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Old September 9th, 2009, 04:22 PM   #1
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Options. Options. Merlin or ???

Hey Guys,

I'm new to this part of the thread. Hoping to getting into steadicam work after I graduate. Where can a poor student start in this business? I was looking into getting the Flycam 6000 with the arm and vest OR a Merlin. Maybe even a Glidecam HD4000. The blackbird seems like it works great but it can only go so far in terms of rigging. It seems that I would have more long term use for the Flycam as I get larger gigs with heavier cams. Or is there another alternative? I currently have a Canon XHA1 and plan to have a letus extreme on it sometime in the future.

I was told to go to a Tiffen Steadicam workshop but it's like $3000. I might as well buy a Pilot and practice.

Any advice for a young padawan?
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Old September 11th, 2009, 05:20 PM   #2
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No one wants to tackle this one eh? It's ok. I'll just ask myself WWJD =)
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Old September 11th, 2009, 11:15 PM   #3
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Tony:

There are Tiffen Pilot/Flyer workshops throughout the year, these are only $500 (the 6-day workshop oriented towards the full-size rigs is the more expensive one you noted). You will get time to explore the various Steadicam rigs and learn the basics and avoid getting into bad habits. The Flyer is going to be the more appropriate rig to handle 35mm adaptors than the Pilot.

I will warn you that once you get accustomed to the Steadicam products, you might have a tough time adapting to rigs like the Flycam which are much cheaper in design and execution and harder to operate.

Unfortunately with this sort of gear, you get what you pay for. Ultimately, it all depends on how serious you are about operating--casual users are often happier with lower-end products because they don't work with them day in and day out. If you become "obsessed" with operating and ultimately think about trying to make a living at it, you will do well to invest your money into gear that you can grow with. The best part about taking the workshop is that you may well walk away with a more defined game plan, having spent two days immersed in all things Steadicam.
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Old September 13th, 2009, 05:52 PM   #4
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Everything Charles said - plus my opinions:

1) I tried the Flycam and it sucked. The thing looked great, but the gimbal just didn't work. Couldn't even get it balanced.

2) Lens adapters work great on sticks, but adding a lens adapter to a Steadicam is a whole different proposition. You'll need a larger Steadicam rig, a wireless follow focus, and a really good assistant cameraman to run it. Remember that Steadicam is not easy. Just getting stable shots takes practice. Creating very stable shots with perfect framing is incredibly difficult (Charles is the king here). This will take all of your attention, so there's no way you'll be able to make critical focus adjustments as you're operating. You'll need another person for that. Also keep in mind that many have produced great projects using lens adapter footage on sticks intercut with non-lens adapter footage on Steadicam. Good lighting and scene design can give the Steadicam shots depth. More on this here:
Best recommended Steadicam for XH A1 with letus35 Elite DOF adapter?

3) If you really want to learn Steadicam, you'll need a rig with all the basic parts of a pro rig:
- Vest
- Arm
- Sled with monitor and batteries
The vest and arm isolate the camera from your body. And having the monitor on the bottom of the sled allows you to shoot forward, backward, or anywhere in between.

With this in mind, I would recommend the Steadicam Pilot for around $4000. This is the cheapest Steadicam brand rig with all of the basic parts listed above. I've used Flycam and Glidecam rigs, and they really are much worse. You could go with a Steadicam Flyer for $7000, and that would fly a lens adapter, but by the time you spend the money for a wireless follow focus and wireless video system for the assistant cameraman, you're already starting to approach the price of a professional rig.
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Old September 15th, 2009, 01:01 AM   #5
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Thanks Charles and Dave.

Although it would be nice to be able to afford the pilot, I need to look at my alternatives as a student. Maybe a Merlin would be best for me now. Then maybe down the road I could get the arm and vest. Then upgrade the sled, etc.

I have about $1000 to spend. I guess the real question now is either to spend that on the Letus or Merlin. Or save more money to get the whole steadicam rig.

I have a music video coming up so it's decision time for me...

Thanks again fellas!
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Old September 15th, 2009, 07:26 PM   #6
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Merlin is an amazing piece, I have Pilot, Blackbird and Merlin, Merlin is still my favorite one;
I'm waiting for camcorders to get small and light, so I can switch back from Pilot to Merlin.
And for your music video, to get comfortable with A1 on Merlin (very good combo), will take you a bit longer than couple days, but when you'll get there, good steadicam shots are indeed priceless for video of any kind.
best.
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Old September 15th, 2009, 07:54 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Nguyen View Post
I have about $1000 to spend. I guess the real question now is either to spend that on the Letus or Merlin. Or save more money to get the whole steadicam rig.
I would go for the Letus, or save up for the Pilot.
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Old September 16th, 2009, 09:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buba Kastorski View Post
Merlin is an amazing piece, I have Pilot, Blackbird and Merlin, Merlin is still my favorite one;
I'm waiting for camcorders to get small and light, so I can switch back from Pilot to Merlin.
And for your music video, to get comfortable with A1 on Merlin (very good combo), will take you a bit longer than couple days, but when you'll get there, good steadicam shots are indeed priceless for video of any kind.
best.
That's interesting Buba..I am an event videographer and am looking at getting a stabilizer rig..I only plan on buying it once so I'm looking to get the best I can afford. I'll be shooting with XHA1 no lens adapters and a Rode ntG2 mic.. I had just about settled on the Merlin w/vest but was considering the Pilot. Why is the Merlin your favorite if I may ask?
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Old September 16th, 2009, 09:22 PM   #9
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I don't plan on shooting with anything larger than a 5D Markii or the XHA1. Would I be ok with the Merlin w/vest and arm...I can do the Pilot..but I would rather spend that money on my next PC for HD
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Old September 16th, 2009, 10:40 PM   #10
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Here's one video where Garrett shows both Merlin and Pilot:
MacVideo - Camera Technology - Interviews - Garrett Brown Interview: Steadicam Pilot

As for price, my feeling is that the steadicam stuff will hold it's value much longer than a camera. When you move on to your next camera, and the one after that, you'll probably be using the same steadicam.
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Old September 17th, 2009, 05:02 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
Here's one video where Garrett shows both Merlin and Pilot:
MacVideo - Camera Technology - Interviews - Garrett Brown Interview: Steadicam Pilot

As for price, my feeling is that the steadicam stuff will hold it's value much longer than a camera. When you move on to your next camera, and the one after that, you'll probably be using the same steadicam.
Thanks Dave that was great. I like the option to be able to go handheld or docked almost like a shoulder mount with the Merlin Arm and Vest....for what I do I think the size and the flexibilty of the Merlin will be great and if I do get another cam I'm sure it will be the next-gen XHA1. The Pilot might be a little overkill for me..size and budget-wise...I'm sold..about to order the Merlin now...:-)
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Old September 17th, 2009, 10:38 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Ray View Post
I am an event videographer and am looking at getting a stabilizer rig...
Why is the Merlin your favorite if I may ask?
I am an event (mostly) videographer myself, and shooting a wedding, most of the time, you don't have enough space and time for the full rig setup.
hand held unit has it's limitations and it's not as isolated from your body moves as a full rig,
but it's small and light and quick to setup. I'm waiting for the full frame camcorder that will be size and weight of 5d with the 120Gb of internal flash memory, SDHC card slot, capable of 300fps and XLRs in, until then I use Pilot where I can and Merlin where I'm limited in space. Blackbird is a very good hand held unit, I have one too, but it's larger than Merlin and not as fast to re-adjust when I go WA on and off. Glidecam gimbal design makes it nearly impossible to fly EX1 hand held, so that's why I still keep using my Merlin.
best.
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Old September 17th, 2009, 12:16 PM   #13
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some pretty aggressive specs there buba..I'd like to see one of those myself. I went with the Merlin w/the Vest and Arm for now. I think that will do me and if I ever buy a larger camera(which I doubt) at least I can just up the sled to the Pilot...Now the trick will be trying to balance my 5D Markii with the 300mm 2.8 attached....lol
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Old September 17th, 2009, 03:55 PM   #14
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One thing to note, if you don't know already - the Merlin/Arm/Vest combo and Pilot use the same exact backpack/carrying case. There is a sculpted foam cutout for the Merlin, and a larger cutout for the Pilot, all in the same backpack case.

Hope this helps.
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Old September 17th, 2009, 05:30 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dave Gish View Post
One thing to note, if you don't know already - the Merlin/Arm/Vest combo and Pilot use the same exact backpack/carrying case. There is a sculpted foam cutout for the Merlin, and a larger cutout for the Pilot, all in the same backpack case.

Hope this helps.
The kit I ordered comes with the back pack Dave. Thanks One thing I wasn't sure about was the stand..will I need to use one when balancing the XHA1 on the Merlin? Some of the videos I've seen demonstrating the setup don't use one....
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