Modified the Steadicam Pilot vest from velcro straps to buckles at DVinfo.net

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Old October 24th, 2008, 04:45 PM   #1
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Modified the Steadicam Pilot vest from velcro straps to buckles

Just wanted to share my modification of the Steadicam Pilot.

I have my reservations about using velcro as the only way of securing and strapping up the Pilot vest. It's loud, you have to adjust it several times to get it right, you can't "save" your strap settings, and velcro wears out over time.

So I went over to the hardware store and found some nice buckles like they have on all the other Steadicam vests.

So far, I converted the side straps and the waist belt strap to buckles but haven't figured out a good way to do the shoulder straps. I think I may end up getting some pop rivets to fasten the buckles to the chest plate. But the shoulder straps aren't too bad, actually.

With these new modifications, I can quickly and easily get in and out of the rig and don't have to worry about whether I have a good fit or not because it's already set to fit right. The vest just clicks into place and no more loud velcro ;)

While I was getting buckles, I got another one for the arm keeper strap so it's got a quick release buckle, too. Very handy when you're not using the arm to keep it from swinging out and hitting someone.

I hope others find this useful. Enjoy!
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Modified the Steadicam Pilot vest from velcro straps to buckles-velcro-buckles.jpg  

Last edited by Peter Chung; October 24th, 2008 at 06:39 PM.
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Old October 25th, 2008, 01:10 AM   #2
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Looks great Peter!

Am i correct to say that you have just threaded the old velcro straps through the buckles and not had to sew anything?
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Old October 25th, 2008, 07:52 AM   #3
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Yep! I was able to reuse the velcro straps. So all I bought were the buckles. A very inexpensive upgrade that makes the vest fit so much better ;)
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Old October 25th, 2008, 08:13 AM   #4
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The Pilot is so expensive and then you still have to upgrade it yourself! The developers should have done this for you! I wasn't aware that the Pilot had Velcro, might even make me reconsider upgrading from the smooth shooter.
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Old October 25th, 2008, 10:03 AM   #5
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Peter-

Great mods! I recently sold my Merlin Vest to "upgrade" to the Pilot, and was planning on doing almost exactly the same thing! I have an idea for the shoulder buckles, but I'll have to wait until the Pilot arrives later next week.

I especially LOVE the arm keeper modification. It's the one thing I never liked on my Merlin Vest, but adding the side release buckle is a great idea.

I work for OP/TECH USA where we manufacture all kinds of straps, pouches and accessories, aimed primarily at the Photo industry, but obviously theres some crossover to video. So I'll probably do sewn versions of the replacement straps.

Nicholas-

Don't knock the Pilot as an expensive product. Yes, it is kind of a hefty price tag, but with Steadicam, you really do get what you pay for. I'll take Steadicam over Smooth Shooter every time!

Tiffen engineered the Velcro version of the vest for a reason- to make it extremely versatile to fit operators of ALL sizes and shapes. If I have to make minor modifications (Less than $10!) to make it more convenient for me, I certainly don't mind.
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Old October 25th, 2008, 01:00 PM   #6
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The buckles are not a big deal. The Pilot will perform much better than the SmoothShooter, especially since the SmoothShooter only has one articulated arm. You're right, though, that the vest should have already come with buckles, IMHO. Most vests have some sort of velcro on there to make the straps more secure. With a light rig like the Pilot, velcro should be okay. It's not a deal breaker, though, especially since you can upgrade it yourself for less than $10 (and $20 at the most).
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Old October 25th, 2008, 01:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Simpson View Post
Peter-

Great mods! I recently sold my Merlin Vest to "upgrade" to the Pilot, and was planning on doing almost exactly the same thing! I have an idea for the shoulder buckles, but I'll have to wait until the Pilot arrives later next week.

I especially LOVE the arm keeper modification. It's the one thing I never liked on my Merlin Vest, but adding the side release buckle is a great idea.

I work for OP/TECH USA where we manufacture all kinds of straps, pouches and accessories, aimed primarily at the Photo industry, but obviously theres some crossover to video. So I'll probably do sewn versions of the replacement straps.
Please post pictures of your mod after you do them.

Out of curiosity, what advantages would sewing the straps have over using the existing velcro? In my experience, the straps don't loosen or fall out in the non-sewing buckles.

What's your idea for the shoulder buckles? I did try putting the buckles in like I did for the other straps but you can just as easily pull the velcro off instead of unbuckling so I decided to leave it as is for now.
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Old October 25th, 2008, 06:57 PM   #8
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Frank I definitely agree with you. Buckles are much better than Velcro, I'm still saving for my Pilot upgrade, guess all I'm secretly saying is that I hope I can buy a version with buckles by the time I've saved up enough.
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Old October 25th, 2008, 07:22 PM   #9
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Frank's assessment of the Pilot vest being designed to fit a multitude of operators is correct. There are murmurs about a version with buckles being introduced as an option for those who don't need to share their vest with others. Hopefully it will be available as a separate item for those who have already bought Pilots.

p.s. for those who aren't that familiar with the features of the Pilot, you might want to peek at my review posted right here on DVi. I share the same sentiments as you folks about the velcro as you can read.
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Old October 26th, 2008, 12:56 PM   #10
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Maybe I'm weird, but I actually prefer the Velcro. I've used 3 different vests with buckles, (regular Flyer, leather Flyer, and Glidecam V-20). I find it much harder to adjust buckles dynamically as I'm wearing the rig.

For some reason, the "set-it-and-forget-it" approach doesn't seem to work well for me. After lunch I loosen up the straps a bit. Also, sometimes I just feel like something is too tight or loose, not sure why. In addition, I like to keep my hip strap really tight, so when there's a few minutes break I'll always loosen that up an inch or two for comfort. I actually switched the hip strap arrangement so that it attaches on the right side for that reason. This way I can hold the sled with my left hand and adjust the hip strap with my right. It takes like 5 seconds to adjust a Velcro strap.

Yes, the straps do seem to wear out the more you hook/unhook them. So far, I've solved this by just switching the ends of the straps when one end starts wearing out. However, I know this won't work forever, so I ordered 2 more straps as backup. Tiffen part # 801-7812, $32 each (22"x2" Velcro straps). I use the Pilot frequently, so it looks like I'll wear out 2 of these straps per year.

One note: since the shoulder adjustments don't seem to vary, I just leave these always attached and slide it over my head. So this is one set-it-and-forget-it adjustment that works for me.
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Old October 26th, 2008, 01:25 PM   #11
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You're not weird Dave! Higher end vests have improved features to allow for just the sort of thing you describe--the Klassen has ski-boot style ratchets, the PRO has articulating latches that relax the straps as needed. Buckles are sort of "old school" but they are tried and true.
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Old October 26th, 2008, 03:07 PM   #12
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Charles thanks, review was a good read.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 09:32 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
However, I know this won't work forever, so I ordered 2 more straps as backup. Tiffen part # 801-7812, $32 each (22"x2" Velcro straps). I use the Pilot frequently, so it looks like I'll wear out 2 of these straps per year.
Dave, in your case, you might want to look into buying a roll of velcro so that you can cut straps to length as well as save some money.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 09:38 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
You're not weird Dave! Higher end vests have improved features to allow for just the sort of thing you describe--the Klassen has ski-boot style ratchets, the PRO has articulating latches that relax the straps as needed. Buckles are sort of "old school" but they are tried and true.
I thought about using snowboard bindings but I found the buckles and it was a really easy and simple modification! Maybe in the future, I'll try bindings.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 12:04 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Chung View Post
Dave, in your case, you might want to look into buying a roll of velcro so that you can cut straps to length as well as save some money.
I've never seen any 2" wide velcro with hooks on one side and loops on the other. Do you know where I might find something like this?
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