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Old July 24th, 2008, 04:12 PM   #1
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Glidecam 4000 - First Thoughts Specific For Wedding Use

I picked up the Glidecam 4000 this past week because I wanted to add some extra shots into my bag of tricks for weddings (and for some other productions I have in mind). Because of latent carpel tunnel issues from a decade of computer programming work, I just bought the forearm brace sight unseen because I figured I would need it. I'm shooting with a GL2 and wanted room to stick a light on top for reception footage so I went with the 4000 over the 2000.

The build quality is decent (for the money) but shortsighted in design (more later). Balancing is a royal PITA since there is no single point to screw / unscrew to change the balance. Four thumbscrews (per axis) are required to change balancing making slight adjustments or quick adjustments nearly impossible.

The over all look is .... clunky & cheap (though I suppose that is the point of a budget device such as this). Steel washers with nuts & bolts hanging out? You better have either one of the following in order to pull this off:
1) great footage and clients that know they are getting a good deal on their productions or
2) a relatively clueless client (ie not someone in the industry) that is happy to get such "professional" equipment.

The gimble is unfortunately positioned too close to the camera base mounts to allow the offset handle to provide your hand with much downward movement. This means your hand movement is concentrated below the gimble (meaning shots at or above waist / chest angle) to avoid knocking the base plate.

The second major problem I noticed was that the provided mounting screws for a camera only provide one point of contact. There is no spring loaded peg to fit into the camera base and prevent the camera from just rotating around the screw. And since the camera mounting base is slick black metal, the camera WILL rotate around on the base if you bump it or of you make sudden moves. This is one of the 4000s weaker points and something for which I swore at it when balancing it and while shooting on Saturday. If there were just a few strips of dense rubber on the top (running the length of the top bracket) then cameras might stick to the mounting plate and not swivel around if bumped.

The forearm brace is necessary if you aren't going to spring (pun!) for the arm & vest. Unfortunately, the arm brace holds in sweat like you cannot possibly imagine, and requires taking the velcro straps off a bit to get in and out. Don't do this during a ceremony if you want to stay discrete, or else adjust the brace so it is loose enough to get in & out with out touching the velcro.

Those comments aside, my only real complaint with the forearm brace is that the brace's mounting tube gets scrapped completely to pieces by the handle from the 4000 (which fits over the forearm brace tube). This means that if you put that forearm brace on the 4000 and use it at all, you bought it. No returns. There will be a big scar around the base of the brace system from the 4000's handle resting its weight. There is no bearing collar or rotating base to avoid the stationary metal (brace) from rotating against the 4000's metal handle, so scraping through the forearm brace paint & metal is unavoidable. It would have been nice to have SOMETHING on the brace to justify the $150 for the forearm brace and to provide a better mating between the brace's support tube and the 4000's handle.

Now to my uses of the system. I spent the usual several hours balancing (good static and passable dynamic) and a few more flying through the house / yard before the wedding shoot this weekend. The first thing I noticed when balancing the rig is that mounting a camera absolutely positively requires a QR plate receiver and QR plate on the camera. There is NO way to remove the camera with out destroying any balance you had for the unit. 4 thumb screws later, you can have the camera off, so expect any camera changes to be at a minimum 30 seconds to get it off and another 5 minutes or so to re balance and put it on. Also, you have to securely stow the camera mount screw and four plate adjustment screws because they and the camera mount screw's washer are not attached in any way to the rig. (don't drop them in the grass at the portrait session!).

What I ended up doing for the Saturday wedding was flying my Panasonic GS320 (entirely too light weight for the 4000) with some weights attached under the black camera mount frame to make up for the slight weight of the camera. No weights were used on the bottom and the post was almost retracted the entire way up. Drop time was around 1.5 seconds. The GS320 is my emergency backup / wide angle fixed camera so I didn't expect any footage to come out (unless I got all the manual settings absolutely perfect for focus, WB, etc).

The footage was clearly experimental but did highlight a few wedding specific problems...

1) With the lack of any quick way to mount the camera, the 4000 is useless for weddings unless you have a dedicated camera on it or a QR plate on the camera and a QR receiver on the Glidecam. And even then, slight adjustments might be needed which take far too long with the 4000.
2) The mounting screw lacks the offset spring loaded peg so anything you mount might swivel around if it gets bumped. Not exactly durable for live shooting environments.
3) Vertical movement is NOT easy because the gimble is mounted too close to the bottom of the camera mounting plates and will knock up against the plates when trying to hold the rig low in order to shoot low to high angle reveals.
4) and this goes practically with out saying, the rig is very heavy when held at arms length and torquing on your wrist. I could not use it any longer than about 20 seconds at a time.

Having said all that, I think the experience shooting with one of these devices was valuable. It will help me expand what shots I think of, and certainly has a niche to fill beyond the MultiRigPro which is pretty lousy for usable smooth walking shots, even when held with the side handles tilted up and the camera "under-slung". I'm not sure it was worth the price, given the construction materials and what I think are pretty shortsighted (and trivial to fix) design flaws. The only part that seemed well machined was the gimble. Everything else looked like painted stamped metal that is trivial to make in bulk, but probably hard to make as a one off.

Now that I knocked it up and down the street a few times I'd like to show some very very experimental footage I shot this Sunday. I did a free "Save The Date" shoot (see post here) for some friends in order to try out the 4000 and the entire process of shooting a StD. This footage is one of two takes for a "walk in" shoot of the couple entering a tennis court. It was shot in 4:3 mode on a GL2 with the WD-58 mounted on to the outside of the UV filter. Post involved only a 16:9 crop to eliminate the black corners on the top L & R and also because I only deliver in 16:9 now. I expect the black corners are due to the extension effect the UV filter causes. No CC, and yes there is some junk on the lens. It was far too hot and fast of a shoot for me to notice the specs despite carrying two lenspens and checking frequently.

This is take 2 of 2 of entering a tennis court. There is some roll action when i take the corner, and a little bit when pointing sideways for a straight walking section.

Enjoy and let me know if you have similar experiences / thoughts on glidecam products specifically for weddings.

Last edited by Jason Robinson; July 24th, 2008 at 09:52 PM. Reason: new video link
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Old July 24th, 2008, 05:20 PM   #2
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Hmmm...This was an interesting read for me because I have NO knowledge of Glidecams...but of course I'm convinced if I had one that I could be as good as say...Still Motion!!!

I also have a GL2 so that caught my interest as well.

I have to say...it SOUNDED like the whole thing was WAY too complicated and disapointing for me to even venture into...which really made me quite happy because frankly I don't have that kind of money...BUT then I saw your footage, and was like, DUDE, I think that looks great!?!?!

I'd love to see more footage and hear if it has become easier as you keep doing it!
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Old July 24th, 2008, 05:26 PM   #3
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I thought the shot came out very well. I thought I heard some wind in the background. Wind is evil for steadicams. I hate wind now, even if it does cool me off. d;-)
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Old July 24th, 2008, 05:47 PM   #4
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I thought the shot came out very well. I thought I heard some wind in the background. Wind is evil for steadicams. I hate wind now, even if it does cool me off. d;-)
I guess one major benefit to the Glidecam over the Merlin was that we had some bad cross winds (big open fields tend to do that) but the Glidecam was completely unaffected by it (I'm also not using much audio from the shoot, just the parts I shot specifically for audio effects like tennis balls hitting the net, etc).

The Glidecam was far more likely to be affected by the stupid gimble placement so near to the mounting plate than anything else (aside from operator error & inexperience of course).

In reading back on my review, it sounds pretty down on the Glidecam. I have to say, some things were a big disappointment, and others were great. The footage turned out exactly like I hoped and will only improve with time, its just that the steps needed to operate the Glidecam are far from polished and require more "hacks, tricks, and tips" than I expected. Yes part of the problems I encountered have to do with mounting the GS320 on the 4000.

I still do recommend the glidecam 2000/4000 for anyone desperate to break into some new shots and approach their wedding coverage from a new angle, like I was. The Glidecam still produces far superior footage when compared to hand held flying with my MultiRigPro and I imagine the same goes for the Fig Rig. The only other real option for hand held stabilization is the Merlin, but at $850 compared to the Glidecam 4000 & Forearm braces $550, it was waaaay out of my price range (especially considering I had no real budget for the Glidecam but was incredibly desperate to change up my shooting style).

Quality & Price wise, I feel like I got "taken" a little, and I even bought from B&H. By that I mean B&H had nothing to do with the feeling of being taken as they were pretty much the best deal anywhere, and the manufacturer set prices were where I have my beef.

Next Up: buying Bogen QR plates and QR receivers (they seem to be the only company that makes the QR receivers that can mount on various equipment) so I can actually make use of the Glidecam 4000 with one of my GL2s instead of resorting to the GS320. I may post some of the GS320 footage from the wedding client on Saturday if I feel like getting embarrassed. :-)
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Old July 24th, 2008, 05:58 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Kelsey Emuss View Post
Hmmm...This was an interesting read for me because I have NO knowledge of Glidecams...but of course I'm convinced if I had one that I could be as good as say...Still Motion!!!

I also have a GL2 so that caught my interest as well.

I have to say...it SOUNDED like the whole thing was WAY too complicated and disapointing for me to even venture into...which really made me quite happy because frankly I don't have that kind of money...BUT then I saw your footage, and was like, DUDE, I think that looks great!?!?!

I'd love to see more footage and hear if it has become easier as you keep doing it!
Well I ran around like a nutjob at an outdoor concert in downtown Boise last night shooting (but not recording) flybys of flower pots, zipping by snug up against building walls, moving forwards & backwards, shootign pure sideways while walking forward, flying circles around stationary objects (practicing to circle the B&G for dancing) and going up and down a stairs. I even had the chance to chase a few people having an impromptu ice fight (good times but harder than heck to shoot completely unexpected and fast moving action). Incredibly tiring work, even with the arm brace. I am pretty sure I'm getting better.

The move I find the most difficult is the "circling a stationary object" move. Obviously only moving in a counter clockwise direction (aka anti-clockwise for those across the pond). Circling clockwise would mean positing the LCD away from me and would make framing the shot nearly impossible.

I did notice a tendency for the rig with the GS320 to be affected by my circling motions (in other words it started to track in the same direction I was circling) where as with the GL2 (and more weights) the Glidecam would maintain its orientation easier as I moved around the camera. Rotational inertia for the win! This is supposedly where the Steadicam Flyer excels with the Merlin weight placement mounts at the farthest reaches from the center post.
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Old July 24th, 2008, 06:02 PM   #6
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I thought the shot came out very well. I thought I heard some wind in the background. Wind is evil for steadicams. I hate wind now, even if it does cool me off. d;-)
Imagine if I had a chance to walk that line only paying attention to the camera? I never did do a dry run, so that affected my ability to rehearse when I would start the pan after entering the court, etc.

I'll go ahead and post a shot of them dancing with me circling. The tennis court scene was shot after this dancing scene so the tennis scene might show more polish in movements.

Last edited by Jason Robinson; July 24th, 2008 at 07:58 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old July 24th, 2008, 07:14 PM   #7
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The move I find the most difficult is the "circling a stationary object" move.... Circling clockwise would mean positing the LCD away from me and would make framing the shot nearly impossible.
You could always walk backwards if you need to circle in a clockwise direction to keep an eye on the viewfinder.

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I did notice a tendency for the rig with the GS320 to be affected by my circling motions ...This is supposedly where the Steadicam Flyer excels with the Merlin weight placement mounts at the farthest reaches from the center post.
Only the Pilot currently accepts the Merlin weights for inertial augmentation.

For wedding and event shooting it is indeed good practice to get used to composing on the fly with unpredictable subjects. I would recommend that you also add some very slow moving (and unfortunately rather tedious) practice exercises like the cross on the wall. It can be easy to overlook but being accurate with slow, precise movements will make all the other ones better as well, and chances are that you will need to do just that while shooting a wedding at some point also.
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Old July 24th, 2008, 07:58 PM   #8
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You could always walk backwards if you need to circle in a clockwise direction to keep an eye on the viewfinder.
Only the Pilot currently accepts the Merlin weights for inertial augmentation.
For wedding and event shooting it is indeed good practice to get used to composing on the fly with unpredictable subjects. I would recommend that you also add some very slow moving (and unfortunately rather tedious) practice exercises like the cross on the wall. It can be easy to overlook but being accurate with slow, precise movements will make all the other ones better as well, and chances are that you will need to do just that while shooting a wedding at some point also.
Thanks for checking out my hastily written review Charles. I forgot which of the Steadicam rigs had the Merlin weight mounts.

I think the backwards walk combined with circling might be a bit much for me (for now). I do appreciate the solution because until you mentioned it, I had only considered walking forwards while circling.

I assume the "cross" exercise means put a cross on a wall and walk towards it while attempting to keep the cross centered? Sounds tough, especially to do slowly.

And you are spot on regarding slow moving shots. Those are ones I have found to be more difficult, though I'm not entirely sure why they should be when compared to moderate or faster movements. Is it because inertia isn't as large of a force to help "steady" the rig?
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Old July 24th, 2008, 08:06 PM   #9
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I think the backwards walk combined with circling might be a bit much for me (for now). I do appreciate the solution because until you mentioned it, I had only considered walking forwards while circling.
See...that is PROOF that men cannot multi-task!! ;-)
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Old July 24th, 2008, 08:28 PM   #10
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Another quick series of the Glidecam shots. This clip is a combination of shots before and after the scene I linked to above. Some clearly not usable in a finished production, others not so bad. Presented here purely for your amusement. :-)

Last edited by Jason Robinson; July 24th, 2008 at 10:49 PM.
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Old July 24th, 2008, 08:30 PM   #11
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That's a dead end link!

Last edited by Kelsey Emuss; July 24th, 2008 at 08:31 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old July 24th, 2008, 08:55 PM   #12
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That's a dead end link!
try it again. I was in the middle of somethign after I posted it.
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Old July 24th, 2008, 09:18 PM   #13
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Wow! He's talented! And that was awesome footage! In spite of all your bellyachin' (kidding!) you got some great footage! I'd be VERY pleased with myself if I was you!
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Old July 24th, 2008, 09:53 PM   #14
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I just lost a long post to my local internet co sucking butt....

The idea was that you will get to love the GC. There really is a steep learning curve with the device. I started flying a Z1 now shoot with an EX. No brace....

It is hard to learn but it will put a goofy smile on your face (while shooting) because you will know how cool the shots you are making will look. I know my clients used to think that I was a little nuts smiling all the time until I got the EX with the record review, and now when I show the couple they are totally blown away by the way the shot flies!

Please do mix static shots with flying shots as you will make your viewers motion sick if all of your shots are moving. I'm sure you know this but its easy to do.

BUY the Dave Williams DVD it is really worth the green!!!

Have a great time with your GC! Buy the QR plate for sure that is the first thing I did with mine. The bogen one that will slide onto the 501/503 head is the best. Your issues will go away with time under your belt :)
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Old July 24th, 2008, 10:27 PM   #15
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after one week of practice?
I'd say amazing result, and I've had one (GC 4000) before,
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