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Old August 20th, 2003, 05:07 PM   #1
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Glidecam Help

OK Guys this'll be a long one.

Some of you may remember I got a glidecam V8 early on this year. I have loved every minute of using it and have had great results with the V8 and my VX2000. At the time when I bought it I had no plans of using the Glidecam with cameras over the 13lb weight limit so as I couldn;t afford the V16 at the time went with the V8.

So as happens sometimes, things have been quite good for me this year and that meant in July I was in the position to buy another camera. After much deliberation I decided to max my new found budget and get a Sony DSR-390. The operating weight of this camera is around 14lbs, so checked with Glidecam and David Stevens was really helpful as he's always been with any of my questions or concerns and told me that the V8 arm spring probably wouldn't support the new camera. So, after a little searching on the net I found a local spring maker who I got to custom make me a new spring for my V8 arm to support the extra weight. Nearly there honest....

With new spring installed and new shiny camera balanced and ready I tried it out, the arm supported the weight fine and all initially seemed good, until I started to move. Every step was being transmitted to the camera as a shock, Damn I thought.

Contacted David Stevens again and he thought that it may be the rate of the spring that was too high which meant it wanted to fight back as I moved, he suggested adding more weight to the sled which I did and things did improve. Still wasn't as good as it was with my VX2000 though. So I thought I'd upgrade the V8 arm to the V16 arm which has 2 springs to half the spring rate and which should solve my problems.

Well, I got the V16 arm through today and I've still got a bit of a shock when I move, to help illustrate the problem here is a link to a small avi which starts with me stepping on the spot then walking forward and back quickly, you can see the shock with each step.

http://www.steeleworksproductions.com/movies/glidecam.avi

Whats the point of this I hear you all ask, while I'm waiting on David getting back to me I'm hoping that some of you(you know who you are Charles and Casey :-) ) can take a quick look at the avi and hopefully help me out with this problem.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully some words of wisdom will help me out.

John.
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Old August 20th, 2003, 08:59 PM   #2
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John, what that looks like to me is the result of play in some component of the system, not necessarily the arm.

Check every tiedown on the sled to make sure all are tightened. Pay close attention to the camera mounting platform, this is where the additional weight of this camera may be making the difference. Hold the handgrip firmly and shake the sled while watching the camera closely. If you can see the camera shift even minutely (and you may feel this shifting in the hand on the handgrip, this is the probable cause of the jolts in the photography. The joint between the camera platform and the center post is often the culprit, as is the same thing on the bottom. If you can get the rig to exhibit a shimmy when shaken, you need to address this.

Also make sure that the arm and vest are making a tight connection etc.

If everything seems secure, I'm not sure what would be causing this. It should be pointed out that the simplified design of the Glidecam arms (except for the Gold series) are not "true" Steadicam arms; that is, they redistribute the weight but don't necessarily provide all the isolation of a more sophisticated spring and pulley type arm, or the other high end arm technologies. Thus it may necessary to "help" these arms by adopting a handheld walk to eliminate or reduce the jolting caused by a regular walk.

Let us know what you find out.
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Old August 21st, 2003, 12:00 PM   #3
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Hi Charles,

Tried what you suggested, tightened everything and I can feel the camera jolt through the handgrip. If I hold everything still then step hard I feel a vibration from the sled and if I shake it there's a shimmy.

The arms (V8 and V16) are perfectly smooth with my VX2000 which is obviously much lighter so it looks like you might be right with the added weight of the new camera causing problems on the camera mounting platform.

Thanks again Charles for the advice, I'll get back onto glidecam see if I can pursuade them to send me a new sled to try.

John.
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Old August 21st, 2003, 04:03 PM   #4
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Spoke to David Stevens at Glidecam and they're going to send me a V16 sled to try. I must admit they've been absolutely brilliant, I'm trying to use the V8 with a camera that is heavier than it's rated for and they're bending over backwards in helping me sort out the problem. First class customer service, above and beyond the call of duty I say.

I should have it middle of next week I'll report back with my findings.

John.
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Old August 21st, 2003, 09:40 PM   #5
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John

Sorry I'm coming to this thread late, but it looks like you're getting things sorted out...i'm in agreement it could be just too much stress on the v-8 sled...so the 16 should straighten it out...its a fairly good size increase from the 8 to the 16...and may take a few practice runs to get used to, but operationally its the same....just more suited for your cam....keep us posted.
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 01:08 AM   #6
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It's interesting John, I once sent a nearly identical video to the folks at Cinema Products (original manufacturer of the Steadicam) because of problems I was having with my first rig, the venerable Model 1, circa 1979...I bought it ten years later in a VERY used state, and it turned out to have shimmy at the base of the sled which caused just the kind of problem you are experiencing. I remember describing the "stomp test" to the tech after he watched my video, which obviously I had to send snail mail back then! His rather condescending response was "just how long have you been operating?". They were not known for customer service. Glad you are being taken care of over at Glidecam.
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 07:57 PM   #7
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Hey John,
How long of practice time did it take you to get nice, smooth shots?
Also, anyone (?Casey) can let me know the weight of the complete V-8 rig? (I noticed Casey mentioned that the V-16 is
much bigger.)
And Casey, is there a difference in max reach (i.e. lowest to highest, left to right) of the camera between the V-8 and the V-16?
Dave
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 10:19 PM   #8
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Dave - off the top of my head, i dont recall the weights of the rigs alone. And they can vary wildly in weight depending on whatever camera you put on them.

As far as the arm travel is concerned...its about the same actually...the arms are basically the same length. the only difference being a beefier construction and 2 springs in the v-16 as opposed to 1 spring in the v-8 arm.
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 11:07 PM   #9
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Thanks Casey,
I read where one guy said all this talk of how hard it is to
learn how to use these rigs is overexagerated (I think "rubbish"
was the word he used).
What has been your experience in how long it really takes to get smooth, level shots?
Dave
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Old August 23rd, 2003, 02:22 AM   #10
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Looking forward to Casey's thoughts on this. Dave, hope you don't mind if I chime in (it's really too provocative a subject!)

I taught at the Steadicam workshops for about 5 years; in that time I observed probably 150 souls tackle the basics of Steadicam operation over the course of a six day, 12 hours a day intensive workshop.

At the end of the week, most of them were able to perform average shots with some degree of finesse. As far as the subtleties of good operating, like maintaining constant headroom, level and the like, probably only a handful left the workshop with those skills. I maintain it takes about 40 hours of time in the rig to really get that down for most shooting situations.

It is actually HARDER to achieve pretty results with a DV-oriented system than the full size rigs. The inertia is less, the rig requires a lighter touch. And the quality of the product is not as good (how could it be, for the price difference), which means more limitations for the operator to overcome.

Finally, what is considered good operating is certainly subjective. "Smooth and level" means one thing to me, perhaps something different to the gentleman whose post you read.

Oh, and on a personal level? I think I was a pretty mediocre operator for about three years, then just OK for a couple more. Didn't really hit my stride until I was about six years into it. Probably hit my career best about fifteen years in...!
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Old August 23rd, 2003, 09:15 AM   #11
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<<<-- Originally posted by Charles Papert : They were not known for customer service. Glad you are being taken care of over at Glidecam. -->>>


True that, I just sent out my gimbal and center post to get that knocking sensation checked out. It still rolls or swings a bit as well, so I'm hoping it is something mechanical, or I'll forever have doubts about it! :) I've been dealing with Thomas, friendly bloke.

I'll feel bad about wasting his time if there is nothing that can be done about it, I'm sure it's not me, but the equipment is in good hands now.
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Old August 23rd, 2003, 09:48 AM   #12
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Dave - in my own case, i started on v-8, took me probably a month of use just to finally arrive at weight and balance i was happy with. The lighter weight of these more DV oriented rigs, as Charles pointed out does make them a hell of a lot harder to work with, but good results can be had with them. It was probably about 3-4 months of constantly working with it before I was happy with my own operating....but still far from perfect, and i'm continually learning new things and subtlely improving to this day. However, everyones experience will be different.

Anyone that thinks its easy right out of the box probably hasnt put one on and tried to get a rock solid shot with it yet. It's not a casual device like a tripod, if you're serious about getting into shooting with a steadicam or glidecam style system, prepare to invest a lot of time and hard work.
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Old August 23rd, 2003, 10:38 AM   #13
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Hi Dave,

Just want to give the novices view on Charles and Caseys comments on how long it takes to get good shots with these things. Before I got my V8 I had been using a 2000 pro handheld stabaliser for about 2 years so when I got the V8 I already understood the basics of balancing and getting good drop times, so I think I had a good grounding in what I was doing, but using the body mounted system for the first time requires a lot of practice. So I've been using the V8 for about 6 or 7 months and I would say I'm OK with it, can do some fairly simple smooth shots, I find that keeping a stable horizon the most difficult part but I'm getting there :), I must say though, the help I've had here from people like Charles and Casey has been invaluable in getting me to my current modest ability. If you like the look of steadicam shots and you are willing to put in lots of practice it really is a lot of fun I try and use mine as much as possible. The only thing for me now is to do a bit more working out 'cause when I've been trying to use my V8 with the DSR-390 it certainly takes it out of the back muscles, I got a whole new outlook into steadicam the first time I took that weight, God only knows how the pro's can handle 40 and 50lb camera loads :-)

John.
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Old August 23rd, 2003, 03:57 PM   #14
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<<<-- Originally posted by John Steele : Hi Dave,
God only knows how the pro's can handle 40 and 50lb camera loads :-)
-->>>

Deadlifting. Lots and lots of deadlifting. :) I'm sure the pros go on cardio runs with a backpack, military style.
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Old August 25th, 2003, 09:04 PM   #15
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<< I'm sure the pros go on cardio runs with a backpack, military style.>>

There are a few, Andrew, but they are the exception. What usually happens is that a bunch of us regular, flabby Steadicam guys meet up for beers in Santa Monica, get all loaded up and hide in the bushes until one of these buffed-out freaks comes running by, then we jump out, pin him down and sit on him until he promises to stop being such a show-off!

Actually, you would be surprised to see what some of the most physically competent operators look like. Larry McConkey, possibly the world's best Steadicam operator ("Goodfellas" and about a zillion other amazing jobs after that) looks mostly like a college professor.

Basically, when you are working day after day, you develop the muscles required to keep these things afloat, and unless you go long periods between jobs, that's usually enough to get by. It's really a drag to try to hit the gym after 13 hours of work, five days a week...

I should point out, John, that the high-end rigs used for 35mm work are inherently more sophisticated in terms of body stress and mechanics. The DV-based systems tend to pull away from the body, requiring more strength to rein them back in. For instance, you should be able to stand wearing the rig with no hands on it, and it should float in front of you without effort. If you find yourself having to use your arms to keep it from flying away, or in the case of "no hands", leaning way back to keep the rig from escaping, you are unfortunately doing more physical work than you should be. Part of the problem is that few of these rigs allow for pitch adjustment at the arm socket attachment, which let you dial in your body position. Another problem is that the lightweight vests have a tendency to pull forward under load, causing the rig to run away.

Even with a properly aligned system, many operators tend to lean forward too much, especially if the monitor is mounted down below and they hunch forward to look at it. This has the same effect as described above. Next time you put the rig on, go through a move and stop on a dime, then see if you can possibly let go of the rig with both hands (be careful!) without it wanting to fly away from you. Now be aware of how much force you are using with your gimbal handle hand to keep this from happening! That adds considerably to the fatigue. Ideally, you should be able to let go at any time during a move and have the rig simply sit there.
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