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Old February 17th, 2014, 03:51 PM   #1
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What stabilizer are you using?

First off I shoot on the Panasonic GH2/3. I have had a Steadicam Merlin for a while and I really don't care for it much. It wobbles like crazy and any amount of wind sends it spinning. I have considered a Glidecam HD2000 with a vest, but then started looking at the new motorized brushless gimbal stabilizers, primarily the Defy G2. However, the footage I've seen from people who have bought it does not impress me. What do you guys use and what are your thoughts on the motorized gimbals?
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Old February 17th, 2014, 04:40 PM   #2
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

Hey Patrick, I use a Merlin handheld as well, and I'm not sure anything beats that setup for flexibility. You can easily go from low to high, you can glide over tables (one-handed if you like, for extra reach), glide over cliffs and railings, and do delicate corkscrew-like movements down towards an object or down from an object. If you're ridiculously skilled, you can do hand-offs like a brushless gimbal or use two at once (Garrett Brown apparently can). You can also get amongst and above crowds and dance floors (say, at Indian or Jewish weddings) in ways that just wouldn't be practical with a vested or glidecam-like system.

Brushless gimbal systems... Personally, I don't have the money, and normal steadicam seems like it can do most of those sorts of shots anyway (just not as smoothly). But maybe having a brushless gimbal would give you just a little bit of edge, make your shots just that little bit nicer. Ray Roman mentioned recently that he has a BeSteady One, which seems like a good, cheap option (and even cheaper when it first came out on Kickstarter).

In terms of setup time for brushless gimbals, and how portable they are, and what other headaches are involved in terms of batteries, etc... I don't fully know what's involved, but I do like the fact that I can fold up a Merlin and throw it into any cabin luggage bag.

Maybe different tools for different jobs is the way to go. If you have a big church/reception venue with lots of space, then there's room for a vested Merlin or Pilot or Zephyr or whatever. If it's Indian/Jewish wedding, maybe Merlin/Blackbird, or something like a Steadicam Solo, particularly if you're a solo shooter (by the way, I personally wouldn't recommend the Steddiepod, which is another hybrid sort of design -- stabiliser mode doesn't seem stable enough to me, except for very short clips). If you can sell an add-on to a couple, maybe see if you can hire a Steadicam Tango with a competent operator for some breathtaking shots.
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Old February 17th, 2014, 06:49 PM   #3
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

Hi Patrick

You probably just need a bit more weight overall. My Flycam rig is very modified and my sled alone is around 15lbs and then the camera is much the same. If you put a light GH3 on the Merlin, the wind will blow it around.

I'm sure Noa will chip in here as he is using a Blackbird with his M43 cameras so that will assist you maybe?

Chris
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Old February 17th, 2014, 07:02 PM   #4
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

I fly a Steadicam pilot, and have for 7 years. The vest is modified with quick release clamps and the sled has a manfrotto 577 mount.

I use my pilot extensively at weddings with the exception to the ceremony.
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Old February 17th, 2014, 11:45 PM   #5
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

I read quite a bit of reviews about several before purchasing a blackbird. I am very happy with it. I had no training or experience and was able to get balanced and flying quickly. My shots weren't perfect, but they were usable within a couple hours of opening the box. I am seeing improvement with each use. I have linked to my first try with it below. I opened the box the morning of the wedding and used it some that night. We had two shooters and some locked down cams so I decided to play with it some during the reception. I didn't use it unless we had it covered on another cam for safety, but I ended up using several of the shots. Pardon the light flicker on the dance floor...

First Wedding (and first day with a blackbird)
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Old February 18th, 2014, 03:16 AM   #6
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

Steadicam Merlin - hand held and not using a vest. I really struggled until I realized my camera was too light. I use a Sony VG20 and with the pancake lens it was still too light. I swapped for a nice and heavy Samyang 14mm and presto - suddenly I was flying.

I like the Merlin as I can set it up in a flash with just a few adjustments and it's really small so I can fly in fairly tight areas. As a solo shooter I don't have time to use it as much as I'd like and therefore my skill in using it is slow to develop but I get a little better every time.

Whatever you pick stick with it - practice does make perfect in this case.

Pete
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Old February 19th, 2014, 02:28 AM   #7
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

I've been doing a fair bit of research lately - wanting to upgrade from my Flycam.

I still get really good shots from my Flycam, but it loosens up too easily over time. It nudges out of balance easily. And worst is the fact that it doesn't have fine adjustment knobs.

I was looking either The Glidecam HD200 or Merlin - that is until I saw the Laing. I think the Laing P-04 could easily be as good as the other two for a lot less.

But using the net to research can be a minefield. 90% of stabilizer sample footage online is not properly balanced! Grrrrr!

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Old February 19th, 2014, 03:16 AM   #8
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

Hi Clive

I have a Flycam 5500 sled. I have done quite a few mods on it but I never now need to adjust balance at all unless my camera drastically changes weight!! Do you have the little plastic thumbscrews on the top stage sides and bottom to adjust the plate left and right and fore and aft?? If so, throw them out and buy yourself 8 x 4mm allen head bolts and 8 x flat washers and use those instead. Yes you will need an allen key BUT if you balance the sled on a stand and get it perfect then tighten the screws with your allen key, the top stage will lock very tight and never move again. I can pick up my sled, slide on the camera that has the QR plate on it (I made a scratch on the plate so I know exactly how far to slide it) and it perfectly balanced every time!! I changed over to Sony's last January and haven't needed to touch the top stage since I balanced the rig with the new cameras so that's 13 months ago!! Also make sure your weight tubs are as far out as possible on the bottom stage and you sled drop time is around 2 to 3 seconds from horizontal to vertical and it can be a grab 'n go setup!! I too was considering putting micro adjustment screws on the top stage but they are un-necessary if you take a little time and balance correctly and then lock the allen screws really tight!

Chris
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Old February 28th, 2014, 02:37 AM   #9
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

I USED to use a Manfrotto monopod and a 2.5KG weight on the end of it! It wasn't perfect but worked well enough and I stabalised the little bits of shakyness in post.

I now use the Glidecam HD2000 it's really great once you have it balanced and good for run and gun. I have a blast running around with it, especially during the reception when everyone is dancing, it's brilliant! Here's a film I shot using the Glidecam at Double Island Point in Queensland Australia

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Old February 28th, 2014, 03:43 AM   #10
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

I use the Merlin with an xa10 and a heavy canon wide angle lens. Before that, it was with a xh-a1 that was a workout. I think the Merlin likes a bit of weight, and definitely hates a breeze, but I love how portable it is, and it can get smooth shots, if I control it properly.
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Old February 28th, 2014, 11:00 PM   #11
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

Hey David
Really liked your video on the beach. Just a question: How did you get the footage showing the 4WD ute driving along the beach so smooth ...? Did you have the steadicam in action for that somehow ...?
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Old March 1st, 2014, 08:22 AM   #12
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Re: What stabilizer are you using?

Dave, the video was fun. Made me want to check that place out. Nice job.
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