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Old May 21st, 2011, 02:23 AM   #1
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antlers and electronic leveler

I have two questions:
Are antlers available for lightweight cameras, that can be attached to the shoe mount? If so who sells them?

I noticed the big steadicams have electronic leveler. How does this work exactly? Does the Pilot have this? And without this tool, how does one practice keeping the horizon level? (I know this may seem like a basic question, but I only seem to notice my horizon issues when I play back my practice footage on a big screen). I heard that bubble levelers aren't accurate because the inertia pushes the bubble to one side when you start walking.

THanks in advance for your advice.
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Old May 21st, 2011, 11:23 AM   #2
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Re: antlers and electronic leveler

Hi Gregory:

I've had a notion for years now to manufacture mini-antlers, but getting into manufacturing is a headache I can't take on. Have approached a few existing companies about these and other products but we haven't gotten it together yet. Stay tuned.

BTW--as attractive as it would be to use the shoe mount, I had concerns that the leverage from the length of the antlers could be dangerous to the mount, if one end got caught on something or you banged into something (very easy to do). Could damage the mount on the camera quite easily.

There are various electronic levels out there for big rigs. Most are based on a sensor that is not much more sophisticated than a fluid level (which is what you can use on any rig), which is to say that all are prone to false readings during acceleration. All bubbles require interpretation by the operator. It's not generally correct to say that a bubble will get pushed to the side when you start walking unless your walk is in the same direction that the level is oriented (side to side). Turning corners, rotating the rig, lateral acceleration will cause all of them to slide sideways though.

Many operators eschew levels; many others swear by them. I was a big bubble watcher throughout my career and when I started using an HD monitor that didn't have an electronic level, my operating suffered. Always meant to pick up an old-school spirit level but never got around to it! The cheapest can be found in hardware stores, the type that is meant to hang on a line--just break open the plastic casing and out pops a cylindrical level that you can tape or velcro to the bezel of the monitor. That would look like the first example here:

Plastic Level Bubble Vials | Plastic Levels

A better choice would be the square housing shown below that. And even better would be to make a mounting plate and use the screw-in level below that which would allow you to finely tweak the bubble's angle. Remember that your monitor may not be dead on square to the camera platform, and may even shift during the day, so it's extremely important to constantly check it by placing another level against the camera plate or platform. Make sure to use a surface that is exactly parallel to the film plane (sorry, there's the old school in me coming out; I guess I mean sensor) and then true your monitor level to that.
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 12:06 AM   #3
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Re: antlers and electronic leveler

Hi Charles,
I got those spirit levels from Home Depot (the ones that hang on a fishing line), but was afraid I might break the glass if I try to remove the plastic casing. Nevertheless I put it under the monitor and notice that I'm not very level when executing Don Juan. Looking at the screen sideways, doesn't help either.

I thought of antlers because I don't know how to increase pan inertia. I understand that a longer post with monitor/battery/weights further away from the post will increase tilt inertia.

I admire your Steadicam Pilot test clip from your review: Steadicam Pilot Review Part Three by Charles Papert, S.O.C.

After watching it many times, I didn't notice any 'horizon issues', as you claimed.
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 05:16 AM   #4
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Re: antlers and electronic leveler

You should be able to pop the level out easily without it breaking--they are quite tough (and actually made of plastic, not glass).

Your built-in inertial "improver" with the Pilot is of course the screw-in weights for the stage.

Thanks on that old Pilot demo. As I watch it I see plenty of small corrections and a slightly wanderingly horizon, but everything is relative--I was holding myself up to my personally operating standards of the time, comparing it to what I was doing with the big rig. Anyone who is used to a 50-70 lb sled will tend to over-control a 10 lb sled; one has to have a much lighter touch with the latter. Although I'm no longer doing Steadicam and my old site is not externally linked, it can still be accessed here...see shots like "Die Mommy Die" to get a sense of what kind of yardstick I was using as a comparison, horizon-wise.
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 05:38 AM   #5
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Re: antlers and electronic leveler

If you don't want to break open a level to get to the vials inside you can do a web search for "replacement spirit level vials" and find something such as this:

StringA-Level 7/8" Replacement Vials (5/pkg)
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