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


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Old March 12th, 2015, 04:11 AM   #1
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Adding Movement

One skill I would like to develop is adding movement to my shots. This would be in the form of being able to capture steady footage while walking.

I would be looking at a small Camcorder for the shots (possible AX33) and would like any advice for which may be a suitable piece of equipment. I have been looking at Flycam type equipment and understand that there is a learning curve to them, there is also a huge range of different manufactures and prices.

Our requirements are something that can be hand held for a small camera/camcorder.

Any advice would be appreciated.
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Old March 12th, 2015, 04:18 AM   #2
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Re: Adding Movement

Creating a shoulder rig around your camera would give much needed stabilisation - maybe something such as this

Sympla Lightweight Shoulder Mounted Rig MVA525WK - Systems | Manfrotto

But at 700 you could also buy a good steadicam type unit

The advantage of a rig over a steadicam is that you still have control of the camera, so can adjust iris/shutter/focus etc - once you're flying on a steadicam you have none.

I use my Merlin steadicam just for a few shots and then only during the reception, once I'm happy I've nailed the 'must have' shots.

Pete
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Old March 12th, 2015, 04:30 AM   #3
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Re: Adding Movement

Here's one piece of kit to at least consider (US$1,300): Easyrig Mini is a Budget Version of One of the Most Interesting Camera Stabilizers Out There

In terms of gimbals, I have zero experience with them, but do have one eye on the Came-TV as something that's cheap, but still seems to produce results as good as the others. I think, depending on which model you get, it's probably around the $1,800 mark.

Steadicam Merlin is a ridiculous bargain at $400 or less used. A few years ago it was at least twice that. For gentler learning curve, setup, operation, but much harder on your wrist: Glidecam or similar.
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Old March 12th, 2015, 06:16 AM   #4
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Re: Adding Movement

Hi Phil

Nothing beats a stedicam for natural camera movements! Forget about Flycams they just have too many engineering issues. I know! I have owned 4 of them and they need heaps of work.

My current unit is made by Wieldy in China and is absolute magic!! I think a lot come from the same factory as my vest is a CAME-TV but the arm and vest are made by Wieldy ..carbon fibre sled and very well machined too and the whole lot cost me $700.00 including shipping!! (that's under GBP400!)

Wieldy 1 7kg Load Carbon Fiber Stabilizer Steadycam Camera Video Steadicam | eBay

Chris
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Old March 12th, 2015, 06:33 AM   #5
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Re: Adding Movement

What's the max amount you are willing to spend on a stabilizer?
How smooth does the movement need to be?
Are you shooting outside as well?
Is it important to have control over the camera while you are shooting?
Are you willing to spend the necessary time to learn to work with a stabilizer or do you want fast results?
Are the type of shots you plan to make with it repeatable or do you only have one shot to get it right?
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Old March 12th, 2015, 11:58 AM   #6
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Re: Adding Movement

Thanks for the advice

The amount of movement needs to be reasonably smooth, not perfect, a step up from what you can achieve walking with a stabilised camera would be fine

Shots will be outside, maybe walking around a bride and groom, walking backwards/forwards, chasing children

control not needed of the camera, just one or two shots maybe using a widish lens at say F8, then put away

Happy to spend time to learn, I wasn't really looking for vests or arm support

Budget, preferably sub 500, wasn't expecting the prices coming in here, I have seen some reasonable footage on Youtube of guys using flycams/steadycams, which I though acceptable, they do however look fiddly to set up.
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Old March 12th, 2015, 12:05 PM   #7
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Re: Adding Movement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Rush View Post
Creating a shoulder rig around your camera would give much needed stabilisation - maybe something such as this

Sympla Lightweight Shoulder Mounted Rig MVA525WK - Systems | Manfrotto

But at 700 you could also buy a good steadicam type unit

The advantage of a rig over a steadicam is that you still have control of the camera, so can adjust iris/shutter/focus etc - once you're flying on a steadicam you have none.

I use my Merlin steadicam just for a few shots and then only during the reception, once I'm happy I've nailed the 'must have' shots.

Pete
Thanks Peter, probably a little overkill for what I was looking for
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Old March 12th, 2015, 12:14 PM   #8
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Re: Adding Movement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adrian Tan View Post
Here's one piece of kit to at least consider (US$1,300): Easyrig Mini is a Budget Version of One of the Most Interesting Camera Stabilizers Out There

In terms of gimbals, I have zero experience with them, but do have one eye on the Came-TV as something that's cheap, but still seems to produce results as good as the others. I think, depending on which model you get, it's probably around the $1,800 mark.

Steadicam Merlin is a ridiculous bargain at $400 or less used. A few years ago it was at least twice that. For gentler learning curve, setup, operation, but much harder on your wrist: Glidecam or similar.
Thanks Adrian

It was more along the lines of the Merlin steadicam that I was looking at, they look small and portable, are they hard to set up?
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Old March 12th, 2015, 12:27 PM   #9
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Re: Adding Movement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Hi Phil

Nothing beats a stedicam for natural camera movements! Forget about Flycams they just have too many engineering issues. I know! I have owned 4 of them and they need heaps of work.

My current unit is made by Wieldy in China and is absolute magic!! I think a lot come from the same factory as my vest is a CAME-TV but the arm and vest are made by Wieldy ..carbon fibre sled and very well machined too and the whole lot cost me $700.00 including shipping!! (that's under GBP400!)

Wieldy 1 7kg Load Carbon Fiber Stabilizer Steadycam Camera Video Steadicam | eBay

Chris
Thanks Chris
Just trying to understand the difference between a stedicam and flycam, I am really looking for something you can hold in one hand without body suits and arm support. There does seem to be many copies of the more expensive Merlin type systems, and was hoping they may be suitable.
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Old March 12th, 2015, 12:40 PM   #10
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Re: Adding Movement

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Originally Posted by Phil Stanley View Post
Thanks for the advice

The amount of movement needs to be reasonably smooth, not perfect, a step up from what you can achieve walking with a stabilised camera would be fine

Shots will be outside, maybe walking around a bride and groom, walking backwards/forwards, chasing children

control not needed of the camera, just one or two shots maybe using a widish lens at say F8, then put away

Happy to spend time to learn, I wasn't really looking for vests or arm support

Budget, preferably sub 500, wasn't expecting the prices coming in here, I have seen some reasonable footage on Youtube of guys using flycams/steadycams, which I though acceptable, they do however look fiddly to set up.
There are several more options to choose from now compared to just 2 year ago, if you don't want to use a vest and arm you can go for glidecam 2000, merlin, blackbird kind of stabilizers, they are build for lighter camera's and they are within your price range.

They only have some disadvantages, one being that they are very light and the slightest breeze will knock them of balance. You can improve that by making it more bottom heavy, add extra weights on top and bottom so the total rig becomes more heavy making it a bit easier to fly with but it will also put more strain on your arms and shoulder.

A second disadvantage is that it takes time before you will be able to use such a glidecam, if you put the time into it the reward can be great but you need to be patient and practice a lot to get it right.

Another one to use is one of these 3 axis gimbals which start to pop up like mushrooms, they can be used with strong winds outside and will always stay level, they also require less time to get great shots although it certainly will help if you have experience walking with a steadicam for smooth motion.

There are cheaper one handle 3 axis gimbals for light camera's within your budget like a nebula 4000 or the new pilotfly and more models are coming out but they are not all without issues, there have been several reports about these units failing since it still is a complicated electronic device. You don't want such a gimbal go haywire in the middle of a important shot. In that case a mechanical steadicam like I mentioned earlier will be more reliable, yet more difficult to operate. You still might need to stabilise your footage a little bit in post as these devices don't have the same fluidity as a real steadicam.

Then there is also the 2 handle 3 axis gimbals like the Ronin with many other Chinese knock offs, but most likely all above your budget, bu the same rules apply when it comes to reliability. They will give you smoother results but again a experienced steadicam owner would probably get much better results as a beginner, yet it will still look better then giving a beginner real steadicam.
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Old March 12th, 2015, 01:46 PM   #11
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Re: Adding Movement

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Originally Posted by Phil Stanley View Post
It was more along the lines of the Merlin steadicam that I was looking at, they look small and portable, are they hard to set up?
Definitely small and portable. Folds up into a backpack. I run around on Lebanese and Jewish dance floors with this thing, holding it above people's heads, and I wouldn't try that with a glidecam or gimbal, for instance.

Difficult to set up? The first time, yes. The problem is that there's a number of variables -- arc size, weights, position on plate; there's guidance at the Tiffen website for what setups have worked for other people. After you've balanced it the first time, then it's just a few minutes of adjusting each time you put the camera on, although the setup will be very sensitive (for instance, raising/lowering the mirror on a DSLR will affect the balance, let alone adding/removing a lens cap; you might think of it as balancing a piece of wood on a pencil -- you have to find the exact right spot).

What I'd recommend if at all possible is using the cheat's method -- find someone who's experienced with a Merlin to balance your camera for you, and then remember their settings. In fact, probably best to try before you buy, of course. Try using a properly balanced Merlin first, and then see if it's something that might suit.

Then it's down to how good you are as an operator. To become really proficient takes a while -- Garrett Brown says it's the most difficult of all the steadicams to learn -- but I guess what I've found is that people actually do pick up basic moves really fast -- back and forth, side to side, round and round. If you can simply hold the thing steady, and find a position at which you can comfortably lock your arms, then it's a matter of trying to take the bumps out of your walking and treating your upper body as a separate unit to your legs -- can do toe-to-heel rather than heel-to-toe walking, or can heel-to-toe slowly. Be careful and deliberate with each step and feel your way. Footwear makes a difference -- having shoes with a flexible sole.

Ideally, you want to become familiar enough with your setup that you don't need to more than glance at your screen! You can concentrate, instead, on obstacles in the physical world, and coordinating your movement with whatever movements are happening around you.

Around my area, very few people use Merlins; everyone uses Glidecams. It's definitely harder to use a Merlin, with a longer learning curve, but there are more things that a Merlin can do that a Glidecam can't than the other way around (for instance, you can hold a Merlin for 30 minutes if you have to, whereas a Glidecam will murder your wrist after a few minutes; you can cram yourself and the device into small spaces; you can crane up from very low to very high; you can make subtle rotation or panning moves; a Glidecam, in comparison, is more stable and wind-resistant, and can be inverted -- for following someone's feet, say).

By the way, for anyone who's bothered reading this who has already used a Merlin or similar unit for a while -- try swapping hands! If you normally support with right hand and guide with left hand, then try doing it the other way around. I think you'll find that you suck at it, to put it bluntly. Your hands won't be as "wise", won't be as sensitive to feeling where the camera is moving and to compensating for it, won't know how much pressure to apply. But this is a good way to give yourself empathy -- to take yourself back to what it was first like, as a complete beginner, to pick up one of these things.
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Old March 12th, 2015, 04:36 PM   #12
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Re: Adding Movement

Noah and Adrian, many thanks for such in depth replies.

I was thinking more along the Merlin route, the Merlin 2 though is 600, I am struggling to come to terms with that price there do appear to be clones about on ebay and amazon but it is difficult to make a decision without feedback from other users.

I am more than willing to put the time in to learn how to use one, however some of the reviews on amazon are less than complimentary about the Merlin,hence my request for advice from experienced users.
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Old March 12th, 2015, 04:39 PM   #13
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Re: Adding Movement

Adrian can tell you all about the Merlin and if you want to know more about the blackbird steadicam you can ask me :)
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Old March 12th, 2015, 05:14 PM   #14
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Re: Adding Movement

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Originally Posted by Phil Stanley View Post
I was thinking more along the Merlin route, the Merlin 2 though is 600, I am struggling to come to terms with that price there do appear to be clones about on ebay and amazon but it is difficult to make a decision without feedback from other users.
Re pricing, I can see Merlin 2 on B&H for 260 pounds, excluding shipping. You can probably find it for even cheaper on eBay. But I should also say: there's nothing wrong with the Merlin version 1. So if you do want a Merlin-type device and see a Merlin 1 for cheap, grab it!

Re alternatives, from what I understand, the Blackbird that Noa mentions is very similar to the Merlin. No idea how they compare! There may be other similar products too.

Quote:
I am more than willing to put the time in to learn how to use one, however some of the reviews on amazon are less than complimentary about the Merlin,hence my request for advice from experienced users
Do watch a few YouTube reviews of the Merlin, Blackbird and other products if you haven't already. The key part of it is balancing the damn thing in the first place; then you're set, and you'll surprise yourself with the quality of the footage you're getting within the first hour of use. More fiddly to setup and operate than a Glidecam, granted, but (in my opinion) nothing wrong with it as a product; it's down to the user -- their tastes, willingness to learn, operating skill. For what it's worth, the Merlin is from the company and the guy that designed the first steadicams in the '70s. They do know what they're doing ergonomically and physically.

Mr Rush, what are your thoughts?
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Old March 13th, 2015, 02:44 PM   #15
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Re: Adding Movement

Phil,

Do not underestimate what Noa and Adrian are saying about time and training equals skill. I bought a Black Bird about 18 months ago. I even bought a small lightweight camera just to fly. After all that time owning it I don't use it. I found it much harder to use than I expected. This tread gives me hope because I have not put the time or training into it, it requires. I get frustrated and think I am hopeless at being skillful with it. I have great respect for the guys that hand hold those things skillfully. I also will need a rig for it if I ever get serious about it because of a back problem.

If possible try before you buy. There are so many options out there it will be hard to know which one will work for you.

Steve
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