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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old July 29th, 2007, 11:10 PM   #1
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Female videographer-need stabilizer advice

I would love to hear from any women using stabilizers, but I also really welcome comments and suggestions from anyone.

I'm fairly new to shooting weddings. I am just beginning to work with my husband, who is bigger than me. Neither of us have used stabilizers yet and I feel strongly that we really need to be using at least one to get professional shots and be more artistic. I am about 5'6" and I weigh about 130 lb. I don't lift weights, but I'm not entirely a wimp. I've read some of the posts about stabilizers and I'm still stumped on what we should get. Is it even reasonable for me to expect that I could use a stabilizer? He uses an XH A1. I use an FX1. I would probably be the person using the stabilizer. Seems like the Merlin is the only system that could work for me because it's so lightweight. It would be nice if I could do the Varizoom or Glidecam 2000 simply for the price, but I would think the extra 2.5 lb. on top of a 5 lb. camera would be unrealistic. Your thoughts or suggestions? I really appreciate having pros who are willing to give some mentoring on these types of questions. Thanks!
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Old July 30th, 2007, 02:36 AM   #2
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I have used the FX1 with a merlin and can't imagine using it longer than 15 minutes. I would suggest using a vest/arm or some kind of body mount to take the stress from the arms.
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Old July 30th, 2007, 07:58 AM   #3
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Unless you want a steadicam type device...
I always recommend the DVRig.

http://www.dvtec.tv/id33.html

I've had the older DVRig Pro for years, it's been out on hire to a BBC camerawoman for a couple of TV series.

I've used it for 12 hours straight of wedding filming. I've shot onstage at concerts with it, walking in circles around the artists etc. It's not a steadicam sure, but it lets you film for longer.

Even though it totally out of warranty whwn some parts have broken or got worn out, the lovely people at dvtec have sent me several spares bits for free.

Anyway they now make the MultiRig which looks really, really great!

In the interests of balance, Varizoom make a similar rig too.

Duncan.
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Old July 30th, 2007, 12:00 PM   #4
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check out the dvcaddie - very affordable and versatile. Most importantly it leaves you hands on the camera. I can't fathom how anyone can shoot run and gun with their hands a foot away from the controls.
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Old July 30th, 2007, 12:42 PM   #5
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Or the Tiffen steady stick - under $100, add a stretch strap to the upright rod, it's workable - you can detach the upper portion and use it as a shoulder mount, reconnect to the suport when stationary. Not as smooth as a steadycam, but good to avoid fatigue...

Weight is going to be a big factor anytime you try to go handheld with a steady...

Probably want to consider whether you simply want mobility, i.e. being able to move about off tripod yet have additional support while standing, or whether you are after the smooth gliding/flying type shots.

Once you go into the weight class of the FX1, NO system will be "lightweight", no matter how well designed the steady system, the camera is going to "weigh in"... you've got to have the rig out away from your body a bit, either on your arm or a "mechanical arm/post", and as a consequence, the toll on one physically is rather noticeable... rather quickly. You'll notice that most steady assisted shots are of short duration...

That said the smooth flying effect sure looks great - I've got a "micro-steadycam rig" using an old VS1 and the HC7 - it's featherweight by any steadicam standards, and seems to be a pretty good combo if I need this type of shot.
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Old July 30th, 2007, 01:19 PM   #6
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I second the DVMulti rig.
Whatever position you want ot shoot, shoulder mount, handheld, fig rig, tripod (mount your setup on a tripod in a matter of seconds), low mode etc. it can do.

If you shoot with the 2 section support pod attached you can shoot in handheld all day long with no fatigue (except for your feet). You even have 6 1/4 mounting points on each handle that enables you to mount accessories (mics, lights, hard drives etc.). I keep a Varizoom LANC remote atatched to the lft grip of my rig (that's the only handle that never changes configurations, except fot up or down) and am able to work my zoom/focus without letting go of the grip. But you could shoot with both hands on the camera if you prefer.

It's very lightweight and compact. I keep mine attached to my Sony PD170 all of the time, when I'm done I just fold up the rig on the bottom of my camera and place it back in my camera bag till it's needed again.

Now as said, it's not a glidecam (but you can get some rather steady walking shots with practice), but rather a multifunction suport device. So it fantastic for static (rock steady) or creative moving camera techniques (pan, dutch, boom, low angle, tilt and more).

Also the support, if needed, is top notch. Checkout the video showing the multirig in action on the Multirig website.
http://dvmultirig.com/
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Old July 30th, 2007, 01:25 PM   #7
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I'll qualify this by first saying I know next to nothing about the business of shooting weddings but I do know a bit about stabilizers...

If it is those true Steadicam-type shots you are after, you will indeed need to use a dedicated stabilizer as opposed to the shoulder mount/handheld assist devices listed above (which will greatly improve the look of handheld but will not "erase" your footsteps).

I think you are right in assuming that a handheld setup will be a "handful". There are a number of affordable body-mounted systems out there now. Your timing is actually quite good in that the newest Steadicam, called the Pilot, is about to be released ($3750). While this seems like a big number, that is of course what each of your cameras cost and you will likely own this rig through multiple generations of cameras to come, so it's a solid investment. It actually improves on its big brother, the Flyer ($7000) in certain ways.

You should also look at the Indicam, as well as the Glidecam 4000/Smooth Smoother combo. These are about half the price. The Steadicam unit has a number of features that make it an industry leader, particular the function of the arm itself which has a degree of isolation and smoothness that is unequalled. Also of note is the two-axis adjustment where the arm meets the vest, which allows you to tailor the way the rig hangs off your particular body; this is very important for fatigue reduction and a large part of why many people find these setups tiring to wear. As someone who operates the full-size rig (that weighs 8-10 times as much as these!), I couldn't figure out why I was hearing so many complaints about operator fatigue until I tried one--when you are expending energy to reign the rig in so that it doesn't fly away from your body, it is exponentially more tiring to work with and the dual adjustment on the Tiffen arms solves this, just like on its big brothers.

Also it's important to understand that all rigs feel strange at first and it takes a certain amount of dedication and practice to achieve some of the wonderful results you may have seen in other's stabilizer wedding footage.

Good luck with your choice and future smooth shots!
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Old July 30th, 2007, 02:59 PM   #8
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Wedding shooting is a challenge - one take, so no room for errors... and you go from needing to move (rather quickly sometimes) to having rather long stretches of time best suited to tripod... and your camera typically will run from 15 minutes for a short ceremony to an hour (or more) straight... so you're trying to keep the camera aimed at (and locked onto a stable shot preferably) something interesting as much of that time as possible... A "difficult" shoot almost every time! But if you shoot weddings, you think this is fun, of course <wink>...

THEN there's the reception...

Charles suggestions are excellent if you want to go full vest/arm/sled and your market supports it.

Otherwise the DVRig looks pretty good to me (very similar to the steady stick, but I like the handgrips - I use a similar bracket setup for handheld on my small cams). Just keep in mind that stabilizing while walking/moving is a whole 'nother animal and any setup takes some practice to achieve decent results.
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Old July 30th, 2007, 03:43 PM   #9
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Great info!

Hi everyone. Thank you so much for all of your helpful information. I should add that we did order the Steady Stick a few weeks ago and after 10 minutes of wrestling with it, I couldn't possibly fathom how it would work for me. My upper body is not that big and my arms are not that long. Maybe we didn't give it a fair try, but we sent it back (- the 15% restocking fee - ugh). Maybe I'm not entirely sure yet what my needs are because I haven't worked with it enough yet? What I think would be perfect in an ideal world is a tripod (for the ceremony and other necessarily steady shots), a monopod (for the times when I need to move, but need to be steady and then set it down so I don't get fatigued), and a Merlin (for some truly fluid, floating artisitic shots). We only have camera #2 present for the ceremony, some preparations, and the speeches, so it's not an all-day thing. All three of the above listed would need to be quick release and I need to move from one to the other easily and quickly. I really do want to be able to do the floating shots because they look so beautiful when I view other people's work. It seems to me to be a necessity in this market-am I wrong on this? Could we realistically get by with just tripods and monopods and forgo the floating shots? Do we need these shots to be competitive? Our budget is limited, but if it's critical, I think we need to find a way to have the right equipment. I hope I'm making sense.
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Old July 30th, 2007, 03:55 PM   #10
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Hi Bobbi,

I shoot with 2 Merlins on occasion and often use an XH-A1 on one and a Sony A1U on the other. On some crazy shoots I've used the Canon XH-A1+Merlin for 20 hours interrmittently on the Merlin. I wouldnt call it a walk in the park but it isn't that impossible as some ppl say.

If i were to recommend using a Merlin for the first time I would say start off with a well balanced small cam. I started off learning with my Sony A1, then as I progressed with it I started using it on my Canon A1. I was shooting so often with the Canon A1 setup I just made sure to hit the gym as regularly as I could (make sure to pay close attention to working back/biceps/forarms/shoulders as well as your core-abs/lower back). If you are starting with a stablizer for the first time, require hdv and are concerned about the weight issue, I would highly recommend learning with a Merlin and a light 1 chip HDV camera. The Hv20/Sony Hc7 come to mind but from personal experience with them the are poorly balanced weight wise, especially when you attach a wide angle lens on them.

my ideal Merlin setup is the Sony A1+Raynox fisheye+large battery in the back which gives the camera excellent balance, from there master I would recomemnd mastering that and then jumping to a larger camera. Actually I'm sure there are good deals on used Merlins & Sony A1s everywhere now as the 2nd gen of 1 chip hdv cameras are everywhere now if you concerned about budget.

Regardless of gender I would definately say that you will need to hit the gym regularly if you plan to shoot with a 5 lb camera + a merlin 2x+ times a week for months and months in a row...

hope this helps.
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Old July 30th, 2007, 04:09 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobbi Urban View Post
Hi everyone. Thank you so much for all of your helpful information. I should add that we did order the Steady Stick a few weeks ago and after 10 minutes of wrestling with it, I couldn't possibly fathom how it would work for me. My upper body is not that big and my arms are not that long. Maybe we didn't give it a fair try, but we sent it back (- the 15% restocking fee - ugh). Maybe I'm not entirely sure yet what my needs are because I haven't worked with it enough yet? What I think would be perfect in an ideal world is a tripod (for the ceremony and other necessarily steady shots), a monopod (for the times when I need to move, but need to be steady and then set it down so I don't get fatigued), and a Merlin (for some truly fluid, floating artisitic shots). We only have camera #2 present for the ceremony, some preparations, and the speeches, so it's not an all-day thing. All three of the above listed would need to be quick release and I need to move from one to the other easily and quickly. I really do want to be able to do the floating shots because they look so beautiful when I view other people's work. It seems to me to be a necessity in this market-am I wrong on this? Could we realistically get by with just tripods and monopods and forgo the floating shots? Do we need these shots to be competitive? Our budget is limited, but if it's critical, I think we need to find a way to have the right equipment. I hope I'm making sense.
Bobbi, you definitely could go with just a Triopd and monopod, as that's how i started off.
If you do go with a monopod, I would recommend the new Bogen Monopod with the retractable feet (Bogen 561B):
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...o_Monopod.html

Although I still would recommend the DVmulti Rig as you can do flowing handheld shooting with little effort (just not walking glidecam type shooting.) and can mount your entire setup on a tipod in a matter of seconds (the QR plate will mount to your DVMulti Rig).
I shoot all day long with it and very rarely go tripod.

We shoot 2 cameras all day.

Ceremony:
Camera 1: In back or balcony (on tripod) for wide medium shooting.
Camera 2: DVMulti Rig up front on grooms side shooting up the isle for processional (down low). Once the bride is handed off I place the entire rig on a tripod for lockdown shooting. Sometimes during the ceremony I might go handheld again (lift multi rig off of tripod in 10 seconds, frame my shot and I'm ready to go). There have been times that I have shot an entire ceremony with the DVMulti only (due to lack of space in a venue).

Reception:
Camera 1: On tripod for intros, toasts, and dancing. My wife does some handheld not much.
Camera 2: All DVMulti Rig. No tripod at all except for when I want to place my camera on a tripod for resting (like during dinner).

The beauty of the DVMulti Rig is that I can shoot and reframe my shot in seconds without worrying about raising my tripod/monopod up or down.

The ONLY issue that I have with it is I can't get a crane shot over the crowd like I can with a monopod. For overhead shots I simply stand on a chair or step stool and shoot down on the crowd. There have been times, like during a first dance or speech that I literally have pulled up a chair and sat down using the DVMulti to shoot. I was able to go from sitting to standing and shooting seamlessly while doing this. And to those who think that I must look stupid doing this, keep in mind that I totally out of the line of sight of guests while shooting as I am shooting from their perspective while they are focused on the action at hand.

Most of my clients are very supprised that I shoot almost all handheld as they swear that it's so steady. And that's the point.

Feel free to look at some of the samples on my website to see what the results of using the DVMulti would be. As I said, almost all of these shots are done by using the Multi and very little tripod shoting. I use quite a bit of slo mo on these samples, but much of my current edits are using very little slo mo and more real time.
I have many more samples that show those results, but haven't had a chance to post them online, as I'm trying to get through my editing backlog first.

Just so you know, I have sold most all of my monopods and am going to be selling my last Bogen monopod, as I haven't used it in over 2 years. I also used to shoot with a DVRig Pro, but since have sold that and since purchasing the DVMulti Rig.

http://www.lvproductions.net/samples1.htm
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Old July 31st, 2007, 02:23 AM   #12
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Hi Bobbi -
Don't feel too bad, I've found it frustrating finding an "ideal" system, and any approach takes concentration and a degree of stamina - I can take that workout advice to heart <wink>... and if you change cameras, you have to re-tune to a degree...

The steady stick is a bit simple, but I keep finding it useful - I may add some handles after seeing the multirig - was contemplating one to the left side already... it can be a bit fiddly, but it's the only thing I've found to save my lower back... I could see the multirig being workable too - may have to try one someday!

You'll probably have to find what works for you by trial and error... I'd invest in a good set of quick releases early on... that seems to be one "key" to making smooth transitions between modes.

DB
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Old July 31st, 2007, 12:01 PM   #13
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from my experience the steadystick and the other stick/belt supports from varizoom and dvtec are designed for males of average height. The units that use a sling have a lot more adjustment available.
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Old July 31st, 2007, 12:15 PM   #14
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most of suppposed shoulder mount/handheld devices are not adequate.
they do not balance the weigth on your shoulder, but between your hand and shoulder, so you need to lift the assembly to keep it steady. Some even add a pole, fixed on your belt to help, but if it cure the weigth problem, it adds even more problems when you move.
If you ever used a good balanced shoulder mount (or even an ENG camera), you know that it is almost possible to shoot like a steadicam, with better mobility.
If you cannot find this (or build) for your cam, then you can try a turtle-x (previously Marzpak). it is a really nice tools that allows heavy (or light) camera to be used for hours. it is not very known , but lots of professional are using it
http://www.easyrig.se/

look at this http://www.easyrig.se/Video/movies/m...yrig1_300k.wmv
I had to build a turtle-X-like for a woman who got severe problems with shoulder, neck and back.
i made it at her size to avoid all the adjustable things, in order to go really lightweight. the final device was less than 2 pounds and except the bar over her head, you can hardly see she was wearing it.
I own a shoulder rig, a turle-x, a glidecam (with vest), shoot in crowdy place like rock concert, and believe me a good balanced shoulder stuff is the best, with turtle-x coming in second, then the glidecam if you really need a staircase scene or running with the camera.
here is a sample of something a build for my FX1 to get the balance over the shoulder.
http://www.giroud2.com/divers/sx2.jpg
http://www.giroud2.com/divers/sx3.jpg
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Old August 1st, 2007, 10:49 AM   #15
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Great information! Thank you!

Thank you all so kindly for all of the information. I really appreciate your help. I'm not sure what to purchase yet, but you have given me a wealth of information to make my decision with. It's not going to be easy, but this helps a lot. Thanks again!
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