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Old March 7th, 2013, 07:25 AM   #1
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Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

Don't get too excited - I've no clips or fully proven settings to share, at least not yet.

However, I thought it might be a good idea to start a thread where we Canon Cinema EOS C100 and Steadicam Merlin owners could share tips and settings, test videos etc.

Today I stripped down the C100 and (for only the second time since I got it last November) took the excellent side grip off and replaced it with the Thumb Grip/Cover. Put on the Canon 10-22mm (with protective B+W UV filter) and its Canon EW-83E Hood plus a BP-955 battery and weighted it = 1687g (just kitchen scales so may be +/- a few g)

This is well within the camera weight specs for the Steadicam Merlin and means it should be "flyable" (albeit not for extended periods without a vest!) once I've found some suitable settings.

Next, I evaluated just "how limiting" it might be to operate the C100 once you've lost that lovely joystick for menu changes. Sure, no way to change ISO or shutter speed... but if you leave it at ISO 850 and (in my case) 1/50th sec shutter speed before you remove the side grip lead you can manage pretty well to nail exposure, focus etc. Just use the auto iris/ND filters as required, fine for most normal scenarios. Just point the cam at something suitable, then push Auto Iris until you get reasonable exposure as seen in the excellent WFM display, then if you're not happy point it at something slightly darker/lighter etc. then just set manual focus to where you want it (huge depth of field with these ultra wide angles anyway).

So certainly workable for flying - if not exactly perfect/full manual control of every single menu function. I can live with that as when I used to fly my beloved 7D (now on stills only duty) I rarely needed to changed many settings other than Iris - once I'd got in the ball park (stop flying, tweak the setting, start flying again type approach).

Then, with a pencil, I determined the C100s balancing point as being very slightly aft of the ND control wheel and near dead center in the other dimension (this is with the LCD pushed as far as it will go once it's flipped over and out to the back left for use). Being a tall body camera I expect the COG (center of gravity) to be a good few cm above this balancing point which might make for an interesting Merlin set-up to fly well.

Next, I tried putting the blue Merlin Plate onto the C100's base. Of course, the little Merlin Grub screw needs to use the smaller of the C100's two threaded holes, the one right near the extreme front of the C100 baseplate. As balancing point is close to the center line it'll be either holes C, H or M on the plate.

I tried hole C first as that potentially allowed the gimbal to be close to the determined COG.

Next, weights. I decided to try 1 mid and 1 finishing weight at the Spar Elbow and 1 start, 4 mid and 1 finishing weights at the Spar End. Just a guess really - i.e. more weight than when I used to fly my 7D on the Merlin (some of you willl remember my test videos on YouTube from 2-3 years back). I tried the spar extension at about 30 cm/12 inches, again just a starting guess. Then I adjusted with the Forward and Back, Left and Right trimming screws to try and get closer to a balance situation. For now, my Merlin Plate is at +4 position. Drop time is a bit too fast (about a second) so I'll have to play with the number of weights (maybe take the Spar End down to 3 mid weights and/or degree of spar extension etc. etc.) By the way, Z on the Gimbal was just set to default/zero, again for now. That one's for fine tuning when I eventually get close - at least with the way I typically try and set up a Merlin.

It's certainly not balanced right yet (only been on it an hour) and I've much work to do in the next few days and weeks - in and around my ongoing edit and shooting deadlines - to get it right. However, I think I'm (just) starting to get somewhere with this rig and its not too far off.

So, has anyone already determined any reasonably good settings? (even if they are only ball park possible start points like those above)

I think we should also consider the more prevalent (and a little heavier) Canon fit Tokina 11-16mm as they might well be very similar settings to my Canon 10-22mm. It would be great if we could get a thread going that helped each other nail this as I'm sure there are/will be many C100 owners thinking of using a Steadicam Merlin either now or in the near future. This thread could (I stress could...) become a 'go to' resource for everyone needing info on this.

If and when I get some settings I consider good enough to help everyone along a bit more (at least for the Canon 10-22mm lens) I'll be sure to post them up, hopefully sometime soon. When I get close I'll stick my Rode VMP on the top shoe and see how much difference that makes to the settings too.

So get your C100 and Merlins out and let's do some sharing of tips and eventually some nice flying videos! :-)
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Last edited by Andy Wilkinson; March 7th, 2013 at 12:33 PM. Reason: Adding info
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Old March 16th, 2013, 12:57 PM   #2
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

If I get a C100 as a B-camera for my C300. I'm definitely going to look into this. The C300 is a tad heavy for the Merlin. Often I want to just get a quick moving shot without the rigamarole of a vest and an arm.
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Old March 22nd, 2013, 10:44 AM   #3
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

I think I'm getting pretty close with my Steadicam Merlin and C100 settings now.

Interestingly, two user supplied settings popped up on the Tiffen site. Assuming my Canon 10-22mm is similar weight, or maybe 60-70g heavier, to a Canon 50mm F1.8 then it looks like all my settings are pretty close to what someone else has derived. There are also some user settings with the C100 plus the standard handle (the microphone/XLR one) still attached with a Zeiss 25mm F2.8 too. Of course, that's getting a bit heavier - think I'd rather go with my "featherlight" Rode VMP instead of the XLR/mic handle to save my arms from fatigue just a little longer ;-)

By the way, note that these settings are for the Steadicam Merlin 2 - where the stage numbers are engraved differently to the original Merlin that I have - see the Balance Instructions Diagram link on the webpage for more info. Mine has the metal gimbal though, it's not THAT old! However, the actual positions, spar settings and weights etc. (which is what matters) are essentially very similar to what I posted above.

Steadicam Merlin2 User Supplied settings

Just linking this info on this thread as it may help someone get further forward. When I get some free time I'll do some more on this.
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Old July 29th, 2013, 09:35 PM   #4
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

Any updates on this Andy? I just got a Merlin 2 and I am having a heck of time getting it setup. I tried settings from the cookbook page as a starting point but it barely balances and the camera constantly rotates around and wobbles. It won't actually tip over but it bobs and sways like a boat on the ocean. Something's just not right. In all fairness I have only been playing with it for about 90 minutes.....but I am hoping you can verify that you got it going good so I know it isn't hopeless.

Thanks for any feedback.
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Old July 30th, 2013, 12:55 AM   #5
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

Yeah, it takes time learning a steadicam doesn't it! 90 minutes is too early to give up. Give it 9 days before you start worrying and at 90 days you'll be a smooth operator.

Settings above are basically what I am still using with my C100 when I need those type of shots - which is not often in what I do - so I am sure they could still be improved on. I can't share any example clips as they are all client confidential - seems a lot of what I have done this year is under NDAs!

One other thing. Just a reminder again that Tiffen changed the labelling layout on the Merlin 2s stage compared to the original (that I have, where the numbers go from +4, through 0 at centre stage to -4) and no doubt a few other little things...but I guess you know that. Make sure you carefully watch the DVD that comes with the Merlin/read the instruction book from cover to cover.

Also, take care that you have the Z axis set up correctly - once you are close with all the weight and spar settings a couple of turns can have an effect on reducing that pendulum motion. I only play with Z when I think I am close on all other settings though. Note that ongoing fine adjustment on the trim controls is often required too, even when everything else is "nailed", even if its a half turn here, quarter turn there type thing from one shot to the next. It all becomes second nature after a while.

What I find with the Merlin Steadicam is that it's really about technique, a featherlight touch and tons and tons of practice once you're in the ball park with the settings. You can see why everyone is getting excited about the MoVi, despite its price point - an ability to just pick the thing up and get a great shot takes a lot more skill with a steadicam than it looks like you'll need with something like that!

You'll master it. Just analyse everything you are doing, document anything that seems important and keep at it. Have fun, don't let it frustrate you!

I had hoped that other poeple would have contributed tips and advice to this thread - so if anyone has any let us both know!
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Last edited by Andy Wilkinson; July 30th, 2013 at 01:51 AM. Reason: adding Merlin 2 and other info
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Old July 30th, 2013, 06:43 AM   #6
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

Thanks Andy. I will give it another go this afternoon and try to remain optimistic. It helps to hear that you have gotten your C100 working with the Merlin so I know there is hope. I didn't realize you were using the original merlin so thanks for pointing that out. I did not try your exact settings, I tried using ones from the Cookbook as a starting point and it didn't work out great.....yet.

It is just so floaty and has a real tendency to spin left and right at this point it seems almost impossible that this would ever become really usable. The pendulum effect is in full swing! (Pun intended).

Perhaps I'll post back later to see if I can get any closer on day 2.

Thanks again.
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Old July 31st, 2013, 02:12 PM   #7
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

Andy,
I have had some luck at getting this thing somewhat balanced finally. I however find that the Dovetail has to be positioned very far back....even beyond the number scale to get it to balance which has me a bit concerned. (approximately 11 if it existed) I have the Arc extended completely with 5 mid
weights and a finishing weight on the end and a mid weight and finishing weight on the front.

I can take the handle and set it on my desk and balance the unit until it sits perfectly level using the trimming tools. In fact the camera can sit upright on the handle with no hands and stays level mostly. However I experience a lot of rocking and yawing on the gimbal. It seems to spontaneously rotate left or right and also appears to "bob and rock" like a ship on the ocean. It seems a bit excessive and difficult to work with.

I guess I am wondering at what point can I call this balanced and start learning how to operate it effectively? Should there be some bobbing and rocking even when setup 100% balanced? Also, when I try the drop test, and let go of the lower spar, it seems to fall at about the right speed but the entire camera wants to rotate and it drops. so the camera does not stay forward during the test.

I guess any insight would be helpful. The resource on the web are slim and I see no real suggestions for a "floaty" camera. It is not tipping or falling.....but kind of bobbing randomly....even when still.

Thanks,
Marty
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Old July 31st, 2013, 03:01 PM   #8
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

Reply to self: ARGGGHHHH!

This is even more frustrating than I imagined. when doing some simple tests the camera just floats all over....like a ship on the ocean. I have it pointed forward and as I walk it tips and starts pointing up as it sways back and forth. I have tried adjusting the z ring up and down to no avail. The unit will balance somewhat on the edge of my desk and mostly sit still but still subtly rocks around the gimbal. As soon as I pick it up....it gets set in motion. After I steady it any movement left or right or front and back starts it rocking. To be clear.....it isn't major pendulum scenario....it is very minor but creates a boat/seasick effect in the lens. Other times, actually using it, it just turns randomly and bobs.

I guess I am at a loss because I am not sure if it actually balances any better than this and all of this is a result of me not knowing how to use it. I feel I need to get it as balanced as it can be before I begin training myself how to overcome it's shortcomings.

But to be 100% honest, if there is inherently this much bobbing and weaving in the design....I will be seriously disappointed. I would expect a device of this caliber and brand name can deliver better than this.

Again.....it could be I don't know how to get the most out of it.....but at the moment it is so sensitive to every little movement I cannot possible see how I am going to overcome that with technique alone. There must be some balancing I am not getting right.

Sorry for the rant. it's just every time I think I am getting close then the bottom falls out!

Thanks.
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Old July 31st, 2013, 11:49 PM   #9
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

OK - we're going to need more information - and please understand I am no steadicam expert, there are many on here who are - hopefully they will chip in with advice.

What lens are you trying to balance your C100 with?
If a zoom lens, what position have you selected? (moving lens elements within it can affect balance point)
Is this with or without the top XLR handle attached? Note: I assume its with the side grip still attached, right? (since the C100 is in most respects a dumb brick without that menu joystick!)
Any microphones attached?
And just to be sure... there are no leads or straps attached that can sway around are there!

You need a VERY light tip of finger/thumb type touch, on the collar above the gimball to steady the rig as you fly and effect any gradual turns. Also, very gradual acceleration and deceleration of body and arm movements are critical. It's almost graceful...think ballet or oriental tai chi.

I also find a two-handed approach to holding the rig works much better for me - but with the weight with this camera I guess you've found that out already. With the lighter 7D it could be done one handed, when required.

Developing a funny "steadicam walk" (well my wife and kids think I look funny when I use the thing) is part of it too, basically using your whole body as a suspension system.

Like I wrote. Expect this to be a slow learning process - but don't give up. While learning think of all the money you have saved on not having to put in an order for a MoVi....
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Old August 1st, 2013, 07:21 AM   #10
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

Sorry. Let me run down the setup exactly:

Canon C100 with just the handgrip attached. The LCD is open all the way to the left. Canon 955 BAttery and 2 SD cards installed.

Canon 17-55mm Lens at 17mm

C100 attached via the "C" hole per Merlin 2 cook book site. I do have to place the dovetail well past the #10 on the scale to balance it though.

Arc is set to maximum, 1 finish weight and mid weight on front, 4 mid weights and 1 finish weight on bottom
.
I can get the thing balanced (using the trim controls)on my desk where it is neither falling forward or back, nor side to side. It actually balanced on the handle flat on my desk. However, it slightly sways and rolls on the gimbal constantly....creating a dreamlike floating sensation to those who watch it.

When I try to test it and just move left and right the bottom tends to start swaying and the camera begins bobbing again. Front to back is more forgiving as it seems to stay a wee bit more stable. I have tried adjusting the Z control from -4 to -0 and it seems to not make any difference.

One thing that does concern me is I have since read several reviews that claim this "boat" effect is the Achilles heal of the Merlin. The lack of a solid shaft that runs directly under the stage is what causes this. I am trying not to react and just send it back (though that is what I want to do) but I am seriously wondering if I will ever eliminate this "boat" effect.

Also, I use the trimming to balance the camera forward and backward, but on the DVD the shooters use this to angle the pitch of the camera for shooting slight down or slightly up. This seems cool but in my case this seems to change the balance and encourages more swaying.

Anyway, thanks for any help and hope this information helps you see what I am trying or already tried.

I may give it another shot today. Who knows at this point!!?!
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Old August 1st, 2013, 10:13 AM   #11
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty Hudzik View Post
One thing that does concern me is I have since read several reviews that claim this "boat" effect is the Achilles heal of the Merlin. The lack of a solid shaft that runs directly under the stage is what causes this. I am trying not to react and just send it back (though that is what I want to do) but I am seriously wondering if I will ever eliminate this "boat" effect.
The "lack of a solid shaft under the stage" is not the issue here. The physics of the Merlin are well-proven (it was invented over 20 years ago, I've seen Garrett's prototype from that era). It's perfectly capable of smooth shots. It does have a more sensitive gimbal than its competitors which can complicate things for new users.

It would help if you posted a test video showing your issues, so they can be best identified.

One of the variables is operator input--if you are exerting too much force, it will cause the unit to bob. Try doing a slow walk forward with no fingers on the guide ring, i.e. just holding the rig by the handle. Does it still bob around as you described? If no, or at least less so, the additional bobbing is caused purely by your finger's input on the guide. Include that in your test video if possible.
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Old August 1st, 2013, 11:37 AM   #12
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

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Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
The "lack of a solid shaft under the stage" is not the issue here. The physics of the Merlin are well-proven (it was invented over 20 years ago, I've seen Garrett's prototype from that era). It's perfectly capable of smooth shots. It does have a more sensitive gimbal than its competitors which can complicate things for new users.

It would help if you posted a test video showing your issues, so they can be best identified.

One of the variables is operator input--if you are exerting too much force, it will cause the unit to bob. Try doing a slow walk forward with no fingers on the guide ring, i.e. just holding the rig by the handle. Does it still bob around as you described? If no, or at least less so, the additional bobbing is caused purely by your finger's input on the guide. Include that in your test video if possible.
Charles,
Thanks for your input. I can say that at this point it is not my other hand exerting any pressure on the gimbal. I have since watched a few videos that show this same exact "boating" issue on a glidecam. The gentleman demonstrates how raising and lowering the sled affects this bobbing and weaving. In his case it was easy to find the best setting. His rig was slightly bottom heacy...as I think mine is. With the Merlin 2, I would need to decrease the angle of the arc to raise the weights up, but when I do this, it forces me to have to rebalance everything....the camera wants to tip. I think this is because the weight does not move directly up but shifts forward and back with changes to the lower spar. I also have tried moving the z point under the stage and above the gimbal to -0 from the -2 that it arrived in to no avail. I have also moved it to -4 and that didn't help. Admittedly, I have tried so many things I am confused now!

Also....when I try the drop test, the entire unit spins like crazy....it doesn't drop perfectly sideways as I see in other tests. I catch it but the camera has spun on it's axis.

As I said, the camera is pretty darn stable when stationary....but gets easily sent into it's bobbing and floating condition with even slow walking movements. I will get it set up again and see if I can post video. Are you looking for the actual footage from the camera or video of the Merlin itself and it's behavior?

Thanks again.
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Old August 1st, 2013, 11:52 AM   #13
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

Raising the spar does change the geometry of the system, so it would involve a rebalance, certainly in top to bottom axes but potentially fore and aft also.

The video I recommend you make would not be from the camera on the rig, have someone else record you going through the paces you describe above. Let's see the rig in static balance, then roll over during the drop test etc. It's hard to know where to start otherwise. I think between me and others here we can get you sorted out.
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Old August 1st, 2013, 12:07 PM   #14
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

I will get right on it. I will tell you that the video I post will likely be shot on a cell phone since I have no other pro shooting gear with me today.

Thanks!
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Old August 1st, 2013, 12:16 PM   #15
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Re: Canon C100 on a Steadicam Merlin - Settings

Cel phone video will do fine! Just don't put it on a Merlin--ha
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