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Old October 20th, 2008, 08:24 PM   #16
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goin' okay

Hi Bill,

Thanks for asking. I did get it well-balanced with the A1 and have been practicing so I can use it the first weekend of Nov. My arms are stronger than I was expecting. I use some stabilizing techniques that I use for still photography with heavy cameras and lenses. Not that I can use it for an hour but for short periods of time no problem.

It's like I read though - you need to get used to it enough so that it's second nature so you can concentrate on framing your shots rather than your balancing technique. (Results of first practice efforts were disappointing.) I find I do better with my second hand (gimbal guiding hand) over the grip holding hand with my little finger curled under the bottom of the grip. Not sure yet if this is wrong.
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Old October 20th, 2008, 09:41 PM   #17
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The technique you describe with two hands is exactly right, Denise.
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Old October 20th, 2008, 10:12 PM   #18
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Love to see some video of your efforts Denise
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Old October 21st, 2008, 01:03 AM   #19
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The beauty of the arm & vest is that it makes the Merlin & camera totally weightless, so you only need to concentrate on framing.
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Old October 21st, 2008, 01:51 AM   #20
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Denise.


If you are having degenerative disk problems in your upper spine, chances are there is another ambush waiting furthur below in the lumbar area. Neither location is funny when the condition progresses.

This is only speculation however a good vest should function somewhat like a corset designed to assist back conditions.

The mechanism is to apply compression to the abdomen area which naturally limits forward bending and rearwards bending to sensible levels. As suggested above, it also transfers the weight from the spine to the hips.

The forward bending also causes the compressed abdomen to become a second fulcrum point and reduces the compression loading on the disks from back muscles resisting the forward bending movement.

Rearwards bending of the mid-lower spine and forwards bending of the mid-upper spine, a natural tendency to balance an upper body load may also be resisted by the vest, probably to a lesser degree.

Talk to your doctor about lower back issues. He may recommend either going for the vest, or a medical corset as a hedge against any future problems in that area. Carrying a camera by hand outboard of your body centre and bracing for steadyness is an unnatural workload of an unnaturally long duration.

The tendency is for a person also to ignore warning signals and endure discomfort and pain for the sake of the craft.

The loading is also offset to one side if you use one hand for some other task.

An upper spine becoming unstable may eventually transfer added strain to the neighbouring lower joints. It might also be worthwhile enquiring whether a bridge across the shoulderblades and shoulder straps may be worth a look. There may be some industrial back supports to do the job.

At showbiz Expo some years ago, I saw a small woman of 4ft 4, strap on a latest and great version of the real steadycam with a big camera on it and glide all over the place with apparent ease.

Just don't dismiss the warning signs. If the vest or a medical corset makes them go away, try to go the extra mile and use it.

Knee supports are possibly not a bad thing, especially if the arm runs away outboard and pulls you over. Your primary instinct will be to protect the camera and your knees will cop it when you go down. Charles will be best adviser here on this subject. He is certain to have done the scramble by now.

Last edited by Bob Hart; October 21st, 2008 at 01:58 AM. Reason: error
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Old October 21st, 2008, 05:24 AM   #21
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"the scramble"...haha Bob, nice description! It's been a number years since my last flat-out pancake, knock on wood, but perhaps that is more of a sign of "maturity" and less likely to put myself into situations where falling is possible (and I always use a competent spotter when running now).

For anyone looking to reduce strain on their back, the backmounted harness concept has been a real game-changer as it redistributes the load to the operator's legs and glutes from the lower back. I've done brutally long days and feel a much more "natural" fatigue than I used to. However this is a much more complicated design to work with the body mechanics and I'm not sure how many of the lesser backmount harness/vests out there are as good as the industry standard (the Klassen, which I use). I've seen some particularly overseas cheapie knockoffs that don't look too well-thought out.

However with a small camera load, the strain is minimal enough that a front mount should be acceptable to nearly all users. I do agree that a vest and arm system will make a massive difference over handheld operation particular for extended use. It turns what is a noticeable weight into one that is virtually invisible, as Nick points out.
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Old October 21st, 2008, 10:00 AM   #22
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Denise, you're not using a vest, right?

I'm interested in some hand held option. I don't do weddings or anything like that, and my use would be for specific scripted shots. I guess I'm hesitant on the Merlin because the specs say 5 pounds, and my XH A1 stripped naked, wireless receiver off, shotgun off, just a battery and tape loaded is 5.25 pounds (on our commercial digital postage scale).

I've used a steadycam type device before with a 2/3" chip camera. It was the Hollywood Lite, now sold by Varizoom for about $6500. Lots of weight there, but the above comments about balance are right on. As long as I kept the arms in close to my chest, it was OK. When it would drift out, there was lots of lower back strain. But that's the beauty of a small camera like the Canon--you can use a lightweight handheld device. For my purposes, the vest and arm is cumbersome and not very good for confined spaces, although I agree it would make things better and smoother.

Anyway, I'm still interested in whether you can get it perfectly balanced. I've seen lots of posts saying yes you can, and others saying the camera is too heavy for it.
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Old October 21st, 2008, 02:07 PM   #23
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Thanks to all for your responses.

Charles G., I would be embarrassed to show anything I've shot so far. After watching footage from the pros, I'm positive I won't have the technique down to really use it to its fullest extent for quite a while, if ever. If I get anything I feel like I can put up, I'll be happy to as long as you don't expect too much :-)

The shots I'll actually be needing the Merlin for will only need to be short, few second clips. Because of this, my plan is to shoot lots of footage off and on with it so I'll be able to pick out some clips good enough to use. It's not something where there's a one time thing I need to capture and do it right the first time. It's just event and spectator footage for a promotional video in a situation where I'll be unable to use a tripod, etc.

Bob H., Thanks for the info and warning. My back is already a horrible mess, unfortunately. I also have scoliosis from a hemivertebra (extra half of a vertebra) in the lower lumbar region so those corset things aren't good for me. They try to hold something straight that can't be straight. Plus I'm already pretty beat up overall from riding horses when I was younger. After using that Canon 1DmkII still camera they call "the brick" (and rightly so) with heavy lenses, this Merlin/A1 doesn't seem so bad to me at all. It's just for short periods of time anyway.

Bill P., No, I'm not using a vest. I really can't afford or justify the vest at this point. I'll have to see how this shoot goes, and if I have other work like that first. Then maybe...

I really do think it's perfectly balanced when I finally do get it right, but I can see why people just give up. Both the balancing and the learning to use are highly labor and time intensive at first. If you're willing to go through all that, I think you can make it work. I just hate having to strip the A1 down so much to use it. The quick release and tripod adaptor that come with the Merlin are really nice though.

Thanks again.
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Old October 29th, 2008, 07:04 PM   #24
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possible interesting discovery

So to continue this saga I've drug all who care to read through, I found out something interesting today. As an aside, I've been making myself go out for a few minutes every day with the A1 and the Merlin to build my skills (and muscles!). I'm left handed but my right arm has more strength. As in, I write left handed except on a chalk board, I write right handed. I bat right handed, etc., I've been using my right hand as the grip holding hand and the left to wrap around the first hand and guide the gimbal. For some reason I reversed this today and things went MUCH better. My shots were much steadier and I had more control.

Does anybody else find their second, gimbal guiding hand requires more strength than their main grip holding hand? I was positive it would be the opposite. I apologize if this has been discussed before.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 01:52 AM   #25
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Denise,

We just returned from a long business trip to the South Seas so I'm 31 days behind on this forum.

Charles P. mentioned that we at Indicam might have an arm that will fit the Merlin sled and indeed we do and have been selling it to various customers around the world. We even have a special "Barbie" sized vest for very small individuals. We made one for a young lady in Australia (picture attached) and decided to make an extra just in case. Although she is very petite she said the system worked great for her.

Our arm will work with both the Merlin and JR, as well as our Indicam sled with an inexpensive adapter. Our sled will also work with the Merlin vest with the before mentioned adapter.

When you get around to needing a support vest and arm system let us know and we will see how we can help you. We like to take good care of our customers with personal interaction.

Best of luck to you! You've chosen a great place to gather information.

Tery
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Steadycam Merlin and bad back-lisa-poppert-indicam-sm.jpg  
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Old October 30th, 2008, 04:54 AM   #26
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Ive been going to the gym to really build up my knee and back strength. I havent used my rig for a few months now so will see in 4 week when I have our next wedding and another 6 hours in the suite.
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Old October 30th, 2008, 10:13 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denise Wall View Post
Thanks to all for your responses.

Charles G., I would be embarrassed to show anything I've shot so far. After watching footage from the pros, I'm positive I won't have the technique down to really use it to its fullest extent for quite a while, if ever. If I get anything I feel like I can put up, I'll be happy to as long as you don't expect too much :-)
We all know you have to start somewhere....And you're right about the technique coming over time and some people just never get it down pat IMO.
BTW, I feel your pain.. I have to walk with a cane now from lower lumbar troubles of 21
years of handheld camera work including Steadicam
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Old October 31st, 2008, 10:53 AM   #28
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Danny, let me know how it goes and if you think the working out helped.

Charles G., I have decided to make this a challenge to myself. I'm going to try to get something to show you. I think it'll make me try harder to be ready for my assignment. I only have seven days left.

My back hurts all over after this AM's attempt. To add insult to injury, the footage is awful :-/
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Old November 11th, 2008, 05:24 PM   #29
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two thumbs down for me

Well, I got (or I should say tried to get) the footage this saturday that I bought the Merlin for. Not happy. It was pretty windy and I had a time both trimming to perfect balance and getting steady shots once I started shooting. I shot and shot and shot so I think I'll be able to ferret out what I need but geez it's a good thing nobody else will see the rest. I honestly think I could have done better hand held with the IS on. Some of the better footage came from me using it sort of like a monopod squatting on the ground. It was pretty discouraging.

And lest anyone try to comfort me by telling me how hard it is to use the Merlin in the wind, I must say I'm not exactly doing great with it under the best of circumstances.

Oddly enough, the thing that made me start this thread in the beginning was I was worried about my bad back. That's actually been the least of my problems.

I'll have to see if things get better over the next few months with more practice. I do think it would work fine with the A1 if I were just more skilled at using it.
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Old November 11th, 2008, 07:43 PM   #30
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OK here's the comfort you were asking for...

It is hard to get good stable shots with any light stabilizer when there is wind around. Because a properly stabilized rig is very touchy it's too easy for the thing to get thrown off.

When we shoot with our system and it's windy we balance our sled quite heavy with a short drop time. We then have to be careful to control it's tendency to pendulum on the bottom when doing direction changes and starts and stops.

If you can have someone hold a wind baffle to block off the wind somewhat that can help as well.

Tery
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