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Old May 5th, 2005, 03:02 PM   #1
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Stabilizer for a hobbyist (light camcorder)

As the thread says, I'm just a hobbyist and I'm making short videos to introduce myself and the cars I sell to prospective clients. I got this "bug" up my butt that I want to learn to use a steadicam for sections of the video. I've been researching this and realizing that most affordable ones (300-500) seem to want 2-4 lb cameras. My Sony is rated at 22 oz and the JVC even lighter (.78 lb). Is this light weight a problem with balancing a JR (or JR lite)? Is a Glidecam a better choice for lighter camcorders?

I've watched the intro for the Merlin and am impressed for a couple reasons. 1) it's so small and and simple! 2) It's pretty expensive! I'm not 100% certain I see $900 (is that correct?) in value here. It seems really strange since it appears to be developed for the prosumer and smaller camcorders in mind.

Anyway, thanks for reading this long first post and any input is appreciated.
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Old May 6th, 2005, 04:39 AM   #2
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No, having a lighter camera won't be a problem. You just need to add something to the camera to add weight. Sometimes just using a larger camera battery will do it, or a wide angle converter on the lense, or a on camera light, a on camera aditional mic...

The other option is to just add pure wieght in the form of maybe some metal attched somewhere.

When practicing with the 'big rigs' small camcorders are often planed inside a "Practice cage" which is just simply a cage that goes around the camera that's made of thick iorn to get the wight up to that of a larger camera.


- Mikko
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Old May 6th, 2005, 09:45 AM   #3
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I personally like the Glidecam better. Is there any place close by that you could try both out?

Dan
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Old May 6th, 2005, 01:03 PM   #4
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Thanks for the replies, unfortunately, I'm not aware of anyplace in Honolulu that inventories these items. I'd have to mail order it and than incur shipping costs to send it back if it didn't suit my needs. Dan, is your suggestion for the glidecam based more on the ease of setup with a light camera, or an overall prefence for this type of design (ie, 3 pt gimbal + post) vs. the steadicam JR type (ie pivoting ball under a plate). The Steadicam does look more portable when folded.
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Old May 6th, 2005, 01:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colin Sato
Thanks for the replies, unfortunately, I'm not aware of anyplace in Honolulu that inventories these items. I'd have to mail order it and than incur shipping costs to send it back if it didn't suit my needs. Dan, is your suggestion for the glidecam based more on the ease of setup with a light camera, or an overall prefence for this type of design (ie, 3 pt gimbal + post) vs. the steadicam JR type (ie pivoting ball under a plate). The Steadicam does look more portable when folded.
I just have an overall preference for the gimbal type. But either would fit your needs, I'm sure. Have you thought about a dolly with a short jib arm? This might be a more versitle way to go for getting shots of cars. You can use the boom through a hatchback, or through a window and dolly in or out for example. Neither of which would probably be possible with the stabilizer. You can also get high/low shots of the car and crane up or down. My book "Killer Camera Rigs" has a great combo dolly/jib that is super easy to build: both for about $100. There is also plans for a stabilizer if you should want to go that route. Also, my dolly design can be put on a small platform so that you could dolly through both windows of a car. For moving shots, I have a car mount as well. You can see examples of all of these rigs in action on my web site:
http://dvcamerarigs.com/killercontents.html
Take a look at the dark passage dolly quicktime movie for the dolly through a car. A stabilizer is the sexy way to go, but is not a be all end all rig. Of course, all of this is available commercially, so you don't have to build it yourself if you've got some cash to spend.

All my best,

Dan
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Old May 6th, 2005, 05:21 PM   #6
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Hi Colin,

Both the Steadicam JR and Merlin have 3-axis gimbals like the Glidecam.

The Steadicam JR is designed for cameras that weigh 2 to 4 lbs, so for your Sony or JVC you would have to add weight to the camera or anywhere above the camera mounting "stage". Like Mikko mentioned, there are a number of ways to do this, but try to make it "useful weight" like a wide angle adapter or a quick release plate.

The street prices between the Glidecam 2000 ($300) and the Steadicam JR Lite ($350) are pretty close. Back when a similar Glidecam use to cost $150 or so, it was a good deal, but nowadays I personally would go for the JR Lite. Here are some differences between the two:

- The Steadicam JR is mostly made of plastic, while the Glidecam is metal.
- The Steadicam JR uses little jack screw devices to adjust the stage. The Glidecam has slots and thumb screws. The JR has the edge here because to make the adjustment you just turn some knobs. On the Glidecam you have to fully loosen the thumb screws and then carefully push the stage (with your hands) to make your adjustment.
- You can mount your camera to the Steadicam JR by just flipping it over. On the Glidecam, you have to remove the four thumbscrews and the top plate, then mount the camera to the top plate and then re-install the top plate. But if you get a quick release adapter and permanently mount it to the stabilizer then the JR's advantage goes away.
- The JR can fold down to a slightly more compact size.
- The Glidecam is more "articulated" in that you can do really wild stuff like 360 vertical spins, flipping to upside down, etc. But in the real world I doubt you will do many shots like that.
- The JR only balances up to 4.0 lbs, the Glidecam can do 6.0 lbs. This is a moot point because trust me, you don't want to ever operate anywhere near that much weight on these handheld rigs (see below).
- The JR is a lot less tiring to operate. The gimbal handle is directly over the CG, so your hand and arm just feel the weight of the rig. On the Glidecam, the gimbal handle is offset about 1" to 2" away from the CG. This adds an additional torque that is applied to your wrist and arms. To see if this makes a difference for you, take a 4 or 5 lb dumbbell and hold it like you normally would (in the center). Walk around with it for a few minutes with your arm stretched out about half way like would if you had a stabilizer. Then do the say thing, but hold the dumbbell by just one end so that your hand is about 1" to 2" from the center and the dumbbell is still horizontal. The dumbbell should now feel a lot heavier.
- The JR comes with a training video by the Master himself, Garrett Brown. As far as I know, the Glidecam does not come with any additional training material.

Again, both are capable stabilizers but the Steadicam seems to have more features for the money. Also, the offset handle on the Glidecam is a deal breaker to me.

As for the Merlin, I think, operational wise, it's the same as the JR. From the brochure it seems to have the exact same gimbal. The upgrades are better construction (mostly metal), better fold mechanism, a new quick release dovetail plate, upgraded stage adjustments and a much wider camera weight capacity (0.5 to 5.0 lbs).
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Old May 6th, 2005, 05:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim N Le
Hi Colin,

Both the Steadicam JR and Merlin have 3-axis gimbals like the Glidecam.

The Steadicam JR is designed for cameras that weigh 2 to 4 lbs, so for your Sony or JVC you would have to add weight to the camera or anywhere above the camera mounting "stage". Like Mikko mentioned, there are a number of ways to do this, but try to make it "useful weight" like a wide angle adapter or a quick release plate.

The street prices between the Glidecam 2000 ($300) and the Steadicam JR Lite ($350) are pretty close. Back when a similar Glidecam use to cost $150 or so, it was a good deal, but nowadays I personally would go for the JR Lite. Here are some differences between the two:

- The Steadicam JR is mostly made of plastic, while the Glidecam is metal.
- The Steadicam JR uses little jack screw devices to adjust the stage. The Glidecam has slots and thumb screws. The JR has the edge here because to make the adjustment you just turn some knobs. On the Glidecam you have to fully loosen the thumb screws and then carefully push the stage (with your hands) to make your adjustment.
- You can mount your camera to the Steadicam JR by just flipping it over. On the Glidecam, you have to remove the four thumbscrews and the top plate, then mount the camera to the top plate and then re-install the top plate. But if you get a quick release adapter and permanently mount it to the stabilizer then the JR's advantage goes away.
- The JR can fold down to a slightly more compact size.
- The Glidecam is more "articulated" in that you can do really wild stuff like 360 vertical spins, flipping to upside down, etc. But in the real world I doubt you will do many shots like that.
- The JR only balances up to 4.0 lbs, the Glidecam can do 6.0 lbs. This is a moot point because trust me, you don't want to ever operate anywhere near that much weight on these handheld rigs (see below).
- The JR is a lot less tiring to operate. The gimbal handle is directly over the CG, so your hand and arm just feel the weight of the rig. On the Glidecam, the gimbal handle is offset about 1" to 2" away from the CG. This adds an additional torque that is applied to your wrist and arms. To see if this makes a difference for you, take a 4 or 5 lb dumbbell and hold it like you normally would (in the center). Walk around with it for a few minutes with your arm stretched out about half way like would if you had a stabilizer. Then do the say thing, but hold the dumbbell by just one end so that your hand is about 1" to 2" from the center and the dumbbell is still horizontal. The dumbbell should now feel a lot heavier.
- The JR comes with a training video by the Master himself, Garrett Brown. As far as I know, the Glidecam does not come with any additional training material.

Again, both are capable stabilizers but the Steadicam seems to have more features for the money. Also, the offset handle on the Glidecam is a deal breaker to me.

As for the Merlin, I think, operational wise, it's the same as the JR. From the brochure it seems to have the exact same gimbal. The upgrades are better construction (mostly metal), better fold mechanism, a new quick release dovetail plate, upgraded stage adjustments and a much wider camera weight capacity (0.5 to 5.0 lbs).
Hi Tim,

It seems that you know lots of Steadicam JR. from your post. Do you know any demo video shot by Steadicam JR on the net?

TIA
Leigh
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Old May 6th, 2005, 06:01 PM   #8
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Hi Leigh,

I actually don't own a JR, but I've demoed one in a camera shop and I've read about it in manuals and such. I don't know of JR footage on the net, but I use to know some professional Steadicam operators who were close to Garrett and they said he can do some really amazing things with the JR. The footage that he is capable of with that machine is easily as good as the full size rigs. But it does take quite a bit of skill because these little handheld rigs have much less inertia.
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Old May 7th, 2005, 02:17 PM   #9
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Thanks all for your input. Tim, I've been poking around forums and boards since the old Compuserve days (73522.1256@compuserve.com at your service) and I must say, your post is one of the most thoughtful, well reasoned replies to a 'newbie' that I've seen in a long time.

Dan, Just for fun and to help understand the engineering principals involved, I built a glidecam type myself and have found it pretty "un-fun" to stabilize and hold. Way too much roll though I attribute this to my construction "imprecision". Maybe one day I'll try again, but I'm leaning towards purchasing one to use in the near term.

I'd like to expand on some of what you've mentioned and since you don't own a JR, maybe someone who does can chip in?

1) Use of plastic. The Steadicam literature mentions Carbon fiber/poly-carboanate construction. What parts are plastic and what is carbon fiber?

2) Monitor on the JR. My Sony needs to have the big 3.5" screen open to access the user interface. This must create some issues with balance (open vs. closed) and wind (catches it). The outboard monitor on the JR would allow me to close this all the time except when I need to access it for changes. However with the size of the Sony screen, I can't imagine there would be any advatage in framing a shot? Can anyone comment on the use of the camcorder screen?

3) Using two camcorders. I've downloaded the JR manual and it looks pretty detailed to achieve a fully trimmed rig. I would imagine that changing between two camcorders of differing weights and form factors must be a HUGE inconvenience. Of course switching holes on the stage and moving the lower spar to a different position is easy, but the trim knobs don't appear to have a "scale" markings on them to make finding your previous position easy.

4) Gimbal. The biggest concern with the JR is that because the gimbal is directly under the stage, that is can't isolate vertical movement as well. With the Glidecam type, the articulation in the handle means you can move your wrist up and down and not affect the height (off the ground) of the stage until you reach the limit of handle travel. Is this assessment correct or am I missing something here?

5) What about wires? If I'm monitoring the audio with headphones and have a lav mic plugged into the camcorder, how do you keep the two wires from affecting the balance?

Whew, sorry for all the questions but if anyone can comment on the above (I'd really like to hear from a JR owner) I'd appreciate any thoughts you might have. As you can imagine, this is a pretty expensive purchase for anyone who doesn't make videos for a living!
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Old May 7th, 2005, 04:54 PM   #10
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Hmm..
I can have a stab at answering some of those concerns about the JR..

I can't remebre the contruction materials of the JR.. i think the main body is the polymer composite, and the stage plastic.. but i can't remeber off the top of my head.

The monitors shoudlnt' be a problem. at the range you view from, even the smaller JR monitor won't be a problem. - Remeber that you can't touch the camera when shooting anyway without upsetting balance..
And or course the Glidecam doesnt' even have a monitor...
Dont' forget teh JR monitor also has a bubble level built in. Just abother little handy :)

As far as switign out camcorders, thoguh i'v never actually balanced either rig, i must say that it apears that the Glidecam is harder to balance. - So this goes for rebalancing too. Does anyone knwo if the Glidecam has marks on it either? - Of course you can always make marks with a knife, whiteout, marker pen, etc...

The gimble in a stbilizer never isolates agains't movement of the cmaera, only angular disturbance is effected.
The Glidecam gimble will only isolate verticle movement if your writs pivots too when you hodl the rig - a double gimble as a sence.. of course that will effect horisontal position, so really a moot point.
Of course what has been said about fatigue still stands true.

And as for wires, they will always be the enemy of Steadicam at any level. Best is to eliminate all wires, and if you hav eot have them, use as thin, light and flexible wires as possible. of course attahing a wires cloer ot teh gimble will have less effect on teh rig, and i'd almost be inclined to say that due to gimbel design, it might be easier to keep teh wires clear with the JR, but tough call. I'd sugest eliminating as many wires as possible. If you can, use a radio mic. - This will also ad a bit of that wieght you wanted in teh form of the reciver on the camera.
Headphones of course could be a little harder.

- Mikko
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Old May 7th, 2005, 05:00 PM   #11
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Without getting into too much details, The JR is the lightest and easiest to use stabilizer for light cameras.

I have tried them all, Most other popular manufecturers are trying to imitate the JR by making "high priced products" from "low cost components". The JR is a work of art and performs accordingly.

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Old May 8th, 2005, 06:28 PM   #12
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Thanks again for all the replies, I think the Steadicam is the way to go, but I'm now at a crossroads on which JR to get? Lite, JR or the whole shebang at B+H. They have the Lite at $350, JR at $550 and JR w/ light and case for $650.

Quite frankly, the screen on the Sony is the bigger than the screen on the JR (3.5 inches vs. 2.9), however the JVC is very small at around 1.5 inches. I'd imagine it will have the Sony on it most of the time.

Here's the funny thing, I was thinking my wife would have a cow on the $350 price, but she rolled her eyes and said to just get the kit with the monitor and light since I always end up spending more in the long run. (personally, I have no idea what she's talking about). Funny thing, I was bidding on the whole kit + case but stopped at $420 since it wasn't new. If I had known she would have told me to spend the $650, I'd have gone higher......

So the next question is: Just how important is the monitor? Is it worth an extra $200? Does it make it easier to frame the shot? Does having the Sony screen open make it harder to balance?
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Old May 8th, 2005, 11:53 PM   #13
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Colin,

"Just how important is the monitor? Is it worth an extra $200? Does it make it easier to frame the shot? Does having the Sony screen open make it harder to balance?"

The screen is nice if you can see it well. Some screens wash out in the sunlight while others look great. I'll venture to bet the Steadicam JR has a good screen. I think the Sony screen is good as well. I will be testing a JR out this coming week so I'll know for sure.

The side mounted screen does make a difference in balancing but the JR can handle it with the multiple hole arangement used to attach the camera.

One more thing and this might or might not be important to you. A screen on the side will have a different affect when hit by the wind than a screen in front. The one in front is more semetrical so if you are running or have a head wind it won't be pushing the camera off axis (side to side) as much as using the side mounted monitor. It can be delt with either way but I thought it was worth mentioning.

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Old May 9th, 2005, 03:30 AM   #14
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Hi Terry,

I was originally thinking mostly about the wind hitting the rig when you're trying to balance it or keep it still, never considered what happens when running or moving! Doh! I guess I'll be oredering it with the monitor! I'm leaning towards B+H but does anyone have anyother suggestions?
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Old May 12th, 2005, 08:30 PM   #15
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Well I just go my JR (w/monitor) and am pretty pleased overall. Initial impressions:

-My camera is much to light, so tonight I'm adding a bogen quick release plate to try to even things out. I have some tape on lead weights if needed.

-The gimbal is very nice and soooooooo smooth, I can't wait to get it balanced so I can start practicing

- The video is very old. The copywrite is 1990!

- My biggest disappointment is the Video monitor. There is no way this LCD is 2.9"! It's maybe 1.5" viewable max! The monitors in the demo video are larger (probably 2.9"). Mine is a little "postage stamp" with 1 inch of black frame all the way around. I haven't lit it up yet, but am very concerned (and a little upset ) that I won't be able to see anything of significance in this tiny thing. Can anyone comment on this?
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