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Old February 3rd, 2009, 10:57 AM   #1
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Steadicam Pilot lock-off

Hi All-

I'm learning to use the Pilot with an EX-1. For the most part, I love the combination. One thing I can't seem to nail are lock offs, especially lock offs with tilt. Any suggestions? Oh, and I'm weighting the rig with 2 sets of 3 weights at bottom and 2 sets of 2 weights at the top. And if I need to provide more info to help with the advice, feel free to let me know.

Thanks,

Alex
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Old February 3rd, 2009, 02:02 PM   #2
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Hi Alex,

I did a lock-off for a student film with the EX1/Pilot and I thought it came off fairly well. Lock-off is at 1:20 into my reel.
davegishsteadicamreel on Vimeo

For lock-offs, you want your body in perfect balance, so that if you let go with both hands it just stays there. If you need a lock-off with a tilt, trim the sled to that tilt so it just hangs there. If the lock-off is boomed high or low, trim the arm as well. Then during the lock-off, you just barely touch the rig with both hands. The more force you apply with either hand, the less stable the shot. Also, with lock-offs, you want to be in the most stable standing position, usually with your left foot back and most of your weight on the left foot.

As for weights, you may be a bit bottom heavy. Any steadicam is more stable with the gimbal closer to the lens. In order to move the the gimbal up toward the lens and still keep your drop time, you'll need more weights up top.

No matter what camera I'm using, I always try to configure the Pilot for 2 pounds at the bottom and 8 pounds at the top. This keeps the gimbal within 2-3" of the stage and still has ample bottom weight for pan inertia. My bottom weights are always:
• 4 of the larger middle weights (2 on each end) and 2 of the smaller rounded end weights (1 on each end).
Each middle weight is 1/4 pound, and each end weight is 1/8 pound. The Pilot's battery weighs 3/4 pound, so with the weight configuration above, this totals 2 pounds of bottom weight.

Then to get 8 pounds of top weight, I just add up the weight of the camera and accessories, and then add as many weights to the stage as necessary to get the total top weight up to 8 pounds without going over.

The EX1 with BP-U30 battery is 6.2 pounds. If that's all you have up there, then you'll want to load the stage with:
• 6 of the larger middle weights (3 on each end) and 2 of the smaller rounded end weights (1 on each end).

If you have accessories, then just compensate the screw-on weights so that you get as close to 8 pounds as possible without going over. You can buy a nice accurate scale from the U.S. Postal Service for $40:
Product: USPS 10lb Digital Scale (Motion Marketing)
This way you know exactly how much your accessories and cables weigh.

Hope this helps.
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Old February 5th, 2009, 05:55 AM   #3
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My God Dave, your are a wealth of infomation when it comes to the Pilot. Good to have you around buddy.
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Old February 5th, 2009, 12:10 PM   #4
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Many thanks, Dave!

I put your advice to work and I'm having much better results. Still have to practice, practice, practice, but the advice is a great foundation to start from. Again, thanks.
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Old February 6th, 2009, 02:38 AM   #5
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Hi Dave. Did you attempt a setup for the EX1 with the U60? I have too many weights at the bottom now it seems. I am using rechargeble AA batteries now. I m always confused if the 10Ibs include the weight of the Pilot itself.

From your inputs, it should be just the camera+accessories+monitor battery? Should I consider the LCD weight?
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Old February 6th, 2009, 05:35 AM   #6
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No, the LCD is not counted as part of the 10 pound limit.
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Old February 6th, 2009, 10:15 AM   #7
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thks! Just realised my stage (ref to the quick release plane) is more than 3 inchs to the center of the gimbal. Will be attempting Dave's advise.
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Old February 6th, 2009, 11:32 AM   #8
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Hi guys.

Lockoffs are probably the most under-discussed but critical part of Steadicam work. It seems a bit counter-intuitive in a way; after all, the point of a Steadicam is to move through space, right? However, nearly every Steadicam shot includes a lock-off at some point, and some for significant lengths of time. In fact I would probably guess that of the 8 zillion hours of Steadicam footage I've shot, 4 zillion of those were locked off.

Every new operator should incorporate this into their practice sessions. The "unstructured" type of practicing involves walking around aimlessly pointing at things or following one's dog or girlfriend around the house, which has it's own merits in terms of getting used to the feel of the rig and building stamina, but does little for gaining subtlety and nuance to one's operating. A better way is to tackle a specific and designed shot or exercise that one can repeat ad infinitum which gives you a benchmark to check your improvement, like doing scales when you are learning an instrument. Always start and end with a lockoff. I personally recommend at least 10 seconds but I wouldn't discourage up to 30 seconds at the end of a shot. And amazingly, you may find that this is the most tiring part compared to simply walking around, and you will gain more stamina in the rig from doing lockoffs! Hold it until it burns. The reality is that this is very much a "real world" situation and it is important to learn how to maintain a steady and controlled image while the muscles are screaming at you to put the damn thing down.

In terms of how to do a lock-off successfully, Dave lists the main ones--the least amount of force required to hold the exact frame will ensure success, it's much harder to "hold" the rig in place than have it want to just sit there, balanced and trimmed. Having a proper stance when you come to the lockoff point is also important, if you are off balance yourself it will likely translate through your arms and into the frame.

When you have to lockoff a frame that involves a lot of tilt, it's best to reduce the bottom-heaviness of the rig (delivering a longer drop time) which will require less force to hold the tilt. Simply slide the gimbal down the post a 1/4" inch or so. Dave mentions keeping the gimbal as high as possible and adjusting weights to compensate and to this I would clarify that while the high gimbal is a good goal, I wouldn't recommend changing the balance of the whole rig during the course of a shoot by adding or subtracting weights--nothing wrong with adjusting the gimbal an inch or two. On my full-size rig I constantly have to rebalance through the course of a day as we swap lenses around; I set the rig up so that the heaviest lens will result in the gimbal being as high as possible (by adjusting the length of the post) and then with subsequent lighter lenses, I simply slide the gimbal down to compensate. The major reason for this is that adjusting the position of the gimbal does not affect dynamic balance, however extending the post or adding or moving weights at the base of the rig does, so each time you do this you should nominally rebalance dynamically (a potentially time-consuming endeavor)! Considering that I generally allow myself about 30 seconds to a minute to rebalance the rig after lens changes, much of which I will do on my way back to the set from the dock and sometimes finishing up just as the slate slides in, you can see why I want to keep the rebalance as simple as possible!
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Old February 6th, 2009, 01:12 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
... I generally allow myself about 30 seconds to a minute to rebalance the rig after lens changes, much of which I will do on my way back to the set from the dock and sometimes finishing up just as the slate slides in ...
Wow. Gives us something to aspire to.
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Old February 6th, 2009, 02:33 PM   #10
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Maybe sometime I'll make a little "behind the scenes" video of my setup and the various ways I've learned over the years to streamline the process of reconfiguring the rig to make it as fast and efficient as possible.
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Old February 6th, 2009, 02:41 PM   #11
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Charles,
I was wondering if you might be able tell me how many zeros are in a zillion. I've never seen that kind of number before. ;-)

BTW, I still think the staircase shot in American History X ranks as one of the all time best.

Also wondering since Scrubs changed to ABC and obviously a different production company, if you were still involved with the show. I don't watch it so I never see the creds.

Don
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Old February 6th, 2009, 02:43 PM   #12
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I for one Charles would love to see that!
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Old February 6th, 2009, 03:56 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
Maybe sometime I'll make a little "behind the scenes" video of my setup and the various ways I've learned over the years to streamline the process of reconfiguring the rig to make it as fast and efficient as possible.
Yes. Please!
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Old February 7th, 2009, 11:47 PM   #14
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Charles,
I was wondering if you might be able tell me how many zeros are in a zillion. I've never seen that kind of number before. ;-)

BTW, I still think the staircase shot in American History X ranks as one of the all time best.

Also wondering since Scrubs changed to ABC and obviously a different production company, if you were still involved with the show. I don't watch it so I never see the creds.

Don
I'd actually be a bit horrified at how many hours in the rig I've spent in the past 23 years--good thing there's no meter running (except the internal one); guess down they line they'll have to cut me in half and count the number of rings.

Thanks on staircase shot. I still shudder when I see it! That was a tough night, and with a heavy-ass Arri BL3 too.

I haven't been involved with Scrubs at all in the past few years, I did the first two seasons and a little here and there for the next few.

On my next show perhaps I'll do a little video for youse guys.
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Old February 8th, 2009, 04:53 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
Maybe sometime I'll make a little "behind the scenes" video of my setup and the various ways I've learned over the years to streamline the process of reconfiguring the rig to make it as fast and efficient as possible.
And soon thereafter, we all hope you will have time to make a little "training video" ... it's been a few years in the making and you still have people eagerly waiting for it! ;)
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