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Old January 10th, 2010, 04:11 PM   #16
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I just watched the video which is an excellent introduction to using the 5DII with a Merlin. That is definitely a Manfrotto Quick Release plate he is using. The principles should be the same with the 7D as they are much the same weight.

If you are considering purchasing a Steadicam Merlin heed the warning on the video. You need a very strong arm to fly even a camera as small as the 5D/7D for more than a few minutes. It also takes a lot of practice to get comfortable with balancing & flying. For the first couple of days I was almost in tears with frustration at my inability to balance my Merlin.

Incidentally if you are using an IS lens you should switch off stabilisation when flying on the Steadicam otherwise the IS will fight the Steadicam. The IS system won't know what is unintended movement & will try and compensate for any and all motion. So it will actually look more jittery with IS on than with IS off.
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Old January 11th, 2010, 03:46 AM   #17
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Thanks for the info Nigel and Dale. I'm certainly aware that there is a steep learning curve with Steadicams and knew about the IS but it's good to have that confirmed. I'm also aware that I'll have to set my zooms at a fixed wide angle and leave them there and use a mid range F stop to get deep depth of field etc. if I want flying/balancing to be slightly simpler/possible! I'm also aware that it will be for a few special shots, not something I'll be using all day! (but on that front I believe the Steadicam Merlin is lighter than some of the alternatives) - and the arm/vest is a future possibility if not.

Up to now I've been using a big dolly (B Hague) with my EX3 on it, shooting at 720p (50 fps) to get some "floating type shots" (corporate videos I've done at 3M in Dublin and O2 in Slough - if anyone's interested see the '3M Showcase' video on my website or YouTube/Vimeo etc. for example - some of the early shots about 20 seconds on). The clients involved loved the effect and I'll use it more with these/other clients I'm sure - but as we all know a dolly is yet more big heavy gear to cart around and assemble and you are restricted in mobility/fluidity. The possibility of using one of my much more portable, small cams (7D or HC1) on a Merlin for those types of shots has many attractions for me (since I've yet to earn enough to have an assistant to carry all my gear!).

Anyway, back to the Merlin Steadicam and Manfrotto slide plate question. Can anyone confirm if I will need to drill any holes etc. to mount the slide plate on (assuming that's the route I take) or not? I had read on another thread that without any additional mounting plate the 7D (or maybe it was a 5D MkII - but they are so similar) has a tendency to rotate/move all too easily if attached directly to the Merlin's plate. I'm aware that the cams position on the plate will need to be marked/kept the same each time it's mounted to aid balancing.

Again, all info is much appreciated!
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Old March 17th, 2010, 05:13 PM   #18
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Just a bump on this thread regarding the question I had in the post above. Thinking of pushing the button on a Merlin Steadicam very soon for some upcoming corporate work I've just had confirmed (I should have plenty of time to get up to speed with it before I use it 'in anger').

As always, any advice is appreciated!
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Old March 17th, 2010, 05:23 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Diewert View Post
This is a test flight with the 5D2 and a Glidecam 2000 and 17-40 f4L. It was the second time I've tried it. I really need to practice some more. Especially I find panning/tilting to be tricky. But I've seen some really nice footage from this combo, so I'll keep working at it. The only difference with the 7d would be that you would need a 10mm lens to get this wide. I'm going to try it at 40mm which would replicate roughly a 24mm lens on the 7d.

5D2-Glidecam 2000 F4 17-40L - Test Flight on Vimeo
Wow! Thats great for only the second time. I have the flowpod and I am still getting a lot of left right tilting.
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Old March 17th, 2010, 06:17 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Wilkinson View Post
Just a bump on this thread regarding the question I had in the post above. Thinking of pushing the button on a Merlin Steadicam very soon for some upcoming corporate work I've just had confirmed (I should have plenty of time to get up to speed with it before I use it 'in anger').

As always, any advice is appreciated!
Hi Andy
I can't add much to what I said before. The Merlin works fine with my 5D and a wide angle lens. I've used it a few times before with my A1. That's all. I don't have masses of experience. It worked OK first time with the 5D.
My Merlin at least seems to have a mind of its own. Depending on which side of the bed it got out of, no doubt. It doesn't seem to like being reduced to a formula or being too predictable.
The trick is to use a basic setup for the plate and then get used to finessing it. As you are probably aware, the plate has a various locating holes and which ones you use varies from camera to camera. These get the camera in the right ball park in terms of balance. The rest has to be done by feel and by using the adjusting screws. It's fairly intuitive though one you get a sense of where you are trying to get the centre of mass located in relation to the pivot point.
However, once you think you have got it all sorted it then seems to be different the next time you set it up.
I used an old Nikon 28mm prime lens which doesn't weigh much. I think you may run into trouble if you are using something like the Canon zoom lenses (or any other big lenses) because of the extra weight on the nose.
But if you can shoot with a small wide angle I think you will get good results quickly.
I can understand the seductiveness of using a Manfrotto plate. Personally I very rarely do any steadicam work and when I do it's a one-off within a film. So using a quick release plate isn't such an issue.
If you do use one I suppose that it's going to cause more trouble if you decide to use the Merlin with another camera.
I'd buy the Merlin and give it a try before deciding whether to go to the trouble of attaching a quick release plate.
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Old March 18th, 2010, 04:39 AM   #21
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Thanks Richard. Merlin just ordered! Let the fun (or will it be frustration?) begin! One way or another I'll master it though!

Will use it with my Canon 10-22mm set on a fixed zoom point to reduce variation in the centre of gravity.
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Old March 18th, 2010, 04:58 AM   #22
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Hurray! Good luck.
Looking forward to hearing how you get on.
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Old March 18th, 2010, 01:05 PM   #23
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Andy, did you order the arm & vest as well? Unless you do short takes or have the arms of Popeye even the little Merlin is very, very tiring just supported by your own muscles.
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Old March 18th, 2010, 01:35 PM   #24
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I hear you Nigel! I'm not a weakling... but accept that I may have to go down that road as many have mentioned this weight thing before! One step at a time!

I just ordered the basic Merlin Steadicam for starters (590 quid inc VAT from a reputable UK dealer with the words Park and Cameras in their name - no UK sponsors on here so I think that's OK to mention). I nearly bought one on Fleabay UK a few days ago - watched the auction and was amazed that it went for 495 quid + 8 quid delivery. Because my business, Shooting Image Ltd, is VAT rated, by the time I claim the VAT back of my quarterly tax bill I might as well have a new one for a fraction more. I'd rather that than a second hand one that might come with an unknown history/abuse as when I get gear I baby it and keep it like new anyway.

I envision using it for the odd shots here and there to "spice up" some of my corporate video work rather than the extended use that I suspect Wedding/Event videographers have to contend with. But if I need a vest etc., sure I'll buy it! The great news is that the budget on the 3 new films I've just landed will more than cover any extra gear I need to buy like this if push comes to shove - or I'll start lifting more pints to excercise my right arm! (a more probable scenario!)

EDIT: One more thing. I found this guys blog a few weeks ago (and film within it) about the Steadicam Merlin and Canon 7D combo very useful in helping me decide on spending the dosh on the Merlin. Posting it here as others may find it very useful too.

http://www.elskid.com/blog/?p=583

I'll be sure to post in the coming weeks on how I get on!
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Old March 19th, 2010, 02:12 PM   #25
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I've used the Merlin with my A1 for half an hour with no discomfort.
The 5D is lighter I think.
Wouldn't want to use it all day though (without a vest).
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Old March 19th, 2010, 04:35 PM   #26
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Hi again Richard. Merlin arrived today - what a wonderful piece of precision engineering!

I won't have time to try it properly for a week or two...maybe 3...I've just started (yet another) big corporate job in the Midlands and I'm also trying to redecorate the living room and juggle stuff I'm doing in York...my wife going to Vienna with work/me looking after the kids whilst she's away etc....and so it goes on...but I'll spend any spare time (if I get any!) reading the manual/watching the DVD.

A few days ago I did try walking my 7D around on a Manfrotto monopod loosely held at the top just to get the "feel" of the likely weight on the arm. Sure, 15-30 minutes would be fine - I think. After all, for what I envision, 10-20-30 seconds of resulting "wow" shots edited in with the other stuff should be enough for the type of work I do. I'll report back when I've had some proper play time.

I can see it's going to be a big learning curve but I'm very excited!
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Old March 19th, 2010, 04:43 PM   #27
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Agreed. They are nicely made and designed.
Older versions had plastic gimbals. Which they replaced with metal. So you might have bought one of those off Ebay. Good that you didn't go down that road.
Have fun with it. Glad to hear you are so busy.
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Old April 16th, 2010, 05:46 AM   #28
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7D and Steadicam Merlin - Initial Experience Notes

OK, been so busy that the first time I had a chance to try the 7D and Merlin was this morning - yep, up until now all I could manage was a quick peak in the case and a read of the instructions/watching the DVD.

Anyway, after a bit of trial and error I've found some settings which, whilst I'm sure they are not the best, seem a good start point so posting here.

This is for a 7D with strap removed, Canon 10-22mm F3.5, with UV filter on and Canon sunshade. Lens initially set to 14mm. There is no IS on that lens but if it had IS that would obviously have been turned off (I'll master this lens before I attempt it with my Canon 17-55 IS F2.8 anyway). No other attachments - I have a Manfrotto 577 quick release adapter and slide plate but did not need/want to use it.

Merlin plate Hole 'O'
Merlin plate straight front edge positioned at exactly plus 3, with the 3 mark showing i.e. quite a way forward.
Front/Back and L/R blue thumbscrew adjustments to balance by trial and error (front/back is nearer the front and left/right is nearer the left)
One start weight at the Elbow.
One start, 2 middle and one end weight at the end of the Spar.
Spar opened out to about mid marked position (about 12.5 inches from top of Merlin camera plate to top of spar where the start weight is. As others have noted, there is a little play on the Spar elbow even when tightly locked so make sure you just gentle open it to it's maximum drop position (about 10mm lower than the other extreme).

I tried various other combinations - some fouled the sunshade onto the upper Spar as the camera was further back - so were unworkable as I really want the sunshade on to stop any flare etc.) but those mostly seemed much too bottom heavy anyway whereas this one seems to "float" and is more stable (to my very amateur Merlin Steadicam operators eyes). No way am I ready to post an example yet but I can see this is going to be a fun (and at times frustrating, as well as long) learning experience. And obviously, I'm not saying these are the best settings for this lens set-up - but it seems to be a good start. It's not a heavy rig (but I would not want to use it all day). For what I want I can see this is going to be just fine.

One thing that did (pleasantly) surprise me was how in an hour or so of trial and error (after watching the DVD and reading the instructions beforehand) I got to something "workable". The other surprise was that changing the focal length of the 10-22 between either extreme seemed to have little effect on unbalancing the system - nothing that a quick tweak could not easily sort out.
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Old April 16th, 2010, 10:39 AM   #29
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UPDATE: Played around a bit in my back garden - lovely sunny day with blue sky and fluffy white clouds despite the doom and gloom aircraft grounding volcanic ash weather forecasts...and (amongst some awful stuff) I got a few clips I'm pleased with. It was a little breezy - which I know is the enemy of Merlin Steadicams - and whilst I need a lot of practice I think my settings are certainly getting near to where they might need to be.

In the spirit of this forum, I'd love it if an experienced Merlin/7D with Canon 10-22 person could dial in my settings and give us (and specifically a Steadicam novice like me!) some pointers on shortcomings/directions to improve on them. My drop time is about a second.

At least I have something "workable" so I can get dramatic moving shots of the kids when the volcanic ash starts snowing down later today against a darkened dramatic red sky at sunset.....(British humour) :-)
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Old April 17th, 2010, 08:33 AM   #30
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UPDATE 2: Been having tons of fun with the Merlin tracking my younger daughter as she learns to ride a bike on Palace Green near Ely Cathedral today. Sure, still lots of junk shots (90% I should think) but the 10% make it well worthwhile, as do the strange stares some gave us! Used the Merlin for an hour or so without serious arm fatigue. Maybe if things go well I'll post a few clips strung together in a rough edit in the next few days - depends if I can squeeze a quick edit in around all my other 'to dos'. Still nowhere near where I want to be with this Merlin but I can definitely see the potential. Got some relatively stable shots even when running!

I've also found one revision to the settings posted above. If I use Merlin Plate hole 'M' then the door on the base of the 7D for battery changing is fully accessible (it's partly covered if I use hole 'O'). This is an obvious advantage. Using hole 'M' means that the Left/Right trim thumbwheel needs to be moved almost to the extreme right (when looking at the 7D from the viewfinder end). It's close to maximum travel but still allows enough exposed thread (2-3 mm) for fine trimming - which is all you need I think - at least with my setup today (7D/Canon 10-22/B+W Circular Polarizer/Canon Lens Shade EW83E).

Fun times ahead!
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