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Old January 26th, 2011, 08:12 AM   #1
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Stabilizer Basics - How Much Weight Do I Need?

Hello,
I am the proud owner of the fantastic camera stabilizer system the Indicam Pilot 214. So far, I have been impressed with this system, especially for the cost.
I have been practicing for a few months to get it right, but I am still having some trouble. I know that being a Steadicam Operator is a skill that takes years to master. However, I want to make sure I have eveything set up correctly so I am not hampering myself from learning any further.

THE PROBLEM:
I can't get the shot to stay steady in any direction. The camera wants to pan, tilt, and dutch as I walk.

On the pole, it has good static balance (I think) and I have recently installed my Lilliput 668 on the front of the weight plate. I removed the weights from the front, and added one (total of 3 plates) on the rear.

THE QUESTION:
How much weight is a good ammount for a stabilizer? I know not everyone has this exact rig, so I am just looking for principles. Should the bottom plate be heavy? Is it a matter of preferance? Where should the rig "float" normally? Eye level? Waist Level?

Any help would be appreciated, and if I did not express myself correctly, please let me know.

EQUIPMENT ON RIG:
Canon XH-A1S
Indicam Pilot 214 (dual arm)
Lilliput 668

Thanks in advance for your wisdom. This is what the internet is for, exchange of information. Love this site.
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Old January 26th, 2011, 08:39 AM   #2
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I find that loading your rig to the max of it's capacity makes operation easier, more inertia - less movement, i would also keep your arm somewhere in the waist area, but I think the most important pat of the whole setup is a drop time, I keep mine between 2 and 3 seconds;
and yes, it takes years, but stupid of me I didn't believe that at first :)
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Old January 26th, 2011, 08:44 AM   #3
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Invest in the Steadicam Operators Handbook and the EFP training DVD, available on the TIffen site. Principles are the same. Many questions will be answered.

Setup is key. Static and dynamic balance. 2-3 second drop time. If your system allows it, adjusting the arm so that the sled "floats" in front of you. Generally the arm sections should be adjusted to be roughly level and both sections should track together...in other words, if you push all the way down or up, both arms reach the end of their travel at about the same time.

Then consider your grip. Your left hand lightly controls your pan and tilt (and roll), and your right hand controls boom and gross movements. Don't expect the rig to stay still without some influence of your hands.

If you have all kinds of unwanted sway and tilt and panning, first confirm your balance and drop time, then look to your grip. Some of these movements are normal and that's what your technique gets under control. But a lot of pendular action is a sign of an improperly set up rig.

As to weight, your overall weight is generally better to be toward the higher end of what your rig is rated for, because inertia is your friend...smooths out your moves and cuts down unwanted movement.

Once you've studied the book and tape for a few weeks, consider investing $500 in a weekend workshop.

It can take years to "master" a stabilizer but you should be able to make reasonably decent shots within a couple of months if you understand and practice proper techniques.

Good luck and have fun.
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Old January 27th, 2011, 04:26 AM   #4
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Does the Indicam Pilot 214 allow the gimbal to move up and down along the sled post?
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Old January 27th, 2011, 08:08 PM   #5
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Yes. The gimbal can move up and down the post. At this point it is (approx) 2 inches from the bottom of the camera plate.
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Old January 27th, 2011, 08:09 PM   #6
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Thank you so much Mark. This is some great info!
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Old January 28th, 2011, 06:48 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Knoll View Post
Yes. The gimbal can move up and down the post. At this point it is (approx) 2 inches from the bottom of the camera plate.
You'll get the most stability at the maximum weight, with a drop time of 2-3 seconds, but also with the gimbal closer to the camera plate.

To understand the gimbal position issue, grab a pencil. Hold it between thumb and finger of your left hand, and wiggle the bottom of the pencil with your right hand. When you hold the pencil in in the middle, the eraser moves a lot. But if you hold it up close toward the eraser, the eraser moves much less. So having the gimbal closer to the lens decreases the effect of sled movement at the lens.

In order to get the gimbal to move toward the camera plate while maintaining the drop time, you'll need to add weight to the top, near the camera. The Steadicam Pilot allows allows you screw on various numbers of weights at the top for this purpose. For the Indicam, you'll probably need to add some sort of weight plate under the camera to do this.

But as always, I should mention that operating skills are the most important part of maintaining stability. You should use a feather-light touch with both your left and right hands. In order to maintain this feather-light touch, you have to control the position of sled with your body, specifically through the position of your hips. If you move your hips back, the sled moves forward, and vice-versa. Same with hip left-right. The object is to completely control the position of the sled with your body, so that your hands are free for the feather-light fine tuning. If you have to muscle the position of the sled with your right hand/arm, you've already lost the battle.

It's best to take a weekend workshop early in your training, so you don't develop bad habits that are hard to break. But if that's not in your budget, I would suggest to start by practicing hands-free in order to develop the proper balance through hip placement. Try operating the rig with your hands not touching, keeping them an inch or two away for safety. Do this 2-3 hours a day for a week. Turn the camera off, forget about framing, and just concentrate on balance. Start by just walking in a straight line, and then when you get that, try turning around without touching, and then progress to other moves as you're ready. There are a lot of other things you need to know about operating, but if you get the balance thing down, you'll be in pretty good shape.

Oh, and by the way, if you're in balance, not only can you use a feather-light touch, but your back stops hurting.

Also, the old Flyer manual still has a good description of various practice exercises:
http://www.steadicam.com/images/cont..._Manual_Lo.pdf
starting on page 28.

Last edited by Dave Gish; January 28th, 2011 at 07:51 AM.
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Old January 31st, 2011, 12:48 AM   #8
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Rob,
You want the bottom plate to be weighted evenly on both sides of the post. With this done and the camera being off, the sled will spin evenly (little or not wobble). Now add the camera on top and adjust it so it is balanced at it's center of gravity. Make sure the sled is bottom heavy so that the drop time is around 2 seconds. Do the "tip" mentioned in the "Stabilizer Basics" training DVD on balancing the rig and you should be ready to rock and roll.
If the sled is heavy it will be more stabile and take smoother video. Concerning arm height-on our system we have found that to balance the arm so it is horizontal (waist level) and then raising it to whatever height you want works best for two reasons. One is because you use your own arm to help buffer (smooth out) the shot and the other is that it takes some weight off of your vest.

With regards to the "hip" thing mentioned above, this is explained in our training DVD. We call it "The Hula Lesson" and Dave had it right. Just watch the video as it shows what part the hips do in controlling a stabilizer.

You can email (or phone) me personally with questions any time you would like. We take care of our customers.

Tery
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Old February 2nd, 2011, 03:51 PM   #9
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Thanks Terry,
I might take you up on that. Your customer service has been superb.

Thank you to everyone who replied to this post for all your help. I will re-weight, re-balance, and keep practicing my skills.
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Old March 4th, 2011, 12:02 PM   #10
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Re: Stabilizer Basics - How Much Weight Do I Need?

Rob,

Just checking in to see if you got your life "balanced" as it were. If you have problems give me a call. I'll send you a private message with the phone number. Anytime you need help just call. We want you to be our best advertisement.

Tery
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