merlin or flyer given limited practice time at DVinfo.net

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Old July 25th, 2006, 09:37 AM   #1
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merlin or flyer given limited practice time

Well, im struggling with so many issues adapting from stills to video with only about a week before i have to shoot, I can't tell you how helpful dvinfo contributors have been already!

So ,the next question...

I have no experience with stabilizers except for mimicking basic ones using various manfrotto bits n pieces.....and getting the results i deserve!

My options now are to hire a flyer or buy a merlin. Buying tomorrow gives me say 6 days to practice. Hiring the flyer means i can only have 2 days practice before shoot and budget limits loom.

The immediate need is to move through an empty (furnished) property at slowish walking pace including some gentle turns. Dolly n track makes sense except i cant avoid it coming into shot...plus i have to shoot a fair bit in a short day.

Which could i likely do best with given the lack of time to perfect either...or am i up a gum tree and wasting my time even trying??
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Old July 25th, 2006, 11:26 AM   #2
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Neither, unfortunatly.

There is no way that you can expect to become proficent with any Steadicam this fast.
Even if this next week was spent at a workshop (intense traing course) you'd be pushing your luck.

Your best bet is to hire an operator to do the shots you need to be Steadicam.

Or look into other options, Maybe a jib/crane on a dolly would work for you? Or perhaps a brace/grip type system like the DVrig or FigRig - which though shaky are also a little more intuetive and can work if you allready have a fairly steady hand.

What camera are you using? What's your budget? and Who's the Client?

- Mikko
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Old July 25th, 2006, 11:39 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikko Wilson
Or perhaps a brace/grip type system like the DVrig or FigRig - which though shaky are also a little more intuetive and can work if you allready have a fairly steady hand.

- Mikko
I'll chime in on the Fig Rig, I have no other stablizer, but I imagine the fig rig has a little bit less of a learning curve than the balance stablizers. I got pretty steady with the fig rig in less than a day, and the next day I used it I got even better and was able to be pretty creative with it.

I have posted somewhere my review of the thing. I love it, it was a good buy.
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Old July 25th, 2006, 12:47 PM   #4
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Mikko

Please don't think for one moment i'm disrespecting the awesome skill of a true steadicam operator.... or the hard work they've put in to attaining that skill...or the return on that investment they obviously deserve to make.

As a pro operator Mikko your standards are high, so 'proficient' by your judgement may be unnecessarily 'excellent' by mine and in excess of the needs of this particular project.

I understand the motivation for your answer and you will perhaps consider me (at best) foolishly determined,...i doubt anyone else will care to challenge your view here!

However, this project involves me, an fx1 and a location (which is re-accessible if i cock up), not much money and a corporate client looking for a 5 minute video which might include half a dozen 5 second clips that i didnt realise when getting the job, would likely reveal track if i tracked them. Every shot will be wide.

Hiring an operator isnt an option.

I've used a dolly and am comfortable with that, but never a jib...i will research that option, thanks for the suggestion.

I've used a Pag Orbiter...i believe the same as a Dvrig...and found it of limited benefit other than aiding fatigue..but i'm only looking to achieve 5 second clips here.

Your answer Mikko was pretty conclusive on steadicams but i'm trying to weigh it against your high professional standards, my lowly project, the enthusiasm of the rental co' and (in the case of the merlin particularly) the relative ease of use (once balanced) that is touted by makers/sellers.

I'm not hanging out till i get the answer i want, but i would appreciate the views of perhaps 'non pro operators' also?

Thanks again Mikko.
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Old July 25th, 2006, 01:06 PM   #5
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There is another option here. If you're using a smaller camera, READ; something other than a fullsized shoulder mount rig, with a bit of practice you can achieve decent results by mounting the camera on a monopod and using it much like a glidecam. Notice I said DECENT results and PRACTICE ;-)
Is it the same as a real full steadicam rig. Not a chance BUT for short bursts of the type you are describing it would probably work. I have done it many time with a PD150, a wide angle lens attachment on and even a small on camera light. Its heavy, my arm hurts after about 3 or 4 minutes BUT with some PRACTICE you can achieve some very nice footage.
I know a lot of guys (and gals) that use this method for the occassional "steadicam" type shot.
AGAIN, in no way does it replace a real rig nor does it even replace a glidecam but it can work in a pinch.
Just a thought for a tight budget and timeline project.

Don B.
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Old July 25th, 2006, 01:08 PM   #6
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Steven, i'm playing with a home grown setup right now...displacing the hands to wide either side of the cam...i know the full circle accommodates accessories but in terms of stability do you think the real figrig is doing any more than 'handlebars' ? I see the fig rig mainly used with a firm 'quarter to three' grip....maximises hand width/minimises input from hands...fair enough but does a light touch, kind of hanging it off the thumbs positioned '10 to 2'ish give a more fluid feel....i cant test this cos my bodge-up has only got side handles!?

thanks.
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Old July 25th, 2006, 01:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Donne
Steven, i'm playing with a home grown setup right now...displacing the hands to wide either side of the cam...i know the full circle accommodates accessories but in terms of stability do you think the real figrig is doing any more than 'handlebars' ? I see the fig rig mainly used with a firm 'quarter to three' grip....maximises hand width/minimises input from hands...fair enough but does a light touch, kind of hanging it off the thumbs positioned '10 to 2'ish give a more fluid feel....i cant test this cos my bodge-up has only got side handles!?

thanks.

Michael,

I've used it at three weddings so far and here is what I have found;

For me it's much more steady and less tiring than a single hand held posture.

It provides pretty decent protection for setting the camera down, or tilted against the wall or myself.

The versitility I talk about is you can do some pretty neat over head shots, low shots, floor shots etc with it, because the figrig is what comes into contact with the floor. And if your're like me, and like to get into the middle of the dancing at a reception, when the eletric slide slides yourway, you can lift the whole thing above peoples heads. It's pretty cool. And yes you can attach stuff to the middle of the wheel. I've already figured out how to add a mic holder for less than 20 bucks.

I also found that people notice it but it's not to bulky that it looks weird carrying around.

And by the way, if you wanted to go this far, you could take a piece of pipe, make it a circle and string a 5lbs weight to the middle, that would give you a similar feeling. I bought my figrig without trying it because the lame dealers I contacted around me couldn't help me out.
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Old July 25th, 2006, 01:18 PM   #8
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Don

You describe pretty much what ive been walking round the house with for the last 3 days.

It would probably have been helpful if i'd thought to desribe it in my original post because this is the benchmark i guess i want to exceed.........if i could match and slightly better that setups results with a merlin and 5 days experience on it i'd go straight out and buy it.
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Old July 25th, 2006, 04:27 PM   #9
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Let me re-phrase a little.
After just a week you won't have realible shots.
But if you have the time (and patience) to do multiple takes - partially on luck - of relativly short shots with lots of freedom, you should be able to get usable material.
But keep in mind that though it won't be shaky, it will probbaly be a little wobbly with slightly off horizons and other "newbie" mistakes. Which might be acceptable for this project, especially if you only need short shots.

A handheld rig is easier to learn than a full rig, and 5 days with the Merlin outweights 2 days with the Flyer for prep time.

You have very little chance with the Flyer.

Go get the Merlin - if you quickly realize after 2 days that it's not going to work for you, you can always return it. ... Or keep it for later stuff! :-)


- Mikko
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Old July 25th, 2006, 05:21 PM   #10
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ahh...sighs of relief.

Sorry Mikko that i didnt put all that project info in my first post. The fact im not going to be annoying actors by blowing takes, or needing to conform to a directors exact shot requirement is pretty key to why i felt one of these systems might be a viable risk.

The fact you've now clearly come down on the side of the merlin (for this instance) is hugely helpful...i can grab one tomorrow and start practicing!

I'll let you know what kind of a mess i make with it in due course.....

Thanks again.
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Old August 23rd, 2006, 04:05 PM   #11
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Mikko's right. Obviously, the market for Flyer and up is different, but the skills themselves are the same and extremely hard to master. If you have the manpower to do it, build the world's simplest and most reliable stabilizer.

Take a 2x4 and drill a hole in the exact center. Thread a bolt (1/4" 20 pitch) up through it into the camera, so the camera's lens faces perpendicular to the board. Have one person hold one end of the board and another person hold the other end. If the board is fairly long (6-8ft) the shots will be pretty amazingly steady. It's huge and takes manpower, but it's nearly foolproof and CHEAP. This should buy you the time to save for a steadicam course. Word of advice:

NEVER EVER EVER BUY A STEADICAM SYSTEM WITHOUT TAKING THE WORKSHOP!

Seriously! It sounds like cheap advertising but you will learn more in the 3-5 days than you could EVER learn on your own, and more importantly you won't learn bad habits that you'll have to destroy later.

Buy a $3 board and 10c bolt and make perfect shots. Your client will be FAR more impressed because the shots will be 100% steady, and you won't be out a lot of money for a skill you may not choose to stick with.
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Old August 24th, 2006, 02:18 PM   #12
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haha, my client will be even more impressed when i start swinging 4 x 2 around in his 3 million quid apartment! Actually did part of the shoot yesterday and despite a couple of weeks of practicing 10 mins morning/evening it was still impossibly exhausting working with the fx1 on a merlin for a day...even mixing it up with tripod...i reckon i did maybe 2 hours of merlin over the day in 15 min chunks...its too much...i want a vest...and i need a rest!

Ah, there's another thing... i think using the merlin like that makes the docking pole (or whatever they call it) essential.
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Old August 24th, 2006, 10:18 PM   #13
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Hey, laugh all you want at how a 2x4 looks, but I'll guarantee the footage is FAR better than anything you could get with a Merlin and a couple weeks of practice. I know how silly it sounds, but seriously - there's a point where looking professional is less important than getting professional results. If you could do the shot better with a $3 board than a $900 merlin, pride aside I think it's a pretty easy choice. That said, it sounds like you already have a merlin. Good luck with your project however you choose to pull it off. Practice all you can when you're not on set.
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Old August 24th, 2006, 11:25 PM   #14
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The shakycam Jaron mentions does work to stabilize footsteps (see: Evil Dead, Raising Arizona etc) but it's not exactly a subtle tool, and you need to coordinate between two people. Moving the camera in a straight line is easy, making turns a bit more fancy, making turns and tilting and booming--pretty quickly it becomes a cumbersome and limited setup. Let's also remember that the original post involved walking through a house--a bit tricky getting a 6 ft wide board through a doorway, no?

Two weeks of intensive practice on a Merlin should net the average user (i.e. someone who is already a competent camera operator, i.e. can frame the desired shots well handheld) with decent results, if they pay attention to the training materials.

Michael's fatigue factor is more than relevant--when fatigue sets in with any stabilizer (handheld or body-mounted), the photography always suffers...same is true of handheld, of course. The Merlin is a great tool but it's really not ideal for cameras over 4 lbs for this reason.

I had the opportunity to use a Glidecam 4000 with the Smooth Shooter last weekend, and while I will always recommend the Tiffen Flyer for DV cameras, I found the GC setup to be pretty workable, certainly at 1/3 the price.
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Old August 25th, 2006, 04:55 AM   #15
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I didnt mean to diss Jarons suggestion...i know its an accepted method...but thanks Charles for making my point more eloquently : 6 ft plank - ming vase - small room......!
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