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Old January 16th, 2003, 10:02 PM   #1
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Steadicam Operator's Manual of Style

While researching Steadicam matters I came across this very humorous, but enlightening, page at the Filmmakers Store site. I'm sure Charles P. has seen this many times...hey, maybe he even modeled for the pics!

Steadicam Operator's Manual of Style
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Old January 17th, 2003, 12:57 AM   #2
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Nah, that's Ted Churchill and his brother Jack in the pix. Ted was an amazing character, a NY based documentary cameraman who was one of the first to truly understand the potential of Steadicam in the early years (1980 or so) and he virtually single-handedly created the persona of the Steadicam Operator that lasted for many years. Ted was a passionate, fascinating and flawed guy, tremendously intelligent and bitingly funny, as can be seen in the Manual of Style, a joke pamphlet he put together and had printed and used to hand out. I have an original in my files that he gave me. I think I told the story once in this forum, but as a young college student I befriended Ted and visited him on the set of various movies like "Ghostbusters". Ted was the main influence on me becoming a Steadicam operator. Sadly he took his own life in 1995. The Steadicam community was devasted to lose him.

So what Steadicam matters were you researching Ken? Thinking about a purchase?
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Old January 17th, 2003, 01:28 AM   #3
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Charles, I was supremely confident that you would not only have seen that piece but that you also knew the story behind it and, indeed, its author!

After a year of reading your remarks and researching this fascinating piece of mechanical engineering I've become convinced that this would be a valuable tool to acquire and master. Certainly, I've no interest in becoming a professional operator such as yourself. (Hey, at 5'9" and 48 I can't afford to lose that 0.667" per year that Ted cites!) But the availability of moderately-priced Steadicam rigs and the fact that I have abundant time to learn its proper use seems irresistable.

My first choice was to get the basic JR for use with my GL2. You, and others elsewhere, have noted that it has the basic motion control capabilities of the larger rigs when properly loaded and balanced. At this point, however, I've hit a bit of a slowdown bump; the JR is nowhere to be found. (I'm beginning to suspect that Saddam may have hoarded them and plans to somehow use them as weapons.) BTW, with all due respect to Casey, I've decided to stick with the original Steadicam brand.

So, while twiddling my thumbs on that front I've begun to look at the MINI. It's clearly of the more classic design. While being a bigger production to don and adjust, I gather that it would afford more flexibility of load (my GL2 or my XL1s) and offer a bit more comfort during extended use. Of course, it costs more than 6x the JR!

So that's where I am right now. I'm planning for at least two of my own productions this year, both of which could greatly benefit from this technology.

Do you have any idea why the JR has become scarce? Also, do you have experience with/thoughts on the MINI?

Thanks very much!
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Old January 17th, 2003, 01:46 AM   #4
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Ken:

I know a few operators over 50 who are humping around the big rigs every day, so no worries Ken, you can do it!

I'm not sure why you are having trouble finding the JR, but you could try contacting Tiffen directly to see if they have any thoughts.

I have played with the Mini and like it for the XL1 class of camera. You may have to add a bit of weight with your GL2, I'm not sure. But it will feel almost invisible on your body due to the support system (a handheld setup like the JR is much harder to use for extended periods, as I'm sure you are aware). It is pricey as you mentioned. There are so bloody many rigs out there now for this end of the market, I wish I could point you with all assurance to another option that may perform as well but at a cheaper price point! You wouldn't be disappointed by the Mini, that much I do know. It's well built.

Once you have gotten the skill down, you will absolutely love using the rig and it's really exciting what kind of shots can be achieved. To get to the point where the shots become true substitutes for dolly moves takes a lot of practice, but they can be done and obviously with a lot more flexibility.

I think if you can deal with the cash outlay, the Mini would be a much better choice than the JR for the reasons you mentioned. Although I can't agree that the JR takes less time to adjust; it requires constant re-trimming (dialing the adjustment knobs), usually before every shot. You get used to it but it's always an issue.
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Old January 17th, 2003, 02:04 AM   #5
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I absolutely agree with Charles, only I will go further: do not buy the JR. for use with the XL1S. The camera is too big for the JR. Don't believe anyone who tells you different. I had a Steadicam rep tell me the PD150 with a wide lens was too big for the JR. Now, they all say that the PD150 is OK. Bull. That device will drive you crazy. Go to the Mini or save your time and money.
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Old January 17th, 2003, 02:15 AM   #6
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Charles: Thanks very much for your encouragement and your thoughts. I'm sure I'll have (more than) a few follow-up questions as I dive deeper into this thing. And, hey, if I grab the MINI and it doesn't work out I'll at least have a really unique costume for next Halloween!

Wayne: Indeed, from what I've learned thus far I can see that the XL1s would be too large a load for the JR, even stripped-down to a naked case and lens. Geez, surprised to hear that the PD150 gives the JR trouble. It seems like it's within the weight range, even with that extra glass. Thanks for the note.
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Old January 17th, 2003, 10:01 AM   #7
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If I remember correctly, the JR is intended to be used with a camera under 4 lbs.
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Old January 24th, 2003, 03:20 AM   #8
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Charles, back in the day of the AOL Steadicam boards (whew! Does that date me?) Jack Churchill set up an amazing memorial website for Ted. I imagine you remember it.

Did it ever resurface?
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Old January 24th, 2003, 07:57 AM   #9
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The MINI looks great...but...$5,500 bucks for the basic package?!
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Old January 24th, 2003, 08:57 AM   #10
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Thanks

for posting the link to Ted's info. What a great guy and what a loss.
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Old January 24th, 2003, 09:50 AM   #11
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direktor:

I first logged onto the AOL Steadicam board in '95, the day before Ted's death was announced. Some of the many postings that followed were read at his eulogy as I recall.

Jack's website was amazing, I agree. Still one of the best looking and most fascinating designs I have seen to date. Unfortunately I think he had to pull it for legal reasons, in that it named names and was unflinching. It's a shame.

We switched over to www.steadicamforums.com a few years ago, but it hasn't been the same--while we added our international friends, we seem to have lost many of the venerable A-lister's in the process. At least Garrett pops his head in from time to time.

p.s. Nate--I should point out that we encourage using real names for user names on this site, which is atypically flame-free, as you may have noticed.

John:

I hear ya--it's a very solid and sleekly made unit, but one is partly paying for the Steadicam name. I personally think the appropriate price point for a DV stabilizer should be no more than half that.
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