Can Merlin w/Arm & Vest be Good - Or is Pilot Required? at DVinfo.net

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Old June 21st, 2008, 10:05 AM   #1
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Can Merlin w/Arm & Vest be Good - Or is Pilot Required?

I went to Cinegear at Universal yesterday. It was very hot, but had a chance to see Garrett Brown. It appeared that Tiffen had all the Steadicam model out, on display and ready for people to try on.

Otherwise, I asked the main salesperson if the Pilot sled was going to be sold separately. He said there were no plans to do this. He said the company owner had decided not to sell the Pilot sled separately. He didn't know if there might be a change a decision or not.

I asked if production were keeping up with demand for the Pilot, and the salesman said yes. Thus it would seem production is not playing a factor in the decision not to sell the Pilot sled alone.

My dilemna is that I recently bought the Merlin Arm & Vest, but I had plans to add the Pilot seld.

The Merlin Arm & Vest is still in the original box, the tape no cut yet. The Tiffen salesperson strongly recommended I return the the Merlin Arm & Vest and get the pilot.

My question is, "Is the merlin on the arm so 'fiddly' and difficult to control well -- with an XH-A1 with wide angle lens, but with the plate below for wireless receiver -- that I should not try to use the Merlin and do whatever necessary to get the Pilot?"

One reason I had bought the Merline then Arm & Vest is for travel. The Pilot sled, monitor, battery, etc. ads quite a bit of bulk and weight for airline travel it seems.

Of course, I could get the Pilot and the upgraded Merlin gimble in addition, so I would have either option. But if the Merlin is not going to do well on the arm, that wouldn't help.

So, will the Merlin on the arm give excellent results or is the Pilot a must.

I will be in dance and exercise studios. I want to follow dancers somewhat. I also want to quickly move in to catch up close the conversations between coaches and dancers, then move back and catch the result of the coaching. I am taking continuous video for an hour or so from which pieces will be edited. But this is not hour long steadicam shots, but it is also not preset shots... everything is on-the-fly, though there is a pattern to coaching sessions and rehearsals, so I have an idea of what will be happening.

Should I move to the Pilot now whatever it takes, before I open the Merlin Arm & Vest, or should I make a go of it with the Merlin, Arm & Vest.

Thank you for your opinions and experience!
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Old June 21st, 2008, 10:27 AM   #2
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the merlin can handle the A1 well without the wide lens. I'm not sure how heavy it would be with the wide lens. Personally I would go for the Pilot. The external monitor would help a lot vs the A1's LCD. U would have a great low mode option as well.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 11:51 AM   #3
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As soon as I began to work with my Merlin Vest & Arm I was wishing I had a Pilot. I love the Merlin, it's really great. But I do think that the controllability would be that much better with a Pilot. Not to mention the ability to vary the inertial response by use of Merlin weights, etc.

It would be really nice if Tiffen would offer just the Pilot post and sled. I have a smaller camera that would be great on the Merlin for more casual use, but I really do wish I had a Pilot for the bigger cameras. What I do not need is a duplicate arm & vest!

If your unit is still sealed it would be a whole lot easier to trade up. I would recommend it.

Last edited by Frank Simpson; June 21st, 2008 at 02:47 PM.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 11:54 AM   #4
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I've got the Pilot and I really like it. Having the monitor on the sled is a very big plus.

Now, you do have the option to use the Merlin on the Pilot arm. If I remember correctly you have to order the post so the Merlin fits the arm but with that combo you'll end up with what you want with the bonus of arms that will take a little more weight.

I'll likely order a Merlin later so I can have rigs set up for different cameras.

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Old June 21st, 2008, 01:04 PM   #5
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I like the Merlin for what it is; a handheld rig. Adding the vest and arm removes the sting of carrying the system, but the Pilot sled makes for a much improved operating experience--I can't imagine that anyone would prefer the way the Merlin feels vs the Pilot given the same camera on top and same vest and arm. The added and variable inertia of the Pilot is a great boon.

Your perfect situation in my mind would be to return the Merlin vest and arm kit, get the Pilot and the adaptor piece that allows you to fly the Merlin on the arm, as you would be able to then pick whichever rig suited your particular shoot. For travel, you could take the Merlin with vest and arm (you wouldn't have the factory carry case but it would be easy enough to pack in a standard suitcase) and for general shooting you'd have the Pilot which as I said, I think just about everyone would prefer for its stability.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 02:49 PM   #6
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It is kind of ironic that there is a "downgrade path" from the Pilot to the Merlin, but not an "upgrade path" the other way around, isn't it?
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Old June 21st, 2008, 05:40 PM   #7
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Thank you all. You have confirmed what I had come to believe...

The Pilot is a superior deal, but the Merlin has it's place as Charles and others explains.

There is a fly trip to Europe coming up where the Merlin with the arm and vest can make the trip, but the Pilot wouldn't.

However, it turns out I will be doing more in L.A. than I expected, so I've decided to trade into the Pilot. It is a little tricky with the retailer, but Tiffen has offered to help as a go between if needed.

I went back to Cinegear today and it was confirmed that selling the Pilot sled as an upgrade option is not in the works, and it doesn't appear it will be... that is there are no plans, though the idea has been discussed within Tiffen.

These sorts of things usually have more to do with politics, contractual obligations and commission structures... though from the outside, it doesn't seem to make practical sense.

The notion that there is a downgrade path, but not an upgrade path, is somewhat counter-intuitive, if not amusing.

After seeing it again, the Pilot outclasses it's competition.

*****************************************
And Completely off topic:

... I saw an ActionCam in action at Cinegear. Anyone who wants to fly 20 pounds or more on a budget, should look at the ActionCam from ActionProducts:
http://actionproducts.ch/actioncam/products.html

I saw the model setup for the Red camera, selling for $15,000 and able to fly 11-41 lbs. There are other models, one for $10,000 that flies 11-21 lbs., and some bigger rigs.

I'm not any kind of expert, or even very knowledgeable, but the rigs seems very well made and look great. For the features, quality and price, I believe pro operators have given the ActionCam a good rating.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 08:30 PM   #8
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Glad to hear you're going with the Pilot. This is the lowest priced Steadicam that still has all the features of their bigger rigs (Vest, Arm, & Sled with Monitor & Batteries). Also, as Charles mentions, the screw-on weights at the bottom ends really increase pan inertia for nice smooth pans.

For the Pilot with the XH-A1, I highly recommend buying enough additional screw-on weights to get the total weight up around 9-10 pounds. Part #s and ordering info here:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=115235
(bottom of second post)
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Old June 21st, 2008, 08:32 PM   #9
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I'll answer the question with a question. I have both the Merlin and Pilot rigs. Which do you think I used for these shots?
http://www.vimeo.com/611738
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Old June 21st, 2008, 09:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Tsamandanis View Post
I'll answer the question with a question. I have both the Merlin and Pilot rigs. Which do you think I used for these shots?
http://www.vimeo.com/611738
I suppose you used the Pilot, or it's a trick question and you used both, or it's a really trick question and all the shots are with the Merlin?

What's the real answer?
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Old June 21st, 2008, 09:53 PM   #11
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Hi Jack, all the shots were done with the Merlin arm/vest. The point I'm trying to make is that they are only tools and the important factor is the expertise of the operator. Technically I believe the Pilot is superior.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 11:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Tsamandanis View Post
I'll answer the question with a question. I have both the Merlin and Pilot rigs. Which do you think I used for these shots?
http://www.vimeo.com/611738
Hi Nick, is there a password or something to watch your video. I got "You do not have permission to watch this video". thanks.
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Old June 22nd, 2008, 12:04 AM   #13
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Try it now, will take it off tomorrow.
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Old June 22nd, 2008, 03:53 PM   #14
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Nick:

True enough these are all just tools and it's all about the operator. I should tell you that I recently attended my nephew's barmitzvah and brought my Merlin along but consider the footage I got to be far inferior that what you have been able to achieve with the Merlin.

BTW, had a chat with Garrett at Cinegear about various things Merlin and Pilot related and I mentioned you as a kickass Merlin operator.

And another BTW--when handing out the certificates at the workshops we used to discourage ops from then using the term "certified Steadicam operator"--things may have changed but as far as I know there still isn't a bona fide certification process, the certificate just indicates that you took the class.
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Old June 22nd, 2008, 05:15 PM   #15
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So, Charles, next time you get to bend Garrett's ear ask him to tell the great folks at Tiffen that they really need to sell the Pilot Sled alone for those if us who would really like to upgrade without having to take a hit on our Melin Arm & Vests.....

Just food for thought...
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