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Old July 13th, 2003, 08:30 PM   #1
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Glidecam/Steadicam folk

Can anyone direct me to good online literature re: rig operation, tuning, etc... Are there any online short videos? Is there a video I can buy?

Fine-tuning this rig is very time consuming, or maybe I'm just trying too hard. It's amazing how little things (like a lens cap, or a wire, or tightening the screws that lock in your adjustments...) can throw off the balance.

In my manual it states if you run and come to a sudden stop, the rig shouldn't swing. On short runs it seems fine... longer it swings, and sometimes it'll swing and roll slightly. Perhaps I'm not shifting my body properly. Does this sound like a balance issue, or is it me? I just can't seem to get the balance dead on while it's hooked up to my body.
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Old July 13th, 2003, 09:29 PM   #2
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Andrew,
Just for clarity's sake, your signature indicates that you have a Glidecam V-16, not a Steadicam-brand rig. Correct?
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Old July 13th, 2003, 09:46 PM   #3
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Correct, but I see reference to all body-mounted rigs as steadicams these days, kinda like how Coke is synonymous with pop/soda, etc..


typical convo of late:

me - "I have a Glide Cam"
them - 'a what?...'
me - ".... it's just likea steadicam"
them - 'oooooohhhhh! COOL!'
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Old July 14th, 2003, 07:01 AM   #4
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Some balancing tips and things to try to increase your skill etc.
can be found at this thread
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Old July 15th, 2003, 01:20 AM   #5
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Re: Glidecam/Steadicam folk

<<<-- Originally posted by Andrew Petrie : Can anyone direct me to good online literature re: rig operation, tuning, etc... Are there any online short videos? Is there a video I can buy?>>>

well, I've been low-profile about this, but in about 8 months you will hopefully have your wish...my lips are now sealed again.

<<Fine-tuning this rig is very time consuming, or maybe I'm just trying too hard. It's amazing how little things (like a lens cap, or a wire, or tightening the screws that lock in your adjustments...) can throw off the balance.>>

That is the nature of Steadicam. The lighter the rig, the more effect a small shift in balance will have on the rig.

<<<In my manual it states if you run and come to a sudden stop, the rig shouldn't swing. On short runs it seems fine... longer it swings, and sometimes it'll swing and roll slightly. Perhaps I'm not shifting my body properly. Does this sound like a balance issue, or is it me? I just can't seem to get the balance dead on while it's hooked up to my body. -->>>

Frankly, the manual is at odds with the laws of physics on this one. This may be true enough when the rig is balanced in a neutral state, i.e. not bottom heavy at all, so that when you turn it horizontal it won't have a tendency to drop back to vertical. However, the rig is rarely operated in this state. Given a standard 2-3 second drop time, the pendulum issue you described is an expected occurence during periods of acceleration or deceleration.

One is required to control this tendency with your operating hand. When coming to a quick stop, the bottom of the rig will want to kick out (tilting the camera back). This requires a tiny amount of resistanceto be applied to the lower part of the handle during the deceleration, then releasing it a fraction of a second later. When this occurs and how much force is a determination made by practice and experimentation.

The same thing is true of side to side acceleration, which can contribute to the rolling factor you are noticing. When moving sideways with the rig, the pendulum effect will now show up in a horizon roll. The same solution applies; reign in the forces with your operating hand (force applied to the other side of the handle may be required for quick starts as well).

Don't be surprised if this seems to take a long time to get down. Being able to compensate and control all of the forces in and around the rig takes a lot of practice. How much? I didn't feel like I was a particular skilled Steadicam operator for probably three years after I bought my first rig, and even then I still had plenty to learn. I would say that it was a good six years before I felt confident to take on just about anything that was thrown at me. Now, some fourteen years after I bought that rig (and add on four years of operating a rental rig before that, to make eighteen), I'm rarely in a position to be seriously challenged, but it can and does happen. And even the most basic of shots still requires a certain amount of attention at different points.

I only bring this up to illustrate that what you are experiencing is absolutely normal for a relative newcomer to the wonderful world of "body mounted camera stabilizers" (Steadicam IS still a registered trademark!). There may well be mechanical issues with your system, but what you described sounded like "operator error", as the saying goes.

I recommend drawing an X with a dry-erase marker in the center of your monitor, then putting an X made of tape on the far wall of a long hallway. Line the two X's up on the monitor and walk carefully down the hall, maintaining the lineup. Stop on a dime at regular intervals and observe the results (the X's should stay together, if they separate, you need to keep playing around with the above instructions). Do this at different speeds (as you have seen, it's harder when going fast) and backing up as well as walking forward. This is an excellent exercise for precision in general. When you have that down, zoom in the lens to a mid-telephoto and try it now (it will be much harder). As a treat, you can eventually zoom back wider and marvel at how much better you are at that than when you first started!

Remember, above all else, do NOT over-control the rig with your grip. White-knuckling is a bad thing! Realize that much of the time the fingers of that hand are barely making contact with the post, and any clamping needed to control the acceleration must very quickly be released to keep the rig from wobbling around.

If you find that the X is jumping all over the place, try making a run WITHOUT your hand on the post (you can keep your hand on the gimbal/arm connection, though). If the results are much better, you can thus assume that you are over-controlling the rig and you need to lighten your grip.

Hope this helps...!
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Old July 15th, 2003, 03:00 PM   #6
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Charles...

Thanks for the tip on how to practice with a stabilizer rig. Matching up the x's is simple but ingeniuos.

I'll give it a try and see how it goes.

By the way, I purposely added weight to the V16's sled so that the increased mass would provide additional inertia and bring the arm's support spring to the middle of its operating tension. Makes for a smoother moving setup. I'm using an XL1s and there's not a whole lot of weight without adding plates to the top of the sled.

Dean Sensui
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Old July 15th, 2003, 09:52 PM   #7
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Thanks Charles, I can't wait to see what you've got under your sleeve! I have years of practice to get started on... Do you tour the country by any chance and offer workshops? Best to learn from a true pro!

Dean, perhaps we can share our experiences given we both have V16s and XL1s. I also use all 4 weight plates, along with the 5" LCD at the bottom with 2 rings front, and 6 rings at the back to balance. The spring tension is at it's weakest setting, and I find this over-all weight keeps the arm level.

I have the quick release plate mounted on the right side (closest to me when mounted-up on the left side of my body), and as far back as it can go. the XL1 is really front-heavy with the lenses. It's too bad Canon put the mounting hole so far back.

I currently use a long RCA cable for the monitor (the one supplied with the V16 is a joke), but I have not yet drilled into the center post to feed the wire that way. This dangling cable (even when looped) gets on my nerves, and I'm sure it may cause potential accidents later if it catches on something.
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Old July 15th, 2003, 11:54 PM   #8
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Andrew:

I have taught in the past at the Steadicam workshops in Rockport ME and Malibu CA, but it's been a few years. I have thought about a travelling DV version, maybe after the training video is completed (damn, I mentioned it again! Now I'll have to kill you all).

Dean:

I think your weight approach is a good one. As you have seen, more weight equals more inertia, also equals an easier time controlling the rig. And you can always remove weight for exceptionally physical or lengthy shots.

I'm not an expert on Glidecam arms, but the general theory on the Steadicam arms was that setting the tension so that the arm floated just below horizontal resulted in a smoother ride than right at horizontal. See if this works for you.
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Old July 16th, 2003, 04:43 AM   #9
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Andrew...

I have two of the plates on the stage, and a Manfrotto 3270 low-profile quick release. The camera is also mounted on a 1/2" thick plexiglas plate extending from the back of the camera to the front of the lens to help stiffen the whole thing and avoid any odd vibrations.

The quick release makes it really easy to dismount the camera for handheld or shoulder-mounted shots without having to re-balance everything.

A 7" Radio Shack B/W TV is mounted at the front of the base with a 4-amp-hour gel cel battery at the back of the base. This all acts as a great counterweight with no additional plates or washers necessary to fine tune the setup.

The monitor sits on the stock monitor mount but it's not stiff enough. I'll have to make something else to support the larger TV. I should have gotten a 5" and might consider doing that later. Don't know if it's any brighter but it might be easier to position on the rig.

I used a spare coax cable to connect the camera and monitor but it's a tad bit short. Optimal placement would be right down the center of the shaft, but I'd have to drill a hole, thread the cable, and make the connections after that. If I do drill a hole I'd like to make it as small as possible to minimize weakening the sled's centerpost. With the added weight of the gel cel and TV the whole thing seems to exhibit a bit of springiness -- not good as it could induce a bit of shake in the image.

The alternative, having the cable detouring around the gimbal bearings is rather klutzy. I'm surprised Glidecam hasn't come up with a better solution.

I secure all the cables with double-sided velcro straps. Easily readjusted if necessary.

Charles... Thanks again for the tips. Having an experienced pro share info is always highly valued.

Dean Sensui
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Old July 16th, 2003, 06:50 AM   #10
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A training video Charles? When? Where?
You're doing it for beginers and it won't be very expensive, right? :)
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Old July 21st, 2003, 10:57 AM   #11
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Dean, do does your portable TV have a radio as well? All I can find at Radio Shacks here are clumsy looking TV/Radio combos. They do however, have the RCA video-in connector I'd need.

Could you give me some info on gel cell batteries, I've heard of them before but never come across them in person. What brand/model do you use, and was it difficult to find a wiring harness/adapter for the TV or Camera (which one does the gel cel power?)
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Old July 21st, 2003, 03:44 PM   #12
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Sorry Cosmin, didn't see your last post...

No details on when my training video will be done, it's one of many projects in the hopper. Pricewise, it will be under $100, and I'm looking at an interactive DVD format.
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Old July 23rd, 2003, 05:36 AM   #13
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Thanks for the reply Charles.
A training video would be very nice!
When it's done, talk to Charles King on homebuiltstabilizers. Maybe you make a deal with him and post an add on the site. I'm sure many of us would be happy to have that DVD.
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Old July 23rd, 2003, 06:17 AM   #14
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Andrew:

Have you had a chance to get in some more practice time, try out the exercise etc.?
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Old July 23rd, 2003, 10:48 AM   #15
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Charles, yes I've spent some time with it, moreso on the balancing side. I've torn it down and re-balanced the rig a few times with different combinations (16x, 3x, etc...). I'm going to get a friend to fabricate some custom parts to make the rig better accomodate the XL1.

Practice with the rig has resulted in a bit of pendulum and/or horizontal rolling, even after getting it balanced according to the manual. I keep wondering if I'm suffering from a minor gimbal flaw (like John Steel had), so it's a little frustrating (but I keep at it!), I wish the Toronto Glide Cam dealer wasn't so uptight about it's workshop requirements (must purchase GC units from them)

More practice when I get home tonight. What's your daily rate? Maybe I could buy your time up here for a day, heh.

You know what would be cool - A DVinfo Steadicam/GlideCam workshop weekend! I've got 3 weeks of vacation to use :)
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