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Old May 22nd, 2008, 05:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
If you're looking at the Merlin Arm & Vest, you might want to consider a little more for the Pilot.
That was a great video. Thanks. The pilot looks awesome, but I'm wondering how well it would mesh with the run-and-gun nature of a wedding day. I like the fact that it has LANC control, so I could use it in place of a tripod for the ceremony potentially. And the larger monitor and low-mode capabilities are nice too. The system runs for about $4k on B&H, and the vest/arm for the Merlin runs about $2k, so it would be a sizable step up in cost for me.
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 07:49 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Travis Cossel View Post
... but I'm wondering how well it would mesh with the run-and-gun nature of a wedding day...
The Pilot is great for run-and-gun. It's obviously easier to move around than a tripod, and it's more stable than a Merlin.

I've worn my Pilot for at least 3 hours straight, no problem. When I first started using it, I had some initial back fatigue, but this was because my balance was off. After you learn to lean backwards slightly, the weight goes through your legs. It's like wearing a 15 pound backpack. After a while, you learn to lean slightly to center the weight.

The Pilot allows all the standard Steadicam camera positions. For example, with the "Don Juan" mode you walk forward with the camera pointing backwards over your left shoulder, like Mikko shows here:
http://www.mikkowilson.com/photos/St...s/IMG_9560.htm
You look down at the monitor by your left leg, but you can also glance forward to see where you're going. It's really nice not having to walk backwards. In the 2-day workshop, they teach you how to seamlessly switch between "Don Juan" mode and regular mode within the same shot. I think feature is perfect for run-and-gun.

I also have a Bogen/Manfrotto tripod, so I bought Manfrotto 577 adapter plate for the Pilot.
http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-577-...542995&sr=8-26
Now I can switch between the Pilot and the tripod very fast. The 577 adaptor also includes a plate for another camera, or as a spare.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Travis Cossel View Post
The system runs for about $4k on B&H, and the vest/arm for the Merlin runs about $2k, so it would be a sizable step up in cost for me.
The B&H price is $3800, but you'll probably need to spend another $200 on AA batteries and chargers, plus another $165 on the SteadiStand. So figure around $4200 shipped complete. This is for the Pilot-AA, which includes the 5.8" widescreen monitor and the backpack/carry-case, shown here:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...&Q=&sku=552653
There's also a foam cutout in the backpack for the Merlin.

If you thin you're interested interested in the Pilot, I've written a detailed list of all my initial experiences here:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=115235

Hope this helps,
Dave.
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 08:26 AM   #18
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Travis, Steadicam is not the right tool for a wedding ceremony. For long static shots a tripod will always be the best way to go. I agree with everything Dave said above, but from my point of view if I were only doing weddings I would have stuck with the Merlin, yes the Pilot is great and I absolutely love it, but I have found that I could do a bit more with a Merlin, squeezing into tighter places and also being able to kneel on the floor and get low angle shots. I have missed several shot opportunities (not important ones) at weddings with the pilot that I could have done with the Merlin.
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 12:37 PM   #19
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Thanks for the input, guys. Dave, I have no doubt that the Pilot is an excellent product, but I have a hunch that Nick is right about using it at a wedding. I think there are times on the wedding day that the Pilot would be awesome to have, but I think there will be other times that it will become somewhat impractical and cumbersome because of it's size. If I had a solid 2nd shooter then maybe it would work, but I'm not to the point where I can fully trust my 2nd shooters to get that critical footage.

Even then, the Pilot is twice the price of the Merlin arm/vest, so that basically makes my decision right there. When I'm finally able to afford the Merlin arm/vest it's already going to be a stretch.

Dave, thanks for all of the valuable input, and I will definitely be checking out the links you posted. Thanks!

Nick, thanks for the input from someone who actually does weddings. Weddings are such a different type of shoot than anything else.
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Old May 30th, 2008, 04:00 PM   #20
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Here's an interview with Garrett Brown (Steadicam inventor) that shows the Merlin, Merlin Arm & Vest, and then the Pilot.
http://www.macvideo.tv/camera-techno...ticleid=100761[/QUOTE]

My thanks to all in this thread, and forum for info on the different Steadicams.
I went to the second video interview with Garrett Brown after watching the one suggested by Dave.
Just wondered if someone might confirm the pricing on the Pilot at about
10:32 into the interview,
http://www.macvideo.tv/camera-techno...ticleid=100761
when Garrett mentions the pricing for the Pilot kit?

The cameraman/interviewer's interest seemed peaked at the pricing as well.
I thought these were just under $5,000? This would be a great buy/investment if
confirmed for the Steadicam Pilot. Possibly just another of my wishfull mis-hearings!
Thanks for any help in advance
Paul
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Old May 31st, 2008, 07:51 AM   #21
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Price list for Pilot
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Old June 2nd, 2008, 02:23 AM   #22
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Wow, so I shot my 2nd wedding with the Merlin this weekend and had a screw/rivet pop out of the gimble. I wasn't doing anything crazy and the camera was just a GL2 with no accessories (not even a wide-angle lens). It's still usable, but I'll be calling Tiffen ASAP.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 12:59 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terry Thompson View Post
Travis,

Even though our system is like the standard steadicam configuration (PILOT) we do own a JR for adapting to our arm so we can comment on your post.

It seems as though your drop time is incorrect if the rig does anything funny when stopping or starting. I'm sure the drop time is covered in the Merlin information they give you and it needs to be understood in order to get the most out of your system. If your drop time is too short the bottom of the Merlin will swing out when starting/stopping/or direction changes. If the drop time is too long the rig will want go off on it's own as it doesn't have anything to keep it upright.

We have a training DVD that covers a lot of what you would want to learn and there is also a Steadicam EFP video that is out there somewhere.

When doing circling shots, make sure you are facing forward with the camera aimed in towards your subject. If you are facing the subject and walking like a crab (sideways) you will be doing it the hard and more dangerous way (possiblilty of tripping etc.).

The only kind of remote you can use with smaller rigs is the wireless one that comes with the camera. You can stop and start the camera as well as use the zoom although telephoto shots are much harder to do with a stabilizer. Anything that connects the camera to a fixed point that doesn't move like the handle will effect your shot.

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I own a Steadycam Merlin since yesterday and I searched the manual, but I didn't find anything about 'adjusting drop time'. How do you influence the drop time? I got my HV30 with wide-angle adaptor perfectly balanced on the Merlin, but it starts swaying (like the head of these plastic puppy dogs in cars) as soon as I move it in any sidewards direction.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 01:24 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Luc De Wandel View Post
I own a Steadycam Merlin since yesterday and I searched the manual, but I didn't find anything about 'adjusting drop time'. How do you influence the drop time? I got my HV30 with wide-angle adaptor perfectly balanced on the Merlin, but it starts swaying (like the head of these plastic puppy dogs in cars) as soon as I move it in any sidewards direction.
Page 25 in the manual. Sounds like your rig is probably bottom heavy.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 03:49 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Travis Cossel View Post
Page 25 in the manual. Sounds like your rig is probably bottom heavy.
Yep, found it. Thanks. I'll do the drop-test.
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Old June 17th, 2008, 11:52 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Terry Thompson View Post
The only kind of remote you can use with smaller rigs is the wireless one that comes with the camera. You can stop and start the camera as well as use the zoom although telephoto shots are much harder to do with a stabilizer
You cannot use a wireless remote with the Merlin !

Well, for clarity, you cannot use a wireless remote to zoom the lens with a Merlin, other remote functions like starting and stopping are fine***. (even here there are qualifiers/provisos)

Here's the problem, a well balanced Merlin and camera is such a precision system that to move some of the lens elements backwards away from the front of the camera ('zooming in') will instantly unbalance the whole system, resulting in your camera pointing either at the sky or the floor !!

Simply put, if you want to zoom in or out from your balanced position, you would need to initially choose your zoom length, set it and then rebalance the system. This rarely involves simply moving the stage back or forward a little, side adjustments are usually also necessary.

It is quite an amusing sight, I have set up my perfectly balanced Merlin on a stand I have made (held by the handle) and from across the room zoomed the camera in with the wireless remote only to watch the whole thing tip over ! Spooky to watch ! :)

So to the notion that "you can stop and start the camera as well as use the zoom" I would have to add - if you don't mind footage of people shoes. ;)

***One other 'problem' of the the incredible precision balance of the Merlin system is that you cannot record a complete 60 minute tape without rebalancing the system - as you are essentially moving a small weight (the actual weight of the reel of tape contained in the cassette) around 30mm through the 'for-aft' plane, which obviously will also swing the camera up (or down depending on how your camera mounts it's cassettes).

This obviously does not happen suddenly at the end of the tape, the system will gradually fall out of balance as the tape moves from one position to another. You would be amazed at how even moving such small weights around the top stage can throw your Merlin out of balance enough to have it pointed at the floor/sky.


I would be curious to know how many people have spent hours balancing their camera on the Merlin, only to find that when they take it off for a tripod shot, zoom in and out a bit, and then move back to the Merlin for the next shot they find that the stabilizer is completely out of balance ?

Having tried this with Cannon HV10, HV20 and HV30s, the Sony PD170 and the FX-1 the problem seems fairly universal - they all are not able to be zoomed on the fly without rebalancing the system.

I actually don't see it as a problem as such, as steadicam shots tend not to need zooming, working better with a fixed wide angle setting.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 12:18 AM   #27
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Well, I have gotten my Merlin to the point where it only needs adjustments to the sled rollers when I put the camera back on it from handheld or tripod. I'm shooting weddings, so I don't have time to sit there and get it perfectly balanced, so I generally take 10-20 seconds to "balance" the rig and I'm off to shooting again ... correcting any slight imbalance with a light touch.

I would agree it's impractical to try and operate the zoom or focus while operating the Merlin. On larger units I they use a 2nd operator to handle that, so I know it IS possible to do, but the Merlin is such a lightweight that maybes it magnifies the problem.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 12:34 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Travis Cossel View Post
Well, I have gotten my Merlin to the point where it only needs adjustments to the sled rollers when I put the camera back on it from handheld or tripod. I'm shooting weddings, so I don't have time to sit there and get it perfectly balanced, so I generally take 10-20 seconds to "balance" the rig and I'm off to shooting again ... correcting any slight imbalance with a light touch.

I would agree it's impractical to try and operate the zoom or focus while operating the Merlin. On larger units I they use a 2nd operator to handle that, so I know it IS possible to do, but the Merlin is such a lightweight that maybes it magnifies the problem.
Try it !

It a bit of fun and you can always zoom back to the old position.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 01:46 AM   #29
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Re-balancing is, for better of worse, just part of the gig with a stabilizer. Even with my full-size rig I am constantly tweaking the balance--things just go out of whack. With the Merlin it's before every shot without fail.

Indeed, it doesn't surprise me that zooming will have this effect. There are certain 35mm cine lenses that have enough travel within the elements that the simple act of focusing can cause the rig to tip forward (yup, even with a 60lb payload)!

Travis, indeed it is generally an additional person (an AC though, not an operator) who controls focus and zoom (and sometimes iris) but since these are controlled via wireless, they will not interfere with the operation of the rig. In the live broadcast world, many operators have gimbal-mounted controllers for zoom and sometimes focus. I myself have a gimbal-mounted zoom but rarely use it as it is very tricky to keep one's footsteps out of the operation of a touchy zoom rocker while walking.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 01:58 AM   #30
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Just for interest sake, I just tried the zoom experiment with my Indicam PILOT sled and a Sony Z1U. I set the drop time very long (about four seconds) and had it dynamically balanced as well. I didn't notice any fore and aft change at all when going from wide angle to full telephoto. It might be different with a different camera. Since I usually operate at a 2 to 2 1/2 second drop time zooming doesn't seem to be a factor with my set-up. I, of course, don't zoom while I'm shooting steadicam shots but I do rest the rig on a cross bar and zoom in (I become a human tripod-actually bi-pod). I can then pull the zoom all the way out and walk into a steadicam shot. It looks quite cool.

I can only guess that because there is so little mass in the Merlin that any change on the camera platform would effect it more. I can't imagine the Merlin tipping over though unless the drop time is set very long. Still, I have to salute you Lee on you post. Good insight! It shows that we can learn something new every day. I'll try that experiment using our JR next time.

We did do a zoom shot once. It was one of those wierd moving backwards while zooming in type of shots and we show it on our "Stabilizer Basics" training DVD. It looked fairly good considering we were using a stabilizer and not a dolly.

Interesting posts! Keep up the good work.

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Last edited by Terry Thompson; June 18th, 2008 at 11:33 AM.
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