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Old December 5th, 2010, 05:36 PM   #1
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Run 'n' gun with a Pilot

I'm shooting wedding videos with an XHA1. Many of my gigs are opting to pay for a second videographer.
That being said, I'd like to add some flare to my videos, since i'm not pressed as hard.

I'm seriously pondering into buying a Steadicam Pilot and taking the weekend seminar.
But before i fall in love with the idea of getting one, i need to ask some practical questions.

Is this a tool that i can quick release, jump in and out of the car and be ready to go to the reception..
Is this a tool that will allow me to add flare during the reception, and yet allow me to get onto the tripod during the speeches??
Is this a tool which will weigh like an albatross around my neck, without more shooters?

Is there anybody with a similair scenario, or should the Pilot be dedicated to one person for the whole day???

Any insight would be appreciated.
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Old December 5th, 2010, 09:02 PM   #2
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Quote:
Is this a tool that i can quick release, jump in and out of the car and be ready to go to the reception.
The Pilot is more complicated to set up than a tripod, and it's also more delicate, so it really should be folded up and stowed in the supplied case for transport. And there's a stand you need to assemble and balance it, so you'll need an out-of-the-way place to set that up. You can use any regular lighting stand with a 5/8" stud, but the optional Steadistand is more compact.
Steadicam 601-7910 SteadiSTAND for Merlin 601-7910 B&H Photo

But after you know what you're doing, you should be ready to shoot with the Pilot about 5 minutes after you walk in the door.

Quote:
Is this a tool that will allow me to add flare during the reception,
For run-n-gun situations, the Pilot works great! I use a shotgun for these occasions. The Rode NTG-1 / SM3 combination is extremely light, so you can hook it right on the hot shoe without weighing down the front too much. I also use the dead cat windscreen for outdoor run-n-gun stuff.

Quote:
and yet allow me to get onto the tripod during the speeches??
I use Manfrotto sticks, and they sell a tripod adapter that uses the same plate, so I can switch between sticks and Pilot very fast.
Manfrotto 577 Rapid Connect Adapter with Sliding Mounting 577

Quote:
Is this a tool which will weigh like an albatross around my neck, without more shooters?
Once you know what you're doing, you can fly the Pilot for many hours at a time, basically all day. It's like wearing a 20 pound backpack. And with the Pilot, you generally don't need to shoot handheld, so unless you have a jib, car mount, etc., it's just switching between Pilot and sticks, which is very fast if you have a tripod adapter with the same plate as your sticks.

Quote:
Is there anybody with a similar scenario, or should the Pilot be dedicated to one person for the whole day???
I don't do weddings, but I do some stuff where I switch between Pilot and sticks, and it's very easy with the setup I describe above.

Quote:
Any insight would be appreciated.
Hope this helps.
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Old December 5th, 2010, 09:19 PM   #3
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Hey Dave....

Thank you...
As far as in and out of the vehicles, i'm assuming that once properly balanced, i shouldn't have to keep re-adjusting the Pilot.
So in theory, i should be able to jump out of my vehicle, strap the vest to my body, attach the arm, and plop the camera onto the sled within five minutes??
Or is this just fantasy, and not how things really work?

On a side note, i missed Peter Abraham coming to Toronto, but will definately keep on top of his arrivals next time...
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Old December 5th, 2010, 10:04 PM   #4
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Quote:
As far as in and out of the vehicles, i'm assuming that once properly balanced, i shouldn't have to keep re-adjusting the Pilot.

So in theory, i should be able to jump out of my vehicle, strap the vest to my body, attach the arm, and plop the camera onto the sled within five minutes??
Or is this just fantasy, and not how things really work?
In order to get the Pilot sled ready to fly, you have to:
1) extend the center post to your desired location,
2) screw various numbers of weights onto the appropriate locations,
3) attach the camera,
4) plug-in both ends of the composite video wire,
5) pivot the monitor down, and
6) slide the battery out.

Then when you go to pack it up, you have to to all of those steps in reverse in order to fit it in the case. As I said before, the sled is somewhat delicate, so I wouldn't travel without the sled in it's case.

The next time you assemble it, if anything is 1/8 of an inch different anywhere, the balance will be off. So I always check the balance and usually tweak it slightly each time I set up. The balance check also serves as a double-check to be sure I haven't forgotten anything. For example, just the weight of the lens cap will throw off the balance significantly.

Also, the steps to assemble and disassemble the sled are somewhat difficult while you're wearing the rig because everything moves around on frictionless bearings, and silky smooth springs. And the Pilot sled is not really made to stand up on a table or up against a wall, so I don't know how that would work.

Basically, I've never heard of someone assembling a rig on location without a stand.

Setting up the stand takes around 45 seconds. Assembling the sled takes around 3-4 minutes on the stand. Checking/tweaking the balance takes around 45 seconds on the stand. So it's around 5 minutes total, assuming you're using the same camera and accessories every time.
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Old December 6th, 2010, 05:50 AM   #5
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I have used the pilot on a number of weddings and it's not that quick to set up.

Remember that the pilot or any steadicam will give you great shots (once you master it) but you cant use it everywhere - that kills the wow factor that such shots give.

you need somewhere to set up the stand and balence - that's going to take 5-10 minutes and as long as you've got a quick release you can jump from steadicam to tripod quickly.

The reception is a great place to start. set the stand up and balence ready for the brides entry, you can do a sweep of the reception room before. then leave it set up and remount the camera ready for the 1st dance. There's no point in using it too much.

If you have strong arms you can use a merlin with the XH-A1 but the pilot is easier to master.

Once you pack it up you will need to rebalance every time.
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Old December 6th, 2010, 11:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Remember that the pilot or any steadicam will give you great shots (once you master it) but you cant use it everywhere - that kills the wow factor that such shots give.
For the beautiful floating "wow" type shots, yes, those are often used somewhat sparingly.

But I've also found the Pilot quite useful for general coverage. It only takes seconds to get the camera in the right position, and then if I stand with my weight slightly back on my left foot, I can usually keep it fairly stable for a while. So when I'm shooting stuff where people are moving around, or may turn and face a different direction, or if I'm moving quickly from one place to another and don't want to drag sticks around, I use the Pilot. It's sort of my equivalent to a news man's shoulder.

And if I know I'm going for quick static shots with the Pilot, I'll turn on the camera's optical image stabilizer (OIS). To be clear, OIS will ruin a beautiful moving shot by trying to hold the frame static and then jerking when that's no longer possible. But if I'm just going for a quick static shot, I'll use the Pilot with OIS.


Quote:
you need somewhere to set up the stand and balance - that's going to take 5-10 minutes ...
I have some tricks that help speed my setup. If I reproduce the positions of the components on the sled very closely each time, then balancing is really quick, more of a balance check or small tweak. Toward this end:

1) I always extend the center post the same amount by measuring the width of 4 fingers.

2) I always slide the battery back as far as it can go on the lower spar.

3) The monitor is permanently positioned very far forward, so that when it touches
the screw-on weight it's at the correct viewing angle. So I just pivot the monitor down until it stops.

4) The tripod adapter and plate are the exact same length, so I can reproduce the fore/aft position of the camera by simply feeling how the plate lines up in the adapter before I tighten it down.

Here's a picture to help show what I'm talking about.

Obviously, if I'm using different camera accessories than usual, or doing something special, like low-mode, then I'll need more time to setup and balance. But for the normal setup and accessories, it's closer to 5 minutes.
Attached Thumbnails
Run 'n' gun with a Pilot-hvx200_ntg1.jpg  
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Old December 6th, 2010, 12:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Manojlovic View Post
I'm shooting wedding videos with an XHA1. Many of my gigs are opting to pay for a second videographer.
That being said, I'd like to add some flare to my videos, since i'm not pressed as hard.

I'm seriously pondering into buying a Steadicam Pilot and taking the weekend seminar.
But before i fall in love with the idea of getting one, i need to ask some practical questions.

Is this a tool that i can quick release, jump in and out of the car and be ready to go to the reception..
Is this a tool that will allow me to add flare during the reception, and yet allow me to get onto the tripod during the speeches??
Is this a tool which will weigh like an albatross around my neck, without more shooters?

Is there anybody with a similair scenario, or should the Pilot be dedicated to one person for the whole day???

Any insight would be appreciated.
Peter,
I use the Indicam Surfer 207 for my flying shots at weddings. Indicam
I have used it for the entire event or switch back and forth between sticks with a quick release. When I put the A1 on the tripod, I simply keep the vest on so that I am ready to come back to it when the conditions change.
I never realized that the Surfer may have an advantage over the Pilot in that I can keep my sled setup, even in storage and transport and be ready to go in a minutes notice. This is possible from the fact that the sled does not use slide out arms on the base plate for balancing instead it uses weights that slide on the plate. Once I have my sled balanced I don't need to change the balance unless I change the camera setup.
Over the weekend, I did a wedding where I followed the B&G down to the limo, filmed them getting in, kept the vest, arm and sled on, climbed in the front seat of the limo with the arm and sled resting in my lap, jumped out of the limo and shot the B&G getting out.
For traditional church weddings I usually use fly the processional and recessional and use sticks during the ceremony. For outdoor weddings and during the reception I usually stay on the Surfer to be ready for the unexpected.
I followed and filmed a float in a 3 mile parade route for Mardi-Gras and wasn't bothered by the Surfer. I've worn the Surfer for 6-8 hour stretches and you do feel tired but not beat.
As for as flare shots, the most dramatic shots that I remember are the ones that have a dynamic move to them that you're not going to get on a tripod.
Bottom line - best money I've spent so far.
Good luck with your decision and purchase.

Jim
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Old December 6th, 2010, 02:17 PM   #8
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Peter,
steadicam is an amazing tool, and if you are planning to bring your production to the next level, and the budget permits the purchase, by all means go ahead and get one, with the release of zephyr, today you can find used pilot in a great condition at more or less affordable price, but before you do that, do you research and explore all the options available, I'd recommend VL or AB models, depending on equipment you already have, or planning to buy in the near future;
I'll try to answer your questions, but of course it is only MHO and experience.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Manojlovic View Post
Is this a tool that i can quick release, jump in and out of the car and be ready to go to the reception..
yes you can, I do that all the time, I do not disassemble the post when travelling between locations during the wedding (except for the weights) so it takes me about three minutes to get the rig on and start shooting. I don't know, yeah it's like a wearing 20lb pack but the other way around, hanging on your chest, try that, you'll see it's different; wearing is a one thing, shooting is another; yes, sometimes I wear the rig for hours, but it doesn't mean I can shoot for the same period of time straight;
my pilot/EX1 set is at it's max weight capacity, and after 25min non stop family dance at the Greek wedding :) - I need at least 5 min brake to catch my breath;
when you shooting with steadicam, and especially if it's a live event, the level of physical and mental concentration is so high, you get exhausted twice as fast compare to just practicing shots.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Manojlovic View Post
Is this a tool that will allow me to add flare during the reception, and yet allow me to get onto the tripod during the speeches?
i can't say when you'll master the art of steadicam, i think it's a non stop process, but when you'll start to understand how to operate steadicam there is no tool (well, except cablecam) will give you that wow shot that good steadicam shot can;
conversion from the rig to the tripod is fast, but I would not recommend you use steadicam during receptions if you shoot one camera setup.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Manojlovic View Post
Is there anybody with a similair scenario, or should the Pilot be dedicated to one person
I think it is a team decision, but I would let to shoot only the best from available steadicam operator,
in my team it's me:)
but it doesn't mean the others shouldn't be trained, it is great and makes shooting easier and fun when everyone in the team can operate any piece from the team's equipment pool.
but before you do any movements, I'd recommend you to rent the rig for a weekend, it's $200 from Vistek,
listen to other people opinion, it's invaluable, but make your decisions based on your own,
best.
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Old December 14th, 2010, 09:35 PM   #9
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I use the Pilot constantly at weddings. It does not take 5 minutes to set up at each location. Simply remove the post from the arm, and put it somewhere stable in your vehicle. Removing the vest is a "snap" with the Pilot now having buckles rather than just velcro.

I have never disassembled any other part of the steadicam and haven't had balancing issues. It takes literally seconds to jump out of the car and start shooting. So much can be missed if you expect to be able to set up the rig as if for a feature film.

The Pilot is quite robust and mine has withstood a lot of abuse but continues to provide silky smooth movement.

My one piece of advice is to use a separate camera on sticks, rather than switching one camera back and forth. What a pain that is. If the shoot calls for two videographers or at least two angles, then having that one camera locked down gives you the freedom to be much more creative with your steadi.
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Old December 14th, 2010, 11:27 PM   #10
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Thanks Jim.....

We have used out Indicam Surfer 214 for weddings where we have the vest and arm already on and tied out of the way. We have the camera on sticks for the ceremony but just as they are finished, we switch it over (quick release is nice) to our sled and then walk ahead of the couple down the aisle getting them on the way out.

Jim is correct about being able to use it very quickly and for extended periods of time. We did a 6 hour walk through the aisles of the CES in Las Vegas and were "tired but not beat".

Tery
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Old December 15th, 2010, 04:27 AM   #11
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My apologies if these points were mentioned already.

I use the pilot in run n gun situations normally (wedding filmmaking). I fly either a 7D or 5Dmk2 using the sled's monitor for framing and composition. I'll sometimes use the camera LCD during reception or ceremony where I'm doing little moving and more "coverage".

I balanced my pilot with both the monitor and battery extended all the way out. I measure the amount of extension for the center post via amount of fingers that fit between. I have a lighter rig so my weights stay on my pilot at all times.

I'm able to jump out, throw on the vest with the buckle upgrade, screw in the arm and be off in running in less than a minute or two tops. I use the pilot usually during the processional and after the hand off, I'll pull the camera off the sled, hand it to my second shooter, and they will clip it in for a wide shot down the center aisle. During this time I take off the arm but leave the vest on if its a quick ceremony or unclip the whole thing if it's one of the longer ones. I then run the bride camera.

At times where the ceremony was totally unpredictable due to certain customs or a style that a pastor used during the ceremony that was different, I kept the steadicam on and was able to cover the whole ceremony very smoothly for the mid/wide shots while my second shooter got the tights. Attending the 2 day workshop with Peter Abraham was very much worth the money and it definitely helped to improve my technique much more quickly than trying to figure it out myself, which in turn would lead to developing bad operating habits.

Cheers.
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Old December 22nd, 2010, 10:50 PM   #12
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big guys

I am 6'2" and 240lbs, size 40 waist. I shoot alot of auto racing, pit work, car shows, Sema, PRI etc. I have the JVC HM700 and the 100.

Are any of you guys this size?, say a XL shirt? Do they make a larger vest?

Shooting ALMS in 07 and 08 I spent alot of time bent over the side of prototype race cars so I look forward to the challenge of the vest and weight but the concentration needed does sound interesting.

Myles Williams
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Old December 23rd, 2010, 07:00 AM   #13
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In a "run and gun" situation, which for me doesn't mean weddings but doing a lower budget shoot with company moves mid-day, I will either strap the sled into the passenger seat of my SUV using the seat belt to hold it in place or use a sizeable foam pad in the rear and just lay the rig down on it, sometimes with a shot bag across the post to keep it in place. That's usually a much larger rig than a Pilot but it should work even better in that scenario. The foam will help ease strain on the monitor (usually the widest part of the sled) when you lay it down fully built.
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Old December 24th, 2010, 03:39 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Myles Williams View Post
I am 6'2" and 240lbs, size 40 waist. I shoot alot of auto racing, pit work, car shows, Sema, PRI etc. I have the JVC HM700 and the 100.

Are any of you guys this size?, say a XL shirt? Do they make a larger vest?

Shooting ALMS in 07 and 08 I spent alot of time bent over the side of prototype race cars so I look forward to the challenge of the vest and weight but the concentration needed does sound interesting.

Myles Williams
RCE VIDEO
Hey Myles,

I'm a bigger guy than you, even. XXL shirt here (and even a little too tall for that). The Pilot vest fits me fine with no modifications - should be no problem for you! The Flyer vest did need slightly longer straps to fit around me, but since I've lost a little weight, they should fit okay. You should be fine in any of the vests.
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Old December 26th, 2010, 10:23 PM   #15
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Thanks Tom ! Now I have to try and find a used one for sale! Seems hard to find these used.
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