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Old January 3rd, 2009, 11:52 AM   #1
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VariZoom vs Steadicam vs Glidecam

I have not used any of these, but i was just wondering what any bodies experience with these Stabilizers are. Who likes one brand over another and why. Also which one is the best if that can really be ascertained. Any brand Full body Stabilizers are up for discussion just incase there is one i haven't heard of.


http://www.varizoom.com/stabilizersindex.html
http://www.steadicam.com/index.html
http://www.glidecam.com/
http://www.floatcam.co.uk/

Last edited by Anthony Ojo; January 3rd, 2009 at 11:57 AM. Reason: add links
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 04:07 PM   #2
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Steadicam are the market leaders, its not just the brand name but the technology they use is superior.

Glidecam and the others tend to use very old Steadicam designs.

I use a glidecam myself, its cheap, does the job but will never produce the results like a steadicam rig (pilot, flyer).

Generally, the heavier the rig, the more stable you will be.

My advice is to go for the most expensive one you can afford. To get one and wish you had spent that few $ more youll kick yourself (as I have). But then there is the other side. Not everyone can use them or get on with them. So your now worried what happens if you buy it and dont get on with it.

Best thing is see what people produce with each bit of kit. All my videos use the Glidecam smoothshooter. There are a load on vimeo and youtube with the various other rigs available.
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 05:08 PM   #3
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I believe Steadicam still has the patent on the isoelastic arm concept, which is the key to current designs. I have a Flyer-LE, and it's a great unit.

The de facto forum for Steadicam is SteadicamForum.com - A Community of Motion Picture Camera Stabilization Specialists Most of the guys posting there have decades of experience, so it's the best place to go.
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 05:59 PM   #4
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Some years back I bought what's now the Varizoom Blackhawk. It was made by Hollywood Lite, and they had just concluded a deal for Varizoom to be the distributor. This was for a 2/3" chip camera and was pretty heavy duty. I thought it was well built and not too difficult to use, excpet for the weight. It had a very limited up and down range, and was time consuming to set up and balance. The main thing I didn't like was that you couldn't easily adjust the spring tension when wearing the unit.

Just a few weeks ago I got a Steadicam Merlin with the arm and vest for my XH A1. You can definitely see why Steadicam has the lead in stabilizers. Even on their bottom-of-the-line rig, everything is very well made and tuned to precision. Balancing is easy with the superfine tuning adjustments. If you want to change tension on the arms, you just turn an easy-to-reach knob. Every part is well machined.

If I were buying a bigger rig today, even though the Blackhawk is pretty good, I would spend the extra money for the Steadicam. The Merlin package I got is probably a few hundred bucks more than the nearest competitor, but well worth it, in my opinion.
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 08:35 PM   #5
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I had a glidecam V20, then moved to a Steadicam flyer. Besides workmanship (steadicam is superior) the biggest difference for me was adjusting your fore-aft balance. With the glidecam's adjustment balance scheme, you had to loosen 4 hex screws (which I replaced with thumbscrews), move the camera plate a little, then re-tighten the thumbscrews. The very act of tightening the screws alone would shift the plate very slightly, throwing the left/right balance off, which meant you had to loosen the 4 thumbscrews once more, then make another adjustment. You keep doing this until the balance was right. In the end, you'd spend maybe a minute or more fine tuning the balance even if you're very fast.

With the steadicam, there is a dual rack and pinion gear system for the same adjustment, one for fore/aft, and one for left/right which means you simply turn the correct adjustment screw a little at a time until perfect balance is achieved. Fine tuning this way takes about 5 seconds!

I never tried the other variants, but from what I saw, all have similar adjustment schemes (meaning no rack and pinion adjustment system like Steadicam's). In the end, you get what you pay for in engineering and workmanship.

In conclusion, you may technically be able to get the same shots with glidecam vs steadicam, but you'll be able to get that shot with a steadicam much quicker and with less frustration.
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 09:03 PM   #6
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I'm glad to see that everyone here is of a similar mind, which is that the Steadicam brand products are worth the extra money. I have noodled a bit with some of the other brands mentioned in this thread and I find them generally exasperating to fine-tune as mentioned here. It's not to say that people are all unhappy with their purchases or unable to make reasonably smooth shots, it's just that those who move on to Steadicams after being familiar with the competition are always able to appreciate the difference, as Bill and Warren describe.

Danny suggests to search for demo videos on the different rigs. I would say that this is actually less than desirable as the results of a given stabilizer are entirely up to the operator (even more so than, say, looking at test footage of a given camera). I myself could conceivably coax decent shots out of any of the listed brands, but I'm not exactly the typical user of this level of rig.

I don't know what your camera payload is like, but if you are running in the 3 to 10lb range, I highly recommend the Steadicam Pilot. Great rig, and you can read my review of it (including test footage, although if I was to practice what I preach, I'd be telling you to ignore that!) here at DVi:

Steadicam Pilot Review Part One by Charles Papert, S.O.C.

Also look for Dave Gish's informative FAQ on the Pilot in this forum.

On a limited budget, I would next recommend the Indicam Pilot (confusing name similarity although Terry from Indicam came up with his first!). It's similar to a Glidecam but with a better gimbal design.
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 11:18 PM   #7
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That is amazing that everyone so far like the Steadicams over any other. I watched the video for he Pilot on B&H and i fell in love with it. Before i saw the video i was thinking about Glidecam. I just purchased a Canon HV30 and would like to eventually later this year get the Sony EX3 with the Edirol / Roland F-1 Field Recorder. One question i forgot to ask was about 35mm Adapters on a Steadicam. Who has used it and who has not. Is it possible and with what rod system? Also how much weight over can you get away with on the Steadicam specs. Is 11 lb. ok.
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Old January 4th, 2009, 12:56 AM   #8
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Hi Anthony,

For the Steadicam Pilot, I would suggest no more than 8 pounds of camera and accessories. This is because you want some weights on the bottom for better pan inertia. It makes the shots more stable. I've used the EX3 on the Pilot, and it fits within my 8 pound limit. More on this here:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/stabilize...-possible.html

If you want to use the EX3 with an external hard drive on the Steadicam, then you want the Steadicam Flyer LE, which costs around $7000. But before we go there, let me ask, do you really need to use the external hard-drive on the Steadicam? The Sony XDCAM format compresses groups of frames, so it's fairly compact. A 16 GB SxS card will hold over 1 hour's worth of 1080/24p video .

Also, MANY PEOPLE ARE USING REGULAR SD MEMORY CARDS WITH THE EX1 AND EX3. You need a particular Express-Card to SD adapter, and particular SD Flash memory cards to make it work, but it's way cheaper than buying SxS cards. You could probably buy ten 16GB SD Flash memory cards for less than the F-1 field recorder. Check out the forums for more info on this. It's a really hot topic right now.

As for using a lens adapter, that's a whole different story. The main issue here is that the shallow depth of field of the lens adapter requires the focus to be constantly adjusted during a moving shot. Just using the steadicam, keeping the frame stable, keeping the frame level as it moves, keeping the headroom constant, requires all of my attention, and took me months of training to get decent shots. To get really pro shots, it takes many years of working as a professional steadicam operator.

The point is that I don't think one person can work the steadicam and pull focus at the same time. I've heard of some people doing it, but keep in mind that all professional steadicam operators have a second person pulling focus when using shallow DOF type cameras. This requires a good wireless follow focus system ($4000 minimum), and another person with some experience pulling focus to use it. See here for more details:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/stabilize...f-adapter.html

Last edited by Dave Gish; January 4th, 2009 at 01:02 PM.
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Old January 4th, 2009, 04:07 AM   #9
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The main reason for my comment about the videos was that you will see a varying level of operator skill but when I did my research there were no good flycam vids. This could be because its the cheapest and only the indie videographer uses them so no real skilled people or it could be a sign of the equipment.

When it comes to Steadicam pilot and Flyer vids generally you only see good stuff. Even from those who have picked it up for the first time.

I saw it was possible for the average Joe to get decent shots out of the glidecam so went with that. As you all say, it can be a pig to balance as the screws alone shift the weight.
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Old January 4th, 2009, 11:15 AM   #10
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The Pilot, I think, would be definitely easier to use than the Merlin. I got the Merlin with arm and vest because there are some situations where I need to be able to just hold the unit without the arms/vest in a fairly confined space, and the compactness lends itself to that. You can get just as smooth moves with the Merlin, but it probably takes more practice to get good with it. With the old much heavier Varizoom package with about 30 pounds of weight hanging out there, I was actualy able to make smoother moves quicker than with the Merlin. However, because of lifelong back problems, I was able to only do a couple of takes between rests. With the Merlin package, I can shoot all day and don't have to run to the C-stand to remove the camera after every shot. The beauty of small, light cameras like the XHA1.

One very cool thing you can do with the Merlin, and presumably other Steadicams, is, say you want to follow a person up a staircase...you can simply crank the fore/aft adjustment so the camera tilts up at the angle you want, and you're ready to go, with no need to try to hold it at a tilt.
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Old January 7th, 2009, 11:35 AM   #11
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I second that steadicams are the best made. Performs really well. The Pilot is easier to manage
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Old January 9th, 2009, 01:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pryor View Post
One very cool thing you can do with the Merlin, and presumably other Steadicams, is, say you want to follow a person up a staircase...you can simply crank the fore/aft adjustment so the camera tilts up at the angle you want, and you're ready to go, with no need to try to hold it at a tilt.
That also points to the main limitation of the Merlin (other than susceptibility to wind), which I'm not saying is a weakness in the design, merely beyond the scope of the design: say you want to follow a person up a staircase and along the hallway... A Merlin-like design that allowed you to control the tilt of the camera on the balanced rig on the fly would be killer. In fairness, the instructional DVD for the Merlin stresses that the operator should learn to boom the rig when they might ordinarily tilt the camera, but there are circumstances when this isn't a practical solution.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 03:30 PM   #13
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Steve:

Not sure if this is something that you are aware of, but some of the bigger Steadicams do offer this feature. The motorized stage on the U2 for instance allows the operator to adjust fore-and-aft from buttons on the gimbal handle, on the fly (and even designate two presets to ensure exact balance on either end).

There is a design "dream" in place to apply this to all of the models of Steadicam as an option, all the way down to the Merlin, believe it or not! Whether or not this actual comes to market is unknown.

In the meantime, for shots that require severe tilts as well as level sections, simply reduce the bottom-heaviness of the rig a bit which will allow for less force to be required to enact the tilts. This does make the rig somewhat more "touchy" however.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 06:26 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
The motorized stage on the U2 for instance allows the operator to adjust fore-and-aft from buttons on the gimbal handle, on the fly (and even designate two presets to ensure exact balance on either end).

There is a design "dream" in place to apply this to all of the models of Steadicam as an option, all the way down to the Merlin, believe it or not!
OK - you got my interest! How does thing work? I mean, I know the principle of how a motorized stage works, but how much difference does it make for an operator in real life? What's your feeling on the bang-for-buck factor with a beginning operator here?

While we're at it, how essential would you consider a tilting stage for a beginning operator? Given that you can trim the whole sled, is the tilting stage worth it? Is the DB issue of tilting the whole sled really that limiting in practice?

Also, what are your thoughts on the AR system? Is this a game changer?

Last edited by Dave Gish; January 10th, 2009 at 08:22 PM.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 08:13 PM   #15
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The motorized stage with go to and return home buttons are also available as an option on the new Clipper.
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