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Old April 27th, 2006, 11:27 PM   #1
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Professional Steadicam Advice (Charles?)

I am on the cusp of purchasing a professional "camera stabilization" system. I am DPing a medium-budget feature this July here in Phoenix, AZ. I currently operate my own home-built rig, but I want to take this opportunity to start taking Steadicam operating seriously and start to work professionally.

I am tossing up between a Steadicam Archer system ($22k-$24k) and the Glidecam Gold system ($21k at B&H) I originally considered the Glidecam V25 system, but their current 60-90 day backorder is not an option with my July target. This is a very serious investment I'm considering, so I want to make sure I'm making the right decisions.

So, questions to any professional steadicam operators out there:
1) What is the perception on brand of equipment? Do producers, directors, DP's care what brand equipment is used? (skill aside)

2) Does Glidecam Gold have any professional reputation? (I haven't found any references online) Or is it looked down upon by professionals?

3) Can you get a better dayrate for true Steadicam equipment vs. other brands? (Keep in mind AZ, not CA)

4) Other than the rig, cases, batteries, low-mode, car-mount, and wireless video. What else am I missing from an essential rig? (A 20K wireless follow focus system is not an option right now)

Whatever insight anyone *cough*Charles?!*cough* can offer , I'd appreciate. Thanks!
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Old April 27th, 2006, 11:53 PM   #2
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From my own experience I would avoid Glidecam.... I will never buy another product from them again. Not very professional at all......
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Old April 28th, 2006, 01:45 PM   #3
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Hi Webb:

Congratulations on the feature! What format are you shooting (medium budget probably means different things to different people)?

1) and probably 3): It would depend on the experience level of the people you work with and how knowledgeable they are about the gear. Sometimes a little knowledge can be a bad thing, as they may have had a single bad experience that has given them an axe to grind ever since. It's probably axiomatic that the Steadicam name will never really be an issue while other brands may cause an eyebrow lift. FYI, in the higher end market there are various other brands of gear that are actually more likely to be seen on set than the Steadicam brand--I myself fly a hybrid of 3 or 4 manufacturer's components, none of which bear the Steadicam name. However, Tiffen has really come through in the past year or two and their newer products are going to put them back on the map--the current crop of rigs are very good.

2) There are likely a certain number of people working with the Glidecam Gold out there, although very few in the feature world. I define a "professional" as one who makes money at their craft, so are there people making money with Glidecams? Most definitely. Are they working on studio features, episodic television or high-end broadcast? I don't personally know of any. As far as rigs that can have a capacity to carry a 35mm camera, the Gold is probably at the lowest-end, but it is also half the price of most of the competition.

4) Take a look at the Bartech system--you can get a single channel (focus) setup for under $2K, plus you will need a motor (the M-One is great) which is probably another $2K--but still well under the $20K price for a 3 channel, 3 motor Preston (but if you went Bartech, you could even get that for about 60% of the price). If you are shooting 35mm, a focus system is a must; for Super 16mm and 2/3" video, you can sort of get away with it but not for long. For 1/3" work, don't worry about it.

There are so many bits and pieces, many of which are fairly arcane. Wireless video, for instance, means at the very least a transmitter, receiver and good antenna--if using a diversity receiver, then more than one antenna is needed. Plus it's nice to have a small handheld monitor to give to the director so they can be on set.

And then there's a ton of cables (and duplicates for backups), depending on which cameras you are flying--in the film world we have 5 essential brands of camera, which means purchasing 10 power cables and 10 camera run cables (remote start from the lens control unit), at $175-250 a pop...adds up quick! If you are just shooting video, make sure you have super-lightweight BNC cable in different lengths to allow for wiring to the monitor.

Mostly, I would recommend taking a good workshop where you can get into all of these specifics and more, as well as learning some good techniques. PRO (gpi-pro.com) is having one in a few weeks, and Tiffen hosts them several times a year.
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Old April 29th, 2006, 01:33 AM   #4
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Thanks Charles, thats exactly the kind of info I was looking for.

Medium budget (for me) is about $250k. I'll be shooting it on the HD100 (my visit to NAB2006 helped me make that final decision) So, with all the bells and whistles I need to fly at least 10 lbs.

BTW, I looked into the Steadicam Flyer system, but the two things that concerned me were: the "wimpy" looking fixed post, and the 15lb weight limit. I want to be able to have a rig that can fly heavier broadcast video cameras, I don't have any intention of flying film cameras. I have been looking into used rigs too. I don't have to have the "perfect" rig now, just something that is reliable, respectible, and can get great results (skill-dependent of course).

Thanks again for your feedback.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 10:19 PM   #5
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Ok I was wrong.. I retract everything I said about Tom and his staff. I just had a real bad couple of days and it wasn't very professional of me to act that way. Please except my apologies. John Scott

Quote:
Originally Posted by John L Scott
From my own experience I would avoid Glidecam.... I will never buy another product from them again. Not very professional at all......
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Old May 8th, 2006, 08:14 AM   #6
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Incase anyone is interested here's some pics of the V25 in action. I was shooting Super16 this past weekend, first time on film for me so it was a good learning experience. Had to hire a remote focus unit from MK-V in the UK but that's definately the next thing on my purchase list.

The sled had arri SRII cam with on-board battery, focus RX, focus motor, and 3 pag batteries, it was approaching the max capacity in the arm so must have been nearing the 40lb mark, there was still a bit of capacity left though, it was probably the heaviest setup I've used. Charles, I don't know how you guys do it with 35mm setups, my poor back's feeling delicate today :D

http://www.steeleworksproductions.co...es/steadipics/

John.
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Old May 8th, 2006, 09:39 PM   #7
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It's all about the continuity, John--if you were shooting for a week straight, you'd feel like a champ by the end!

It's odd, the rig looks like it should be bottom heavy with the three batt's onboard (including that chunky one at the monitor) but it clearly isn't. A stripped down SR with no mattebox (!) is pretty damn light, I would have expected a two-battery rig would have counterbalanced it.

If I may, I'd suggest a bit more attention to cable management for your next foray--tie up those loose cable runs, especially the one with the XLR connectors in the middle. During a fast pan they can swing and cause the weight to shift enough to affect the stability of the rig. Plus it will keep you from snagging them on the vest etc.
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Old May 8th, 2006, 11:38 PM   #8
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John - Thanks for the pics! I *realy* wish I could have bought the V25, I just can't wait for a 90 day delivery. I ended up buying a Steadicam Provid 2 unit second hand. The current owner is flying into Phoenix this weekend to hand-deliver it and show me how to set it up. I'm getting pretty excited!
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Old May 9th, 2006, 12:35 AM   #9
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John,

I liked your Flash viewer. Way cool.

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Old May 9th, 2006, 05:58 AM   #10
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Hey Charles, Yeah I need to get more work going on to get those back muscles nicely toned, it's feeling much better today thought :D, I agree I should've spent more time with the cable ties, I'll make more of an effort on the cable management next time :D. I could probably have just used the two little pags and lengthened the post a bit to balance it up, but I like the post quite short and the 3 pags balanced it out nicely at that length and it meant I didn't need to change things too much from how it's setup for my DSR-390 so I took the lazy way out :D

Webb, congrats on the new purchase, you'll have a blast.

Terry, Glad you like the flash viewer, it was actually created in photoshop CS2 using one of it's automated gallery creation tools, really simple to do too :D

John.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 10:02 AM   #11
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Actually, the rig looks like it is well balanced with the three batt's. I was just surprised considering the minimal weight up top.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 12:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Webb Pickersgill
John - Thanks for the pics! I *realy* wish I could have bought the V25, I just can't wait for a 90 day delivery. I ended up buying a Steadicam Provid 2 unit second hand. The current owner is flying into Phoenix this weekend to hand-deliver it and show me how to set it up. I'm getting pretty excited!
If it doesn’t have the socket block upgrade already, then I suggest that this would be a feature you should look into.

-Rick
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Old May 13th, 2006, 01:05 AM   #13
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I just took delivery of my Steadicam Provid 2 system! Overall I am very happy with it. It doesn't have the socket-block upgrade, but the current adjustable post solution will work for now. This rig is leagues above what I'm used to operating. Thanks to everyone for your info and support!
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