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-   -   Everything you wanted to know about the Steadicam Merlin... (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/stabilizers-steadicam-etc/64062-everything-you-wanted-know-about-steadicam-merlin.html)

Mikko Wilson March 31st, 2006 10:03 AM

Everything you wanted to know about the Steadicam Merlin...
Ok, slightly misleading title, the answers arn't here (yet) but I'm calling out for questions!

What questions does everyone have about the Merlin?

Any problems you owners have? Or things that you are curious about?
What about those of you looking at getting one.. What do you want to know bout it, or Steadicam in general?

I'll do my best to answer any questions you have. I'll be taking a good look at the Merlin at NAB and talking with Garrett about it. I'd like to hear some of your thoughts too.

- Mikko

Kris Holodak April 3rd, 2006 02:58 PM

will good balance come with practice?
They made balancing look so easy on the DVD, but I'm finding it challenging. It'll feel good when I'm holding still, but as soon as I start moving it tends to tilt forward and to the right. I keep using it every chance I get and I might be getting a little better, but I don't take it out on anything important yet in case I screw up. Is there some trick to it, or does it just take a lot of practice?

And thanks for the advice before we've all even thought of the questions to ask.


Mikko Wilson April 3rd, 2006 04:10 PM

Yes you will get better with practice.

The first part is learning how to move the rig without wobbling it (caused by holding the gimble too hard). Seems like you ahve that bit down pat.

The next part, the hard part, is learning to anticipate that "penduluming" you are experiencing. Because the bottom is a little heavier it will tend to lag behind just slightly when you accelerate (making it tilt down). Just the same when you stop it will go the other way. The trick is learning to prevent this slight tilt by appling just enough force to hold it in place - but without griping so hard you make it wobble!

With practice you will learn how the rig acts and learn how to counteract those small sways and your shots will improve greatly.

You can also audjust the "Z" adjustment to slightly alter how bottom heavy the rig is, heavier will hand vertical stronger, but will also pendulum more. The manual and cookbook's settings are recomended settings, but it's worth it to experiment a little both ways with this to see how you like the rig to act.
Profesional operators consider the drop time of their rig, and often adjust it, for every shot depding on what type of movement will be involved.

Thanks for asking, have fun with your Merlin!

Anyone else? Questions for me and the other ops here, or for Garrett himeslf?

- Mikko

Paul Leung April 7th, 2006 07:48 PM

I have a DVX100A and struggling whether I should get the Merlin or spend double to get Glidecam 4000 + smoothshooter. I have tried the glidecam + smoothshooter. I think that it's heavy. As I do wedding, I like to be flexible so Merlin sounds like the perfect choice. Now, I am not sure how long can I hold the thing for as my arms are definitely not very strong. Also, would the DVX100A a bit too heavy for the Merlin? Thanks!

Mikko Wilson April 8th, 2006 03:39 AM

Any handheld stabilizer will get heavy eventually.
The Merlin will be much lighter that the Glidecam handheld - and has no strain on your wrist (that's what really gets you anyway)

For an idea how long you can hold the Merlin, hold the camera on your hand and see how long you can go.

But yes the DVX100 works great on a Merlin, even with an accesory or two. And the merlin will be much more flexible, as you can go into handheld mode or even switch over to a tripod in an instant (about 10 seconds, if you are slow) - which also help you last longer too if need be.

If possible, try them both before you buy.

Let us know what you decide and your thougths on your purchase.

- Mikko

Tom Tomkowiak April 10th, 2006 10:44 AM

Okay, here are my Merlin questions looking for an answer:

1. Mikko, you indicate it takes only a few seconds to switch from handheld to tripod. Is that doing a quick release from the Merlin then slide the camera into a quick release base mounted on the tripod? Or, can the Merlin (w/camera attached) be mounted on a tripod?

2. Is it possible to point the camera downward at maybe a 45-degree angle and walk with it in the steady mode? For example, say there's a long, low display counter with stuff on it; Can I film as I walk alongside the entire length of the counter with the camera pointing down at the items on the counter?

On this last one, I'm guessing I would have to make some adjustment to keep the camera steady at the desired downward angle. But, without such adjustment, I could not go from filming level to filming at any downward (or upward) angle.

Tom T.

Charles Papert April 10th, 2006 12:05 PM


If your shot is all about the 45 degree tilt down, then you can preset the balance of the rig by racking the camera forward until it hangs at the appropriate level of tilt. This will then require very little force to maintain this position which is always desirable. If however you need to tilt back up during the shot, the best thing to do is to adjust the Z axis to make the rig less bottom-heavy (i.e. more neutral) which will also result in less force being required to maintain a severe tilt. You will however have to pay more attention to your operating as the rig will thus become more sensitive to touch.

Tom Tomkowiak April 10th, 2006 01:30 PM

Thanks for the response, Charles. I'm in the pre-decision to buy mode right now, and I'm happy to read that it is possible to set this rig to shoot steady at something other than flat level.

Now, anyone else care to enlighten me on moving quickly from handheld to tripod & back? From the photos I've seen of the Merlin, there doesn't appear to be any way to attach a quick release to the Merlin so that it + the camera can be mounted together on a tripod.

James Klatt April 10th, 2006 10:28 PM

Can the Merlin shoot beyond a 45 degree tilt upward or downward? Say, If I wanted to shoot 90 degrees, straight up to the sky while walking?

Paul Leung April 11th, 2006 02:50 AM


Originally Posted by Mikko Wilson
For an idea how long you can hold the Merlin, hold the camera on your hand and see how long you can go.

- Mikko

Thanks for you advice. I tried out what you recommended. I found out the total weight of merlin with the weights. I attached a monopod with extra weight to my DVX100A. It was not too bad. Definitely much much better than the glidecam 4000 with the camera on it. I tried the 4000 with a quick release plate and a DVX100. I could hardly hold the thing with two hands (I am a small guy). I think I can hold the merlin with two hands for over 10 minutes.

I do wedding and I am now fighting myself whether I shall get the merlin or the DVRig Pro. I know they have two very different purposes. However, I need both of them but I can only afford one. Anyone faces the same problem and what do you think?

Paul Leung April 12th, 2006 03:40 PM

I finally decided to get the Merlin and went ahead to order it from B&H together with the 100 G2 wireless mic system and a couple of other things. Too bad that b&h is closed until April 20 and I have a wedding coming up on April 29. Let me see how much practice and training I can do in a few days!

I am not buying the DVRig Pro because I have been using a monopod pretty much the same way the DVRig operates. Certainly, the monopod thing is not as well design and flexible as the DVRig. Heard so many good comments about DVRig. However, I do need Merlin to do some steady movements.

Will post my experience once I got it from the mail.... The feeling of waiting is terrible, especially when I have fully paid $1500.

Michael Liebergot April 13th, 2006 07:53 AM

Garrett Brown the inventor of the Merlin spoke at our Baltimore Videographers Association meeting last Tuesday, and showed us the Merlin up close.

It is a very impressive piece of craftsmanship, and when used properly, as shown by him, will produce absolutely amazing shots.
He kept restating that this is a dleicate piece of machinery and won't be a pickup and shoot great moving shots piece of equitment.
It will take practice, but once you master it, you will get great smooth steady shots with less effort than the previous JR.

If you have shot with a JR before, then you will pickup on operating it quicker, and fall in love with it.

I own a DVRig myself, and use it for an entire days shoot. You won't be able to do so with this. Probably 15 minutes of shooting, and go tripod and back to Merlin for more moving shots.

Garret explained, that steadicams were designed for shooting feature films, hense, shoot for 10 minutes get the moving shot you want and cut.
Using one makes you think more like a film director, and plan your shots accordingly, and make use of cuts more rather than getting an entire shot (ex. following someone all the way down a starircase. Follow some of the way, and get great shot (cut), move ahead and get another great shot to finish the shot.).
I see the Merlin coming in handy in at least a 2 camera shoot (I shoot weddings and events). One camera set wide to medium on a tripod run throughout the event, and me as the operator of the Merlin getting creative shots of first dance, and mix in accordingly with camera 2, and take camera off of Merlin to place on tripod 2 when not in use.

I don't currently operate a stedicam at the moment and tried out the Merlin, and as long as I remembered to hold the gimble lightly and use my thumb or other hand to control the rotation and tilt (there is a knob just under the bottom of the plate over the gimble handle) of the unit, it worked good.
there are 2 long thumb wheels on it, one on the side which helps set your side to side balance, and one on the front which controls how much of an angle you want the camera shooting (slightly up for great moving low angle shots or at eye level or slightly tilted down for moving overhead shots).

He made the dove plate that your camera sits on (attaches to the Merlin like a quick release plate) to make going from Merlin to tripod accessible.
There will be accessories for the Merlin coming out in the next year or so, he mentioned a lanc control built into the handle and holder for wireless etc.

I just have to add it was mesmerising heraing Garrett speak, as he truly, and I mean truly loves the act of motion and everything that accompanies it. Not just filming motion, but being in motion and filming it. It was very Zen like...

Mikko Wilson April 13th, 2006 01:58 PM

Sorry for the late responses, I'm traveling at the moment.

CP allready covered the issue of setting a tilt angle. - Very easy.

I'm not sure what is teh max angle for teh Merlin to be able to sit and comfterbly while you hold it. 45* shodul eb fine, and more shoudln't be too mcuh of a porblem provided you figure out how to hodl teh handle for the shot - btu all very possible.

As for the quick release, I am in deed refering to puling the camera off the Merlin and onto a tripod using the included quick realse and tripod-mount.
There is no way to mount the merlin directly to a tripod - Nor is there really any reason to do so.

Nice post Michael!

- Mikko

Tom Tomkowiak April 13th, 2006 05:42 PM

Great input Michael. That's a demo I would like to have seen in person. But even reading about it was interesting.

And Mikko, thanks for clearing up for me how one goes from handheld to the tripod & back to handheld. Somewhere in reading about the merlin it said a tripod mount was included -- so I hoped that was a tripod mount for the merlin, not the camera.

Based on my experience, I would really like to be able to mount the entire unit on a tripod. I also own the DVRig Pro, and I find it awkward to slide off the camera, slide it on the tripod, detach the brace, take off the Rig, set it down ..... then, when it's time, do the same procedure in reverse.

It's not difficult to attach a QR to the bottom of the rig, but (I do weddings) it sure as heck looks wierd to see the whole DVRig with the camera perched on top of a tripod -- not to mention a stability concern. Anyway, my wife insisted the outfit would draw more attention than the bride, so I nixed the idea.

But, I still think it would be ideal to 'fly' the merlin, come in for a landing on a tripod, lock it, shoot whatever, unlock, and take off again. Maybe the merlin II will incorporate that feature.

Paul L. -- if you're still checking this discussion, Amazon right now is selling the merlin (thru J&R) for the same price as B&H: $799 and w/free shipping.


I don't know if free shipping applies to shipments to Canada, but at least the merlin is in stock and the entire company isn't on holiday until April 20. From what I've read in other discussions, just a day or two of practice with the merlin won't get you ready for a professional shoot. Good Luck.

Michael Liebergot April 13th, 2006 06:17 PM


Originally Posted by Tom Tomkowiak
Based on my experience, I would really like to be able to mount the entire unit on a tripod. I also own the DVRig Pro, and I find it awkward to slide off the camera, slide it on the tripod, detach the brace, take off the Rig, set it down ..... then, when it's time, do the same procedure in reverse.

It's not difficult to attach a QR to the bottom of the rig, but (I do weddings) it sure as heck looks wierd to see the whole DVRig with the camera perched on top of a tripod -- not to mention a stability concern. Anyway, my wife insisted the outfit would draw more attention than the bride, so I nixed the idea.

Tom just to let you know, as I said before I do use the DVRig Pro and mainly use it to perform wedding and event video.
I never take my VX2100 off of my DVRig for the entire day.
Instead as you have pointed out, I place the DVRig onto my Bogen tripod by using the lightstand adapter that screws into the bottom of the rig arm and then have the tripod adapter (which is a huge cylinder that attaches to the tripod QR plate on the tripod), and then I just have to place the rig into the adapter and tighten to lock down. The whole process takes about 5 seconds. And I was worried about stability myself, but after trying it have found it to be very stable.

I do have to shorten one of the legs a little bit to make sure that the rig is level, but this has worked flawless for me to date (15+ weddings). Although by doing this prevents me from panning 360, as the picture will tilt when doing so because of the shorter leg.

As for the comment of being to noticable, the only time I place the rig on the tripod is during the ceremony, after I have filmed the processional, where I then place the rig on a pre-placed tripod off to the side to film the remainder of teh ceremony (I have camera 2 wide/medium in back filming cutaway video by my wife).
The same goes for the ceremony, where I am using the rig most if not the entire reception, and again only place it on the tripod for rest between shots, and lock down tripod shooting (barely used by me for receptions anymore).

Belive it or not, I have had vendors and guests comment "That's quite an impressive setup you have there". The same people afterwards say that they hardly noticed I was there shooting.
So while I do agree that at first some might think that it would draw too many stares and attention away from the days events, peoples eyes are always on the action at hand (Bride & Groom, Guests), and not so much on me. That is as long as I make sure that I give them their space.

But still all things considered, the DVRig is a great tool, but not a steadicam like the Merlin.

BTW Garrett also mentined that he was maybe going to work on some sort of body vest for the Merlin, to aleviate arm strain. Something more elegant than teh current body pods out there, more vest like. That would be the bomb.

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