Mastering the Merlin in 6 Easy Steps at DVinfo.net

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Old June 29th, 2007, 12:35 AM   #1
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Mastering the Merlin in 6 Easy Steps

1. Anger. You watch the DVD, read the manual, check out those other guys' cookbook settings, and set it up just like they say. You watch your camcorder flop around like a smallmouth bass on a bowling pin. You utter streams of obscenities in the language of your choice. You look for Ashton Kutcher and the hidden camera. It dawns on you why it’s called the “Merlin” – you have to be a wizard to make it work. It’s a sick marketing joke. You’re the punch line.

2. Humiliation. You go to your mother. You tell her how the nice man on the DVD balanced his camcorder in 2 minutes. You’re crying. You tell her about the guy on youtube who had his video up 2 hours after opening the box. You realize you’re no good. You have strange thoughts: “I’m sure it said ‘point and shoot’ on the box, didn’t it? Or was that the HV20 box? Right...the Merlin box said ‘Easier than playing the saxophone!’”

3. Realization. You realize you play the saxophone. What was that song you used to play? Oh yeah: “Can’t Get to Heaven on Electric Fan.” You decide to look at the video and manual again.

4. Release. You read about the three ways to change the balance of a seesaw: change a weight, move a weight, move the pivot point. “Oh!” you exclaim. “Well then screw everyone! Cookbook Schmookbook. It’s my Merlin and I’ll do whatever the #@%* I want with it.” You start messing around with your Merlin. You do strange things with it, imagining that you have Garrett Brown tied up in your studio gasping in horror at every transformation. You use the hole no one has ever used before. Yes, THAT hole. You add TWO mids in the forward position. Garrett cringes. You study the manual and compute the arc. It says 12 inches. You slowly twist the caliper adjusting knob: 11 inches, 10, 9, 8…. Garrett pleads with you to stop. You twist the Guide Ring – up, down, up down, up, down! Garrett is reeling. Finally, you grab the Gezornenplatz Screw. “Not the Gezornenplatz Screw!” he begs. But you ignore his cries.

5. Boredom. You’ve screwed around with the Merlin for a couple of hours now. You’re sort of bored, so you let Garrett go. You decide you might as well balance the damn thing so you look over the manual again and you do. You take it outside for a spin. Hmmm, you think to yourself, not too bad.

6. Hope. You alternate practicing your saxophone and your Merlin. Your mom says you’re better than Bill Clinton. You keep practicing.
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Old June 29th, 2007, 02:56 AM   #2
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Hi Bob

I sympathise with your frustrations. I've just upgraded from a JR to a Merlin and went through most of those phases with the JR - the added frustration with the JR was that it is plastic and I always thought it was about to break! (It hasn't!)

I think the central problem is that you never know when it's as good as it can be... I have my Merlin (with Sony Z1) balanced pretty well, but it still requires constant trimming... You're never quite sure whether the rig could be better balanced, or you're not operating it properly... Of course, the merlin has infinitely more adjustment than the JR so more things to fiddle with!

All I'd say is to persevere with it - I took my JR on every shoot as a backup to larger cameras, and in case I needed a "moving" shot - and most of the time, at least one shot made it into the final edit.

I'm looking forward to using the Merlin, and will keep posting on my experiences, but stick with it, because when you finally get a shot you're proud of, it's very satisfying.

As a postscript, I tried a full-size steadicam with a DSR-450 and could only just lift it - how those guys do it, I'll never know - I'm probably just a wimp!

Hope this helps
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Old June 29th, 2007, 09:13 PM   #3
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Bob, That is hillarious! And all so true. :)

Just keep at it, the more time you spend with Steadicam, the more comfterble with it you become, and the easier it is to work with.

- Mikko
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Old June 30th, 2007, 12:38 PM   #4
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... Bob, please send me your e-mail address.


- Mikko
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Old June 30th, 2007, 06:30 PM   #5
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Bob,

You cracked me up. If you can't make it as a steadicam operator there's always writing.

Regarding #6
"6. Hope. You alternate practicing your saxophone and your Merlin. Your mom says you’re better than Bill Clinton. You keep practicing."

I didn't know that Bill Clinton had a Merlin... I get it.

Tery
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Old June 30th, 2007, 11:57 PM   #6
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THAT WAS AWESOME!!!!

My insides almost burst laughing...

dave
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Old June 30th, 2007, 11:58 PM   #7
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Interesting coincidence...I play the saxophone and I operate Steadicam.

Since I play less and less these days, I think it's safe to say that I'm better at Steadicam than at the sax--but when it comes to the Merlin specifically, I may just be a better sax player than a Merlin operator!
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Old July 1st, 2007, 12:45 PM   #8
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Thanks all for the kind comments and commiserations. My shots are starting to show some promise. Ordered the DVD, Terry. That will help. From a newbie to newbies: it's just a matter of getting to Step 6. You'll be fine after that. But don't skip the others - they're important! Bob
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Old July 3rd, 2007, 03:12 AM   #9
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Bob, I seriously f*cked up my Merlin during step 4- what now?

Wolf
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Old July 3rd, 2007, 05:32 AM   #10
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Bob,

I agree with you...it's tough, even if you jump to step 6.

Funny post.

David
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Old July 3rd, 2007, 10:57 AM   #11
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Hey Bob.. u r one talented writer!
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