Looking for a Stabilizer Rig, Suggestions and help please. - Page 2 at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Support Your Local Camera > Stabilizers (Steadicam etc.)


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old June 6th, 2007, 12:59 PM   #16
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: New York, Boston
Posts: 54
Hey Jaron,

Good points on everything. The issue of the monitor/operating side needs a little clarification, however. The monitor on rigs that have one is mounted where it is to help distribute the weight of the system. Also, by placing it in the center relative to the post, it is not obstructed by anything - making it viewable regardless of which side the operator is on. Any operator, whether regular or goofy, frequently switches sides of the camera depending on the shot. The side the arm is mounted to the vest does not change, but the side the operator is on can change many times during the same shot (see attached pictures). With a monitor on only one side of the camera, the operator is more restricted with regards to how they may move themselves and the rig.
Attached Thumbnails
Looking for a Stabilizer Rig, Suggestions and help please.-lastday-starfish-beach-scene-blake-091.jpg   Looking for a Stabilizer Rig, Suggestions and help please.-lastday-starfish-beach-scene-blake-108.jpg  

__________________
Afton M Grant, Steadicam Operator
www.aftongrant.com | www.steadishots.org
Afton Grant is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 6th, 2007, 04:33 PM   #17
Major Player
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 439
Yeah not so clear, thanks for elaborating Afton.

On the rigs without monitors, it is a lot more limiting. As a disclaimer, I don't own a handheld rig, so this is based on the couple of times I've flown merlins. I learned to operate regular on a full rig, and that's how I work. I noticed that when flying the merlin in the same manner, I was fighting to see the screen, so i swapped hands and flew it goofy, which afforded a much better view of the camera's LCD. Not ideal (going against my muscle memory built up to this point), but still a much cleaner view of the screen. So the idea is that if you have no prior experience on one side or another, and you're getting a sled without a monitor, you may try flying over your right hip, so you can see the flipout LCD on your camera unobstructed. The great thing about the big rigs is that with the monitor in the center, the sled works equally well facing any direction (unless the camera or sled hits your body...), so you could learn "goofy" and step up to a full rig and keep operating in that style. Wow, that still sounds confusing....hmmm.

By the way, Afton's website (steadishots.org) is a FANTASTIC resource to check out, in one place, a huge number of steadicam shots. For anyone interested in knowing what a Steadicam can do, this is a great place to look to see many styles of many operators. Some stuff is flashy, other stuff is mechanically clean and almost invisible...a lot of stuff is represented, surly enough to inspire a few more hours practicing on the line. Afton, on a very personal note - thank you for the site, it's a huge service to all of us!
Jaron Berman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 6th, 2007, 05:22 PM   #18
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: New York, Boston
Posts: 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaron Berman View Post
Yeah not so clear, thanks for elaborating
By the way, Afton's website (steadishots.org) is a FANTASTIC resource to check out, in one place, a huge number of steadicam shots. For anyone interested in knowing what a Steadicam can do, this is a great place to look to see many styles of many operators. Some stuff is flashy, other stuff is mechanically clean and almost invisible...a lot of stuff is represented, surly enough to inspire a few more hours practicing on the line. Afton, on a very personal note - thank you for the site, it's a huge service to all of us!
My pleasure, Jaron. Whereabouts in NYC are you and do you have a rig of your own? Recently, a good Steadicam friend of mine hosted a little gathering of folks to run around the back yard with our rigs. Great for ops old, new, and pre-new. I'm sure it will happen again sometime before summer is out. If you're interested, give me your info and I'll let you know. You can find my contact info on my website, or about a million other places on the net.

Peace,
Afton
__________________
Afton M Grant, Steadicam Operator
www.aftongrant.com | www.steadishots.org
Afton Grant is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 18th, 2007, 01:08 AM   #19
New Boot
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 16
Fantastic summary Jaron. Just one correction - it's "Garrettcam.com", not "Gerrettcam.com"
Dave Williams is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 18th, 2007, 02:10 PM   #20
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Charlotte, VT
Posts: 397
Jaron, excellent information. But one thing puzzles me. If the real Steadicam walk is "walking normally," why is so much emphasis put on practice, practice, practice? Exactly what moves/skills/etc does one need to practice to become proficient? Thanks!
Philip Fass is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 18th, 2007, 03:27 PM   #21
Major Player
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 326
It's all about the control of the sled. If you just wrap your hand around the post, you completely remove the isolation that the gimbal provides. But, if you don't touch the post, you can't frame your shots. So, what you need to be able to do is "feather" your touch, and be able to frame, hold a consistent shot while moving, and move the sled about in space. That, plus being able to repeat your shots relatively well, can take quite a bit of practice. The walking also may not be special, but learning to safely navigate obstacles, set pieces, and all the rest you'll encounter can be a struggle too, because of the immense amount of multitasking going on.
Tom Wills is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 18th, 2007, 03:56 PM   #22
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
It's something like learning how to dribble a basketball and then calling yourself a basketball player--there's a bit more to it than that!
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 19th, 2007, 05:15 AM   #23
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Charlotte, VT
Posts: 397
So the technique you practice may be even more in the hands than the feet?
Philip Fass is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 19th, 2007, 08:35 AM   #24
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
Given that just standing still, a good Steadicam operator can still deliver a substantially different shot than a mediocre one, I'd say yes indeed, much of it comes through the hands rather than the feet. And the footwork is more to do with placement and timing of the steps rather than smoothness (other than the fact that rough steps may cause your upper body to shift or jar which will translate through to your hands also). A good Steadicam operator makes it look easy, which is to say that his/her body seems totally relaxed and in rhythm with itself (much like a basketball player, once again).
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 19th, 2007, 08:40 AM   #25
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Charlotte, VT
Posts: 397
So just as some people are born with a "dancer's body," are some born with a "SC Operator's body"? I mean, is there any hope for a klutz who works at it?
Philip Fass is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 20th, 2007, 10:25 PM   #26
Major Player
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 439
Wow, how did i misspell Garrett's name? Anyways...

Charles has some great examples.
I agree that there seems to be more focus on the hands when it comes to practice, but like many skills - that's not the whole answer. Ask any boxing coach how they know if a fighter will win or lose, and they'll say "watch his feet." It may be all about the hands, but the more work you can do with your legs in terms of getting yourself into a good position, the less your body will have to do to compensate. Steadicam too. Think about it this way - with a weight cantilevered off your body, your center of gravity shifts towards the weight...outside your body in some cases! This is especially true with heavier loads, but the principal is true with any steadicam. You're supporting a load outside your body. The further it is from your own C.G., the more effort you have to expend to keep it from pulling you on your face.

The first question you'll hear from an instructor at a workshop will likely be "are you under it?" If you let go with your hands, will the rig hover where it is? Can you make your whole move, keeping the rig off your hip without hands? How about a switch. once the rig's in motion, how do you go from pulling your character to pushing him/her down a hallway? These are some of the "dance moves" of steadicam. And yes, the fine tuning of horizons, headroom, and frame edges (hand-skills) make up 90% of the "is it a good shot" skill-set...BUT, to be able to pull off that finesse, you can't be fighting yourself or the rig. That's where the balance and footwork comes in. Technically speaking, Steadicam is ENTIRELY about isolating forces. The two-handed operating approach was developed to limit the demands on each hand. The arm was developed to support the weight of the sled. These things exist to allow the operator to separate his/her own locomotion from that of the camera, while maintaining complete and delicate control over it. The less effort you need to control the pan/tilt or boom of the sled, the more precise you will be. Put your body where it needs to be, and you'll find that you use a LOT less effort to control the sled.

Like any skill, it does take a lot of practice. There's no lithmus test to determine whether or not you'll be the next Larry McConkey. Like the skill itself, there are a LOT of factors... but having an open mind and schedule certainly help. In the end, it is what you make of it. I've seen a lot of people very interested in the tech-side of steadicam take a workshop and decide not to pursue it. I've seen people come and go, lured by the "money" side of things... If you choose to try it, I would suggest at LEAST a 2-day workshop, if not a longer workshop. They are expensive, but education is a cheap investment compared to a poorly learned and selected Steadicam. And in the end, the thing that will keep you practicing, keep you writing checks for gear, and likely keep you employed will be your love of it.

At the PA workshop, I was given a nice tidbit of knowledge - the people who "make it" in Steadicam are the people who can't imagine themselves without Steadicam. It's a very specialized skill, it's terribly expensive, but once it bites you, you'll know what the addiction feels like.
Jaron Berman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 21st, 2007, 04:27 AM   #27
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Charlotte, VT
Posts: 397
Taking the isolation of body from camera to a theoretical extreme, could a good SC operator take a closeup of a static object while jumping up and down, and have the shot look like it's static?
Philip Fass is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 21st, 2007, 12:31 PM   #28
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
The answer to that, Philip is, theoretically, yes.

On a film I just finished shooting yesterday, I had a young operator who has being doing Steadicam for a few years. Watching him work through the physical and mental side of the task at hand reminded me a lot of myself in the early days so this subject is quite relevant to me right now.

Jaron as usual is dead-on, and his imparted wisdom about not being able to imagine yourself without Steadicam is so true. It doesn't require a "natural" ability--I wasn't one of those myself--but I have had taught students who grasped the balance and grace of operating very quickly (we would privately threaten to take those guys out at the knees, as they would be stealing jobs from us soon!) However, most people who are adept at walking upright can become fine Steadicam operators if they truly apply themselves.

When being a Steadicam operator meant making a minimum $65K initial purchase, there was a lot more at stake and motivation to get good at operating so you could make your money back. Now that one can pick up a little stabilizer for $500-$2500 and it to your collection of gear (skatewheel dolly, jib arm, shop lights etc) that everyone seems to have these days, there is a different definition of "filmmaker" developing that includes the job category of cinematography and operator (rolled in with director, producer, editor etc). but there is also a growing tendency for these filmmakers to want and expect their tools to be dirt cheap, quick to learn and easy to use. While the Steadicam-type stabilizers have indeed become dirt cheap, relatively speaking, the skill required to operate them is virtually the same as it has been since the early days. The lighter rigs require less strength and can be used with less attention to proper form, but also require a lighter touch to achieve the best results, which is a straight-up tradeoff in my mind.

Back to observing my operator--many times he was frustrated on set after we finished a shot, because he understood the notes I had given him after each take and "got" the design of the shot, but he couldn't always translate that into a perfect take. However, as I would always tell him, being able to visualize what IS the perfect take is a large part of the battle; many operators will never really be able to think in those terms and no matter how technically proficient they become with the machine, their shots will always be lacking. The mechanical skill of operating Steadicam, of being able to reign in the forces and work your body around the rig completely independently of the frame, that's something that comes with enough practice and dedication; but then the real fun begins as you no longer have to put much thought into how to get the lens exactly where you want it, but can instead focus your energy into the construction of the shot and all of its elements.

People often wonder, how long does it take to get to that point? Realistically, it is years, not months. For many people (often, those with that garageful of filmmaking tools), this is too long and they have other things they'd rather play with that offer more immediate gratification, or they simply don't care that much about the finer points of operating Steadicam. But for those who obsess about their work, who watch all of their raw footage and deconstruct it and think about what they would have done differently, how it is better than the last shoot and what they need to work on, those are the folks (like my recent operator) who will take it to that joyous level where the rig responds to you like a musician playing an instrument.
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 21st, 2007, 02:41 PM   #29
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Charlotte, VT
Posts: 397
This is very helpful info! It really puts all the opportunities and challenges in context.

Here's another hypothetical: you're about to watch two takes of the same shot, which is a medium shot following along with someone who's walking across a bumpy field. (IE, a POV of the person's companion.) The camera operator had the same bumps to deal but someone guided him so he wouldn't trip or fall.

One take was your camera op's first-ever shot with a Steadicam.
The other take was done handheld, with OIS on.

What do you expect to see when you compare the two takes?
Philip Fass is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 21st, 2007, 02:47 PM   #30
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,781
The handheld shot will not benefit from OIS, by the way--that works with more subtle vibration and shake, not the jarring jitter that comes from heavy walking.

Part of the question is tricky in that you didn't specify how good the handheld shooter is at shooting handheld! If they were a novice, the framing is likely to be as sloppy as the novice Steadicam operator, but in a different way (the Steadicam shot will probably have a lot of pitch and roll and over-correction, while the handheld shot will be erratic and jarring and a little out-of-control as the novice is unused to walking in a controlled fashion over uneven terrain).

Since so much is shot handheld these days, including features and TV, I think that people are used to the bounce inherent in handheld so they would think the handheld looks better than the "seasick" look a newbie Steadicam operator would induce. However, most people after about 10 hours of practice with a Steadicam should be able to perform this shot in a way that vastly improves over the handheld shot, even if it is not perfect. And after probably 40 hours in the rig, they should be able to make it nearly perfect.
__________________
Charles Papert
www.charlespapert.com
Charles Papert is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Support Your Local Camera > Stabilizers (Steadicam etc.)

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:35 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network