A1U going to Africa - need stabilization advice at DVinfo.net

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Sony HVR-A1 and HDR-HC Series
Sony's latest single-CMOS additions to their HDV camcorder line.


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Old June 8th, 2006, 11:49 AM   #1
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A1U going to Africa - need stabilization advice

Good afternoon all - and great forum.

I have an opportunity to take my A1U into Kenya and Tanzania in a couple of weeks for wildlife/cultural shooting.

From our briefing, it became apparent that a tripod would not be practical and, although I have a monopod that may be of limited use, most of the shooting will be hand held.

I have read a number of posts w.r.t the Glidecam 2000 and the Merlin, however, I couldn't find much on these stabilization units being used with the A1 (or HC1). I will have the opportunity to view both units this afternoon but again not with the A1 mounted.

Does anyone here have relevant first hand experience that they could share on the performance of these stabilizers? Incidentally, the camera will be used over the full range from stock - QM71 battery, no XLR audio - to loaded - QM71 battery, 737Y WA lens or 2037 teleconverter, LH77 Hood, AT897 mic (or SOny wireless) and Sony 10/20W light.

How does this range of accessories influence the decision on which stabilization unit is better suited to my needs? Also, due to confined spaces and the inevitable bumping of the unit, which is least finicky and will maintain its balance settings best?

So many questions, so little time .... !

Thanks in advance for your help!

Alan
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Old June 9th, 2006, 09:43 AM   #2
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Africa

Alan,
Check out this thread
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=59073
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Old June 9th, 2006, 10:54 AM   #3
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Thanks Lou,

That's a great thread covering just about every piece of equipment made for the HC1/A1.

I'm re-reading it now looking for stabilization options and so far have come across the Spiderbrace as potentially being an option. This may be good for the wildlife and scenery shots, however, being almost 6'5" I want to avoid downward angles when shooting/following people. Even with the brace tucked under one arm I'm not sure I could achieve a more stable shot than just shooting freehand.

... of course, I would love to be proven wrong by Spiderbrace owners.

My visit to the local pro video centre yesterday was disappointing in that a Merlin was not available. The Glidecam 2000 Pro was on hand, however, the sales rep indicated he had experienced difficulty setting up and using it on a similar sized - small - camera (Sony PDX10, I believe). Have others found this to be the case as well?

I'm going to New York next week and will look at the Merlin in B&H. In the meantime, I'm eagerly awaiting Simon's findings from a previous thread after setting up and testing his rig.

Any other suggestions over the next couple of days would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again,

Alan
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Old June 9th, 2006, 12:21 PM   #4
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I LOVE my Spiderbrace! I would say that it is your best option. Steadycam devices like the Merlin are good when you want to walk and follow an actor smoothly. They work wonderfully for that, but that is not what you want to do. You want to be able to point your camera and hold it as steady as possible. The Spiderbrace is exactly suited to just that. Not only that, but you can set the Spiderbrace mounted camera down in grass or on the ground almost anywhere and it acts like a little stand protecting your camera and keeping it raised above the ground. What you want is a Spiderbrace and a lanc controller (which is pretty much a neccessity).
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Old June 9th, 2006, 12:51 PM   #5
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I was in Zambia 6 mos ago with my A1U for 2 weeks. The A1 performed very well. One thing you must consider is when shooting HD it is very important to keep the camera stationary and let animals do the moving. I can't imagine going to Africa without a tripod/fluid head system. When I returned the first thing I did was to buy a better tripod, a Gitzo system, the tripod I took was not adequate. i can honestly say that the majority of poor shots I made was due to the unsteady tripod/head I had with me. If you are going to use a telephoto lens ( and I cannot imagine not using one in Africa) you need a tripod.Personally I didn't have much need for a stedicam, even though I considered taking one. Just too much stuff to transport.
DKane
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Old June 9th, 2006, 01:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Kane
I was in Zambia 6 mos ago with my A1U for 2 weeks. The A1 performed very well. One thing you must consider is when shooting HD it is very important to keep the camera stationary and let animals do the moving. I can't imagine going to Africa without a tripod/fluid head system. When I returned the first thing I did was to buy a better tripod, a Gitzo system, the tripod I took was not adequate. i can honestly say that the majority of poor shots I made was due to the unsteady tripod/head I had with me. If you are going to use a telephoto lens ( and I cannot imagine not using one in Africa) you need a tripod.Personally I didn't have much need for a stedicam, even though I considered taking one. Just too much stuff to transport.
DKane
Hi dkane
Can you give us a quick run down on exactly the Gitzo legs/head you have now and the leg/head that you took to Africa but that didn't match up.

many thanks

Last edited by Stu Holmes; June 9th, 2006 at 10:47 PM.
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Old June 9th, 2006, 02:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Holmes
Hi dkane
Can you give us a quick run down on exactly the Ditzo legs/head you have now and the leg/head that you took to Africa but that didn't match up.

many thanks
Sure
I orginally went to Zambia very concerned about the weight of our gear. I am an experienced traveller, I know how to pack light, and still our luggage weighed over 90 lbs. Much of this was photo gear for me and my wife. Much travel in Africe is done in small planes, Cessna 182 etc, so weght is a big issue. I brought a lightweight Slik tripod and a Bogen 700RC2 head. The head is junk and the legs are too weak to provide a stable platform. The only good thing I can say is this combination was light. I now own a Gitzo carbon fibre legs and G1380 fluid head. This sytem is not as light, 9 lbs, but infinitely superior in performance. From my experience, a quality tripod/fluid head is a must for Africa. Why spend all that time not to mention money, and not do it right. I will give up weight on other things to make up the difference in weight that my Gitzo creates.
DKane
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Old June 9th, 2006, 02:11 PM   #8
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Laurence/Dennis - thanks for the input.

Part of the problem Dennis is that a good percentage of the wildlife viewing is done from pop-top vehicles. I also read in the travel documents that within the national parks and game reserves it is illegal to set foot on the ground - making the use of a tripod (let alone a good one w/fluid head) in these situations next to impossible. I agree with you, however, that this would be the ideal setup especially when using the teleconverter.

Hence my dilema in finding alternative stabilization methods.

We are also taking a hot air balloon across the Masai Mara reserve and will be spending a couple of days in a Masai village as well as staying in tented camps. It is in these situations, interacting with the local people, where I envisioned the potential benefits of a Merlin/Glidecam/Spiderbrace type device.

Unfortunately this doesn't help much for within the vehicles .... unless the Spiderbrace could be adapted as a pseudo-tripod??

Dennis, did you encounter this at all in Zambia or were the video opportunities all from solid ground?
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Old June 9th, 2006, 02:26 PM   #9
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Alan
Good point. Most of the travel in Kenya is done in closed vehicles. A tripod would not be that valuable. From a truck I would recommend something like a spiderbrace or beanbag for legs but don't give up on the fluid head. When panning with the tele lens on the A1U you are using the equivalent of a 980 mm lens on a Nikon 35mm ! This is why a stable platform is important. In Zambia, things are more open. I set up my tripod in the seat right behind the driver of the Toyota Landcruiser. This truck has no top, unlike Kenya. Also setting food on the ground is extreemly dangerous. Once you are out of the vehicle on foot you become prey.
Regarding the stedicam, I don't know. Still seems like a lot of stuff.
DKane
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Old June 9th, 2006, 02:45 PM   #10
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Thanks Dennis,

Based on your previous post, can a fluid head be mounted on a Spiderbrace as a low (truck-top) tripod? I don't have a fluid head yet so I'm unsure about the mounting requirements. However, if that's what you're suggesting, and it's feasible, it just might be the ticket ... and I'd rather invest in a good piece of equipment that will be well used long after Africa.

Alan
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Old June 9th, 2006, 02:51 PM   #11
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Alan
My wife has it much easier than you or I, she just puts her Nikno D70 on a bean bag and she is good to go. Not us, we have concerns with movement, especailly with the tele lens and I am sure you will be using this a lot. I am not familiar with the spider brace, so no help here. In fact I really don't have a good suggestion for a closed vehicle, my experience has been with open vehicles.
DKane
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Old June 9th, 2006, 02:53 PM   #12
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Alan,
I agree with Dennis that the gitzo 1380 head with carbon legs is a good choice for the A-1. I have a Gitzo 1380 head with 1325 legs and it is the best tripod I have ever used; not only is it light, but it is very stable. I think it is so stable because carbon fiber does not give. Therefore, when you load the A-1 up with acc, it doesn't exagerate the vibration. Also the head is smooth as silk.
I also use the spider brace all the time, and it works great.
However, the most used stabilizer I use for nature is a monopod
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search
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Old June 10th, 2006, 04:14 PM   #13
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Lou, that's a more functional looking monopod than the one I currently own - might look at upgrading next week while in NY.

I'll also be looking at fluid heads and tripods to see if there is a good blend between performance and size.

Also put an order in for a Spiderbrace - for the price and based on the feedback, I can't go wrong.
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Old June 11th, 2006, 12:44 AM   #14
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I have a SpiderBrace 2 and a Velbon CX-570 tripod and a monpod. I wouldn't trade these stabilization accessories for anything else. If I did, I would be paying far more and getting something too bulky/heavy for my liking. Give the SpiderBrace a try; like Laurence says, it is amazing! Also, give Velbon a try; they make amazing tripods/monopods for what they cost.
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Old June 30th, 2006, 02:06 AM   #15
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Like Laurence and Alex (both of which are also from Orlando) have said, the Spiderbrace and the Velbon tripods are really what you're looking for. Plus, they're both cheap!!
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