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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).


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Old June 2nd, 2008, 08:04 PM   #1
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XH-A1 Steadicam Suggestions

So recently I've been browsing the web for some DIY steadicams. I've found alot of different ones and have built two. "Ben's 8$ steadicam" from YouTube and the infamoius 14$ steadicam. I've built them both with minor modifications but long story short they all feel incredibly cheap. I'm a little bit skiddish of putting a camera so expensive on something made of PVC pipe or with a shoddy mount. Do you guys have any suggestiong for moderately priced Steadicams I could purchase or awesome DIY designs (I'm pretty mechanical) I live in the states but have no problem ordering overseas if they'll ship it.
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Old June 2nd, 2008, 08:14 PM   #2
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Stick with the original. I've used a lot of Steadicam clones. IMHO nothing comes close to the quick balancing, tool-less design and stability of the Steadicam brand. They've had 32 years to get it right.

I have not tried building any of the DIY stabilizers. But I have seen some pretty wobbly footage from some of them. Get a Steadicam, learn to balance it properly and fly it often to keep up the skills.

The Steadicam Flyer is ideal for the XHA1, however, if that is out of your budget, they have smaller units. Take a look at the Merlin.
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Old June 2nd, 2008, 08:50 PM   #3
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I'm ganna check out the merlin... I probably should've thought my purchase through a little bit more as now I am relatively broke but I have a few small paying gigs coming up so hopefully that'll nulify the price of said merlin.
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Old June 2nd, 2008, 08:50 PM   #4
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Actually I would say the Pilot is the ideal rig for the A1, almost tailor-made for it! Nestled neatly between the Flyer and Merlin price range. However I would guess that anyone who is playing around with handheld homebuilds would even find the Merlin expensive (and incidentally, the A1 will fly on the Merlin, you just have to be limited with accessories or your arm will be put to the test).
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Old June 2nd, 2008, 08:52 PM   #5
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btw John, my shooting career began in earnest 20 years ago at a small production company in West Springfield...! Shot local commercials and corporate video for about 3 years (while I was living in Northampton).
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Old June 2nd, 2008, 09:48 PM   #6
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Wow that's awesome... that's actually where I "grew" up and by that I mean spent the first, and only, 19 years of my life. That's really strange... another one of those "small world" events. Hopefully you'll see a few videos I shoot up on here relatively shortly. Thanks for the tips, if I could spend under 1k on a steadicam I'd be happy but I'm also looking long term professionability (thats not a word)...
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Old June 3rd, 2008, 08:11 AM   #7
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Hi....

I have a Steadicam Merlin..... and am very happy with it.
It was the max. I was prepared to spend, but I agree completely
(after building the $14 DIY)

If you can afford it, dont waste your energy with the 'toys'
this baby is steeped in years and years of design.

It isn't that easy to learn to master... and I still have a LONG way to go....
but it is one of my 'working projects'.

Any other help with the MErlin I can offer, let me know.

Good Luck

Shawn L
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Old June 3rd, 2008, 08:33 AM   #8
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Glidecam Smooth Shooter/X-10

I've been using the Glidecam Smooth Shooter for about 5 years, first with a PD-150 and now with an A1. Now they've upgraded to the X-10 which has two spring-loaded arms. I have no direct experience with any Steadicam product, but I can tell you that the Glidecam has always done a great job, and at a price that lets you get your foot in the door of camera stabilization.

Steadicam certainly has more bells and whistles and looks a little more slick, but if you're shooting with an A1 chances are you may not need that price premium. There's a lot of competition out there in this market now, but it can be hard to get your hands on everything before you buy.
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Old June 3rd, 2008, 12:50 PM   #9
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The Glidecams do get the job done, however there is a regular impression out there that with the Merlin, you are paying a premium for the name brand or "bells and whistles" as Jacob calls them. I would say that there are a number of benefits to the Merlin that are much more fundamental than that.

Probably the first is the subtlety of the stage controls; adjusting fore-aft and side-side (something that you do constantly while working with the rigs) is much more precise and easier than on the Glidecams, which have an admittedly clunky interface. The Merlin is notably lighter, which translates into more flying time/less fatigue. Along those lines, the weight is positioned above your wrist rather than to the side as with the GC, which is less tiring to operate. And the gimbal, particularly the new metal-bearing version, is more accurate and linear. All of these factors add up to improved operating and performance, which should directly mean better shots. Not to say that great shots cannot be achieved with the GC but you will have more to overcome along the way.

In the possible "bells-and-whistles" category is the quick-release mechanism and tripod plate that allows you go from flying to shooting on sticks in seconds--won't improve your shots but it is very handy and convenient and may actually save your bacon if you are shooting an event.
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Old June 3rd, 2008, 11:18 PM   #10
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Settings for Merlin

I have an Panasonic DVC 80 and have flown it on the Merlin for about a year now. I have hooked up my Sony wireless to the DVC 80 and find it still balances out beautifully.
I just got my XH-A1 and using the "user" settings from the Tiffen website I tried to balance my A1. Although I must say I didn't spend a lot of time tweaking the Merlin I am finding that the A1 waffles quite a bit. I am just wondering if anyone had managed to balance the A1 successfully and if you if you would mind sharing your settings?
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Old June 4th, 2008, 08:12 AM   #11
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Guy:

I strongly recommend you (and all others) do take the time to dial in the Merlin yourself rather than continue to rely on "cookbook" settings; they are sort of the Steadicam equivalent of the "full auto" setting on a camcorder. Understanding the effects of shifting masses via the various options available in the Merlin (adding weight in different places, adjusting the caliper, dialing "z" into the gimbal etc) is something that can only be learned by trying out the options yourself, and it will directly improve one's operating to understand the effect that each demonstrates. Also whenever you might need to add an accessory, especially under the duress of an actual shoot, the more practice you have balancing the Merlin from scratch, the better prepared you will be for that eventuality.

I will freely admit that it is a bit heady and I can generally balance any other Steadicam model faster than a Merlin myself, but that's exactly why I don't refer to the cookbook settings for the odd times that I use a Merlin.
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Old June 4th, 2008, 09:03 AM   #12
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I echo the comments made by Charles. Totally forget the cookbook. Once you get your head around balancing it becomes fast and second nature.
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