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Old February 16th, 2007, 11:25 PM   #1
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Merlin one sweet machine

I received my new Merlin 5 days ago and cautiously decided to take it on a shoot.....not really expecting to use it too much...more expecting to use my trusty tripod.
Well, the shoot director is fanatical about boom pan zoom combos. I ended up using the Merlin for 50% of the shots!
Using a stabilizer really does open up the door to more visually impressive shots. While I do not claim to be an experienced user, I do agree with most forum comments that it is an instrument that can not be used for long periods of time. That said, I used it with my DVC 80 throughout the day of shooting with fairly little discomfort. Most shots were 2 or 3 minutes in duration. What I really like about it is it is very unobtrusive. For run and gun doc type filming thats what you want. Most of the talent are not trained actors so bulky cameras don't work too well. They intimidate and make the people more nervous.
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Old March 1st, 2007, 12:26 AM   #2
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Getting my Merlin delivered tomorrow - can't wait. I've never used any type of stabilizer before so I'm sure that I'm in for a learning curve. The videos I've seen on the web all make the Merlin seem deceptively simple to use but I have to remind myself that the users most likely have years of experience.
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Old March 1st, 2007, 03:26 AM   #3
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Can I ask which company you guys bought your Merlins from, and of course the price? Thx
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Old March 1st, 2007, 10:34 AM   #4
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Merlin

I bought my Merlin from B & H. It was their demo unit and the only one that they had in stock. Seems that there was so much demand that they charged me the same price as new anyway....$799. I think they have stock now though and the version that is in stock has the travel case rather than the bulky case mine came with.

William I think you will find that basic usage skills will happen quite quickly. You will be able to get great tracking shots right away. What I think takes time is simultaneously coordinating shots like tracking and panning.

The camera is flying above the gimble and "resists" being moved from looking straight ahead and level. You use your left hand thumb and index finger to help it to turn, initiating the camera's pan. Once it starts to rotate it wants to keep rotating beyond your key frame end point (where you want it to stop). If you don't do these two actions the right way, the camera will waffle. The good news is that while the technique of controlling the key frame start and end points takes practise, this skill starts to become second nature, like riding a bike. I took the Merlin on a shoot again yesterday and got some great pan-track combos. I would say that 40% were useable (I am still learning after 2-3 weeks of 30 minute/day of practise).

The next more challenging type of shot I find is the tilt shot. This again is controlled by your left hand. Again, the camera wants to stay level. You can boom quite easily but a really nice shot is tilting and booming at the same time. For example, I shot a sitting teacher talking to a student from high above and then stepped back a few feet to get down to eye level. This involved tilting the camera down and gradually letting it come level at the end key frame. This is a challenging skill and it really has a nice effect if you also pan. As you can probably envision, you need to coordinate tilting, panning and tracking at the same time. I would say that I am about 20 % there for this type of move.

Just a further note on the Merlin by the way, it acheives it balance by the use of adjustors that allow you to make changes very quickly. This is a huge benefit. Also it is quite unobtrusive. Again a huge benefit when filming the types of shoots where the talent are not actors. It is ideal for run and gun style shooting that achieves very smooth dolly and crane looking moves.

William what camera are you going to fly on the Merlin?
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Old March 1st, 2007, 11:19 AM   #5
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Merlin and weight

I am curious as to the weight of the camera you are putting on the Merlin. I know it is rated for up to 5 lbs but I wonder how hard and fast that is?

I got a Steadicam JR awhile back and even with my sub-3 lb GL-1 it was a bit difficult to balance out. I am contemplating a move to an XH A1 and at around 5 lbs I was wondering if the Merlin would fit the bill?
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Old March 1st, 2007, 11:45 AM   #6
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Weight of camera

I am flying a Panasonic DVC 80. The manual says that it is 3.652 lbs. I use a medium sized battery the D28 2800 mAh battery. It weights 5.6 oz (.35 lb). Theoretically total weight 4 lbs. I have tried to add weight (wireless receiver) to the camera's hot shoe and it didn't work. I have emailed Tiffen and asked them what to do about the problem, but to date have not received an answer or a solution from them.

I am guessing that that additional mass above the centre of gravity had a lot to do with the instability of the camera/wireless combo. If I get an answer it will post it with DVi. To me this is very important. To be able to get quality sound to my camera.

Using the steadycam also involves physical endurance. I have tried my smaller Optura Pi on the steadycam and it works great (I just need the DVC80's quality, access to controls, features etc. ....for professional work). Although the lighter combination is easier to hold up I didn't find 6 hours of shooting with the DVC80 a problem. The takes were typically around 3 minutes. I can't imagine holding this up for over 10 minutes without some major work at the gym.
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Old March 1st, 2007, 05:36 PM   #7
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For those wanting to fly a radio mic reciver with a heavier camera, the answer is Jim Farrell's accessory plate: http://www.jimfarrell.com/merlin
Available from B&H: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...=445745&is=REG

And yes, the Merlin will the the XH-A1 without touble.

The "official" limit on the Merlin is about 5lbs, in realisty it can hold up to around 5.6lbs, depending on the shape of the camera.

- Mikko
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Old March 1st, 2007, 09:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Allan Black View Post
Can I ask which company you guys bought your Merlins from, and of course the price? Thx
Purchased mine from Adorama. I bought the "kit" that comes with a travel case (which was backordered.) What I don't understand is that the Merlin came today with a very nice case - why the need for a travel case, I wonder.

The price listed on the web was $799 but with shipping total charges were $728. Why the difference I don't know. But it appears I got a discount!

So far, so good. I'm currently using it with a Panasonic DVC30 just to learn. Since my setting were in the cookbook I got set-up pretty quickly. I keep screwing (pun intended) with the trim - that's going to take a while to get used to.

I plan on using it on my Sony FX1 which I imagine will be heavier by quite a bit. It's going to take some muscle memory and maybe some Advil before I get it down!
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