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Old May 29th, 2007, 06:04 PM   #1
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Looking for a Stabilizer Rig, Suggestions and help please.

I've decided that I do want to purchase some sort of steadying device for my camera, one that is smooth, even when walking, etc. But something not to heavy. I like the idea that some of them can be used as a monopod as well..

I also like the idea of the device being support by a vest, so that my arm isn't carrying all the weight..

Can anyone suggest items from ebay that would be worth looking into, or products on other websites... (but the problem with that is, I don't have a credit card.. I'm only 20, .. so I need to be able to pay by check/money order etc)..

My price range.. is well.. hmm. I could do 400 but would rather stay under $300 if possible. I want to save some money for other things.

Any suggestions are appreciated.. thanks
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Old May 30th, 2007, 12:14 AM   #2
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Hi Jenna, you might want to check out this one:

http://dvcreators.net/steady-stick
It's only $99.
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Old May 30th, 2007, 01:23 AM   #3
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Hi Jenna -

Well, for your budget you won't get anything with a vest... the most you could hope for is some form of arm brace, and that won't help your back which is where it will really get you.

A lot will depend on what camera you intend to fly (don't remember what you were shooting from the wedding threads offhand...).

I've fiddled with about everything out there, and the best setup I've had is using the steady stick the other poster mentioned, modified to attach some other stabilized setup - the varizoom VZ ultralight worked pretty good, but now I'm shooting lighter cams and so I dug out an old VS1 I picked up on Ebay ages ago... still have to mod it a bit, but it will do. The trick is if you're trying to isolate the camera when you move, you either have one of the high end sprung rigs, OR you go handheld - if you can mount to the steady stick when you stop moving, it reduces the load on your body if you're on a longer shoot... the Steady stick is nice in that it transfers the weight to your hips, saving your BACK!

On the cheap end, you might look under the HC1/3/5/7 threads - I posted pix of a bracket rig on my camera that you can put together for around $50, and it's pretty good once you practice the "steadicam walk" - I can even run with the thing and keep the video viewable... turned a couple other guys on to this, and they seem to like it too - I used a heavier flash bracket to help control a Z1U, which is a much heavier cam as well. The brackets aren't a perfect solution, but the price is typically "right" as in CHEAP, and I've found I'm happy with the results for the most part.

One other option, keep an eye out for a used Steadicam JR - again no vest option, but it's a pretty good unit (now replaced by the Merlin, but that's about 2x your budget).

Stabilizing is a big part of making your video look "pro", but no one wants to be tied to a tripod - that's just dull! But finding a solution is not nearly as easy as it seems! I've got a pretty good handle (literally!) on it, but I've fiddled with it for a while to get where I'm mostly satisfied with my results.

DB>)
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Old May 30th, 2007, 01:48 PM   #4
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The steady stick seems like a nice item.. and I think i've seen steadicam jr's on ebay.. but who can tell, with them knocking off the names so they can sell their product.. I've seen someone selling a stabilizer for 100 bucks that was obviously home made out of those white pipes...

I'm not a handy person.. there aren't many tools in this house, so building something is basically out of the question, unless I force my boyfriend to do it, lol.. maybe i will...

Btw i'm shooting with a canon GL2. Make me kind of wish I had one of those shoulder mounted cameras like the good old vhs days.. (basically the more expensive ones nowadays)

Where is that thread you mentioned? HC1/3/5/7?

Anyways, so I go to ebay, type in .. stabilizers under camera & photo, and tons of selections show up..

If you've heard of any of these products and have something good or bad to say.. let me know so I can make sure I keep it in mind..

U-flycam

BOGEN MANFROTTO FIG RIG 595B CAMERA STABILIZER NEW (very oddly shaped.. I don't know if I'd want to walk around with it, lol)

Flycam 3000 Steadycam Stabilizer

Steady Tracker

Steadycam Flycam Pro

SD-5 Steadycam Stabilizer

The rest of them just call them selves "camera support stabilizers" .. so I can't be specific.. Just at least let me know what is junk, because i'm tempted to buy anyone of these items.

I did find one for 300 that had not quite a vest, but some type of support strap for the body..

Well thanks for your input
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Old May 30th, 2007, 02:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jenna Klingensmith View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
On the cheap end, you might look under the HC1/3/5/7 threads - I posted pix of a bracket rig on my camera that you can put together for around $50, and it's pretty good once you practice the "steadicam walk"
Where is that thread you mentioned? HC1/3/5/7?
I believe he was talking about the subforum for the Sony HC1/3/5/7 consumer cameras:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/forumdisplay.php?f=99
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Old May 30th, 2007, 02:36 PM   #6
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I have a FigRig and would say that if you want something you can walk in a crowd with, the FigRig would be it. Will you get very steady footage walking? Probably not as much as you would with a stick type of device. The other thing you have to think about is, with shoulder mount, you have 'your eye level' point of view with ease. With the fig rig, you'll end up mostly with a neck level shot, lower than eye level. Don't get me wrong, I love my figrig, I've thrown my GL2, Z1u and V1u on it. And in many situations, the figrig is what I want. But if you want a steady shot while walking, running or standing, you might want to look into a true stabelizer.

I gave a thorough review of my figrig on this section of the board. Just hunt for it. I love the thing.
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Old May 30th, 2007, 04:53 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Jenna Klingensmith View Post
The steady stick seems like a nice item.. and I think i've seen steadicam jr's on ebay.. but who can tell, with them knocking off the names so they can sell their product.. I've seen someone selling a stabilizer for 100 bucks that was obviously home made out of those white pipes...

Btw i'm shooting with a canon GL2. Make me kind of wish I had one of those shoulder mounted cameras like the good old vhs days.. (basically the more expensive ones nowadays)

Where is that thread you mentioned? HC1/3/5/7?

If you've heard of any of these products and have something good or bad to say.. let me know so I can make sure I keep it in mind..

U-flycam

BOGEN MANFROTTO FIG RIG 595B CAMERA STABILIZER NEW (very oddly shaped.. I don't know if I'd want to walk around with it, lol)

Flycam 3000 Steadycam Stabilizer

Steady Tracker

Steadycam Flycam Pro

SD-5 Steadycam Stabilizer

The rest of them just call them selves "camera support stabilizers" .. so I can't be specific.. Just at least let me know what is junk, because i'm tempted to buy anyone of these items.

I did find one for 300 that had not quite a vest, but some type of support strap for the body..

Well thanks for your input
Hi Jenna -
Shooting weddings you have the "worst" of all possible shooting situations, you can either lock off on a tripod and get an overview, or you can move about and get a dynamic production - thus why 2 or more cameras are really recommended - I shoot 4 so I'm in a lot of places at once...

The link to the other DVi forum was covered - the thing is you'll need heavier brackets for the heavier cam (GL2). I attached a couple pix of one I use with my Z1 (just a single bracket for the heavier cam seems to work OK for me, and the ergo hand grip is good).

The Steady Stick is pretty good, and it has a shoulder contact point - you can detach the cam plate/shoulder mount from the upright via a Quick release that is similar to air hose couplers (but NOT the same). I have a stretch camera strap on my upright so I can detach without the thing flailing around (much), and it's pretty close to where I want it to be when I re-attach.

I've also been experimenting with an old Optex shoulder mount (there's a copy sold on Ebay for around $40) - it's good, but I still get lower back pains that the Steady Stick avoids entirely...

The "downside" to ANY device which attaches to your body is that ALL motion gets transferred unless you have a high end articulated/sprung rig to take the motion out.


Handheld stabilizers rely on your arms to be the "shock absorbers", and if you are reasonably careful and learn the funky groovy "steadicam glide", you can walk around fairly effectively without TOO much jolting. If you walk like Godzilla, then NOTHING will solve the problem!

Many of the rigs rely on a counterweight (steadytracker, "plumber specials", etc.) to "balance" the camera - this works to some degree, but you can achieve similar results with a monopod dangling off the bottom of your cam, which some people swear by. While the concept is good, it adds weight to your rig (bad if you have to stand for ANY time at all), and I find the counterweight tends to introduce sway unless perfectly balanced to the cam.

Some of the handhelds add a gimbal/bearings/swivel of some sort to help smooth out the jolting - plusses are it does work, minuses are that it can be very touchy to calibrate and balance. The REAL steadicams (the brand, not the "generic description") are about as smooth and easy to set up as you'll get, but you'll pay for them typically.

The Fig Rig works on the principle of using your arms for shock absorbing and by spacing your hands out away from the cam, you get better "horizon control" and less twitching side to side (actually almost none).

The bracket rig I use is based on the same idea and is cheap(er). As noted by Steven, you have great freedom of movement with this sort of rig, but you'll find your arms tend naturally to not want to go much above shoulder level (you can do it, just a bit tiring), so you have to watch your perspective unless you want the "hobbit-cam view".

The "Flycams" are Indian knockoffs of the Glidecam - might be OK, but my suspicion is you get what you pay for...

The SD5 is someone's home brew stabilizer, but it looks interesting - you'll find lots of "home brewed" rigs on Ebay... some are better than others. This one looks like at least the guy knows what he's doing...

The SteadyTracker is a manufactured version of the simpler handheld designs - it works, but I found it too heavy and awkward - seen others use it to good results as you can fake "crane" shots with it.

Hope that doesn't confuse things too much for you - the bottom line is most of the "stabilizers" will improve things to some degree, but there's a wide range of results...

After testing most of the designs if not every implementation, I'll dream of the Merlin with their vest (somewhere in the 2-3k range I think), but I'll be quite happy with my brackets for $50. Compact, easy to use and I get 80+% of the fancier rigs with far less hassle, plus I can do some wild motions more like a tracked camera because I'm not locked into a rig forcing me to stay perfectly level...

Hope that helps you a bit in your quest. Things to keep in mind are how heavy/big your camera is, and what type of shooting you'll be doing, and of course budget!

DB>)
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Old May 30th, 2007, 05:10 PM   #8
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what you need is a turtle-x (yes , it sounds silly)
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Old May 31st, 2007, 11:58 AM   #9
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should i get this steadicam jr? or flycam?

I see where the turtle-x got it's name, but that piece of a equipment is a bit to much for me right now..

Well I'm still pretty much confused, I was thinking more about going with the steadystick, but, then i found a thread on this forum (or maybe it was another one...?) and someone asked if they should buy one.. and I didn't seem to convinced.. But I watched the little video about the steadystick on dvcreators.. and it seems like a nifty device, you can do a variety of shots with it, but there was no video showing what the video taken by the stick looked like.. thats what I really wanted to see..

There is a steadicam jr with a monitor on ebay for $279.00.. sales about to end in 10 hours. all the original accesories are include as is the instruction tape and Instruction Booklets.. SHOULD I GET IT? Looking at it in the box, not assembled, I can't tell what it looks like, and the steadicam jrs on the actual website look alot different than most stabilizers i've seen.. Since this is a name everyone trusts.. (assuming that it is a true steadicam jr.. like i said.. i can't tell) Would it be a better investment? if you want to see the auction, heres the number, 230134666465.

The second item I'm looking at is the Flycam, I don't think it's the indian version (u can usually tell because all the example pictures) It's item number 300115074530, looks pretty professional, comes with the body support which is something I REALLY would like.. I'd use it without it of course, but for times when i'll be shooting for longer periods of time..

Those are the two i'm narrowing down to.. Unless you suggest otherwise of course.. Try to let me know within the next like 9 hours..

THANKS SO MUCH for all your help!
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Old May 31st, 2007, 02:42 PM   #10
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Hi Jenna -

The steady stick is not bad for the $, but it is limited if you move around - it stabilizes/supports the cam well when you're not moving, but if you move... every jolt goes to the cam unless you've got an additional stabilizer taking the bumps out (or see below).

The Flycam looks like the Indian version, but the seller is US based - they've been on Ebay for a while, so should stand behind what they sell, might be worth a shot? I'm not bought from that particular seller, but have seen some really cool stuff listed by them, guess they liked the Flycam enough to import some in bulk. Maybe it's better done than the origin suggests... the design has been around for a while, and many home brew units are based off this design. I know the balance of the handle gimbal is CRITICAL (otherwise the cam will tend to have a mind of its own), and I'd be curious to see if they got that right. The body support isn't far off from what I cobbled up with the modded steadystick and VZ - you can go on and off the pod as needed, so you can stand with it on the pod, and detach when you need to move - that concept has worked OK for me.

The JR is a legit unit, they fold down really compact, so the seller just showed it all in the box. BTW, he's also got one with a color monitor mislisted as a "steadican JR" for $350. I think there's a 7 pound weight limit, but unless your GL is really tricked out/acccessorized, it should be under that.

As much as I suspect the JR is a better product, you will find it limiting if you're shooting for any length of time unless you are an arm wrestling champ - it's awesome for short scenes and takes, but you're not going to stand and hold the rig for half an hour...

Maybe this helps - If you need a rig that can do both static type AND motion shots (wedding work in particular), a handheld stabilizer with a support you can mount to when you're not moving is probably the best you can hope for, even if the stabilizer isn't "the greatest".

Keep in mind you'll need to learn how to balance whichever rig you go with - allow time to test various configurations (with and without various accessories, different size batteries, different weights on the rig itself) - this is good for honing your balancing skills so you can do it on the fly under fire! The whole balancing thing is an art unto itself, and then there's "the walk". Dig around a bit, and you'll find more about these things!

Good luck with whatever one you go with, there's a learning curve, but the smoother results are worth it!

DB>)
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Old June 1st, 2007, 12:25 AM   #11
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I did purchase a shoulder support type system, just attaches around the shoulder with the support pad resting on your chest, so thats what I will use for long shoots, which would otherwise be tiring, I don't know if it's the greatest product, but for the price, I figure it will be worth it.

Instead of going with the jr, i think i'm going to go for the flycam, with the body support. I don't expect the body support to be all that great, and like you said, will probably pick up my movements, but i'd like to have it in addition to the stabilizer.

Plus it's saying it comes with a 30 day money back guarantee, the one i'm looking at does say it is a us distributor for the came product offered by india.. they have 100% positive feedback, so I think that I feel confident enough to just go for it..

If I end up buying it I will let everyone know what i think of it, assuming that I learn how to use it right, can anyone point me to any websites that offer tips or tutorials on how to use/walk with a stabilizer? that would be great..

thanks for all your help
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Old June 1st, 2007, 04:54 PM   #12
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May I ask why you insist to get a stabilizer? For the amount money you get, it will be plenty to buy a tripod or monopod to get very good static shot. The material cost for a good stabilizer for your camera will be more than the money you want to pay.

Regards
Leigh
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Old June 4th, 2007, 01:57 PM   #13
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Leigh brings up a very good point - when going down this road, you should be aware of what a stabilizer can and cannot do, and equally aware of what factors make one system better than another. The oprator has everything to do with how good the shot looks in the end, but that's beyond a certain level of mechanical precision. No matter how good the operator, sometimes you simply cannot overcome the physical limitations of the rig itself. In your budget range, expecting top-quality performance out of a full rig would be a bit foolish. Handheld may be another story. As the complexity of the rig grows, the expense does exponentially for this simple reason - every part you add has a tollerance of error to it. The more parts that depend on one another, the smaller the tollerances have to be.

Equipment first - In that price range, you may be able to find a handheld stabilizer that does what you want (Steadiam Jr.) and actually does it well. The absolute most important part of any stabilizer (aside from the op) is the gimbal. It all depends on what you expect out of the system, but look for real ball bearings in the gimbal, as opposed to nylon hardware or metal-on-metal harware store specials. The smoother the gimbal, the less effort you have to put into the shot, and consequently the more delicate the move you can make.

Also look at the stage. The majority of the cheap rigs make it slow and diffucult to balance the topstage. Balancing should be EASY. Ive read so many posts on here about how people buy stabilizers and never get the rig balanced at all! If the system is too hard or slow to get set up, it's not worth your money in the first place. An out-of-balance rig is essentially a novelty - it can be fun to play with...once...but what can you really expect to do with it? Here is an essential truth of stabilizers - "Steadicam"-style stabilizers work because they allow the operator to use very light force to control the camera movements. They separate the camera's movement through space and weight support from the camera's tilt/pan control. If you're fighting the rig to make up for balance, you're essentially fighting the stabilizer and working against it. A lot of balance problems could be operator error, but I have seen few low-cost systems that have anything more than x-y screw down plates. Not very precise.

Ok, now for operating. How long will the shots be? If they are short enough, with a light camera, you'll find that you can do some pretty nice stuff without the vest and arm. If you're worried that the body-worn system will "pick up [your] movements," then seriously consider NOT getting it. If that look is acceptable, try counter-balancing the camera on your shoulder - a LOT cheaper, and you can get some very good results (see: Children of Men). If you practice handheld (cam on shoulder), you can get some REALLY good results even when walking - which was the initial goal, correct? Stabilizers do this as well, but to achieve a smoothness any better than handheld, again, you'll need something with precision. Stabilizers are not magic, they don't simply turn shakey footage to crisp awesome images. It will take a lot less time and money to get good stuff handheld than with a stab. That said, stabilizers, when used correctly, can be a lot of fun and dramatically add to the value of shots.

And for the "walk?" There's a LOT of info out here about how to walk with a stabilizer. Unfortunately, it has clouded the air a bit because little of it is actually helpful or accurate. If you're "padding" your steps in a full rig, you're essentially bypassing the arm. The arm's job is not just to support the weight of the sled, but also to isolate your movement from the camera. Duck-walking will tire you out pretty quickly, especially if the posture is off. If you have a stabilizer with a spring-style arm, WALK NORMALLY. "Steadicam Walk" actually refers to the half-sideways method of walking while semi-facing the rig off your hip. If you're wearing a full rig, and slowly adjust your body position to where it feels best, you'll notice that the rig is just off your hip, and you're semi-facing it. The "duck-walk," popularized by may of the lower-end systems is more a correction for holding the rig WAY too far out.

Now, here's something to think about - the "Classic Missionary" position in Steadicam has everything to do with the way the inventor felt comfortable. Operating with the rig off the left hip is now normal, off the right is "goofy." For the big rigs, operators have monitors low on the post to help frame the shot. Film and most big video cams don't have monitors onboard, so this is an absolute necessity. BUT, in the world of small DV/HDV/etc... cameras, there ARE built-in monitors, and there is a convention that the flip-out screens are on the left side of the cam. Most of the small handheld stabilizers do not have sled-mounted screens. Why does any of this matter? Because most Steadicam operators are taught on larger rigs to fly with the sled off the left hip. This trickles down and users starting on the little handheld devices are also taught to fly on that side, even though it obscures the ONLY screen they can use to frame a shot. To compensate, the sled is often held in front of the body which
a) makes the user crane the shoudlers forward to see
b) makes the op more tired
c) allows more arm-involvement in the shot (shakey)
d) forces a duck-walk because of the orientation of the shoulders to the feet

NOW, that's not to say it's wrong to fly on the left hip with a handheld rig, just more difficult to do correctly. For users starting from scratch ON A RIG WITHOUT A MONITOR, I would personally suggest learning "goofy." This allows proper posture to be practiced, while still offeing a clear view of the monitor. If the user steps up, all proper big rigs can be used on that side too. The drawback to this method is that most people are right-handed...meaning that with a handheld rig you'll be supporting the weight with your weaker hand. However, you'll be doing the "finesse" hand with your right hand, so who knows? May turn out just fine.

For the best info about anything moving-camera related, check out Gerrettcam.com. He has a wealth of knowledge on the subject...and happens to have invented Steadicam. Also read the manuals from stabilizers like the merlin to get a better idea of how things should work.

In the end, stabilizers are what you put into them, both money-wise and passion-wise. Invest a lot of yourself into it, and enough cash to make the rig transparent, and you and your clients will be quite happy.
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Old June 4th, 2007, 04:11 PM   #14
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NOW, that's not to say it's wrong to fly on the left hip with a handheld rig, just more difficult to do correctly. For users starting from scratch ON A RIG WITHOUT A MONITOR, I would personally suggest learning "goofy." This allows proper posture to be practiced, while still offeing a clear view of the monitor. If the user steps up, all proper big rigs can be used on that side too. The drawback to this method is that most people are right-handed...meaning that with a handheld rig you'll be supporting the weight with your weaker hand. However, you'll be doing the "finesse" hand with your right hand, so who knows? May turn out just fine.
I'd second the idea of going "goofy" on a handheld rig. But, I know that when I flew the Merlin, that I was perfectly able to have it goofy without switching hands. I was still holding the handle with my right hand.
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Old June 6th, 2007, 03:00 AM   #15
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Jaron; Wow. That is one of the most informative and best Steadicam related posts I've ever seen on a forum.

I am in 100% agreement with everything you said.

- Mikko
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