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Old November 11th, 2008, 10:07 PM   #31
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Camera stabilizers are not "out-of-the-box" equipment, meaning that it takes a lot of learning, time, and practice to get (in my opinion) usable footage. There is a pretty steep learning curve so it's not for everyone, especially those without the spare time to put towards learning a new skill.

It is rewarding, though, if you stick to it.

If shooting handheld works better for you and the needs for your shot, I say go for it, especially if you only want to use a stabilizer for a few shots. For some people, Final Cut Pro's SmoothCam filter is good enough to smooth out shaky handheld footage.

Looking at the bright side, at least you didn't hurt your back!
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Old November 11th, 2008, 10:10 PM   #32
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Wind is probably the biggest enemy of Steadicam, very hard to manage. The Merlin has a tiny footprint which helps to a degree, but it also has little mass so the advantages are cancelled out.

The best wind baffle is somewhat permeable so that it literally baffles rather than blocks; we use a 4x4 double net (standard grip gear) for a full-size rig but a 2x3 would probably be fine with a Merlin. Yes, it does require another person to wield it, and they need to be nimble and attentive, but that's unfortunately the only real way to deal with gusts.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 07:47 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Peter Chung View Post
Camera stabilizers are not "out-of-the-box" equipment, meaning that it takes a lot of learning, time, and practice to get (in my opinion) usable footage. There is a pretty steep learning curve so it's not for everyone, especially those without the spare time to put towards learning a new skill.

It is rewarding, though, if you stick to it.

If shooting handheld works better for you and the needs for your shot, I say go for it, especially if you only want to use a stabilizer for a few shots. For some people, Final Cut Pro's SmoothCam filter is good enough to smooth out shaky handheld footage.

Looking at the bright side, at least you didn't hurt your back!
Hi Peter,

I did give myself two months of practice so i wasn't expecting to use it right out of the box. However, I may be one of those you mention who will never really be skilled enough with it for pro results. I'll give it another couple of months to see.

Handheld is definitely not good enough for me with the HD under normal circumstances. I used handheld footage all the time back when I was shooting with my Sony PD150. I don't know if it's the extra resolution of HD or me getting older and less steady, but the A1 footage I shoot handheld is unacceptable. Now, this past weekend, in the wind, it may have worked out better. Still, not good.

I do use FCP and have tried the smoothcam filter briefly. Not enough to really get into it. But I don't think it works for pans?

And yes, it really didn't bother my back. Yet. Thanks :-) However, I think some of the techniques I was using that came from hand holding and stabilizing heavy DSLR still cameras and big lenses actually might not have helped the steadicam shots. I'll sort of lock my upper arms against my body for stability which only gave flexibility to my forearms and wrists. I'm thinking that is causing more of my body movement to be transfered to the steadycam, making my movements more difficult to stabilize. Just a theory.

Thanks for your reply.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 07:54 PM   #34
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Thanks to everyone for their sympathy and suggestions. I knew wind could cause big problems from my practice at home. I did have it weighted a little bottom heavy decreasing my drop time to compensate. I had no one to hold a wind baffle for me. Plus, I was trying to blend in as much as possible. I just made do by shooting the same thing over and over using several different strategies. In the end, I got what I needed as far as footage. i just wanted to whine a little ;-)
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Old November 12th, 2008, 09:59 PM   #35
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You can practice steadying the camera by walking around with a cup of water filled to the brim and trying to keep any water from spilling out. This will help you to take some bounce out of your step and keep your camera position more steady while also building your forearm strength to maintain your shots.
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Old November 16th, 2008, 11:11 AM   #36
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Thanks for the suggestion, Peter. I'll work on that.
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Old November 18th, 2008, 11:48 AM   #37
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I'm going to Chicago tomorrow to try out a Merlin with the arm and vest and my XH A1. I'll let you know how that works out.
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Old November 18th, 2008, 01:57 PM   #38
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I'm going to Chicago tomorrow to try out a Merlin with the arm and vest and my XH A1. I'll let you know how that works out.
What, the windy city? Please let us know.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 12:20 AM   #39
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Denise,

OK, I'm laughing seeing that you have had problems with wind and now Bill is going to the "Windy City". What a great place for a test run.

Thanks for all your posts. They have been interesting to read.

We just bought an A1 (Peter's suggestion) as we had our Z1U stolen at the San Francisco Airport. The A1 seems to be a very nice camera and will "fly" well.

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Old November 21st, 2008, 04:02 PM   #40
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I met the Steadicam trainer guy at Calumet Photo in Chicago and he put the system all together, balanced my camera, gave me a demonstration, then instructed me by following me around while I used the system, pointing out what I was doing wrong. I spent about 2 hours or so with him. You don't get customer service like that from the discount stores. After awhile I was able to get reasonably smooth moves and on occasion stop without lurching. This lightweight system is a lot more touchy than a heavier rig I'd used before with big cameras. However, once you know what you're doing, it will move just as steadily as big systems.

I was tremendously impressed with the build quality and precision of the unit; it's really a high tech piece of equipment. I like the arms and vest too. On the old big system (Hollywood Lite, now the Varizoom Blackhawk), the arms were big and bulky, and adjusting spring tension was not something you could do while wearing the vest. With Steadicam, you simply turn a knob to increase or decrease spring tension. Plate adjustments can also be done quickly while wearing the rig.

My XH A1 was able to balance very nicely fully loaded, meaning with my Lee Filters bellows matte box, one 4X4 filter, Sennheiser wireless receiver on the hotshoe, Sony short shotgun mic in the mic holder, battery and tape. All the system's weights are in use, including the two you get with the arm/vest. Because of all the adjustment possibilities, there's still some room for adjustment if I needed any.

This isn't intended to knock Varizoom -- I like their stuff -- but it's easy to see why Steadicam is considered so cool. The attention to detail is amazing. The photos don't do justice to the system when you see it for real. I'm going to try to put in 1-2 hours a day in practice and hopefully will be ready by the time I have to shoot. Based on past experience, I'd say I'm going to need a good 10-20 hours or more to become proficient. The old full size rig with a big camera was difficult for me to use for more than a few minutes, but it was easier to use in terms of getting smooth moves quickly. The light weight of the system makes your body movement and even finger pressure on the gimbal more critical. On the other hand, the light weight means I can do it without the back pain of the past. After a few minutes, making pretty smooth moves isn't very difficult, but stopping and holding without bouncing around is the tricky part that requires all the practice.

A couple more things I like--the plate that goes on the bottom of the dovetail arrangement. Clamp it on when you're through, then screw your tripod quick release onto it. The Steadicam plate you so painstakingly aligned and put on the bottom of your camera lives on it--never have to take it off again unless I want to. Also, I got the bag that allows you to fold the Merlin arm up under the camera, leave it attached and set it into the bag, camera and all. That way if I break for lunch, I don't have to go through all the initial balancing when I start up again. I wouldn't want to leave the camera and Merlin dangling off a C-stand unless I'm there with it. So the bag was worth the extra $125, I think.

My next step is to watch the DVD.
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