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Old July 7th, 2007, 08:18 AM   #1
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when do you use a stabilizer

Hi,

I'm looking at getting some sort of stabilizer for my A1, but I'm wondering - does that replace my tripod in most cases? if I learn to use the stabilizer reasonably well, wouldn't it be quicker to capture a scene and then move to the next without having to move and reset the tripod?

We only shoot short films at the moment but the more I look at the steadicam idea it seems like the way to replace a tripod and speed setup and shoot time - a winner of an idea! - am I wrong?
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Old July 7th, 2007, 09:43 AM   #2
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I usually shoot with 2 cams.... one on tripod and one on merlin.... and I'm noticing that I'm leaving more and more footage of the tripod cams on the floor of the edit room.....

The better I get with the merlin... the more I like the footage... static or even shot trans footage starts to look boring.

Now if only the vest/arm would ship! My arms getting to look like Martina Navrátilovás
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Old July 7th, 2007, 11:18 AM   #3
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I also shoot with 2 cams, but I only use the Steadicam for specific shots to "add spice" to the production. As much as I love using it I think you can easily overkill with the Steadicam.
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Old July 7th, 2007, 01:26 PM   #4
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For a few years, there has been an over-use (in my mind) of handheld footage in the indie world, as the cameras practically beg to be operated this way and tripods just seem oh-so-fussy and time consuming. The result is a short film or feature that more often than not looks sloppy, unplanned or amateurish as a result. There's nothing wrong with handheld when it is a conscious decision, however.

By the same token, using Steadicam because it is quicker can be a trap also. A lockoff on Steadicam does not have the same effect as one on sticks. Unless one is fabulously experienced at it, there will always be a little bit of extra movement to the frame; depending on your skill working off a tripod, for many people the framing and panning/tilting moves are likely to not be as good. It's much harder to follow someone with Steadicam as they sit down on a chair, as you have to tilt hard then come to a complete stop--for many, there will be a little (or a lot of) bobbing at the end of the move. Plus there is a temptation to move the camera for movement's sake, which can be a self-indulgent conceit if overused, like a zoom used to be.

This all said, there are some great benefits to working this way. Yes, it is fast. Yes, you can add little moves into the frame that can create some visual interest and combine multiple setups into one. It becomes the equivalent of the moving master shots we do on large productions where the dolly moves on "dance floor" and we can dial in multiple positions as needed. Sometimes these masters are done on Steadicam, again to save time. I've done hundreds of these over the years.

As you may have read here and elsewhere, getting really good at using a stabilizer takes a great deal of practice. And the most challenging and demanding type of work is duplicating a tripod, or a dolly (chasing someone down the street is actually rather easy in comparison). Until the operator has achieved a certain level, the resulting shots of this type will represent a major compromise over the same things shot on a tripod.

Finally, I feel that the time spent resetting a shot on sticks for cameras of this size is virtually insignificant in a day of shooting (it takes far longer to move a full-size camera as it requires several people; picture the fact that a 35mm camera mounted on sticks requires 3 people to raise it, whether it be a foot or an inch--that's why we work on pneumatic dollies most of the time!). When the act of resetting the sticks 5 feet to the right and down a little only takes one person 25 seconds to achieve, you've not lost a lot of time (and that time is likely spent with the stabilizer trimming out the balance anyway). At a certain point you are moving faster than you have time to think. And that's REALLY the key to getting good shots, and a good film.

Tripod, Steadicam, handheld, dolly--these are all spices in your spicerack, and to make a great tasting stew you should be picking and choosing amongst them to taste.
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Old July 10th, 2007, 12:42 AM   #5
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Paul,

Depending on the type of short you will be doing will depend on the type of support equipment you will use.

I've watched some of the Stargate Atlantis series and they have a great deal of steadicam footage in them and it works. Other shows have lots of tripod, and/or crane shots. These all look great depending on how well they are done but if you are a very small production company and use the smaller DV cameras a stabilizer system can add a lot to your production.

We use a stabilizer mostly because we manufacture them and need to get lots of diverse footage for demos. Our "Stabilizer Basics" training video was done almost exclusively using our rig. If you have the talent and practice enough then a good stabilizer is very valuable.

My bottom line is...if I can only have one piece of equipment with me then I would want my stablilzer as I can get fairly good lock-off shots (tripod-shorter lens), fair to good dolly type shots (the hardest for me), boom shots (a couple of feet range), and steadicam shots. While it's not the best at many of the shots it can still do them with a shorter set up time whereas it's hard to get a steadicam or a boom shot with a tripod. A dolly is a great piece of equipment and takes beautiful shots but the equipment is bulkier and harder to set up and you need a couple of people to operate it right. A good jib is very versatile for limited distances but the video can look terrific. Still, it's harder to carry around (the ones that I've seen) and requires setup time for different locations.

The real bottom line is...listen to Charles as he has a lot more experience.

Tery
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Last edited by Terry Thompson; July 10th, 2007 at 07:48 PM.
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Old July 10th, 2007, 05:57 PM   #6
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thanks guys - as always some great answers on this forum. I'm playing with the Indian glidecam copy from ebay at the moment, just to get a feel for it.
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Old August 3rd, 2007, 05:42 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terry Thompson View Post
Paul,

Depending on the type of short you will be doing will depend on the type of support equipment you will use...
Terry,

I'm going to be filming some folks walking through their homes and children riding their bikes and at play.

Can I get by with using your hand-held sled, or do I need the whole rig? Camera is a Sony HDR-FX1 and I'm already carrying a mixer and (most likely) a recorder.

Thanks for your help.

-Peter
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Old August 4th, 2007, 01:05 AM   #8
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Peter,

A couple of questions...

Will you be following a couple through the house in one long shot or will it be broken down into smaller segments? The same question with the kids on bikes.

The FX1 is a great camera but it is 4.5 pounds by itself and with a 5 pound sled you are looking at almost 10 pounds supported by one arm. I just did a shoot on a cruise ship and did a lot of hand held shots but nothing over about 45 seconds and usually only 30 seconds.

If you will be shooting shots that last over 1 minute or will be doing a lot of shots at one time you will need (and want) a body mounted support system.

Does this answer your questions?

Tery
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