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Old March 7th, 2003, 02:07 PM   #1
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Best nonbody mount stabilizing system

Hey guys--I'm about to start production on a documentary and am looking to purchase a camera stabilization system for the DVX100. I'm wondering which stabilizers you all have had experience with and which ones you recommend. I'm looking here ONLY at non body-mount stabilizers, both because of budget concerns and for general ease of use (though I understand these are fatiguing--I'm lifting weights to prepare). I'm looking at the offerings from Glidecam, Hollywood lite, steady tracker, Steadicam JR, et al. Basically, which is the best? Thanks in advance for the advice.

Peter
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Old March 7th, 2003, 03:23 PM   #2
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I think the current thought is to use a Glidecam V-8 or Steadicam equivalent. This on going thread may be of interest to you.
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Old March 7th, 2003, 03:51 PM   #3
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Hey Jeff--Thanks for the tip. Unfortunately the V-8 is a little out of my price range, so any feedback on one of the lower-end systems would be great. Thanks again!

Peter
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Old March 7th, 2003, 04:46 PM   #4
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I have the glidecam 2000pro and its worked pretty well but im gonna upgrade to the V-8. The V-8 was out of my price range too so i bought the 2000pro a few months ago and now i wish i hadnt. Thats not to say the 2000pro isnt a good product... it is. It will GREATLY improve your shots compared to handheld. With some practice you can get shots comparable to the V-8 but its much harder.

I wouldnt go with the steady tracker.... its jsut a stick! No gimble. The 2000pro has a gimble allowing you to isolate the movement as much as possible. The steady tracker is easier to use right out of the box though... the 2000 pro will take you a little practice. When i got mine i just walked around NYC the whole day holding it. After that my arm was ready to fall off but i felt pretty comfortable using it. Believe me I understand that price is a big concern.... im broke too, but the bottom line is that if you want professional results you need to use professional equipment.

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Old March 7th, 2003, 04:57 PM   #5
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Thanks for the info Emery. Do you know anything about the Steadicam JR? I'm a little wary of it only because it says it can only support 4 pounds, which leads me to believe it's made of plastic or something--not exactly confidence inspiring. How much was your V-8 system? The other prob I have is that shooting this doc, I'm going to be interviewing people, and at times I'd like to be as transparent as possible, so I feel like wearing this huge steadicam I might be a little distracting. Anyway, just some thoughts. Also, do any stores carry the Glidecam--so I could actually try it out somewhere before I bought it? That would probably be ideal. i'm in LA and it sounds like you are in NYC, just curious if its carried in any stores at all. Thanks again!

Peter
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Old March 7th, 2003, 08:17 PM   #6
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Peter, you are so wise to try it out first. Contact these people in the Valley. http://www.hollywoodstudiorentals.com/ You can get their phone number from 411. I rented that turkey (2000/4000) and cannot say anything good about it. They may also have the Steadicam JR. But in all honesty I don't think these devices make a lot of sense for doing interviews. Camera stabilizers are best for movement, rather than standing still doing interviews. A good wide angle lens and optical stabilization will go a long way for this purpose.
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Old March 7th, 2003, 11:33 PM   #7
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I havent used the stadicam jr Peter so i couldnt tell u anything about it. As for stores... I guess wayne pointed you in the right direction. In NYC, B&H has it on display...thats the only place ive seen it. The V-8 retails for about $2600 depending on what accessories you get. Its a big price jump form the $300 2000pro...I know! But you get what u pay for... most of the time anyway.

As Wayne mentioned, this type of stablization only serves its purpose when you need to track (follow) your subject. I guess if the interview is taking place while your running down the street than your on the right track. But if its for mostly static shots... stick her on a tripod.

Wayne didnt seem to like these systems but he may also be used to a higher production value. If your used to having shakey ass handheld shots than the 2000/4000 pro will definitely be a step up. If your anything like me than your working on ULTRA low budget stuff. As my experience and production value grow... so do my tools used to achieve them. Ive reached the point where I'll except nothing but %100 professional results. Systems like the 2000/4000pro simply dont provide that. If your ok with your stuff looking a little "amatureish" than Id say its a great starter stabilizer. If you bought the DVX for the same reasons I did, its becuase you dont want anyone to know that they are watching something produced by a "one man band" that was edited at two 'oclock in the morning in your underware.

What kinds of shots (specifically) are you hoping to achieve??

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Old March 9th, 2003, 02:54 PM   #8
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Thank you guys for the great advice! I guess I was a little unclear in my last post about the interview stuff. Any "talking heads" would definitely be filmed on a tripod--and thankfully I have a decent fluidhead that was given to me as a "present" from an internship at a TV station in Indiana. The stuff I would want a good stabilizer for would basically be footage where I was following various subjects around, getting some "b roll" footage of them in their daily tasks, and also for interviews on location in which I would want them to be able to walk around and interact with their environment. My fear is that with the design of the DVX 100, I'm going to end up with a very shaky image because of the design of the camera (ie, you can't put it over your shoulder). If I was shooting this with an XL-1 then I'd probably just use a shoulder brace and shoot it this way, but I feel with the DVX some sort of stabilization will be necessary--especially becaus it's my hope to submit this doc for the Academy Awards doc short subject category in which case it would be projected on a very large screen at the Academy (big dreams, I know). Anyway, that's why I'm investigating some sort of stabilization. I'll also have the use of a jib arm for other b-roll, but of course my use of this in situations in which I'm following a subject will be very limited because it's obviosuly not mobile. I will definitely contact the HOllywood Rentals and take a look at their various systems. Thanks again for the info guys! Also, as a total aside, have any of you heard about the next gen of the XL-1? My brother keeps telling me it's going to be hi-def with 24P, but it's going to be about twice as expensive. Have you guys heard anythign about this? Thanks again!

Peter
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Old March 9th, 2003, 11:43 PM   #9
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Peter:

Yes, the Steadicam JR is made of plastic, but that's not a bad thing. Aluminum weighs more than plastic, and with a handheld stabilizer every ounce costs. The JR is a mature product (released in the early 90's)and uses a much more sophisticated design of gimbal than you will find on any other handheld stabilizer sold domestically, because it is patented. It is a very serviceable unit and can produce great results, although it takes a fair amount of practice to get good at it. The reason it has a weight limit is actually very practical: to use a heavier camera requires adding more counterweight, and at a certain point it becomes too painful to work with for a length of time. You can actually push the payload to as much as 5 or 6 lbs with the extra counterweight (the DVX100 only weighing 4.5 lbs, this may not even be an issue), but be aware that excessive use may cause premature wear on the gimbal (not that big a deal, easily replaceable).

HOWEVER...it is worth mentioning that the manufacturer of Steadicam, the Tiffen Corp., has just filed Chapter 11. This doesn't mean they are gone, they are just re-organizing...but if you were to call them tomorrow to order spare parts, it ain't gonna happen. There are plenty of parts floating around various dealers so by the time Tiffen gets it back together, it may not even be noticeable.

After that, there's a lot of units in the middle of the pack, including the various Glidecams and Hollywood Light etc etc. The small body-mounted systems are a much more comfortable way to work and aren't really all that obtrusive, but of course cost more.
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Old March 9th, 2003, 11:52 PM   #10
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Hey Peter,

A shoulder mount for the XL1 and the DVX would producer the same results. Im sure you could get acceptable results using a shoulder mount and it would be much more mobile than a big vest and sled arm that needed to be balanced very carefylluy for every set up. Check out the thread about miniDV shoulder braces going on at http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?s=&threadid=6094

As for the XL2, Ive not heard that it will be HD and I doubt it will, but i have heard it will have 16:9 chips with 24p capability. Look for the release within 6-8 months (so I hear). Maybe sooner... NAB???

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Old March 10th, 2003, 12:12 PM   #11
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Thanks for the info. Charles, Emery, and Wayne. Another benefit of the Steadicam JR is of course the LCD screen, and from what I've seen on the website, it looks like you can convert it into a basic shoulder brace as well (the steadicam, not the LCD). My next question is (I have a lot of these), I'm considering shooting the doc with the anamorphic adapter, as soon as Panasonic releases it, and am wondering if I can subsitute an LCD with anamorphic unsqueezing capability (is there a term for this, so I don't have to say unsqueezing capability?) stock, so I didn't have to do this as an add-on and risk screwing up the balancing of the JR. Anyway, it sounds like the Steadicam is the best of the lot from what Charles says, and of course it would be nice beacseu of the possibilty of hitting two birds with one stone as I was going to get an LCD monitor for anamorphic anyway. OK guys, thanks again for your great advice!

Peter

P.S. Thanks for the info on the XL-2 Emery. Maybe I will take a bet with my bro now.
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Old March 10th, 2003, 07:02 PM   #12
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Peter -- Just a thought, but have you considered a monopod? They aren't really suited for walking shots obviously, but they're so mobile they have a lot of advantages for documentary work. I'm getting to the point where I hardly use a tripod anymore. One of the really great things about them is they can handle a lot of weight and you aren't afraid to pile on a bunch of accessories, like a wide angle adapter, big battery, light, microphone and so on. You can track a fast moving subject really well, because its easy to do rapid diagonal pans. I also like the way you can get low angle shots by lowering it all the way down and sitting on the floor. You can walk with it too if you have too, but when you plant it back down it will definitely be noticeable. On top of all that, they're dirt cheap. They're strictly for very up-close work though, and you have to be fanatical about holding the damn things still. Shots that look rock steady on the tiny viewscreen will show every little shake when you play the footage back on a monitor.
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Old March 10th, 2003, 09:37 PM   #13
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Peter:

There is a version of the JR being sold without an LCD in response to the current crop of LCD-clad cameras. It would certainly be possible to rig up a third-party LCD onto the middle spar of the JR which would allow you to look at your image unsqueezed (the Panasonic 7" would be a great choice).

The traditional film term for "anamorphic unsqueezing capability" is "de-anamorphoser", which isn't much less unwieldy.
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Old March 11th, 2003, 12:36 AM   #14
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<<<The traditional film term for "anamorphic unsqueezing capability" is "de-anamorphoser", which isn't much less unwieldy. -->>>

I believe I dated a Deana Morfoser in high school, and as I recall she was rather unwieldy also.
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Old March 11th, 2003, 01:20 AM   #15
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That's hot.
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