a track.

So that you know that you can pan really quick but there is a hard stop in place and softly deceleration during the pan?

A tripod with a pan head + clamp + huge chunk of foam or soft rubber?
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Old July 16th, 2005, 04:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo Bodnar
Just a thought...

How about using a pan head with something to softly limit the rotation in the direction you want? Maybe a rubber stop or bean bag against a clamp or bracket or something that will give you gradually increasing counter force as you reach your limit. Obviously you preset the stop ahead of filming to a known position on a track.

So that you know that you can pan really quick but there is a hard stop in place and softly deceleration during the pan?

A tripod with a pan head + clamp + huge chunk of foam or soft rubber?
Leo,

I may give this a try and see how it works. The angle would always be the same so having some sort of pan-lock(lack of a better tern) like this, without the abrupt stop would work. It would also provide some consistency.

The races we are at are also filmed by an independent company who puts a show on ESPN2. It's just a single commentator and camera guy. I am not sure of his cam, but it's a higher-up professional shoulder mount. He does it all just pivoting and turning with the shoulder mount. I imagine his experience and the bigger cam provide some stability. This was my initial reasoning for looking into a stabilizer. I think that I would lack the consistency though...
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