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Old February 4th, 2008, 12:43 PM   #16
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Ted, thanks for Pilot AA battery life info - very useful!

I just ordered my Steadicam Pilot AA today along with the SteadiStand that you recommended in another post.

I've also done business with ThomasDistributing for the last 6 years. I've never had any problems, and their freebies are actually useful. I'm looking at 3 of the LA CROSSE BC-900 chargers:
http://thomasdistributing.com/shop/l...em5cqdbfbkbf24
These have a few more modes that people seem to like plus lots more charging current options. Only drawback seems to be minimum charging time (2 hours vs. the MAHA's 1 hour), but that seems fine with a 4+ hour drain time. I've also read that 1 hour charging can reduce battery life. Since the LA CROSSE BC-900 chargers each come with four 2400mAh batteries, I only need 12 more for a total cost of around $150. Any thoughts?

Also, since this is my first Steadicam, any advice would be appreciated. I've read up on this for the last few months and I think understand the concepts pretty well, but advice from people with real world experience always helps.
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Old February 4th, 2008, 02:00 PM   #17
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The Maha chargers I bought have a "slow" 2 hour mode, and a reconditioning mode as well.

You only need 10 (rechargeable) AAs for the Pilot, so if that's all you're buying batteries for, you'd only need 8 beyond the three kits you mentioned to have a fully redundant set.

If you plan to use the Pilot outside in cold weather, you should know that batteries are considerably less efficient when they're cold. For me, that combined with the expected gradual loss of capacity due to age argued in favor of having as much power per charge cycle as is practicable, along with quick recharging.

As for general Steadicam advice, there are much more experienced users here to listen to than me. I can confirm however, that practice is essential. Lots of it.
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Old February 4th, 2008, 07:02 PM   #18
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OK, you convinced me. I sprung for two MAHA 1 hour chargers and 24 PowerEx 2700 batteries. $214 (free shipping promo).

One reason I was asking about your experiences with the Pilot is that, unlike more experienced operators, you've just been through the learning curve, so anything that wasn't initially obvious is still fresh in your mind. This alone could save me many hours of head scratching...

Any help appreciated.

By the way, UPS says my Pilot and SteadiStand arrive tomorrow.
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Old February 5th, 2008, 05:19 PM   #19
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By the way, UPS says my Pilot and SteadiStand arrive tomorrow.
That means you should have it by now. Congratulations!

Here's what I might offer you, although not without another acknowledgement that I almost certainly don't deserve to shine the shoes of many of the other Steadicam experts who frequent this board.

Having said that, here I go:

-The trickiest thing for me so far has been avoiding the "ship at sea" look - the tendency of the rig to rock gently side to side, and less often fore and aft. As I've practiced more and more it's emerging that it was largely due to too heavy a left hand on the sled pole. By "steering the rig" much more with the right hand, which is isolated from the rig by the gimbal, I get better results. For the left hand, directly on the sled pole, a feather touch seems to help; thumb, index and middle fingers only. Just enough to keep it pointed at the subject. I'm still working my way up this particular learning curve.

-I tried a number of different "drop times" (see the manual) but ultimately came back to the default 3 seconds.

-Check out this great article about dynamic balance (IMO, fully understanding the rather deep math in it is not essential):

http://www.steadicam-ops.com/docs/dynamicPrimer.pdf

-A problem I had was restoring a setup that was balanced well after putting the rig in the backpack. The compartments in it force the rig to be reset to certain lenghts to fit, which is unfortunate. I recently measured all the distances of the movable parts after balancing, and will find out next practice whether it helps. I'm pretty sure it will. It was getting quite frustrating, with each setup taking the better part of a half hour to get sorted out.

I used the allen head nut in the center of the bottom of the sled that adjusts fore and aft on the battery/LCD rod as a measuring point to almost all of the adjustable pieces. Then I dropped the measuring tape in the backpack for use next time!

-Make sure to hang the rig on the Steadistand directly over one of its fully extended legs.

-Posture, posture posture! Please read this interesting document:

http://steadivision.com/steadipos2.pdf

You will likely experience some back pain as you learn, but this will help you figure out why, and how to avoid it.

-Otherwise follow the included setup instructions, watch the goofy but very informative DVD, practice, practice, practice, and...

Enjoy!

It's a *really* great product. I'm sure you will : )
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Old February 6th, 2008, 01:15 PM   #20
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Thanks for sharing your experiences. This helps.

My Pilot arrived last night. Had only a 2-3 hours to play with it. Got dynamic balance a couple of times but then changed the silver weights and couldn't get it back. I did have an hour or so to fly it when the dynamic balance was in (before I adjusted the weights).

Initial thoughts:

- The design and build quality are both excellent. Nice piece of equiptment. Same goes for the SteadiStand.

- The documentation was way too thin - just the Quick Start Guide and a DVD version of the 8-minute video. I feel like the real owners manual was missing.

- Even with the short time I had to play around with it, I did notice a dramatic improvement over handheld. Don't get me wrong - I'm not an instant expert. I know I have a long way to go. But I was surprised that I managed to get 1 or 2 fairly stable shots within an hour. So I can already see the potential. Getting consistently steady shots will take time, but I have to wonder if the Pilot with a 4-6 pound camera is a lot more forgiving than a bigger rig.

- For the AA version, it seems fairly obvious that you would need 2 of the plastic 10xAA battery holders that slide in the battery mount. It only came with 1. They should supply 2 for swapping.

- 5.8" LCD is nice - lots of modes, flips, etc. - everything you need.

- I started getting lower back pain at first, but then I adjusted the vest and kept the sled closer to my body and things got better. I also found that I could control the position of the sled somewhat just with my upper body (e.g. lean back slightly to bring it closer), so that my right hand can have a lighter touch.

I've got a long way to go, but I can already see that this is a nice piece of equiptment.
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Old February 6th, 2008, 01:21 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
Getting consistently steady shots will take time, but I have to wonder if the Pilot with a 4-6 pound camera is a lot more forgiving than a bigger rig.
The bigger the rig, the more stable. It takes a noticeably lighter touch to achieve good results with a small rig like the Pilot. Those who have only used smaller rigs would be amazed at how much more force is required to operate a 75lb rig, although the operating principles are the same.
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Old February 6th, 2008, 06:21 PM   #22
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Charles,

I'm a newbie, so please excuse if this is a dumb question:

The normal position of the steadicam seems to be with the arm mounted on your right, and the sled to your left (i.e. batteries near your left thigh). This seems to have the most balance. But it also seems like there is a natural tendency to pan right.

Do any real operators mount the camera on the stage panned (e.g. left) to compensate, or is this a big no-no?

Also, I never got the training video with the Pilot. I called Tiffen and left a message with customer service but they haven't called back. Is there somebody in particular at Tiffen/Steadicam I should call? I also need some small accessories (e.g. spare AA battery holders).
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Old February 7th, 2008, 02:13 AM   #23
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Ted,

I found what looks to be the same 10 x AA plastic slide-in battery holders used on the Pilot-AA for $2.30 each here:
http://thomasdistributing.com/battery-holders.htm
Uses the same 9V type connector and has the same approximate dimensions.

Have you called Steadicam to order this? Any idea on cost? The Quick Start Guide doesn't seem to show a part # for this. It would be nice to get a spare holder with the Steadicam name on it. This way it would be obvious what it's for, plus it will look better in the sled.

But if Tiffen is charging $50 or something, I'll buy the ones from thomasdistributing.com. It would be nice to have a 2 sets of rechargables + 1 or 2 sets of alkalines for backup all stuffed and ready to slide in.

I still think at least 2 of these should have been included with the Pilot-AA. It seems obvious that everyone with AA mounts will want these.
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Old February 7th, 2008, 04:55 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
I also found that I could control the position of the sled somewhat just with my upper body (e.g. lean back slightly to bring it closer), so that my right hand can have a lighter touch.
You are learning already. This is normal operating procedure - and it's great that you have discovered it by yourself, now you know why and how that b works - once you have the socket-block dialed in for correct posture, slight leaning with your hips is all that's necessary to guide where you want he sled to go, with only light fine tuning (and booming of course) with your right hand on the gimbal yoke.
Pro [& all practiced] operators can show off (which they never do *whistles innocently*) by flying the rig with no hands, simply by learning their hips and guiding the sled around the room/studio/set/in circles around gaping onlookers...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
The normal position of the Steadicam seems to be with the arm mounted on your right, and the sled to your left (i.e. batteries near your left thigh). This seems to have the most balance. But it also seems like there is a natural tendency to pan right.

Do any real operators mount the camera on the stage panned (e.g. left) to compensate, or is this a big no-no?
You should keep all the components on the sled (camera/lens, monitor, battery) all aligned fore-aft. But, by all means, try panning the camera a little on the stage and then try tilting straight (& level) up & down - another good experiment to see how things work/feel/react.

Also be sure to experiment with flipping the arm (& socket-block on the vest) over to your left side. See which side you prefer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
Also, I never got the training video with the Pilot. I called Tiffen and left a message with customer service but they haven't called back. Is there somebody in particular at Tiffen/Steadicam I should call? I also need some small accessories (e.g. spare AA battery holders).
You want to speak to Kyle Young, extension 17 at Steadicam. (818-843-4600)


- Mikko
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Old February 7th, 2008, 01:47 PM   #25
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Update on the 10 AA battery holder:

I got a call back from Danny at Tiffen. The part# for the plastic battery holder is MSC-300852. Cost is $20, BUT they are out of stock. In other words, they only have enough for Pilot-AA production, not enough to sell for offline packs and backups. Availablility from Tiffen - March / April.

I called Thomas Distributing and found out that their 10 AA battery holder uses solder lugs, not the standard snap (e.g. 9v battery) connection.

I looked around some more and found out that the company that makes this part is called Philmore. It's in their catalog here (bottom of page):
http://www.philmore-datak.com/mc/Page%20193.pdf
The picture is exactly like the Pilot-AA holder, but the description says solder lugs, so I wrote an email to Philmore to see what's up. Hopefully I can get the right part number and then special order this from a distributor somewhere.
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Old February 7th, 2008, 02:00 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Mikko Wilson View Post
You want to speak to Kyle Young, extension 17 at Steadicam. (818-843-4600)
Kyle is no longer at Tiffen.
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Old February 8th, 2008, 11:51 AM   #27
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Kyle is no longer at Tiffen.
Ahh, ignore my comment then.

Shows how often I need product support. :)


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Old February 8th, 2008, 03:40 PM   #28
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The Pilot's AA batteries are in a snap-in/slide-in cassette that I could certainly get another of if the above description were to become a reality. It wouldn't pop off and on quite as well as a single battery would, but it would be close.
Just bought 2 spare Pilot AA battery holder/cassettes on ebay for $10 shipped.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=120218928430
The picture and measurements from the description match the Steadicam Pilot AA battery holder exactly.

I'll post when they arive ...
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Old February 8th, 2008, 04:53 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
Just bought 2 spare Pilot AA battery holder/cassettes on ebay for $10 shipped.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=120218928430
The picture and measurements from the description match the Steadicam Pilot AA battery holder exactly.

I'll post when they arive ...
Nice find! I'll look forward to hearing about how they work for you. Probably pick one or two up myself if they do.
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Old February 9th, 2008, 11:18 AM   #30
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while you guys are searching for a replacement beryllium sphere... I've discovered a 12v 3.6ah rechargeable battery at walmart in the kids toy department. it comes with a charger and is 1.5" X 2.25" X 6.6" in size. it runs my 500led light ( 40w draw ) for 45 mins. and it's only $17. Has a pig tail attached that I put male 4 pin xlr's on the end of.

just FYI.
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