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Old January 16th, 2010, 08:14 AM   #1
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In need of a little advice

Hi guys... pretty new here, and to videography generally,

Just got an HVR V1. I love all those beautiful images all over youtube of steadicam/ glidecam work.

Here's the question. Are they a nightmare to setup (for a new cameraman) and difficult to use once they are setup? Hard to generalise, I'm sure, but any advice is welcome. I'm thinkng steadicam merlin, Glidecam HD 4000, blackbird etc

I'd probably be able to spend 500-600 if I was convinced it was worth it. Maybe I should just get some shoulder support?

My main hope is to be able to create a tacking effect, following a person walking along.

What do you guys think?

Thanks in advance!!!

John
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Old January 16th, 2010, 09:08 AM   #2
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First off any stabilization system takes practice to work. There's a reason that there is a job called Steadicam operator. Are they tough to set up?? Mine was a breeze, I have a CMR Blackbird and it's much easier to use than I thought it would be, but I'm stilling learning. One thing I can tell you is they are FUN to work with and practicing around the house all the time WILL get on your wife's nerves after a week or so (LOL).
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Old January 16th, 2010, 09:33 AM   #3
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Generally speaking, a good analogy would be that buying a stabilizer is like buying a guitar. A higher-quality guitar will sound better than a cheaper one, but in either case they require a a lot of skill to get good results. Some are easier to set up than others, but all do require at least a basic understanding of the physics involved to know what you are going for in a particular shot.

A stabilizer will not make great-looking shots. A stabilizer is a tool to allow you to learn to make great-looking shots.

Jerry is right. Practicing is a lot of fun, but there is no short-cut to learning the many skills involved with flying your camera.
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Old January 16th, 2010, 10:21 AM   #4
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Hi John,
It becomes a question of what do you intend to do in the long run. Is this a hobby where the stabilizer gets used 10 times a year for birthdays, vacations, etc or is it a tool that you are going to build a business with?
I started off as a hobby and built home-made versions of the Merlin to fly my HV-30. In the long run I am really glad that I did this as it gave me a greater understanding of the dynamics of a stabilizer, but it also allowed me to "play" around for a while and figure out how serious I wanted to get about this.
I eventually made the decision to start my own event video business and new that this was going to require "pro" equipment. For me that meant investing in a larger camera, Canon XH-A1, and a stabilizer that could handle the weight of that camera and thus a support system to hold that stabilizer. During a wedding shoot I have the XH-A1 on the stabilizer for the better part of an hour during the ceremony alone. No way to hand hold the weight of the camera for that long and get good fluid shots, so a support system was a must if I intended to get the flying shots that I wanted in my work.
My advice would be to start with a small hand held stabilizer, Merlin, Blackbird, etc and try it out to see if this is what you really want. If you later decide to go to a stabilizer system, you could always sell the smaller unit for not to much of a loss, and make the move.

Jim
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Old January 16th, 2010, 10:25 AM   #5
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Thanks guys - appreciate your frank replies. Looks like I need to stop looking for the easy way. So..

Any views on the Hague Maxi-motion as a first try?

Is it 'encore' 'ibanez' or 'fender' sticking with guitar analogies?

Wait... that would be too confusing and hermeneutically circular, considering the number of subjective judgements involved...

Is it any good? Any users out there?

HAGUE Maxi Motion-Cam
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Old January 16th, 2010, 10:28 AM   #6
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Jim,

I think we posted simultaneously there!

Thanks alot for that - That sounds like very wise advice, which I think I will follow. So, what about the cheaper substitutes, like the one I mentioned in my last post? Would it be a bad idea to save a few hundred and leave more money for other accesories?

Much appreciated,

John
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Old January 16th, 2010, 10:40 AM   #7
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Jim I know what you are saying about starting out cheap, but I do disagree with you on one thing. If you go cheap, you can VERY frustrated and give up fast. The cheaper you go the harder they are to use (ask anyone who has tried one of those POS's from India). Also if you buy a quality unit like a Merlin, or in my case the Blackbird which is WAY easier to set up. If you decide later it's not for you, or even better you love it and want to step up, you can sell it for about what you have in it.
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Old January 16th, 2010, 10:43 AM   #8
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One thing of note, the Blackbird and the Merlin have the weight of the unit right on top of the Gimble (for a reason). If you look at a unit like the Glidecam the weight of the unit is out in front of the grip and it REALLY binds up your wrist FAST and leads to fatigue quickly.
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Old January 16th, 2010, 12:39 PM   #9
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One cheap option with a short learning curve is the Steaditracker. It's basically just a pole with distributed weights that you hold. There's no gimbal.

The advantages are:
* It's cheap.
* Your hand is at the center-of-gravity, so it's not terribly fatiguing with a light camera.
* Because you have a solid connection to the camera, there's no more of a learning curve than just hand holding a camera.
* The distributed weights really do improve shots compared to handheld.

If you want "cheap results now", it's a good solution. You can save up for a nice stabilizer - and take the time to learn it - later.

With a gimbal, keeping things level, and starting/stopping pans smoothly and accurately are a real challenge. It's easy to over or under control it. With a Steaditracker, you just point the camera where you want it. It doesn't have a mind of its own. You need a steady hand though. It just smooths your natural motions, rather than isolating your motions.

If you want to buy on Monday and shoot on Tuesday, a Steaditracker is a better buy than the top gimbal rig. Of course, given time and money, a Steadicam will kick it's butt. ;)
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Old January 16th, 2010, 01:22 PM   #10
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Interesting proposition, thanks alot for this. This looks like it might be just the job, and a cash-saver as well.
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Old January 16th, 2010, 01:49 PM   #11
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Just been following some advice from another thread, and attempting to use my tripod as a Steady Tracker by gripping it loosely at the top of the centre pole. Is the steady tracker much more effective than this? I think with practice, this could look ok

Cheers guys
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Old January 16th, 2010, 10:45 PM   #12
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Grabbing the center pole of a tripod will quickly give you an idea about how the Steady Tracker feels. The main two differences are that you can adjust the ST for proper balance, and the ST puts most of its weight at the extremes. To have the same effect, you'd want a very light tripod with its legs spread slightly and weights on its feet.

The other option is the "steering wheel" approach, like the Fig Rig. It works on the opposite principle. Rather than a high anugular moment, and low leverage, you get lots of leverage, but your movements translate to very small changes in angle. I prefer the Steady-whatsit approach, but either way is better than pure handheld.
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Old January 17th, 2010, 05:35 AM   #13
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Thanks Jon - Yes, it sounds as if the steady tracker is worth the investment. After a lot of trying yesterday, I got the tripod stabilisation pretty good, but its never gonna be as good as those vids over on the steady tracer website. I think I can part with 200gbp for it, and then start stockpiling for a blackbird (or even a Pilot) later on.

You guys are fantastic, thanks for all the help!

John
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Old January 17th, 2010, 09:21 AM   #14
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For the record I never said go "cheap". Cheap will get you something that will drive you crazy and will not have any resale value. My post said to look at a Merlin, Blackbird, etc. as these are name brand proven hand held stabilizers that will have some resale value if you decide later on to make a change.
It sounds like you have decided to start with the smaller hand held units and I think that is an ideal place to start. Not a lot of investment and something to learn with. I still have my hand held stabilizer and use it in situations where the big rig would be to cumbersome and not fit the situation.
I looked at the site for the Steadytracker and wasn't clear as to whether the center pole that you grab was isolated from the camera. If you turn your wrist while holding the center pole, is the camera turning also? If it is, this is going to be disappointing to the operator because you are going to see this movement in your final shot. The Merlin and Blackbird use gimbals to prevent the transfer of this wrist motion into the camera.
Good luck John! You have been bitten by the "I want to fly my camera bug!" :-))
Keep us posted.

Last edited by Jim Schuchmann; January 17th, 2010 at 09:23 AM. Reason: typo
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Old January 17th, 2010, 11:56 AM   #15
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Jim, you're right. The Steaditracker isn't isolated. That's what makes it cheaper and easy to master. It's not going to deliver the results of a Steadicam, but it's way better than handheld. Considering that one can sell used gear online pretty easily these days, it's not a bad stepping stone.
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