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Old January 24th, 2014, 02:11 PM   #1
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Steadicam?

I am just starting out and see a lot of videos with a shots here in there with movement that I am not able to do with my current set up. I am considering getting a steadicam to give my shots a little diversity, but it has been suggested that I not do that.

I was suggested to just upgrade all the other things (mics, lights, etc) better before going with a steadicam

What do you guys say? They said a lot of young videographers get one and overuse them, which very well may be the case.

What do you guys think or suggest?
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Old January 24th, 2014, 05:00 PM   #2
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Re: Steadicam?

Make sure your audio is right first. Basic steadicams are affordable now, it's probably worth getting one just for when it might be useful.
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Old January 24th, 2014, 05:34 PM   #3
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Re: Steadicam?

Be aware it will take some dedication to learn how to adjust it and use. It's not as easy as it looks, but when you get it right it's the most beautiful thing.
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Old January 24th, 2014, 08:50 PM   #4
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Re: Steadicam?

It depends what you are shooting! I do mainly weddings so yes I have a stedicam but only use it during the photoshoot so I can do "roundie roundies" and such shots.

Just bear in mind that they are not practical to use in restricted spaces either. You don't say what cameras you are running or what you shoot so it's tough to make practical suggestions

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Old January 25th, 2014, 07:25 AM   #5
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Re: Steadicam?

Steadicams are great to have and can add a lot. They do involve a significant investment of time and effort.

My first piece of advice is to do one of the two day Steadicam courses that various people offer.

This will let you know whether Steadicam really is for you, but will also be invaluable in teaching you all the basics that will really get you started well.
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Old January 25th, 2014, 12:55 PM   #6
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Re: Steadicam?

I have to agree. I am also a young operator who jumped into Steadicam, and while it can sometimes be the only way to get a particular shot, it is not the only way to introduce motion. Sliders are a lot more affordable and easier to operate.

The biggest challenge with Steadicam is focus-pulling, really. You can't do it by yourself, and you need a wireless follow-focus, which costs as much as the rig. So if you use manual focus lenses like I do, you are really limited to walk-and-talk or other tracking uses that don't require a change in focus.

Working from a tripod and framing carefully can get you such good stuff! I try not to move the camera at all any more.
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Old January 26th, 2014, 09:40 PM   #7
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Re: Steadicam?

I say go for it. I picked up a used Glidecam 4000HD with vest and arm for under a grand, read all the forums on technique and had a buddy who has done the course with Tiffen help me for the first couple of test runs. That was three years ago and out of all my pieces of support gear, it is the most called-upon even over a tripod believe it it not! Once you really get the hang of it there's virtually endless options for shots.
Here's the caveat...
I was flying an XF 300 which had a kick butt face detect auto focus but it was heavy. Now that I'm using a C100, it's a little different and I'm considering picking up an XA25 just because a good AF makes life so much easier! Well worth the trade off of deeper depth of field.
If you are flying manual lenses, it's really just a matter of measuring off your focus distances and practicing the shot.
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Old January 27th, 2014, 09:21 AM   #8
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Re: Steadicam?

Man I never really thought about the focus aspect of it. Is that what makes it difficult to control? So the way people use the steadicam to do shots that require a change in focus is a wireless follow focus? How does that work.

Currently I shoot a lot of interviews and b-roll. I guess a steadicam isn't needed for that kind of video, but it would add a interesting shot or two for each video.

I'm currently shooting on a DSLR Canon T3i

I may have to look into sliders. I don't know a lot about them. How do they work.
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Old January 27th, 2014, 11:34 AM   #9
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Re: Steadicam?

For a lot of steadicam shots once the focus is set for a certain distance the operator stays at that distance. (called Zone Focus--you have a zone of maybe 1 foot to as much as however many feet depending on the lens F/Stop and other factors) Those shots are pretty well controlled unlike 99% of run and gun type stuff which is uncontrolled and the operator has no choice but to go for it no matter what. That type of work is what AUTO FOCUS was/is for if the camera has it and it's any good and not necessarily steadicam type work.
Watch the NFL sometime. They're now using steadicams in the end zones for the celebrations. I'd bet deep F stops with the lenses pretty wide so DoF is decent and frankly, having done TV work sometimes it's the shot and not the technical aspect that the director cares about.
If your doing run and gun I'd make the steadicam pretty low on my list and put my money and effort into the more important areas like sound, lighting and operating.
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Old January 27th, 2014, 02:50 PM   #10
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Re: Steadicam?

I got a blackbird steadicam mainly for weddings and have not regretted it, I only start using it from the reception since the first part of the day involves too much running around (I work solo) and then a steadicam would only slow me down, once I"m in the venue I have all the time to set the steadicam up and use it. The blackbird sets up very quickly and stabilizes quickly as well, below is a compilation of shots done with a t2I:


Eventough setting and balancing the steadicam is done very quickly it takes a lot of practice to get it right, you can start fairly quickly with some basic straight forward moves but once you start to introduce controlled tilt and pan movements you are a few months further. :)

I only use the steadicam for some specific shots but specifically for my trailers that end up on my website they have proven to be a very valuable part in selling my services, if used right they can give your footage a professional appearance.
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Old January 27th, 2014, 07:49 PM   #11
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Re: Steadicam?

Brock,

Don hit the nail on the head: all of my Steadicam shoots but one have been done with Zone Focus, because you literally can't touch the camera during the shot or it ruins the effect. The one exception was done with a rented Bartech follow-fouces, which is remote control and requires either proper, repeatable blocking or a puller who knows how to gauge distances by eye. I think that nowadays big-budget productions are using wireless HD video transmitters as well, so pullers can verify their focus, but that's out of my budget range.

In answer to your question about sliders, they are like a mini dolly for your camera. Basically a tripod head mounted on rails, and they come in a huge variety of lengths and weight ratings. Most low budget but high quality pushing or tracking shots that you see nowadays, especially with DSLR, are done this way. They have three big advantages over Steadicam: they are less challenging to use; they have more precision; and you can rack-focus on the go. The disadvantage is that a glider won't cover as much ground: it's really just for introducing motion.

I have no idea how Robert found a Glidecam 4000 for less than $1,000! If you came across a similar deal, I suppose I would have to agree with him. But otherwise, I would stick with Don's advice. If you look at my Steadicam reel here:
you will notice that it's all zone-focus, and most of it is blocked, repeatable stuff. And repeat we did!

P.S., Noa, that's very nice work. You're either a natural or a disciplined practicer!
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Old January 27th, 2014, 09:12 PM   #12
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Re: Steadicam?

One of the things that I find fascinating about the surge in large format acquisition is that it has left a few holes behind, one of which is focus pulling for Steadicam. Back in the day when video capped out at 2/3", the use of wireless focus pulling for Steadicam in the broadcast world was a subject of debate. With wide lenses you held enough depth, but if you worked the longer end it could be a liability. To this day a lot of broadcast operators pull their own focus for broadcast via gimbal mounted pots. The one thing that was never questioned was whether you needed a remote focus puller for 35mm work--it was an absolute must.

Flash forward to today, where S35 sensors are everywhere and "full frame" (5D etc) sensors have even more diabolically shallow depth of field, and yet users are finding ways to shoot Steadicam shots without the benefit of remote focus. There were a number of manufacturers who promised inexpensive wireless controllers a few years ago and few have been able to follow through (and those who have are generally at higher price points than their ambitious product announcements). One day, probably sooner rather than later, that nut will get cracked via intelligent auto-focus, app-assisted focus systems (image received by tablet, assistant focuses by placing his finger on the subject, app takes care of the rest) or a lightfield system like the Lytro, where focus is decided in post.

I think back to a diabolical shot I did for American History X many years ago (viewable at 2:48 on my dusty old Steadicam archive). 75mm at 120 fps; framing was a challenge for me but holding focus with about 3" of depth of field was much tougher for my assistant. One momentary focus buzz would translate into multiple seconds of screen time. And being on film, there was no critical playback to ensure we got it.

Some fun facts and figures for you guys on the kind of investment a pro Steadicam operator has to make: the rig itself fully configured with accessories runs between $60 and $90K. The most popular wireless lens control system is the Preston FIZ, which in a 3 motor configuration will run upwards of $25K. All told, most of the Steadicam operators making a living in television or features will have sunk $120K into their gear package. Good times, right?
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Old January 27th, 2014, 10:59 PM   #13
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Re: Steadicam?

Some fun facts and figures for you guys on the kind of investment a pro Steadicam operator has to make: the rig itself fully configured with accessories runs between $60 and $90K. The most popular wireless lens control system is the Preston FIZ, which in a 3 motor configuration will run upwards of $25K. All told, most of the Steadicam operators making a living in television or features will have sunk $120K into their gear package. Good times, right?

Yeah but you get last dibs at Craft Services sooooo.... ;-)
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Old January 28th, 2014, 02:44 AM   #14
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Re: Steadicam?

I don't think Brock requires a manual focusing system, he just wants to add some occasional shot to his productions and then it's easy just to set focus once and stay within that focus range of the subject you are shooting, you could even try the continuous auto focusing abilities of your camera but I don't trust it enough. I do use the autofocus on my panasonic g6 and olympus 12mm f2.0 lens all the time but only to set it once and then leave it like that, before I start shooting I point the camera at whetever I"m about to track, then press the shutterbutton and teh camera focuses on that part, he zoomed in image I get gives me a visual check to know my focus is spot on.

The footage I did show was without the use of a vest, the blackbird can be placed on the ground with a resting stand so it's in standby mode all the time, you only can't place it in a crowded area where people might step on the horizontal tube which will cause it to fall on the ground but as long as you can place it in a safe corner it's easy to pick up and start using immediately.

I much prefer my steadcam over a slider, a slider is more cumbersome to drag around and set up, if you don't want only slider shots on groundlevel you need to put in on a tripod so that's already 2 items to use.
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Old January 28th, 2014, 10:41 AM   #15
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Re: Steadicam?

I think a lot of people make the assumption that as soon as a Steadicam or Glidecam or whatever is balanced that they can just pick it up and get amazing shots. There is definitely a big learning curve and it takes a lot of practice to get it down. OP, if you are shooting with a t3i you should be able to get away with just getting the gimbal part of whatever system you choose and forego the vest and arm.
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