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Old February 19th, 2010, 03:49 AM   #1
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Eliminating walkiness

An age old question, but one that I haven't seen talked about much on the stabilisation forums (unless I'm just not entering the right search terms).

I've just read through Jerry Holway and Laurie Hayball's Steadicam Operators Handbook. It was worth the purchase just for the correction of my gimbal grip, let alone all the other valuable things that it mentions. So I will add my voice to everyone elses and say that it is essential reading.

Just one thing it appears to miss. Eliminating walkiness from a shot.

I see a lot of smooth demos on YouTube etc, but many of them still show a very slight walkiness in them. It is really subtle. Really, really subtle. Perhaps it is an infinitesimal amount of sway or bob.

Is this likely to be the fault of the arm hand? If it is, what is the best way to hold the gimbal arm? Even on the Tiffen course I did I don't recall a lot of detail being given to the use or isolation of the arm hand.

Is the walkiness due to the arm hand being too loose, or not being in control of the level of the rig?
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Old February 19th, 2010, 06:02 AM   #2
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Are we talking about that floaty effect?

I think the secret is that you "follow" the Steadicam sled after sending it in the desired direction. The more inputs you put in the more the Steadicam will tend to shift around. However, some shots do require delicate adjustments (or not so delicate) and this can add some sway.
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Old February 19th, 2010, 07:40 AM   #3
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Not necessarily the floaty effect (slight wandering horizons etc). But when someone walks forward in an otherwise smooth shot, there still appears to be very slight 'footstep' movement. It is really, really, subtle, but it is there.
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Old February 19th, 2010, 02:26 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Wyndham View Post
An age old question...

Is the walkiness due to the arm hand being too loose, or not being in control of the level of the rig?
There are two things that affect this.
1) Your rig
2) You (the operator)

If you have a really good quality arm (Steadicam, Pro GPI, etc), this will basically eliminate all movement from your body.

So that leaves you (the operator). The idea is that your input for framing is a very small fraction of the inertial forces keeping the rig steady. For a big heavy (70 pound) rig, that's easy, since you have to apply some force to get the thing to move at all. But with a light rig like a Pilot or Flyer, you really need a much lighter touch - feather light.

Using anything but a feather-light touch is bad for 2 reasons:
1) As you muscles contract, your arms become more rigid, so more of your body movement transfers to the sled.
2) By over-controlling the rig, its easy to pan or tilt too much, and then you have to come back to compensate, and this leads to that squirrelly sea-sick type of look.

One thing that helped me a lot - practice hands free. By "hands free" I mean holding both hands an inch or two away from the rig but not touching. The idea here is to totally control the position of the sled with your waist. This is somewhat difficult at first, especially when you accelerate or change directions, but after around 15 hours of practicing hands free, it starts becoming second nature. Once you can totally control the position of the sled with your waist, your hands (both hands) can have a much lighter touch.

Another secret is this: If you're doing a shot that's constantly boomed or tilted a certain way, pre-trim the arm and/or sled for that. The more the sled stays where you want it by itself, the less force you'll have to use.

One last thing: Try to keep your sled post hand in line with the direction of motion, not the direction of the camera. For example, if you're moving forward, but the lens is pointed right, the natural tendency is to rotate your sled post hand to be in line with the camera. Don't do that. Try keeping your post hand oriented toward the direction of motion.

Hope this helps.
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Old February 19th, 2010, 02:50 PM   #5
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The best operating seems to be when you're totally relaxed.

Controlling the rig with your body rather than your arms enables you (as Garrett Brown puts it) to dance with the camera. I usually do a quick hands free walk to get the feel of the rig on a shoot and somehow it's always better after you've done the first shot and your body "knows" the particular camera/Steadicam combo being used a bit.
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Old February 20th, 2010, 06:58 PM   #6
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One way to increase the inertia on lighter rigs, in order to keep the "walkiness" out of a shot is to add weights (such as a weight plate) to increase mass.

Individuals' walking styles also vary. Strive for a relaxed gait.
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