Full-Size Steadicam Tranport and Setup Times? at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Support Your Local Camera > Stabilizers (Steadicam etc.)

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old June 18th, 2009, 11:11 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Burbank
Posts: 1,811
Full-Size Steadicam Tranport and Setup Times?

For people that operate full-size, large stabilizers for film cameras or high-end video...

How do you transport the gear? How many cases? What kind of cases? How long to load and unload?

How long does it take to unpack in the morning and setup the camera?

On jobs, do you know ahead of time what camera you will be using and what kind of shots you will be doing?

Do you always carry a full package of equipment to be ready for any camera and any kind of shot?

Thanks! I'm wondering how much of a steadicam operator's time and effort is spent with the equipment, before and after actually shooting.
Jack Walker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 18th, 2009, 11:36 PM   #2
Major Player
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Riverdale, NJ
Posts: 468
As to your first question, here's a big clue:
Steadicam Senior Cart
Dave Gish is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 19th, 2009, 02:24 AM   #3
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
Hi Jack:

Roll up sleeves, here we go.

I have my Steadicam package dialed into three Storm cases, two custom flight cases, three soft bags and a front box that travels loose when I'm working locally. I also always bring a duffel with foul weather gear. If I have to fly the gear, things re-arrange a bit and it ends up being something like 8 cases totaling in the neighborhood of 450 lbs. I work off both a custom cart and a rolling stand--I've never had to ship the cart yet but it could be done (I only take it on longer term out of town shows and so far have been able to have it sent on the camera truck with the other carts).

Everything packs into my Honda CRV, pretty tightly. Over the years I've jettisoned things that I don't need; with the exception of a couple of really obscure items, I bring everything to every job. I have learned over the years that whatever I don't bring ends up somehow being needed, so it's easier just to hump everything each time.

If I need to hustle, I can get everything out and ready to build in about 10 minutes. Depending on the camera, I can be ready to shoot 20 minutes after that, but that's working at top speed. Many jobs that I dayplay on only give me a 30 minute pre-call and I try to arrive about 15 minutes early to prevent having to work like a demon to get built. I would only do this for film gigs and that with specific cameras (Panavision Lightweight, XL, Arricam LT/ST etc) that I use all the time and that have very few variables. HD gigs are always more suspect in that the specific package can vary greatly and there's a lot of potential for a crazy curve to be thrown at me, so I try to go to preps for those jobs (generally unpaid).

I inquire in advance about which camera we will be using on every job I go on, along with which lenses and if there are any unusual accessories in play (ring light, sync boxes etc). I don't like surprises on the day.

Overall, it's a lot of stuff. Some people register surprise at how many cases I have; I'm probably somewhere in the middle of my colleagues as some have less and others have more--a LOT more. As I said, I've eliminated a lot of the items that never get used (some things have just become obsolete over the years).

Once I'm built and balanced, I move the rig and docking bracket from my cart over to my rolling stand, which has a lovely custom front-box type of affair perched at the base which holds batteries, tools, the Preston hand unit and other essential items. Unless the camera is massively reconfigured or something obscure needs to be added from my kit, the front box holds nearly everything I might need on set. I hang the arm and vest off the dock and away we go. I do keep two of my cases on the cart, one that is my all-purpose box that has all of the cables, connectors, adaptors and brackets, and another with all the bits and pieces for the Preston; the cart is always nearby but I don't bring it directly onto set as I do the rolling stand. If we have to make a company move, the rig is moved back to the cart, which has a built-in steel single riser with mounting pin for the dock plus a padded base that allows the rig to be snugly locked into place. This makes moves over rough terrain safer as the rig is not dangling from the dock and prone to vibration. Both the cart and the rolling stand have generous size pneumatic tires.

Sorry I don't have pictures of any of this.
Charles Papert
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 19th, 2009, 08:07 AM   #4
Inner Circle
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Belfast, UK
Posts: 4,121
Set up time can vary depending on how well the 1st AC is prepared to go with their accessories etc, but that 30 mins figure is about right to quote. I've also had 1st ACs re rigging cameras during the day and the then Steadicam getting the flak, even though I'm waiting on the 1st AC setting up.
Brian Drysdale is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 19th, 2009, 10:44 AM   #5
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Burbank
Posts: 1,811
Charles, thank you for the description. There is indeed more to it than one might think at first.

It must be a nightmare checking in at the airport.
Jack Walker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 19th, 2009, 12:17 PM   #6
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
Good point Bryan. The clock doesn't start ticking for me until the camera body is built into Steadicam mode and all AKS are ready to go.

Once I'm built for the first time, especially if I'm working with my regular AC's, they will take over and from then on they do the conversion and mounting for me (sometimes even balancing) when we switch to Steadicam. This gives me time to focus on the shot at hand. I do however "get my hands dirty" when we go into low mode, haven't yet worked with assistants that can make that one happen fast enough for my liking!

re: airport; generally I prefer to use a shipping service. They pick up at my house, load everything on a single shrinkwrapped pallet and away it goes. Much less chance of cases getting lost or manhandled. As mentioned above, if the camera truck is prepping out of LA I can put my cases on there also, there's generally a substantial lead time if the truck has to travel across country though and I risk losing day calls in the meantime. But if I have an immediate turnaround and have no choice but to fly with the gear, I ask for car service or a pickup at the other end; it's essentially impossible to go wrangle a rental car and manage all of those cases coming off the carousel at the same time!
Charles Papert
Charles Papert is offline   Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Support Your Local Camera > Stabilizers (Steadicam etc.)

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search



All times are GMT -6. The time now is 11:32 AM.

DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network