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Old December 3rd, 2007, 06:03 PM   #1
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Merlin VS Glidecam 4000. . . Opinions?

I've poked around the posts and see people happy with their Merlin and happy with their Glidecam 4000. I am ready to purchase one or the other with the vest and arm as well. With the price being close enough for me to not be a consideration, I am just curious to see if anyone has their own opinions handy to say why I should swing one way or the other. What regrets might you have, or raving reviews? What pros does one have over the other? (Besides the famous namesake emblazened upon the arm, that is!)

FYI the camera will be a Panasonic HVX200
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 08:07 PM   #2
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Jim,

I use a Glidecam 4000/Smooth Shooter combo. The question that I would pose would be what do you consider to be the combined weight of your rig when complete?

Are you looking to add any lenses/adapters, extra mic, video lights, outboard monitor, etc?

Keep this in mind as the total weight the merlin arm is suggested to support is 7 lbs. The Glidecam is able to heft up to 18. In my configuration with a XHA1/WD-H72 the base weight of the camera and adapter alone is 5.8 pounds. After adding an external mic/shockmount and a video light it would top out over 7. The weights to counterbalance that and then the addition of a monitor and batteries would quickly bring the entire rig into the 15+ pound range.

All things considered I have heard a great deal of positive comments about the Merlin and I think it likely has a superior action and build. Particularly the arm with it's dual spring arms (the X-10 for the Smooth Shooter would provide this as well however).

The things I have come to find as minor issues with the Glidecam are things like the following.

1) The camera plate adjustments are very finicky. With knurled brass screws to loosen and then adjust the plate it is probably tougher to position the camera for balancing then the micro adjustment screws on the Merlin.

2) The Glidecam gimbal may not be completely linear. I think this issue may be a little overblown by many people because after learning a bit about dynamic balance I have found that mine is quite linear. However there are enough posts out there to assume that this may be an issue with the Glidecam systems. Non-linear gimbals = non linear pans. The Merlin has no reports of this from what I have seen.

3) The system is a bit heavy. Particularly if you were to ever shoot handheld. The merlin system would be lighter and have a weight advantage shooting handheld.


On the plus side I have many things I am very happy with about the Glidecam/SS combo.

1) It delivers very good footage. As will the Merlin I'm sure. With a X-10 addition to the arm system of the SS the rig would handle even better and give an additional 2" of vertical movement over the Merlin system.

2) It is well built. The arm is well designed and solidly made. The sled as well. The parts are machined to close tolerances and a good smooth and quiet operation. The vest is comfy and supportive too.

3) It can carry a pretty heavy load for it's size/class. At a total weight carrying capacity of 18 pounds it can lug a pretty loaded fair sized rig.

Both systems are very capable so either way you go I hope you'll be happy!

A final thought.....Steadicam does have the name behind it so you may get more nods of approval on that alone. The footage can be the same with either system however ;)

James

PS: my only REGRET with the Smooth Shooter is that I have to wait until spring to really start working a lot with it. Gonna go crazy shooting indoors.
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Old December 5th, 2007, 11:53 AM   #3
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Thanks, James. This helped tremendously. Yes I will be adding to the rig- matte box, monitor, 35mm convertor, - so the weight consideration alone has my choice made for me. I guess I'd have to move up to a Flyer to keep with the steadicam, and then price is a significant consideration in that range.

Thanks again.

Jim
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Old January 13th, 2008, 10:22 AM   #4
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Jim what did you go with in the end and how is it working out for you?
If anyone else can help too that would be great, thanks.
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Old January 13th, 2008, 08:53 PM   #5
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I ordered the 4000 with the X10 arm & vest. Should be delivered this week according to my rep. So I have not as yet shot with the rig. I will def let you know what I think of the setup once I put some time into using it, which I will do right away upon delivery.

Jim
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Old January 14th, 2008, 07:17 PM   #6
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Congratulations Jim, hope your very happy with your choice. I'm particularly interested that you added the X-10 arm. I have the base system with a single arm and find it to work quite well so the extra spring arm with it's adjustable vest angle should really work a treat.

If you have any questions about the rig feel free to ask me anytime.

James
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Old January 27th, 2008, 07:16 PM   #7
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Hi all. This is an update on my Glidecam experience:

The 4000 and the X10 setup has arrived. So I thought I would give you my first impressions and experience. I have had the rig for four days and here is what I think so far.

First of all, I am using a Panasonic HVX200 with a Chroziel Matte Box. If you are shooting with this camera and are even considering using the Glidecam 4000, don't even think about it without the arm. This puppy is heavy! Using this with one hand is nearly impossible and I am a strong fellow. Just balancing it was an exhausting workout.

As well as a pain. The instructions for balancing leave quite a bit to be desired (hint to Glidecam). For example- when balancing the rig, the instructions will tell you if it swings too much when you move it side to side, then it is out of balance and you need to correct it.

Duh. No kidding. Tell me something I need to know. Like exactly "How to correct it?" They don't say it needs to be lighter, or heavier, or the pole should be longer or shorter. Just that it needs correction. And you can move the weights forward or inside too, but they don't explain why you should, or under what circumstances you would put them close, or far out. This kind'a made me sizzle under the collar. I mean BE SPECIFIC! Tell me HOW! But instead you gotta figure it out yourself with trial and error. Which I think I have, since it is pretty darn stable but I still only think I have it corrected 90%. I am still working on getting it perfect.

That is my only complaint with the product is the documentation. Construction seems very high quality. The vest and arm are sturdy and look as if will last for years. When adjusted, the vest fits me like it was tailored, despite that I am a 6 footer that is no stranger to the gym. My shoulders are broad and the waist slim, so it conforms to fit regardless of my varied dimensions. But a really thin person or overweight fellow might have a problem fitting this well.

Now let me add another important point. If you plan to use this in the future? Get it now. I said I was no stranger to the gym. I can squat almost twice my own weight. I am 195 pounds and have a 32 inch waist. In other words I am in shape. And yet this thing kicks my @ss! Yessir! Wear this for 10 minutes and your lower back is making you whine like my ex-wife for a cigarette. Because this thing pulls on you in ways that you are not used to. I am talking pain. I am not talking "Gee this is tiring". No. I mean "Get this @#%! thing off me now" pain.

Now it might just be since I am tall it exaggerates the pull on my lower back. So your experience may not be the same. And despite this bad news, I have good news, in that I am overcoming this dilemma.

I have been wearing it twice a day. I stand in it and pretend to shoot the TV as if shooting a scene. This is allowing my body to get used to it. Then I'll wander around my hi-rise doing the famous and obligatory "follow the big-wheel in The Shining" move sans the big-wheel and dead twin girls. (My neighbors think I look oh-so-cool in it by the way). And already I can feel the difference. By day four I am seeing an increase in stamina. I have full faith that I will not be crying like a little girl in front of my clients.

On to performance. This is another reason to get this ahead of your needed shoot. It will take practice. I will say, that right out the box I was doing incredibly smooth shots running full tilt down the hallway. Much better than handheld. But still it looks sloppy compared to what I have seen others shoot, and compared to my expectations. But that is because this is like any of our video tools- you must learn how to use it correctly. You need to practice. So practice I shall. And I am certain it will pay off.

I will endeavor to continue to post my experiences with this new tool. As for now I am quite satisfied that I made a good decision getting the 4000 and X10.

Jim
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Old January 27th, 2008, 07:24 PM   #8
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that's a shame it's hurting you.... I can wear the merlin/vest/arm with the ex1 all day long and not be bothered by it.... just feels like I'm wearing a back brace that won't let me bend over.

maybe something is not right?
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Old January 27th, 2008, 09:41 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Christopher Witzke View Post
maybe something is not right?
For now I am assuming that the "something is not right" is probably a combination of a heavy rig, and that my back in particular is sensitive to the pressure, and that a bit of time to get my back acclimated is all that is needed.

I worked with a Steadicam operator a few years ago on a film. He told me that when he went to the classes when he first got his rig ($25K by the way) that it was a common complaint that the newbies had- their backs were killing them, and that they wondered what the hell they had gotten themselves into. But in a short while they were over it. Just like working out for the first few times, you get sore. Then your body adjusts.

Thanks for the concern!

Jim
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Old January 28th, 2008, 10:31 PM   #10
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I think Charles posted about correct posture for wearing it a stabilizer a while ago.
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Old January 29th, 2008, 12:58 PM   #11
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Jim,

In an effort to help you with your beginners problems, I will suggest you look into our "Stabilizer Basics" training DVD. It will help with keeping the rig balanced through the center of your body which greatly eliminates lower back strain. It doesn't get rid of it completely but helps.

The are also many exercises, tricks and tips, and even a blooper reel at the end. We don't make a lot of money selling it but it has been well received and our customers have said that it has been a valuable tool in the learning process.

We are awaiting Charles Papert's training DVD which we hope he will get around to doing sometime soon. His explanations on steadicam use are unequaled.

Tery
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Old January 29th, 2008, 07:17 PM   #12
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Do a workshop. I just got back from one and I consider it a good investment. As well as improving your operating/knowledge, you will learn proper posture and foot work. You may even prevent an injury in future. With the Merlin set up you can get away with a lot of stuff because it's so light, but once you step into a big rig/camera it's a different story.
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Old January 30th, 2008, 01:22 AM   #13
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Jim,

It certainly does take a great deal of practice to build both operating skill and stamina to operate a stabalizer rig. I would echo the thoughts of the most recent posts that a course or workshop could be very insightful. I would love to do something along those lines but there is virtually nothing in my area of the world in that regard. From my perspective the best I work towards is watching whatever I can in various clips of steadycam operators to get some perspective of how they are operating their rigs. That and analyzing steadycam shots to see what principles are applied to the shot.

I'd be interested to know what your thoughts are for the trim adjustment the X-10 system gives you where it attaches the arm to the vest. This may be a bit of the cause for the fatigue you are experiencing. I have the single spring arm system and no trim adjustment and what I find is that the rig naturally wants to sit about 15" from my chest in the center of my body. This is assuming I am in a straight posture. If I start to hunch forward the rig will want to swing out. Of course any shift in the hips will also start to throw the rig left or right. With the trim adjustment are you able to effectively change where the rig feels most balanced?

As you mention yourself as well you are starting to build up some strength which is exactly what I found. It was fatiguing at first but as I worked with it each day for progressively longer periods it became less stressful. This is coming also with the caveat that I used to have to use the sled/camera without the smooth shooter for several months before purchasing the arm/vest.....so it was a pleasant relief in comparison.

Happy shooting. :)
James
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Old January 30th, 2008, 01:26 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terry Thompson View Post
We are awaiting Charles Papert's training DVD which we hope he will get around to doing sometime soon. His explanations on steadicam use are unequaled.

Tery
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I'd buy that !! Get on it Charles!
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Old January 30th, 2008, 05:33 AM   #15
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Yea - Come'on CP - teach us some of your magic. I'm about to get my (first) kit and dying to try
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