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Old March 19th, 2014, 05:13 PM   #1
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Which Stabilizer for DSLR

I am pretty new to video production, but someone in my family (after seeing my most recent video) asked if I would do a video for her photography business. She showed me an example of what she wanted. I told her it would be impossible without a stabilizer and she offered to buy one for me in exchange for the video. She said she would pay up to $400. I jumped at the offer but am trying to figure out which one to get.

I always hear about Steadicam but I hear good things about the Glidecam HD 2000 and also the Blackbird. Any suggestions on which is best? Thanks!
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Old March 19th, 2014, 06:51 PM   #2
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

Glidecam HD 2000 will be the best one. The gimbal on that is very good.
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Old March 19th, 2014, 07:04 PM   #3
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

I really like the Blackbird - don't have any experience with the Glidecam so I can't compare - but I did have a Merlin and the Blackbird is so much easier to balance and fly.... but this is all relative, whichever you choose will take lots of practice
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Old March 19th, 2014, 07:25 PM   #4
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

For DSLR the Blackbird is the tops and a great stabilizer.
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Old March 19th, 2014, 09:56 PM   #5
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

I am really leaning toward the Blackbird. All the comparisons I've read put it over both the Merlin and the Glidecam. Seems to be the easiest to learn as well.

Looking to get the cheaper version but really wanting to find a place that sells the kickstand as that would be something I feel like I would use a lot. No luck so far.
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Old March 20th, 2014, 06:59 AM   #6
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

You can get the kickstand directly at Camera Motion Research and believe me, it's a must have accessory.
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Old March 20th, 2014, 07:00 AM   #7
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

I saw that and thats the 1 accessory that I really want, but man, almost $70 for a small piece of metal seems a bit steep. I've been looking for one used, but nothing so far. May just have to bite the bullet
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Old March 20th, 2014, 07:11 AM   #8
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

I got the complete set which is always cheaper then getting the parts separately.
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Old March 20th, 2014, 07:41 AM   #9
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

You can't really set the Merlin down, while the Steadicam sits flat, and the Blackbird has a kickstand.

Here are some nice reviews:
Blackbird:
And the Glidecam vs RHinosteady
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Old March 21st, 2014, 11:34 AM   #10
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

If you can wait a bit, I'd target the Steadicam Solo.


It's available for preorder for $499. Availability expected on April 4th.
Steadicam Solo Stabilizer & Monopod SOLO B&H Photo Video

Here are the advantages, as I see them:
* Has a true Steadicam-style gimbal (not a ball or U-joint)
* The gimbal has Steadicam quality. (It felt good to me at CES in January.)
* Accepts a vest/arm upgrade for true Steadicam operation.
* Camera support can be fine-tuned for correct balance.
* Includes a monopod, which makes it viable without a vest.
* Affordable.
* Has the Steadicam name, which will help keep its resale value.

The monopod is the killer feature. I have access to a Blackbird and I actively avoid using it. With a 5D2 and lens, my arm tires in a very few minutes. And then what do I do with it? Set it on the ground? With the monopod, I can tuck it in my belt or stand it on the floor while shooting without fatigue. When it's time to fly, I can shorten the monopod and get a smooth shot.

This would be perfect for events. In your Auction House video, you had enough time and a limited space so you could use a tripod for interviews and a slider for shooting static objects. For events (unless you have an assistant or two), it's not practical to haul around the gear and take the time to setup a tripod and slider. With the Solo, you can set the monopod on the floor for interviews, tuck it in your belt for longer, human-tripod pan-and-tilt shots, and use it in Steadicam mode to fly over static items. When you tire, extend the monopod to the floor and relax. This is ideal for solo shooting - it's light and transforms from mode to mode in less than a minute without needing to carry, retrieve, or store any additional gear.

I'll attend NAB this year and will shoot with my trusty monopod. (Definitely not with the less-practical but smoother Blackbird.) I really wish that I could shoot this year's NAB with the Solo. Maybe I should bring my checkbook to the Tiffen booth. :)
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Old March 21st, 2014, 12:27 PM   #11
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

Quote:
I have access to a Blackbird and I actively avoid using it. With a 5D2 and lens, my arm tires in a very few minutes.
The blackbird is among one of the lightest steadicams you can get, the fact that it gets to heavy for you when flying without arm vest is not because of the blackbird, but because your camera/lens is too heavy. That's why I use m4/3 camera which are much lighter and so I can use one of teh smallest wheights on each side of the bar only , eventhough I don't do workouts I use the steadicam a lot starting from the reception at weddings. The blackbird serves one purpose, it's a steadicam, and if used right it does what it was designed to do.

The solo stabiliser looks great as concept but I only wonder how the balance remains if you go to monopod back to steadicam mode, as long as the vertical length stays exactly the same that shouldn't be a issue but if it changes just a bit that will affect your droptime which on it's turn will affect the balance.

Also don't underestimate the position of the handle, it's not directly under the sled like with the blackbird but extends from the vertical bar, this will even put more strain on your hands, arms and shoulders when you try to hold it, expect it to be even harder then the blackbird to handhold it for longer periods, especially with heavy camera like a 5d. If you then need to do a longer continuous moving shot the monopod won't do you any good at all and while your flying you"ll slowly start to die when your hand starts shaking excessively because you can't hold it anymore. :) (That's actually no joke because I have used these kind of steadicams handheld and paired with a heavier dslr they will kill your arm and back.)

That the blackbird and actually any kind of steadicam can be annoying to drag around is true, that's why I only start using it from the reception where I have all the time and space, the solo stabiliser might be a good solution for the parts of the day where I would not take the blackbird with me because, like you said, you need to place it "somewhere" if you are shooting with a tripod or other camera handheld and I"m always afraid people might step on the steadicam while parked on the ground and make it fall over.

Having the monopod supported in a belt would be the best for run and gun and then do some quick steadicam moves inbetween, the thing is, on a steadicam I don't want a zoomlens because even changing focal lengths can trow it out of balance so only a wide prime would do, only that would be too limited on a monopod so for that reason I would prefer a second dslr with a zoom or fast prime that I can use for all run and gun, only where do you leave the steadicam solo? You can't place it on the ground either so you are stuck with it.

It all has it advantages/disadvantages but I definitely see a place for it for run and gun events work.
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Old March 23rd, 2014, 12:45 AM   #12
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

You're right, Noa. The Solo (or any other Steadicam-style stabilizer) will be more tiring because the handle isn't centered. I should note that my Blackbird doesn't include the legs/stand. So when I tire, I need to find someplace to set it - quickly - and that frustrates me. With the Solo, that would never be a problem.

One of the reasons that it appeals to me is that I've come to love the monopod... mostly. I've found DSLR handheld rigs to be fatiguing because of the forward weight. And I don't want to solve it with another 5-10 lbs behind - and on - my back. By putting that same handheld rig on a monopod in my belt, the problem is solved. And by extending the monopod to the floor, it's like having a walking stick - not only am I not supporting it's weight, it can help support me. :)

There are two limitations with the monopod, and the Solo solves one of them - it would give me smoother flying shots. Yes, I can hold the monopod at the balance point to fake it, but it's not the real thing. The problem it doesn't solve is when I want the camera to be lock-solid stable. A tripod solves that but the cost is size, weight, and a possible airport check in. My current solution is to use both a rig and monopod together. Quick-release the rig, find a tall enough surface, and you can often adjust the rig for a locked-down shot. You can't tilt or pan, but it's stable enough for timelapses and other times when you want no movement.

A consideration with the Solo would be that you wouldn't want to do long flights with a heavy camera/lens without a vest and arm. Though the flights might be even shorter with the Solo than the Blackbird, getting that clean rest between shots would likely make up for it.

Regarding lenses, I find that I can cover tradeshows and events where you can walk up to people with a single 35mm lens on a full frame camera (22m on a crop.) The 35mm isn't long enough for the person-on-stage, but you really need a tripod for that application. The prime lens for balance is just fine by me.

I'm not too worried about the length of the monopod being slightly off. Drop time is always a compromise - too slow and it's not stable, too fast and it sways when you move. the left-right & fore-aft balance is the critical part and that shouldn't be affected by the monopod length.

The Solo won't be for everybody, but for me, I already use a monopod as a go-to solution. Adding a gimbal makes a lot of sense. I probably only need flying shots about 20% of the time, so the fatigue issue is likely manageable. That the Solo would fit in my carry on (like my monopod) would let me continue to fly light. :)
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Old March 27th, 2014, 12:51 PM   #13
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

Last night I did an experiment. I made an extension plate that can bolt onto a tripod plate and added a vertical dowel. This can be inserted into the Blackbird handle. The idea is that I'd be able to go to NAB with my trusty monopod, but with the Blackbird stabilizer hanging from it. I could rest the monopod on the floor for longer shots, rest it on my belt for standing, dynamic shots, and could carry it for walking shots.

I tried two camera setups: For the first time I put the EOS-M and 22mm prime on the Blackbird. it's really too small and light. I had to remove all the weights and lift the bottom section as high as it would go in order to get a reasonable drop rate. It just doesn't have enough mass, so it's touchy.

I then used the 5D2 with 16-35L lens and got a better result, though it's still touchy - the camera is so near the gimbal that there's still little mass on the other end to slow things down. Maybe I'll mount it on a juicedLink preamp to lift it up.

Disclaimer: I'm a terrible gimbal operator.

Overall, I didn't like the experience. On one hand, the monopod takes the weight off of my arm/shoulder/back, but on the other hand, it's yet another thing to manage. I'd want a good, secure sling for belt support as I'd need to put all of my attention on framing, not on keeping the thing from slipping. I need a longer extension plate so when the monopod is on the floor, it won't interfere with the Blackbird.

To balance the Blackbird at home, I put the plate on my tripod and can really dial it in. Trying to dial it in on the monopod is much trickier. You always need a hand on the monopod. And when you adjust the stabilizer balance knobs, the thing wants to swing. And because the monopod is never 100% stable, you have to guess when you've really hit the balance point. It never really comes to rest.

I'll play with this some more, but I don't expect to bring this to NAB. It all feels like I'm controlling framing through a series of disconnected rubber bands. It's too many moving, swinging parts when you also need to walk through crowds, listen to demos, make connections, ask for interviews, and find interesting tech - let alone setup the camera, capture audio, and frame. Solo shooting means multi-tasking and my contraption probably adds two tasks too many.

So... wouldn't the Stedicam Solo present the same problem? IMO, no. When you extend it or rest it in your belt, it's simply a solid monopod with a small handle hanging off the side. When you fly it, it will give you Popeye arm, but there are no extra bits and pieces to worry about. (When free-flying my Blackbird + monopod, I'd either need to ditch the monopod, secure it to my belt or backpack, or carry it's extra weight and clumsiness in my flying arm.)

The main difference is that when in belt/floor mode, my contraption would give me the "float" of a gimbal, while the Solo or straight monopod transmits human instability to the camera. Which is really better? I guess that depends on the operator. Shooter McTwitch would be better off with a gimbal. Oppy VanDrift would be better with the predictable framing of a solid mound. Me? I drift. I'm just not a very skilled gimbal operator. Maybe with practice I'll do better, but right now I'd risk shooting an interview where the world starts to tilt, continues to tilt and the audience starts leaning their heads to the side.

So for now, the plan is to bring the straight monopod to NAB - and to get a Solo soon after. But I'll keep practicing. Who knows? With experience, maybe the Black-pod contraption will gain my favor.
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Old March 27th, 2014, 07:30 PM   #14
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

OK I really need some help...

Just got the blackbird in today. I am sitting here trying to balance it and I want to pull my hair out

I am balancing a T3i and I have the correct amount of weights on it. The issue is when I use the bubbles to balance it. I'm using the dials to get close to the right balance. I've gotten close many times, but when I change the front/back balance, it seems to throw off the side to side balance and vice versa. I have been sitting here for almost an hour and I'm about to lose my mind. Please help me
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Old March 28th, 2014, 04:50 PM   #15
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Re: Which Stabilizer for DSLR

Note that the bubble on the back is for side to side balance, but the knob on the back is fore-aft.

The adjustments are very sensitive when you get close, so the threads are very fine - and they do almost nothing when the rig is far out of balance. You turn, turn, turn - and only after 30 turns do you realize you just went the wrong way.

I find that it's important to balance the unit when the handle is supported in some way. You hold the unit steady, give a turn (aggressively if it's out of whack, and finely if you're close), gently steady the rig by touching the bottom center near the weights, and let go.

It seems to be a bit of an art. It's come naturally to me (unlike operating the darn thing). Then again my son, who is very skilled with camera control, was always turning the wrong knob the wrong way when trying to balance the thing. On a recent project I finally said, "give that thing to me!" and tuned it in a jiffy. He then operated it beautifully on the first take. We make a good team. :)
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