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Old January 22nd, 2008, 12:32 AM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Central Coast - NSW, Australia
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decisions, decisions

I'm about to bite the bullet and buy a steadi / indi / something cam.

I've got a Canon HV20, XHA1 and a mate with a new EX so the larger cameras are 5-6lb but if I add on the LEX / rails / lens I'm up to 12lb.

Merlin - fine for all the camera's without extra's, no monitor

Indicam - will cope with the camera + LEX, can have monitor

Pilot - too much of an investment for a learner

I thought about the Indian Flycam - at half the cost of the others it's tempting but then there are the questions about quality of build, quality of support, availability of spares, resale value etc etc.

I want something to learn on, I started out just making short films and will continue to do that but there seems to be some work available and I believe I can diferentiate myself by becoming proficient with a steadycam (generic term) rather than trying to 'catch up' to other camera operators with a lot more experience than I.

I've been pouring over the posts here and reading everything I can find and I think I'm suffering from paralysis by analysis.

what haven't I thought of?
Cheers - Paul M. :
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Old January 22nd, 2008, 10:39 AM   #2
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The Steadicam Pilot is probably the best choice for those larger cameras, but even it is a little big for the HV20.

And it is a fair chunk of change for a hobbyist, though a great deal if you are hoping to move up to bigger rigs and want something 'low cost' to learn on.

The Merlin is by far the best rig for the HV20, and as you said, will also carry the slightly larger next wight-class of cameras.

The 35mm adapters have all sorts of other issues on Steadicam too (Namely: Focus systems start out at about $4,000 and up) so I generally recommend not worrying about 35mm adapters on Steadicam at this scale.

My recommendation would be to get the Merlin now to start with, and if you find yourself doing more stuff with the larger cameras, then add in the Arm & Vest, and even upgrade to the pilot if you wish. - It's the same arm and vest, and there's a direct upgrade path up to the larger sled.

- Mikko
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Old January 22nd, 2008, 11:54 AM   #3
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Mikko's advice is good, that's what I'd do as well. I just got the Merlin as I saw so many great examples of what it could do.....the whole smooth moving camera brings a lot to your footage. I know pretty much nothing about steadicams and such, but even a total newbie was able to get some nice looking shots with the Merlin on my first shoot with it. I got the camera balanced, and shot a CD release party for a friend of mine. I made sure to have two other cameras on sticks with ops for other angles of the performance, and then I did the roaming camera thing with the Merlin. Got a couple pretty neat shots and after being teased all night about looking like a 'bow hunter with that thing' the musicians were very impressed when I showed them the Merlin shots. It isn't easy by any means and I screwed up a TON of the shots I was trying to get....which is why I had two other cameras going as well, but some of the shots looked really good. I really like the fact that there is an upgrade path and am already drooling over the arm and vest for the Merlin.....will probably end up getting it before too long.
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Old January 22nd, 2008, 11:30 PM   #4
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Location: Central Coast - NSW, Australia
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thanks guys - Mikko's point about an upgrade path is important.

I mostly use the XHA1 and with my age and lack of muscle tone I'd be buying the vest & arm from the start so with the complete Merlin kit I could handle up to 7.5lb - if I find that the rig and I get along I could later upgrade to the pilot and carry up to 10lb with only the Merlin itself becoming redundant (same arm & Vest).

I'm not sure I understand the need for remote follow focus - if I can set the the focus manually on the camera (as mentioned in another post by CP) and leave it fixed why couldn't the same thing apply to the adaptor and 35mm lens?

I guess the camera by itself is fine - DOFitis is an unnecessary affliction (I wonder if you can get medication for that?)

On the other hand the Indicam can handle up to 15lb and a n external monitor.

I'm actually quite interested in the difference between the arms - the Indicam operates more like a human arm where the Steadicam is ..well different. Anyone used both and care to comment? (I'm going to do a search on iso-elastic now - back soon)

BTW I just priced the Merlin kit locally and I pay and extra $1300 for the privilege of buying here (that includes freight & taxes). B&H here I come.
Cheers - Paul M. :
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Old January 23rd, 2008, 01:49 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Paul Mailath View Post
I'm not sure I understand the need for remote follow focus - if I can set the the focus manually on the camera (as mentioned in another post by CP) and leave it fixed why couldn't the same thing apply to the adaptor and 35mm lens?
With the 35mm adapter you suddenly have 35mm depth of field... roughly a couple of inches instead of a couple of feet. Thus, to keep the 35mm lens in focus you need a remote follow focus on the lens and a follow focus operator opeating the remote control.

With 35mm, even very wide angle lens need pretty good focus compared to a 1/3" chip lens.

I have the Merlin, and I believe it is in a class by itself. I have tried the vest and am buying one in a week or so, with the intention of upgrading to the Pilot later in the year. The arm and vest for the Merlin/Pilot is also in a class by itself for the size of camera it handles and the price range. I believe, one of the rare times where the increased cost over competing products is more than worth the extra money.
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Old January 25th, 2008, 01:33 PM   #6
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Hi Paul,

I purchased an Indicam rig from Terry Thompson over the summer and I must say that I absolutely love it. Although I really don't know crap about stabilizers, I was intimately familiar with my financial situation and spending money on a stabilizer rig was a luxury that just was not necessary (of course, what is and is not necessary is just a matter of perspective - just ask my wife).

So I researched and researched many different rigs and I was continually stifled that the cost of the rigs that really grabbed my attention. It was looking like dual-arm stabilizers were simply out of the reach of video hobbyists. Then Indicam popped up in my search results and it didn't take me too long to realize I had found a potential winner. Dual-arm - check, heavy load - check, solid construction - check, and most importantly with my financial reach (with the help of a couple of credit cards) - big check!

So with the usual fear you get when spending a lot of money on something you probably could live without, I called Indicam and spoke with Terry Thompson. Everything I read about their sales and customer support was absolutely true. As for the rig itself, as I said a thing of beauty. I love it.

Here are a couple of e-mails I sent to Terry regarding his rig...


Thanks Terry. It was quite an interesting experience - a six hour shoot with three hours on that four-wheeler. I wasn't originally planning on bringing the stabilizer, it went into the truck just in case. It really saved the day through, the other hand-held camera produced just about zero usable footage when we were on the move. There are a number of behind the scenes type shots that I'll compile and send to you and some point. I'm sure its fun to see people successfully using your rig. I'll send you a few links when the project wraps up. Anyway... love the rig... its working for me.



I thought you would get a kick out of the shooting conditions and I have not had a single problem with my Indicam despite the conditions. Truman, the musher, was blown away by the footage. He was amazed even by the footage that bounced around on the bad part of the trail, but once it smoothed out, he was tearing up watching his team run (mushers are very emotional about the dogs).

Now that we have a little experience, we are hoping to repeat the shoot this coming weekend if we get some snow fall. A shorter course this time, 3 hours on the back of that four-wheeler was a bit much. It took about 20 minutes before my driver and I learned how to communicate effectively. At first I shouted "faster" or "slower", but later I just started calling distances, "45 feet", "35 feet", "10 feet" and that help the driver accelerate and decelerate more smoothly. The driver shouted things like "lean left", "lean right", "duck" (my favorite), and just plain "HOLD ON!!". Every time he had to shift gears it would jolt the the ATV and me and the camera. So hopefully this weekend we'll get replacement video for the shaky shots. All in all... its a lot of fun... and I feel like a superstar with my stabilizer.

I'm sure you noticed the XL2 complete with wireless receive on the sled, not the lightest set up (10lbs). Considering the weight of the camera, I'm riding the gimbal pretty low on the pole, the pole is retracted pretty short (compact) and as a result I have a lot of weight in washers. I used the longer screws off of my Glidecam sled to accommodate all of the extra washers. The sled is right around 19lbs. I believe the weight of the sled is really helping with the stable footage. I think an 8lbs rig would bounce around a lot more on the back of that ATV. If anybody tells you your rig can't handle a heavy camera like the XL2, just reference this little project. Also construction, my rig has literally gotten the crap kicked out of it and I nothing has become loose or stuck or bent or anything... its just works.



The video project I am referring to in the e-mails can be viewed at ...

Its one of my first videos, so if you take the time to watch it... I would greatly appreciate feedback. I know there are problems with the audio.

The most difficult part of the shoot was the extreme cold, the icy rough terrain and the challenge of taping from the back of a ATV. There is a short clip of me on the ATV with my Indicam right at the end of the video.

PHOTOGRAPHY: I must give credit the photograph, Adam Johnson of - Houghton, MI. An amazing photographer who also got to be strapped down to an ATV for a bumpy ride through the back woods of upper Michigan. Check out his work at

I'm not an expert, but if anybody wants to know more about my experiences with an Indicam rig, I'd happy to talk about it.


Last edited by Todd Brassard; January 25th, 2008 at 02:20 PM.
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Old February 6th, 2008, 05:20 AM   #7
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Central Coast - NSW, Australia
Posts: 1,364
Just thought I'd let you guys know what I decided - I ended up ordering the Merlin + arm & vest. I still think the Indicam is a real contender for my needs but being unsure of my ability to get to a reasonable skill level I needed to think about resale value. The same merlin setup here in Aus would cost me over $1300 extra so If the worst comes to the worst and I can't fly the think well - I can resell it without any great loss.

mind you I intend to give it an myself a good workout so here goes
Cheers - Paul M. :
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