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Old October 1st, 2012, 03:25 AM   #1
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Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

Hi All - I've just got my new Merlin and after many hours getting it set-up and balanced I am getting the hang of it but every time I pick it up after setting (gently) it down I have to realign the trim - Is this normal?

I film mainly weddings and, as time is always tight on a wedding shoot, I can't afford the time to constantly have to adjust it every time I pick it up

Any tips?
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Old October 1st, 2012, 05:33 AM   #2
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

OK, basic questions first.

You watched the DVD and read the manual very throughly - right?

You've also removed the camera strap - don't even attempt to fly with that flapping around - right?

What camera and what lens? - is it a zoom lens where the centre of gravity will change at different focal lengths as internal lens elements move (for example) - even focus changes can have a slight effect?.... or a camera with a flip out LCD that you might have in different positions (again affecting the C.O.G.)?

Have you looked in the Merlin Cook Book (on their website - just Google it) for recommended set-ups with your camera and lens (if they exist)? [Someone may have a more stable set-up than you've developed]

Merlin takes LOTS of practice - and I mean LOTS.

Very fine adjustment of trim is pretty much the norm for me (I mean maybe a 1/2 turn of one of the platform thumb screws type of thing, max, nothing more and very quick and easy to do in a couple of seconds). Also, just in case, the Merlin is also no good for flying in a light breeze outside - as you may have found out already!

Sorry if these are obvious questions but I guess we need to start somewhere!
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Old October 1st, 2012, 08:51 AM   #3
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

buy the stand - The merlin is delicate - I prefer the glidecan as it can take a bit more knockin about before it loses balence. The stand means you can just slot the handle in and it's ready for next time.
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Old October 1st, 2012, 10:29 AM   #4
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

I have both Merlin and Merlin 2. Both have this problem. The arm at fully extended dont' lock all tight in place. It hinges makes the lower arm move up and down a little bit. So I pushed the arm down when balancing. Everytime when I use it, unfold and pushed the arm down to make sure it is the way I balance it.
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Old October 1st, 2012, 11:09 AM   #5
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

I've tried out the Merlin, and the Glidecam 4000 (currently sitting and gathering dust). To be honest, I couldn't balance the things properly to save my life. I had an "action shoot" out doors, running through woods and stuff, and as long as it was ideal conditions outside, the Merlin was decent. The moment a decent breeze swept through, I was canting all over the place.

I gave up on shooting Steadicam style shots for a while. There are a few good pieces of kit out there, but after a lot of research and trying out, I settled on my current "go to", a SteddiePod CF. This thing is in my car all the time. Letting a few friends at Airsoft Megastore (Airsoft Megastore - YouTube) use it for the moment. But look on YouTube to see other people shooting with it. Like all systems, it takes practice, but for me, it was more forgiving.

Best of luck!
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Old October 1st, 2012, 12:53 PM   #6
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Wilkinson View Post
OK, basic questions first.

You watched the DVD and read the manual very throughly - right?
Hi Andy - yes, normally I avoid manuals and get stuck in but I'd read that setting it up correctly is crucial I though I'd better read first. I'm using a Sony HVR-A1E without the strap and plug-in XRL Microphone Pod. The camera has the sony Wide angle adapter on it so this configuration is not in the Merlin cookbook. Regarding the focal length - I plan (and I think this is the norm) to be fully zoomed out at all times and not try and shift the zoom as I'm flying so the focal length will remain constant.

I've got it pretty well balanced - I still get a slight side to side sway but I'm working on it

I love it by the way and am sure with practice I'll get there - not sure about the stand @ 73 though!

Pete
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Old October 1st, 2012, 06:30 PM   #7
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

Peter,

Just one point:

When I first got my Merlin, it would balance, then go out of adjustment, needing a further setting up. It turned out to be sideplay on one of the gimbal axes. Tiffen replaced the gimbal assembly without question and its been fine ever since.
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Old October 2nd, 2012, 04:05 AM   #8
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

The Gimbal seems pretty solid with no perceptible play - I suppose I could send it to them to check it over but I think I'm getting there - I've got a nice 1.5 second drop time and am getting used to flying with it - It just has a tendency to sway ever so slightly when coming to the end of a movement - and I still need to adjust the trim every time I pick it up

Having said all that I can't wait to start using it in my shoots!

Pete
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Old October 2nd, 2012, 08:26 AM   #9
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

About 4-5 years ago I bought a Merlin & was almost reduced to tears at my inability to balance it fly it with a Canon XH-A1. Eventually with great relief I sold it. Subsequently I have twice attended the 2-day Tiffen Steadicam workshop & now think that I would appreciate the Merlin much better. It helps an awful lot if you understand the basics of setting up a Steadicam & getting an experienced operator to show you how is an enormous short cut. There are plenty of self taught users but I think that they do get into bad habits without some external reference. I didn't appreciate when I was using the Merlin how much it is permissible to use the guide hand thus the thing always had a life of it's own I was so ignorant that I would try & fly it one handed thinking that was the correct way.

Whenever I get the chance I now use my Steadicam Pilot but as I shoot mainly weddings that is generally too restrictive because you are locked into the vest & even if you can dock the Pilot it's still unwieldy to try & operate other cameras or setup audio while still wearing the arm & vest (even assuming the arm doesn't come undone & whack you in the mouth or wedding guest in the back of the head). So my tool of choice is now the Glidecam 2000 Pro which is the old cheaper model without the nice vernier screws for adjusting the stage. Compared to the Merlin it's more agricultural in construction & because of the gimbal position it's more tiring on the arm. However it is far more forgiving than the Merlin for balancing & flying a camera. Use a wide lens (on my 5D I prefer the 14mm Samyang or Canon 16-35mm F/2.8L) stopped down so most everything is in focus from 2m/6ft to infinity & it's great for just picking up & getting some nice floaty looking shots for just a few seconds at a time.

The most important thing with flying any Steadicam is to practice practice practice. You need to get your movements fluid & anticipate where the camera will be trying to point when executing manoeuvres. If you can take a workshop then I would really advise it. You will learn a lot & it's great fun with a bunch of others. It's good value at about 250 for the two days. Robin Thwaites of Tiffen posted on the Steadicam forum the other day about a two-day workshop taught by leading operator Andrei Austin near Northampton later this month. TIFFEN INTERNATIONAL AUTUMN WORKSHOPS - The Steadicam Forum Andrei taught at the last workshop that I took along with Robin & has a load of credits on IMDB including New Tricks, Waking the Dead & Silent Witness Andrei Austin - IMDb

Even if you take a workshop be sure to buy the Steadicam Operators Handbook which is the bible for all operators. A new edition was just published http://www.amazon.co.uk/Steadicam%C2%AE-Operators-Handbook-Jerry-Holway/dp/024082380X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1349184271&sr=8-2
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Old October 2nd, 2012, 09:44 AM   #10
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

Nigel I'm practicing like crazy as I love the fluidity - I'm pretty much happy with the balancing and am starting to appreciate the lightness of touch required on the guide - my only real beef now is having to tweak the trimming every time I pick it up

I suppose I could buy the Merlin stand but it's not cheap and is yet another piece of kit to carry around - as a solo shooter, mainly at weddings, i already feel like a packhorse!

Grumbles aside I like the Merlin and even though I don't have beefy arms I can fly it for a half hour or so without any gripes :)

Pete
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Old October 2nd, 2012, 10:32 AM   #11
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

You could always use an old bike stand - like I did here in this pic of the TM900 with Steadicam Merlin - far cheaper!

Actually this was just a temp solution - I'm looking for something much better and more stable/secure - Bet I can find something that'll be ideal for a lot less cost than the official stand! ;-)
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Old October 2nd, 2012, 10:51 AM   #12
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

Nice Idea Andy but my MTB is always on mine!

I'm going to get a tripod mic extension and adapt it - only 9!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/OSS-MY550-Mic-Extension-Bar/dp/B0002ZO3LK
Pete
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Old October 3rd, 2012, 04:21 AM   #13
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Re: Steadicam Merlin - help!!!!

this thread has pics of a Merlin stand i made that attaches to a tripod.

learning the balancement of a merlin on a fx1
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