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Old July 31st, 2007, 09:57 AM   #1
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Pilot VS Flyer?

I'm currently a Merlin user and love it - the shots you can get from these are amazing for the money spent.

Now i'm looking to upgrade and the Pilot and Flyer are the next ones up the scale as far as i can see.

I'd be interested in opinions from people who had used these for comparisons or pros/cons.

As far as i can see, they'll do a similar job, but the flyer can take heavier cameras - up to 15lbs instead of 10lbs. Which in terms of actual cameras, on the flyer i'd be able to use things like XD CAM and film cameras, but with the pilot i wouldn't....

Currently i only shoot on HDV cameras, but as my skills grow, i'd like to pimp myself out as a steadicam operator to other companies and feel that i ought to be able to cope with heavier cameras.

Anyhoo, opinions welcome please...
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Old July 31st, 2007, 10:26 AM   #2
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XDCAM on the Flyer just manageable, virtually no film cameras (maybe an SR2 with prime lens). If you are thinking about becoming a Steadicam operator for hire, you will need to start planning to spend more money to get more of a rig. Nothing wrong with starting slowly, but it won't take long to bump up against the ceiling of what the Flyer can offer you and then you are selling that rig to get a bigger one.

The Pilot is a great and inexpensive way to get your feet wet and be able to fly DV/HDV cameras. You can get good at the skills with that and down the road, if you think you are ready to start moving on to the "big boys", you can either invest in a new system. Staying in the Tiffen family, a Clipper2 is probably the next logical thing as that will handle most video cameras and all but the heaviest film cameras; there are plenty of used full-sized rigs floating around (no pun intended) that can take anything you throw at it. At that point you will want to get onto the Steadicam forum (steadicamforum.com) and start sniffing at the classifieds.
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Old August 1st, 2007, 07:03 AM   #3
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Thanks for your thoughts Charles.

Currently i work a lot in sport - mainly filming instructional and documentary style pieces. I've just finished a 5 week filming stint, for which i used my Z1/Merlin combination and got some really good shots - but the merlin is a bit heavy for a whole days shooting.
There are lots of production companies around my area who work in HDV, but also XD CAM, DV CAM, Beta SP style cameras, so my plans are that if i invested in the flyer, then i'd be able to offer my services out to these companies, whereas if i went for the pilot, i'd be restricted to HDV/DV type companies.

Would the flyer be able to take these kind of cameras?

And also, once becoming proficient on the flyer, is it simple enough to be able to hire a Clipper2 for the day and be able to operate that, or is there still a learning curve involved?
Or, is it possible to keep with the flyer vest and just purchase the clipper arm/sled?

I think that for me, film is a bit of a dream at the moment! And i don't have the contacts in the industry over here in the lil 'ol UK...

And before you say it....yes, i've enquired about the next Tiffen workshop. They're running the next one in November, so i'll take a trip down and get the experience and contacts there hopefully!

Any tips/pointers truly appreciated.

Cheers.

Rob.
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Old August 1st, 2007, 11:21 AM   #4
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Unfortunately, the answer to your capacity question is...maybe. The flyer, right up to its limit performs fantastically. In fact, I think it feels best when it's at about 14.5 out of its 15lb camera payload. Does that buy you most broadcast cameras? Depending on configuration, yes it does.

You'll likely have to strip the viewfinder and anything else that you can take off. You'll need the long baseplate for the Flyer, and have a case of different sized bolts and spacers handy because you'll need to screw directly into the camera. Most shoulder-mount cams have some sort of wedge/bridge plate that helps run and gun shooters go quickly from handheld to tripod. But, that plate weighs anywhere from 1.5-4lbs, depending on manufacturer. You CAN mount the camera directly to the steadicam baseplate - again, make sure you have a LOT of different types, sizes, metric and standard screws because you never know what hardware they'll have on the bottom of their cameras.

Also, you'll almost always have to power the camera from the sled...but this may make balancing the camera difficult, as depending on the lens, it may be front heavy. If the camera is light enough, a dionic on the back may help get it back into balance, but just be careful it doesn't put you over. This is a tough one to know ahead of time.

The lens......depending on what they have up front, you may squeek by. ENG-style lens? Most likely you should be fine. Cine-style zoom? No way. Cine-prime? Maybe. When you bid the job, make sure to spec EVERYTHING they want to use, and know ahead of time the shots they want to get. If the producer likes long-lens stuff with focus pulls,...well you may be out of luck, because with a focus system, you'll probably be over weight. For the most part, though, with broadcast cameras and ENG lenses, you'll be lucky enough to use the deep DOF of the video camera to your advantage and not need a focus system. Not always, but a lot of times.

What happens when the flyer is overloaded? Well, inside the arm, not a whole lot. The arm post does receive substantially more stress than it is built for, however, and in some instances, pins have bent or catastrophically failed under overload. Avoid the latter. In the sled, the stage is not meant to hold above its rated load, and it will slip subtly. If it slips fast enough, it too can fail catastrophically. Worst is, the gimbal itself can be destroyed by the load, an expensive repair. What is "overload"? Well, a 20lb payload up top would be awfully close to "very bad." Plus, you'd be supporting quite a bit of weight with your own right arm to hold the flyer arm up.

As for the sled/arm upgrade to a clipper, it will not work. The Flyer vest, as everything on the flyer, is designed for a total load of 25lbs. Past that, it's probably not very comfortable, but more importantly it's not particularly rigid past it's designed specs. Also, the Flyer arm uses a smaller pin assembly than the industry-standard "3A" style. The block itself mounts on industry-standard mounts, meaning that you could use a flyer system with an Ultra vest, if you swapped the blocks.

Not a lot of people will dry-hire a clipper or larger rig without knowing you or your experience. If you're getting to the point where you're always at the max of a Flyer, you should start making friends with someone who has a bigger rig, and show them you know what you're doing before asking to rent their kit. Its a trust thing, because many operators simply cant afford to have their primary rig go down and miss out on work.

As for the "what to buy" question - if you can wait till you've taken the workshop, it'll certainly give you a lot more insight into what's out there and what you actually need vs. what you want. Either of the rigs you mentioned will perform extremely well for what you're doing today, but the tricky part is getting something that can grow with you a bit without overbuying. That said, those rigs have great resale values, so if you use one now and grow out of it quickly, you should have no trouble making back the majority of your purchase.
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Old August 1st, 2007, 12:48 PM   #5
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Excellent answer Jaron, as always.

As you can see Rob, there are a lot of "ifs" involved in using the Flyer for beyond-1/3" cameras. You go into every job not knowing for sure if you will be able to handle the weight, because every camera might be configured differently. This means that you will have to call up before each job and find out what accessories may or may not be on that body, what lenses are in use, any special needs or configurations that might happen. Even with the best prep, things can come up on the shoot-- "we need to add this little fill light to the camera" or "we need to fly a wireless receiver". Even a 35mm adaptor setup can overload the Flyer.

What this adds up to is a lot of stress on you as the operator, not knowing if your kit will handle any given camera; and possible frustration on the part of production as your build time to and from Steadicam is extended due to having to strip down and add dovetails etc. Being quick and efficient and prepared is all part of the gig as a freelancer Steadicam operator, and the Flyer unfortunately may not be the best tool to achieve that with the class of cameras you describe.

That workshop will be very illuminating into many of these factors. Let us know what you end up deciding.
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Old August 2nd, 2007, 06:37 AM   #6
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Thanks for the detailed responses - its these kinda things that i need to know....different camera mountings (which i'd never even thought of), lens weights, overloading rigs etc....good advice.

And i think you've hit it on the head Jason - its trying to future proof my work without over buying now.

I shall see if i can wait until November after the workshop before i make my purchase.....alternately.....anyone operators in the UK with a flyer they'd let me come have a play with?!?!? ;)

I shall let you guys know what i decide.

Cheers.
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Old September 18th, 2007, 02:31 AM   #7
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I spent an hour or so playing with a prototype Pilot with HVX200 on board this weekend. Didn't want to take it off. It's pretty astonishing how much it behaves like a full-size rig (yet weighs virtually nothing), even more so than the Flyer. Really smooth and a ton of fun.
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Old September 18th, 2007, 10:27 AM   #8
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Charles,
do you see any reason for the pilot over the flyer when using hdv cams in the 5-9lbs range?

I have a flyer now and love it. One of our shooters is looking at a used flyer or new pilot. Any thoughts?
patrick
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Old September 18th, 2007, 04:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
I spent an hour or so playing with a prototype Pilot with HVX200 on board this weekend. Didn't want to take it off. It's pretty astonishing how much it behaves like a full-size rig (yet weighs virtually nothing), even more so than the Flyer. Really smooth and a ton of fun.
I just ordered one for my HVX today. Now you've got me *really* excited : )

Of course, I know I'm going to have to do some serious 'shedding on the thing before I get even halfway proficient at it...

Speaking of which, are there some good Steadicam training programs available here in NYC?
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Old September 18th, 2007, 11:55 PM   #10
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Patrick:

The arm is virtually the same performance-wise as the Flyer, but the sled has some great new features and is much more flexible in the way that components can be distributed. Suffice to say that when the next version of the Flyer comes out it will likely resemble the Pilot much more than its current form. I much prefer the design of the Pilot.
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Old September 24th, 2007, 08:51 PM   #11
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Just found out that an upgrade path for Merlin vest/arm owners to a Pilot sled will be available in 2008.
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Old October 15th, 2007, 09:56 PM   #12
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Pilot

Hi All,

Does anyone own the Steadicam pilot as of today and can share some feedback? We are looking forward to be purchasing one in the very near future if available..

Thanks,
Walter
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Old October 16th, 2007, 12:21 AM   #13
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Walter:

The production model of the Pilot has not yet been released, but it is scheduled for just a few weeks away. I've spent about an hour with it and I can tell you that I am very impressed with it; I prefer the sled design on the Pilot to the Flyer. It is my belief that it is as capable as my full-size rig, which is saying a lot (considering the 15x price difference)!
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Old October 16th, 2007, 02:04 AM   #14
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Hi Charles,

Do you think it will be available in two weeks or released. I have the Panasonic HVX200 and would love to use the Pilot to fly at weddings... I have the Merlin and could not use it with the camcorder because of the weight... I'm going to PhotoEast on Friday and hoping the Tiffen booth will have a Pilot to see.

Thanks for your help..

Walter
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Old October 18th, 2007, 09:13 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Walter van Dusen View Post
Hi Charles,

Do you think it will be available in two weeks or released. I have the Panasonic HVX200 and would love to use the Pilot to fly at weddings... I have the Merlin and could not use it with the camcorder because of the weight... I'm going to PhotoEast on Friday and hoping the Tiffen booth will have a Pilot to see.

Thanks for your help..

Walter
I emailed Tiffen recently about my Pilot order, placed a month ago, for info on delivery dates and heard back on 10/15 that they are "telling the dealers" it will be 30-45 days, but also said (presumably to me individually) "hopefully by the end of [this] month". A bit wishy-washy with the language, what with "hopefully" being the official password of vaporware and all (not that I think by any means that the Pilot is vaporware). My personal hunch-o-meter tells me I'll see my Pilot by mid-Novemeber if I'm lucky, and mid-December if I'm less so...

My hunch-o-meter has been known to be off sometimes, of course... : )
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