Setting up the Steadicam Merlin for the Canon XHA1 - Tutorial at DVinfo.net

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Old July 12th, 2008, 05:19 AM   #1
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Setting up the Steadicam Merlin for the Canon XHA1 - Tutorial

I finally made a video tutorial that I think should help folks set up the Steadicam Merlin for use with the Canon XHA1.

I used the HV30 to shoot this, since the A1 was being used in the shot.
http://exposureroom.com/members/skum...633f8cc8f4e87/
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Old July 12th, 2008, 09:47 AM   #2
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Hi Shiv,

I was excited to see your video posting.... I sometimes need some inspiration to get my Merlin out of the bag and onto my cam.
I appreciate your efforts and sharing... the tut was well produced.

Not meaning to 'rock the boat' (no pun intended)..... BUT.... when I saw your tut using 4 bottom weights I thought this might work 'better' than my settings (5 bottom wieght + 1 end weight) however after removing one of my bottom weights and trying it I really struggled to get it balanced!

I spent quite a bit of time twisting those fine trim adjusters.....
then .... I gave up !!

Adding one extra bottom weight (back to 5 + 1 end weight)
it balanced easily again !!

I do get some pendulum swing though.... and havent really spent a huge amount of time since I got it practising.

Any comments on this would be appreciated.

Shawn

EDIT: EDIT : EDIT : EDIT

Sorry, my mistake I see you used :
1 STARTER weight + 4 MID weights + 1 END weight (starter, end weights are smaller than MID weights)
I will try that now.... and report back.

Shawn








Nice video....
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Old July 12th, 2008, 09:57 AM   #3
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Hi Shiv.....

I'm back after a few minutes of testing...... well my report is as follows:
That configuration really works well.
Easy to balance and seemingly less pendulum.
1 STARTER + 4 MID + 1 END weights works very well.

Thanks for your help, I will leave this as my XH-A1 Merlin config.

Well done !

Shawn
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Old July 12th, 2008, 02:49 PM   #4
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Shawn,

Glad to hear it works well for you!

Honestly, since you can see clearly in the video that, that combination has no pendulum effect (which from the number of people I've helped on this is the biggest problem) I was simply going to say, "Look at the video" :).
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Old July 13th, 2008, 02:23 AM   #5
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thanks Shiv,

It's nice to see a tutorial like that!

I fiddle around and fiddle around and get there eventually but it's good to see your settings and exactly how you did it. I would rather see the adjustment than the result - it gives me more confidence that I'm on the right track
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Old July 13th, 2008, 08:22 PM   #6
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looks good Shiv,
I used to use a very similar setup and the only thing about that setup i noticed was slight vibrations in my footage. I managed to get rid of them by realising it was due to no g-platz screw being used.
I was fine for a while and then out of nowhere vibrations started to appear in my footage.
So i then tried using the N hole instead of I and trimmed extremely down to the bottom of the trimmer. this places the a1 on the merlin balanced but in a position which allows for the g platz to be pressing against the lens hood (with your setup, in hole I, the gplatz would be pressing up against one of the rings on the lens.
Its what worked for me. I also found it to be slightly more comfortable for holding the merlin as your arms dont need to be streatched out as far.
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Old July 13th, 2008, 10:59 PM   #7
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Ger,

You can blanace the Merlin (with the A1) in a hundred sifferent ways. The most important part is that you have the rig just slightly bottom heavy and that is achieved with the settings I showed (the position of the spars, the weights and the 2 turns out from lightly seated for the gimbal).

The trimming and things are just that "trimming" :).

So you idea about using the N hole instead of the I hole is probably better if you have a vibration issue because you're correct about the I hole and the g-platz screw hitting up against the Iris ring.

I've personally not had vibration issues because I use rubber pads between the Mounting plate and the A1 and that's really to do with what I think is a flawed design of the A1. See this picture
http://exposureroom.com/members/skum...54099d0a54760/

But the combination of the N hole and g-platz screw is a good one too.
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Old July 15th, 2008, 09:16 PM   #8
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Another problem I've been having is the mounting screw coming loose no matter how hard i tighten it.
I overcame that with double sided sticky taping the dovetail plate to the canon as well as screwing the screw in.
And also if you do use the g-platz screw its very easy to loose it. I have some thread attached to mine and the merlin just in case.

There certainly are a few little design flaws but nothing that would cause me to go with any other product.
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Old July 15th, 2008, 11:09 PM   #9
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Truly nice video.

I take it, the A1 with the Wide Angle Lens is just too heavy for the Merlin?
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Old July 16th, 2008, 12:59 AM   #10
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Ger,

I agree there are a few little design flaws. Personally, I'd like a larger grip and the grip should have a lip that extend (from the top edge) all around the grip so one doesn't have to squeeze the grip so hard all the time. With the lip the weight of the Camera and Merlin assembly will really come on the top of your fist without really having to hold on tight.

Brad,
Thanks. I'm not sure but I guess it is because that lens is quite heavy and the A1 is very close of the weight limit of the Merlin. But I believe the new all metal gimbal may be able to handle the extra weight.
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Old July 16th, 2008, 09:47 AM   #11
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I recently got the red-eye .65 WA adaptor to compliment the rig.

Its just about light enough to use.
The only weight i have left over is a starter weight as opposed to a mid, with this adaptor on.

But it works well. A little concaving which can be fixed in post, although i like the look.
You cannot zoom too much through either, focus hunts too much.
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Old July 16th, 2008, 01:03 PM   #12
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Ger,

You probably already know this but I thought I should mention it. The wider the focal length the smoother the footage looks. So when using a Merlin kind of stabilizer I wouldn't zoom in at all.
Iíve tried zooming in (stock lens) and the footage looks terrible (compared to when shot wide).

So that would mean the WA weighs mid weight - starter weight?
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Old July 17th, 2008, 09:10 AM   #13
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I think the adaptor weighs 100gms,
whatever that is in terms of merlin weights.
I've found to have one starter (or finisher, but it looks ugly) left over is about right.

Its worth mentioning alright Shiv. I wouldn't, and cant anyway with this adaptor, use zoom. As a general rule, i never do anyway, except for the odd very slow one. Or quick one to reframe and cut out later.
But thats the difference between a wide angle adaptor and a wide angle lens. One allows you to, the other doesent. If you dont need to why pay the extra €2000 aprrox extra for one that allows full zoom through. At least thats my perception from what I've read up on the subject from the guys on this site.
For merlin use, i believe there is only 2 options. One from Century Optics, and one fom redeye.

I hear you about the grip Shiv, would be nice not to have to squeeze so hard.
So how long can you operate the merlin/A1 for without tiring?
After quite a bit of regular use im up to about 20mins (ish) easily.
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Old July 17th, 2008, 11:29 AM   #14
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I think you guys may be talking about two different ideas--(correct me if I am wrong)--Shiv, you are suggesting not to shoot with the Merlin at anything other than full wide angle while Ger is talking about zooming within a shot...?

The Merlin is designed to be stable at tighter focal lengths and it can be quite beautiful to shoot this way. It does require an ever-lighter touch, and focus can begin to become an issue but telephoto shots are certainly possible. I encourage all stabilizer users to practice these as it is helpful for wider shots as well.

The classic X exercise (where you place an X at the end of a hallway or on a wall in a large room, and slowly walk towards it and away from it keeping the X in the middle of your screen) is great for this. With the longer lenses it becomes more challenging. However, after practicing for a while with a long lens, do a pass at wide angle and should be noticeable how much better and more accurate your operating will have become just in that short a time.

These sort of drills, while much more boring than running around chasing people, dogs etc. with the rig, are absolutely critical to nailing down the basic skills of operating a stabilizer.
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Old July 17th, 2008, 12:06 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
These sort of drills, while much more boring than running around chasing people, dogs etc. with the rig, are absolutely critical to nailing down the basic skills of operating a stabilizer.
Charles,

It would be great to see an article a new article, entitled something like, "Ten Drills to Practice Basic Steadicam Skills."

I think such an article would be very helpful to the many of us looking at the Steadicam as a newly asffordable option.

Just like a baseball player has certain fudamentals that must be practiced, what are similar fundamentals for steadicam work and what are some drills to practice them.

You mention the x on the wall and practice at mild telephoto.

How about horizon, how should it be seen in the picture and what is a drill to practice.

I don't know what the basics are (thus the request for the article), but some possible things might be:
1. Changing direction (L-R, R-L) while holding an actor.
2. Lead on a moving actor
3. Adjusting to unanticipated movements, and ways to do it.
4. Stairs
5. Sitting to Standing, Standing to Sitting
6. Tilt Down and Tilt Up
7. Moving, hold, move again (same or different direction)
8. Keeping proper frame on differnt shots (closup, close, two-shot, etc.)

I don't know how accurate my list is, but it's the idea.

Again, this is not an article to replace what is learned at a workshop. Rather, it is a basic outline of the fundamental steadicam skills and some simple drills to practice to improve them.

Oh, and then it would be great to read an article about working with someone to guide you, warn you, stop you, etc. What the mechanics are and perhaps some stories about good experiences and some others (hopefully not too many) about steadicam duos gone wrong.
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