Taking a Merlin on Disney Vacation? at DVinfo.net

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Old June 21st, 2008, 06:20 PM   #1
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Taking a Merlin on Disney Vacation?

I haven't purchased a Merlin just yet, have no experience with it.

I own a Canon HV30 with a Raynox HD6600 Pro, along with an XH A1 lens hood. I usually do family and friend events but nothing major. I would love the look and stability from using a Merlin, and plan to get one soon. Summer vacation is coming up in about 2 weeks, so most likely sooner than later, but how feasible is it to take one to a Disney park?
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Old June 21st, 2008, 07:18 PM   #2
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As the HV30 is pretty light, if you have the hood on and film outdoor, the wind may affect the smoothness a lot.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 08:44 PM   #3
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Magic Kingdom Merlin

I hope you know there's a learning curve to this thing. You don't just pick it up and make flawless videos. You are also not going to go on any fast motion rides (roller coasters) with it, I doubt they'd allow that. On the slower ones, like the train, inertia may move it in ways you don't expect...

That said, I have the sony a1u and the steadicam JR. I have a love/hate relationship... I've not gotten the balance with the thing down pat, so I have to stop down to adjust more than I would like. Wind affects it, people in a crowded theme part bumping into it affect it (less so if they bump into me, due to isolation).

But I am patient, and when I get it right it is like the camera is on air. I can't believe how fluid it all looks when it goes well.

You will have to decide if your family will put up with you learning how to use it in what is essentially a "production shoot." I guess you can mess with it while standing in all the lines there, you may find the place too crowded to do much this time of year.

You may be better off getting a wide angle adapter. Not only will that get more of the scene in the shot, but as long as you stay wide apparent camera motion will be reduced.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 09:30 PM   #4
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Thanks for the advice. Yes I'm aware of the learning curve, however, I do get pretty smooth shots, but not steadicam smooth of course, walking around with a 10lb tripod, which obviously isn't logical for a day at the park! So I think I'd be up for the learning challenge. But the wind and crowd stuff are definitely valid points to think about.
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Old June 21st, 2008, 09:46 PM   #5
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I think the Merlin is overkill for a vacation, it's too big to be hauling around all day, especially if it's hot and crowded. Keep it simple and you'll have more fun (and probably get more interesting video to boot). If you just need something simple to stabilize the camera, what about something compact like this? It's not as "smooth" as a Merlin, but you are supposed to be on vacation right?
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Old June 21st, 2008, 11:34 PM   #6
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While you certainly may be able to get some nice shots, to me it would be a huge distraction from being at a Disney park!

Last year I did about a 13 minute continuous Merlin shot at a street fair in town. I was just curious what it would be like flying a rig through a big crowd. Much to my surprise I was able to fly it through crowds without bumping into people or getting bumped by them. I flew it at chest height and it did not attract a whole lot of attention. People thought I was carrying a camera, but they were not aware that I was shooting at the time.

But it was only when I watched the tape that I really was aware of all the things going on at the fair. I was so focused on holding a horizon and not jostling anyone or being jostled that I really missed a whole lot of what was going on. I can only imagine that this would be amplified at a Disney Park.

I love visiting Disneyland & California Adventure, and I would want to be "present" in what's going on. If I was personally blasé about attending then I might be able to focus more on getting great shots, but as it is I would want to experience Disney!
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Old June 21st, 2008, 11:41 PM   #7
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This is off topic: A monopod is more practical. This does not give you smooth flying shots. However, it is perfect for vacations, birthday and many many other occasions. You might want to consider the Manfrotto 561B.
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Old June 24th, 2008, 12:45 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the great advice!
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Old June 24th, 2008, 01:28 AM   #9
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My Disney experiences

I went on a family holiday to Disneyland Paris ast year and shot several hours each day, and still enjoyed the fun.

The camera I was using at the time (a Sony DCR-TRV25E) wsa slightly larger and heavier than a HV30. I worked out in advance that to get clear shots of the parades I needed height as well as stability.

I took a cheap collapsible minitripod and basically used it as a monopod (ie legs together) and shot the parades with the camera mostly about 3m off the ground, though I did some craning up and down as well. There was a little bit of reaction from the crowd - not annoyance, just people thinking I was a bit of a nutter. They let me get on with it, and I let them film each other's heads while I got clear shots. Monitoring was difficult with the RTV25E viewfinder not very bright against the sky, and i got a bit of a stiff neck, but the shots were better than expected - not too wobbly as I stayed at full wide much of the time but did zoom in using the remote control pointed up at the camera.

I've had a great deal of practice using such Heath Robinson camera supports, so I knew what I was doing. My family agreed (afterwards!) that they were glad I had done this even though they had to pretend not to know me during the parades.

This year we are going again and this is what has been decided:

(1) No way am I allowed to take my XH-A1 to Disney, so it's the HV30.
(2) I am using a proper monopod this time, which won't flex the way the cheapo collapsible tripod did.

With an HV30 and a monopod, you are just another tourist, equipped for great and safe shots with the camera strap firmly round your neck. I would have to agree that most the of rides would present an unacceptable level of risk with a Merlin and the staff would probably intervene.

Hope this is of some use. I'll see if I can post a clip.

Last edited by Colin McDonald; June 24th, 2008 at 02:15 AM. Reason: missing word
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