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Old October 3rd, 2008, 08:29 PM   #1
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Frustrating problems with Steadicam

Hey guys,
I am having issues with my steadicam pilot, I just got it today and decided to throw it on and start getting a feel for the pilot. This is the first stabilizer I have owned but I have worked with people on sets with them and figured it would be a good thing for me to get. Any way, on the the problem!

My monitor on my steadicam rolls, squiggles (which I am sure is not a word), majorly distorts, and pretty much anything a monitor can do... in other words all i see is a bunch of moving lines. It didn't come like this. I put it on, shot for a while then put it on a light stand mount then sat down and relaxed for a while before deciding to pick it up again. The second time I turned it on started out fine, my dog was barking at the door so i decided to let her out and see what was going on out side. Naturally i figured i have the steadicam already on i'll keep walking outside and walk in big open spaces. less then 1 minute outside the monitor completly failed on me and I can't figure out why. Its not that cold out side, and even if it was it couldn't have effected a monitor in 45 seconds. So what is wrong with my monitor and how can i fix it!?!?! I wan to keep practicing!

other then that though i love this thing, and i'm getting good at it.

Louis Maddalena
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 08:42 PM   #2
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I noticed that when I used the supplied BNC cable (which is a push-fit connector) to connect the monitor to the Canon XH-A1, the video does what you describe. This is because the push-fit connector on the BNC is loose and does not make a good, solid electrical contact. If the video cable moves at all, it'll make the monitor imposible to watch. I made up my own cable and the monitor is rock solid. Maybe this is the problem you are experiencing?
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 08:44 PM   #3
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what happens to your monitor when you unplug it from your camera all together, does the problem stay bad or resolve to a black screen. I ask because I am using the supplied BNC connector and the A1 but when the monitor is unplugged the problem remains the same.
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 09:52 PM   #4
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Is the steadicam battery holding it's charge? I ask because the monitor symptoms you mention sort of sound like that. Maybe it's not the monitor, but the battery that's faulty.

Or maybe theres a problem with the ground connection from the battery to the monitor, so power ground is being made through the actual video cable somehow. Are you using the 2.1mm power connector on the stage to power anything up by the camera?

Before you assume a bad monitor, check everything to do with power.

Also, make sure the cables in the back of the monitor are plugged in securely.

Hope this helps.
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 10:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
Is the steadicam battery holding it's charge? I ask because the monitor symptoms you mention sort of sound like that. Maybe it's not the monitor, but the battery that's faulty.

Or maybe theres a problem with the ground connection from the battery to the monitor, so power ground is being made through the actual video cable somehow. Are you using the 2.1mm power connector on the stage to power anything up by the camera?

Before you assume a bad monitor, check everything to do with power.

Also, make sure the cables in the back of the monitor are plugged in securely.

Hope this helps.
I am using Double A's I'll change the batteries and report back. thanks for the idea.
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Old October 4th, 2008, 08:24 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Louis Maddalena View Post
I am using Double A's I'll change the batteries and report back. thanks for the idea.
Hi Louis,

If you have the Pilot-AA, I would highly suggest using rechargeable AA batteries.

You can buy 2.7 ah NiMH rechargeable AA batteries here:
- MAHA POWEREX 2700 mAh AA8 NiMH Rechargeable Batteries1 Fre..
at $25 for a pack of 8. I got 4 packs for a total of 32 AAs. Since the Pilot-AA uses 10 batteries, this is enough for an online set plus 2 spares. Since each set lasts around 4 hours, this is enough for 12 hours of shooting. This means I never have to break out my battery charger on location. I also carry 10 AA alkaline non-rechargeable batteries for emergency backup.

The same place sells a nice 1-hour fast charger for 8 AA batteries:
- MAHA MH-C801D AA - AAA Battery ChargerDELUXE 8 Cell Profes..
for $69 each. The LCD readout shows battery charging status for each of the 8 slots. You'll need 2 of these to handle the Pilot's 10 AA batteries. The 6 extra AA charging slots are also nice for my other stuff (Fostex FR-2LE sound recorder and Sennheiser G2-100 wireless lavaliere mic).

I also highly recommend buying extra battery holders for the Pilot-AA. You can buy 2 of these on eBay:
10 AA Battery Holder-New- Quaility Replacement! - eBay (item 120307048297 end time Oct-17-08 18:10:04 PDT)
for $14 shipped. This way you don't have to deal with switching AA batteries on location. You just swap packs of 10. See attached pictures.

Hope this helps.
Attached Thumbnails
Frustrating problems with Steadicam-batt3.jpg  
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Old October 4th, 2008, 10:23 AM   #7
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Dave,

Thanks for the help, the problem with my monitor was my batteries. I do have rechargeable batteries for the steadicam and will likely buy more. I am also going to keep non-rechargeable like you do for back up purposes.

I will probably buy more AA mounts to stick in the steadicam, but I am going to wait a while just to see how many times I am likely to need new batteries, and how long the ones I have last. So I know how many to buy. I'll probably be purchasing the extra AA mounts next week.

Thanks for all your help.

Louis Maddalena
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Old October 4th, 2008, 12:51 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Louis Maddalena View Post
I do have rechargeable batteries for the steadicam and will likely buy more.
I used to have different brand batteries, like you see in my pictures above, but then I noticed that some AA batteries weigh more, and some weigh less. This throws off the Steadicam balance when you swap between the different types. Obviously, I can re-balance the sled to compensate for different weight batteries, but it takes a little time. It's much more convenient to buy all batteries of the same exact brand and type, this way I don't have to re-balance when I swap batteries. So I bought 8 more batteries and they are all the same now. If you like the batteries you have, I suggest buying more of the exact same type.

As for how long they last, a fully charged set of 2700 mAh NiMH batteries will usually last around 4 hours powering just the monitor. Less in cold weather. Also, if you power camera stuff off the 2.1mm power connector on the front of the stage (e.g. video transmitter, LED light, etc.), the batteries will obviously run out sooner.
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Old October 4th, 2008, 08:22 PM   #9
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Wow, I didn't even think about different brands of batteries weighing different amounts. I'll have to go out and buy all the same brand batteries. I'm also thinking about getting different kind of battery mount in the future when I can afford those kind of batteries.
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Old October 5th, 2008, 09:31 PM   #10
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Remember that rechargeable AA batteries don't have the full 1.5v output. They only output 1.2v each...
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Old October 5th, 2008, 10:06 PM   #11
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Remember that rechargeable AA batteries don't have the full 1.5v output. They only output 1.2v each...
Interesting. Is that enough to power the system? I don't want to be killing the environment by using all the AAs. I am now saving for a Vlock battery and the mount.
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Old October 6th, 2008, 08:58 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David L. Holmes View Post
Remember that rechargeable AA batteries don't have the full 1.5v output. They only output 1.2v each...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Louis Maddalena View Post
Interesting. Is that enough to power the system? I don't want to be killing the environment by using all the AAs. I am now saving for a Vlock battery and the mount.
It's a 12 volt system. That's why there are 10 slots. When you use non-rechargeable AAs, you are operating at 15 volts.

I used to think this was a problem, especially since initial specs on the Pilot-AA talked about 2 dummy AA batteries for when you use non-rechargeables. But in reality, battery voltage varies quite a bit. A freshly charged NiMH AA battery is actually around 1.4 volts. I measured a freshly charged IDX-7E Vlock battery at over 15 volts. A brand new non-rechargeable AA battery is actually around 1.6 volts. The reality is that most 12v equipment seems to work on a range of voltages, probably from 10-18 volts.

So the bottom line is that 10 AA rechargeable batteries will power the Pilot monitor just fine for around 4 hours at room temperature.

If you are using the Sony EX1 or particularly the EX3, then you might want to use Vlock batteries. The AA rechargeables would only last around 2 hours powering both the camera and the monitor. Note that powering the camera and monitor from the same battery not only saves weight, but also adds the convenience of only having to swap one battery. But this only works for cameras that use 14.4 volt batteries (Sony EX1 & EX3). Most cameras that work with the Pilot use 7.x volt batteries.

Also, if you use a bright LED light on the camera, then Vlock becomes more attractive to power that as well. But for normal stuff added to the camera, the 10 AAs work fine. For example, I often use a fairly powerful video transmitter:
900 MHz ATV FM micro transmitters
and this only takes the AA rechargeable battery time from 4 hours to around 3 hours, which is still plenty of time between swapping battery packs.
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Old October 6th, 2008, 02:25 PM   #13
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Dave,

I saw you using the wireless video/audio transmitter system and was wondering if you are a ham radio operator? The transmitter you are using is for licensed Amateur radio Operators only, as it operates on the FCC restricted Amateur Radio Service (ARS) 900 MHz band. Most people would not want to buy one of these transmitters unless they have passed the required FCC ARS license exams and have their Technician Class license (or above).

The FCC Part 97 rules require all ARS stations transmit their FCC callsign every 10 minutes, and at the end of the transmission, including when using video (Amateur Television - ATV). How do you accomplish this? Do you shoot a whiteboard with your callsign written on it every 10 minutes? Also, it is illegal to use the ham bands for commercial use, meaning a camera operator who is being paid to shoot video, could not use the ham bands to transmit his video or audio or he'll be in violation of the FCC rules.

As this unit is pretty low power (half a watt), how do you handle interference from other hams who may be using up to 1,500 watts?

For those thinking about using the ham ATV bands for commercial and/or unlicensed use, be aware that the fines for using transmitting equipment on the ARS frequencies without a license are severe, often in the tens of thousands of dollars!

Julian
Amateur Radio Operator - Extra Class Licensee
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Old October 7th, 2008, 12:07 PM   #14
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Thank you!

Priceless. Thanks for saving me a ton of time and some money!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
Hi Louis,

If you have the Pilot-AA, I would highly suggest using rechargeable AA batteries.

You can buy 2.7 ah NiMH rechargeable AA batteries here:
- MAHA POWEREX 2700 mAh AA8 NiMH Rechargeable Batteries1 Fre..
at $25 for a pack of 8. I got 4 packs for a total of 32 AAs. Since the Pilot-AA uses 10 batteries, this is enough for an online set plus 2 spares. Since each set lasts around 4 hours, this is enough for 12 hours of shooting. This means I never have to break out my battery charger on location. I also carry 10 AA alkaline non-rechargeable batteries for emergency backup.

The same place sells a nice 1-hour fast charger for 8 AA batteries:
- MAHA MH-C801D AA - AAA Battery ChargerDELUXE 8 Cell Profes..
for $69 each. The LCD readout shows battery charging status for each of the 8 slots. You'll need 2 of these to handle the Pilot's 10 AA batteries. The 6 extra AA charging slots are also nice for my other stuff (Fostex FR-2LE sound recorder and Sennheiser G2-100 wireless lavaliere mic).

I also highly recommend buying extra battery holders for the Pilot-AA. You can buy 2 of these on eBay:
10 AA Battery Holder-New- Quaility Replacement! - eBay (item 120307048297 end time Oct-17-08 18:10:04 PDT)
for $14 shipped. This way you don't have to deal with switching AA batteries on location. You just swap packs of 10. See attached pictures.

Hope this helps.
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Old October 7th, 2008, 01:07 PM   #15
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Julian,
interesting info but I have to ask, what about all of the cordless phones we use in the house that run on the 900 mhz freq. I know I don't have a license for them (yes, I still have 1 phone line running 900 mhz phones).

Don
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