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Old October 9th, 2008, 06:17 PM   #1
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Pilot First impressions

Well i finally picked up my Steadicam Pilot from DHL after getting it through customs yesterday afternoon.

All up it cost me Just under 5k usd including GST (tax) to bring the VL system and a steadi stand in. Not to bad really considering the current exchange rates.

Got it home and opened it up like a kid at christmas, did the usual throw everything on without a camera and have a walk around for the hell of it thing.

Then went attached my HVX and started trying to get static balance, took me about half an hour at first but finally got it. Didnt even try achieve dynamic blance, knew it would be far to hard. Took Charles' advice and put the rig on to get a feel. Had some fun and then put it away and went to bed.

Have spent the morning playing again. Achived static balance in about 10 minutes this morning and also managed to get it close to dynamic balance as well.

Have been flying it weightless with my HVX and a manfrotto QR plate on the top and then just the LCD and battery unit with a Sony BPL-60 - Man these batteries last for ages just running the LCD.

Feels pretty good but almost seems to need some weights on the bottom. So im going to go have a play with that now and put probably 2 middle weights and an end weight at each end on the bottom.

The vest is great, the velcro is nice and easy to work with and adjust and as long as you take care of it it should last a long awhile. The adjustment of the vest is very easy to use, fitting was a breeze.

The arm is amazing, i havent got much to compare it with.. but yea, amazing.

Dave - how many weights are you flying on the bottom of your sled again?

Also, to anyone, how exactly should the arm be sitting when loaded? horizontal? not sure how much arm adjustment to add.

Will post some pics and vid when i feel confident enough.. heh

Last edited by Joe Lawry; October 9th, 2008 at 06:21 PM. Reason: speeeling.
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Old October 9th, 2008, 06:38 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Lawry View Post
Dave - how many weights are you flying on the bottom of your sled again?
I use two middle weights and one end weight on each end of the bottom crossbar. If you are not using the Pilot AA battery system, the battery mount may weight more, so you could use just 2 middle weights on each end on the bottom. I also use middle weights at the top, depending on how much stuff I have on the HVX. If you haven't already, I highly suggest buying a scale and additional middle weights.
Product: USPS 10lb Digital Scale
Steadicam | 801-7920-05 Middle Balance Weight with | 801-7920-05
I try to keep the weight at the top just under 8 pounds, and the weight at the bottom (screw-on weights and battery) up around 2 pounds. If you use screw-on weights on the bottom and the top is too light, then you'll end up moving the stage away from the gimbal to get the proper drop time. If the the stage is further away from the gimbal, any small movements in the sled will be amplified more at the lens.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Lawry View Post
Also, to anyone, how exactly should the arm be sitting when loaded? horizontal? not sure how much arm adjustment to add.
It's supposed to be level, so start practicing like that. In reality though, it depends on what you are shooting and how high you want the lens for the specific shot.
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Old October 10th, 2008, 02:48 AM   #3
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Cheers dave, yup i've ordered more weights but they are on back order.

The best set up i found today for me was 2 middle weights on each end on the bottom and 2 end weights on each end of the stage (all the weights i've got haha).

I had my post extended to around 15 cm's longer than normal and had a drop time of around 2-2.5 seconds. Any longer and i just kept having the lens dip when i accelerated. This config was close to being dynamically balanced i thought..

Heres a quick video of some walk and talk.

Steadicam Pilot Day 1 on Vimeo

Im going to get in contact with a seasoned operator sometime next week who said i could come round to his place and he'd give me some tips when i got the rig. Will hopefully be able to help me achieve dynamic balance.

Oh and yes i need to buy a scale.. i have no idea what the thing weighs.

Last edited by Joe Lawry; October 10th, 2008 at 05:45 PM.
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Old October 10th, 2008, 07:59 AM   #4
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Hey Joe,

Looking good for day 1!

Note that extending the post also moves the lens up away from the gimbal, which amplifies any sled movement at the lens, but it does add inertia, so this is a trade off as well. If it matters, I usually extend the post around 8 cm (just over 3 inches). I measure this as four fingers when I'm setting up. But this is all personal preference.

As for dynamic balance, I've found the best way is to put the battery and monitor pretty much all the way out (for maximum inertia), and then just move the whole bottom crossbar forward or backward using the hex nut in the middle. Note that other Steadicam designs don't have one lower crossbar that can be moved forward or backward like the Pilot, so a seasoned operator might not think to do it like this.

This method also makes it easy to re-balance after packing and unpacking. You just put the battery all the way out, tilt the monitor down, maybe trim the stage a little, and it's still in dynamic balance. In other words, if you keep the
battery position,
monitor position,
post length,
screw-on weights,
camera, and
camera accessories
all the same, then dynamic balance will be the same, so you may not have to do it that often. Just check it to make sure it's still in.

Note that the Monitor position is not quite all the way out, since the screw-on weights limit that, but this is OK since you don't have to move the monitor position on the lower crossbar to pack it up. Just tilt the monitor up for packing. You do have to move the battery in to pack it up, but that's not an issue since moving it out all the way is very reproducible.

If you use a tripod adapter and sliding plate, like the Manfrotto 577, make sure you line it up the same way every time, or it will affect dynamic balance.
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Old October 12th, 2008, 03:11 PM   #5
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Thanks dave,

Will keep playing with post lengths and see what i come up with,

Cheers for the setup tip as well, i can see it saving a lot of time when balancing.

Joe
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Old October 16th, 2008, 01:27 AM   #6
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Well after a few more days things are slowly making sense.

I've achieved dynamic balance through daves method of extended the lcd and battery all the way out and adjusting the cross bar only, works great and if you are flying the same camera all the time its very easy to set up next time.

Have also discovered reading threads like this - http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/stabilize...lot-error.html is really handy once you've actually got the rig, because i found a lot of it didnt make sense until i actually had the pilot. Now it does. So much info on this forum its great.

The only problem im having now is the lens of the camera tilting up and down on acceleration and deceleration when walking. You can control it a bit by just handling the sled carefully but i think its mainly due to there being to much weight on the cross bar and not enough on the stage, is this correct? Need to play with moving weights more, am still being limited weight wise with the weights i got with the pilot and BH are still on backorder with the ones i've ordered.

Also need to buy myself a scale.. however havent found any as cheap as the one Dave has been suggesting, have found a nice one but its slightly pricey and am currently waiting on a few invoices to be paid.. but will get it asap.
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Old October 16th, 2008, 09:59 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Lawry View Post
The only problem I'm having now is the lens of the camera tilting up and down on acceleration and deceleration when walking. You can control it a bit by just handling the sled carefully but i think its mainly due to there being to much weight on the cross bar and not enough on the stage, is this correct?
It probably has more to do with your drop time and how you feather out starts and stops.

Drop time is a subjective thing. A short drop time, like 1.5 seconds, makes the rig a lot more stable when you're not moving. Holding horizon becomes a little easier, and wind is less of an issue. But a short drop time also makes the tilting pendulum problem you describe a lot more pronounced. So expert operators that run low drop times are really good at feathering out starts and stops with their left hand. For example, if the operator knows they are speeding up, they will apply a slight pressure with their little finger to the back of the sled to compensate for the bottom wanting to swing back.

With a longer drop time, like 3 seconds, you will have much less pendulum effect, so feathering out starts and stops is less of an issue, but it's also easier to tilt or roll the lens inadvertently.

Peter taught this really well in the 2-day workshop. If it makes any difference, I'm currently running around a 2.5 second drop time.

Also, as for the weights, this just has to do with a trade-off between pan inertia and getting the lens closer to the gimbal. Also, adding weight in general makes things more stable, so I tend to always fly close to the 10 lb limit. But moving the weights between the top and bottom and then moving the gimbal to keep the same drop time shouldn't affect the start/stop pendulum issue too much.

Do you have a shotgun mic or wireless audio receiver? If so, you can use this to increase the weight of the HVX. If not, I would split the stock weights between top and bottom for now, like Garrett does here:
YouTube - Steadicam Pilot with Garrett Brown
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Old October 16th, 2008, 02:48 PM   #8
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I've been running about a 2 second drop time, any longer and i dont feel i've got enough weight on the sled to keep things nice and stable (not sure if thats how you'd describe it but you know what i mean)

Yea i've got a G2 Receiver i've been meaning to add to the shoe of the HVX, will put it on next time i fly.

Invoices paid - time to buy that scale.
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Old October 16th, 2008, 03:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Lawry View Post
I've been running about a 2 second drop time, any longer and i don't feel I've got enough weight on the sled to keep things nice and stable (not sure if thats how you'd describe it but you know what i mean)
Yep, 2 seconds is short. You'll definitely have pendulum tilt issues with a 2 second drop time as you speed up, slow down, or change directions. You can compensate for this with your left hand, but that will take a while to learn.

The G2 receiver & 2 AA batteries weigh about 1/2 pound, so when you add that, try all 4 big weights on the bottom, all 4 little weights on top, and a drop time of 2.5 to 3 seconds. The extra weight will make it more stable, and the slower drop time will make it have less pendulum tilt when you start/stop.

By the way, what kind of sticks do you use? If you use Bogen/Manfrotto, you might want to buy a tripod adapter like this:
Amazon.com: Manfrotto 577 Rapid Connect Adapter w/Sliding Mounting Plate (3433PL): Electronics
This makes it super easy to change between sticks and steadicam. It also adds another 1/2 pound or so up top.
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Old October 16th, 2008, 03:51 PM   #10
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Im running miller sticks however i bought the 577 when i got the pilot and have been using it since i started it. Its much easier to unscrew a tripod plate off than taking the whole top plate off the stage.

Will try your suggestion.
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Old October 16th, 2008, 11:20 PM   #11
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One thing about drop time: over the years I have seen quite a variation in what people call "one second" when measuring drop time, with the result that one person's idea of a 2 second drop is quite different from the next. Remember to start your count as you let go of the rig at dead horizontal and stop it as it hits dead vertical during its swing; also remember that counting "one-one-thousand-two" doesn't mean a two second drop, that's barely above a one second drop. A three second drop is actually quite slow when it comes down to it. I call mine a 2.5 second drop for most applications, going to a 3+ for hardmount vehicle work or shots that require various tilts that have to be held for extended periods, and may shorten to a 2 second drop for very deliberate, slow moving shots that don't involve much acceleration or tilting.
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Old October 16th, 2008, 11:39 PM   #12
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So.. shall i start using a stop watch? heh.

I've been doing the old one one thousand but definitely getting all the way too two one thousand..
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Old October 17th, 2008, 09:51 AM   #13
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Hone you counting skills here:
DIGITAL STOPWATCH
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Old October 18th, 2008, 06:05 AM   #14
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I love the internet.
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 08:17 PM   #15
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scale

I bought one of those post office scales a couple years ago when I needed one to ship things. There are cheaper alternatives.

Also, Sam's Club sells one with a remote readout and you can put lots more weight on it, more money but maybe more useful overall.

As far as the pilot goes, I've been considering one to use with my XH-A1. Do you all feel it was a good investment?
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