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Old September 27th, 2003, 06:10 PM   #1
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Steadicam JR and the HD10

I got a JR for my upcoming shoot thinking I'd pick it right up.
The thing is a absolute pain in the a**.

There hasnt been much praise (that I've heard) around here for it.
I was wondering what you guys thought of it, and if you think it can add THAT much to a production. We typically do alot of hand held run and gun stuff.

Thanks!

Steve
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Old September 27th, 2003, 06:28 PM   #2
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Hi Steven.

I've been hearing a lot of this sort of thing lately...!

You can potentially make fabulous shots with a JR. It takes time and practice and patience. It's not particularly intuitive. The unit itself, however, is the best of its class in my opinion--and the least forgiving of "operator error", something like a race car? (I don't know that much about race cars!)

If you are used to shooting run and gun, it may not be for you, in that you need to take the time to mount it, balance it, trim it etc. each time you use it.

What it comes down to is: are you interested and willing to invest your time into learning a whole new skill; is it worth it to you? If so, you may well add a whole new dimension to your productions. I'm not exactly sure what those are, but for instance, check out "Cribs" on MTV and watch closely--do you feel that the way they use Steadicam adds a lot to the show? Obviously that's not a JR in use, but a well-operated JR can probably achieve 80% of the operating finesse as seen on the show, and have the capability of getting places those rigs can't (creeping along the floor and suddenly rising to above one's head, for instance).

Good luck with your choice!
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Old September 27th, 2003, 06:48 PM   #3
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Charles is correct, the JR is an excellent device. I have been using it for years with my VX1000 to add some "production value" to my kid's birthday party videos. It definitely has a learning curve, but I never heard of it referred to as not being intuitive. Nothing worthwhile is easy, operating a Wescam takes practice, Jib arms take practice and so does this. Professional Steadicam operators make a living doing just this one thing because they've taken the time to master it.

I used the JR with the JVC camera on our short, and it performed fantastic as always.

Jay
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Old September 27th, 2003, 08:33 PM   #4
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Jay:

My reference to it (and all gimballed stabilizers) not being intuitive is partially based on feedback I have been hearing on this forum for the past year or so.

As you have undoubtedly experienced, starting and stopping a move with the JR requires a learned technique that involves just the right amount of (miniscule!) force applied at the right time, and even more important, released at the right time in order to make a nice shot. Working off a tripod or handheld is certainly more intuitive in that you move the camera, and it stays there--you get your whole body into it. Almost every new user of a gimballed stabilizer uses too much force, trying to make the rig stay level or pan or whatever, and the more force you use, the worse the results.

Unfortunately it seems that very few of the manufacturers of these products include comprehensive training materials with them. The JR is the exception, with that fabulous tape with Garrett Brown and Ted Churchill and the various well-written manuals.

Most users of these products expect that they should be able to "figure out" how to do this, and many don't, and just end up frustrated, like our friend Steven here.

Jay, you are absolutely right about this stuff not being easy--it took me years of Steadicam operating before I felt great about my work. I leave the Wescam to the aerial operators, having a healthy dislike of helicopters myself, and I'm not a Jimmy Jib operator, but I'm perfectly at home with any remote head that requires panwheels to operate (and that's another non-intuitive interface right there...). I should point out that at this juncture, very few of us who specialize in Steadicam can get away with having just that expertise any more, you are required to be just as comfortable operating a conventional camera in its various forms. On my last job I bounced from Steadicam to dolly to remote head on crane to handheld all within one day. Personally I think it's more fun that way than sitting around waiting to do just the Steadicam work.
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Old September 27th, 2003, 11:55 PM   #5
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Charles,

Mine didn't come with the video, but the book made it so clear how to operate that I was flying smooth in no time. I also don't adjust the Z axis as bottom heavy as they recommend. I think they do that to help new operators maintain horizon better. Having a more neutral balance seems to make the starts and stops more stable, but like you say, a little anticipation helps.

My buddy Lynn Nicholson has a real steadicam, and I've strapped it on a couple of times. Intuitive is the best word I can think of to describe the experience, but then again, I work with these guys and watch them so that probably helps. I know for many people, it's a disaster the first time they try to operate one.

However, the times I've operated the Jib have been a disaster! A good chunk of my work is aerials, Tyler and Wescam,and I set the Jib electronics up the same way that I operate the Wescam. As long as the arm isn't moving, I have no problem tracking. But if I get cocky and start swinging the arm, AND try to pan and tilt, I will start smashing into things and amusing the operator. I have so much respect for these guys that can think about 2 things at once. But like anything else, with practice you can eventually get it.

Do you know Jerry Lane? He lives here but works in LA as an operator that also does Steadicam on features, episodics and MOWs.

Jay
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Old September 28th, 2003, 03:12 AM   #6
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Don't know Jerry, but I do know Lyn. He's a really neat guy. I've flown his prototype rig (Alien), and it's exciting. I also love that he used to play trumpet in Maynard Ferguson's band!
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Old September 28th, 2003, 03:44 AM   #7
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Yea, the Alien is amazing, I wish he would bring it out on jobs. I worked with Lynn yesterday on the Ultimate Fighting Challenge, I direct the 30 minute preshows.

We shot the event in HD with the Progressive HD Productions truck out of Seattle. The show was live pay per view in standard def but will be replayed in HD on DirecTv in a day or two. The truck is 720p and I had a discussion with the EIC about the little JVC camera. They were actually considering buying a few for crash cams and drum cams for concerts, but I broke the bad news that you can only get the HD out on playback, and not live.

I guess this is pretty OT for the steadicam thread, oops.

Jay
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Old September 28th, 2003, 02:21 PM   #8
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For all mini-sized camcorders, including HD10:

If you need an impessively stable shot while RUNNING, get this cheap device: SteadyTracker Ultralite.

Promax has it.

This is no Steadicam, and in my experience, it really helps only in 2 situations:

1. You must run with the camera. No matter if you do it on flat surface or up/down stairs. Man, look at your footage and wonder how pleasantly stable it looks!

2. You must quickly establish an overhead shot. The thing allows you to lift the camera about 2 Ft overhead, while SteadyTracker's base is still resting against your chest or shoulder. Pretty stable footage, too.

For normal Steadicam situations, I do not think SteadyTracker is any good for fluid shots: as you walk, it does (somewhat) smooth out the vertical bumping from the steps, but simultaneously ST introduces some low-freq. waving that makes the viewer sea sick, fast. So use it only in situations as above. Running shots are very good.
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Old September 28th, 2003, 09:35 PM   #9
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Jay,

Too bad you didn't get the video. If you ever see it on eBay, you should get it--just the presentation alone is worth it.
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Old November 12th, 2003, 02:40 AM   #10
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Stedicam JR balancing for HD1

Can someone suggest which camcorder model might be similar for balancing the GR-HD1 on a Steadicam JR? The manual has presets for common camcorders but of course not the HD1!

Best regards,
Paul
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Old November 14th, 2003, 03:23 PM   #11
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Are steady/glide type devices really compatible with the JVC HDs?

It seems like the cameras are too sensitive to motion producing blur, and that even tripod-panning may induce blur. No one can argue with the picture quality on a tripod-locked shot, but has anyone been able to produce usable footage when the camera is in motion?

If so, was this with or without OIS?

Brian
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Old November 14th, 2003, 09:02 PM   #12
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I wasn't aware of the JVC cameras inducing blur, but it sounds like you are referring to the motion characteristics of 24p...?

This being the case, consider that 24 fps and Steadicam have been hand in hand since the machine was invented in the 70's. Avoiding strobing in pans is a learned skill and one just works around panning at that range of speeds. There's no reason to avoid any specific type of shooting because of this.
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Old November 15th, 2003, 04:59 PM   #13
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Charles wrote: I wasn't aware of the JVC cameras inducing blur, but it sounds like you are referring to the motion characteristics of 24p...?
_______________

Maybe motion blur is the incorrect term, but there was an extended thread on problems related to the optical image stablization system on these cameras. One member of this group who uses the camera for skydiving photography reportedly went so far as to glue down the lens to disable the OIS.

It was pointed out that even if the OIS is off, and the camera is resting on a solid surface, and you tap on the housing, that the image reacts awkwardly.

In my limited experience handling an HD1 (I have not yet aquired either camera) I noticed the OIS worked well in SD mode, but behaved poorly in HD mode.

Could this have been an early model problem?

At any rate, it seems that unless there is some fix, that steady cam type shots might be impractical.

I would ideally like to use this camera for such moving shots, so looking for ways to increase stability.

Brian
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Old February 8th, 2004, 12:11 PM   #14
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Let's assume we can afford a much better steadicam (generic) rig, say the ones under $8K. Is the autofocus on the JVC HD cam good enough to do a walk-through in a museum (a la pictures at an exhibition) without having to do numerous cuts and dissolves in the editing phase (to cover up focus lag and hunting)? The reason I suggest the more expensive steadicams is not ease of use, but the ability to carry a mini softbox (Lowel or Anton Bauer, plus Chimera) on the rig. A gaffer might be in the field of view due to the tight spacing in the hallways. Is this a foolish idea, or could it work?
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Old February 8th, 2004, 12:31 PM   #15
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Brian:

I think I was a little high when I wrote that, since the JVC is not a 24p camera. But I am intrigued to hear about motion-related issues with the camera, another recent thread discussed something similar.

It's always recommended to turn off image stabilization when shooting with a mechanical stabilizer. The two effects "fight" each other.

Marc:

From the sounds of your project, you would probably be shooting with a relatively wide-angle setting in order to get the "walk-through" feel, in which case you would likely be able to set the focus around 6 ft and not have to adjust it. DV has such an extended depth of field that this will give you probably 4 feet to infinity.

If you were intending to get closer than that, a camera-mounted light wouldn't be ideal anyway as it would get noticeably hotter as you approached each painting. With oil paintings or works that involve glass, you would need to approach from an angle to keep the light from creating a reflected glare.

As far as the tight hallways, all I can say is that I've trundled down insanely tight hallways with focus puller, spotter, boom guy and electrician with fill light in a row behind me, it's usually possible (but not pretty)! The advantage of having a knowledgeable softbox wrangler in this situation is that they can assure that the issues listed above don't happen by positioning themselves properly relative to the camera, and if they have the device on a short pole, they will always be able to get it up and over you as needed.
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