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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old March 3rd, 2007, 02:18 PM   #1
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Glidecam - Learning Curve

I've been a reader of this forum for a month now and have found it so interesting and informative. Thanks to you pros who are willing to share your expertise with newcomers like me. Thanks to Joel Peregrine for directing me to the DVi site and this forum.

After 5 years teaching video production to high schoolers, I've decided to venture into event videography myself. This spring I'll be working with my parents to produce a short documentary for their 50th anniversary. In July, I'll be shooting my first paid wedding.

Just purchased some new equipment, including a VX2100. (It's on its way from B&H right now!) I'm excited to begin learning to use it more with manual settings. My high school kids and I primarily shoot on auto (with PD 150s believe it or not), so I have much to learn about taking full advantage of this camcorder.

That's basically my goal for the coming year: get much better at shooting with manual controls, in various settings, light conditions, handheld and from a mono/tripod.

Even so, I can't help drooling over the tracking shots so many of you include in your highlight videos. My excitement grew when I discovered how relatively inexpensive a Glidecam is and my wife encouraged me to consider getting one.

So, here's my question. Would you recommend this purchase? How long does it take to learn to use a Glidecam? I've been dreaming about how I would shoot some beautiful tracking shots of my parents for their anniversary video, etc.

I'm guessing you'll say that I should learn to walk before I try to run...

...or should I? What do you think? Glidecam in 2008?

Thanks.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 02:55 PM   #2
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Bill,

Yes, there is a learning curve but imo, if you are an ecellent "handheld" shooter and an all around good camera operator in general.....you will learn a little faster but everyone is different.

I use a full rig, vest, arm and sled......so the fatigue factor is much less than using the glidecam in a "handheld" fasion. I highly recommend a full rig over handhled if you can afford it.

Looking for stabilzer advice.....you may want to post in the stabilzer forum within DVinfo. You will find much more advice and articles on all you will want to know rather than here on the wedding board, but there are some guys here who do nice work such as Glen Elliot.

Charles Papert and Mikko give great advice, they are a couple of excellent Steadicam Ops full of knowledge...Charles has a very extensive credit list in major motion pictures and television as a steadicam op.......he is great for advice.

Like anything, there is a learning curve, but when you advance......all the hours of practice will have been worth it.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 03:37 PM   #3
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Good advice from Joe--especially the "check the stabilizer section" part. You'll find lots of discussion there about different manufacturers, rigs and the debate of whether to go for a vest/arm rig or a handheld one.

Kudos to your wife for supporting your new venture!
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 04:55 PM   #4
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Thanks

Thanks for the replies, and especially the suggestion to check out the "Support Your Local Camera" forum. Just did a search there and found some great threads. I'm amazed by the information (and help) available on the DVi network. Take care.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 05:01 PM   #5
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First of all, great to hear you're being motivated to move into this type of work Bill. It's a great area of video that is enjoyable to me because it always changes and evolves.

On the glidecam, I take a different approach and feel that a glidecam is best used on a second or third camera, not as a main camera. Most of the material you shoot with a glidecam is intended for slow motion, recaps, or suplimental coverage of the lock down cameras. It's not however the main camera at event coverage. You won't beat a tripod when covering a main event (like a ceremony or anniversary speech). However, if you have your main camera on a tripod, the second camera can be working the glidecam and capturing all those wonderful shots and really adding to the production in ways that a second tripod or handheld can't touch.

So my question is do you have a second camera operator for each event? If not, you may want to think about it. How long does the full vest take to put on and take off in case you decide you need to go handheld or move to the tripod? And are you comfortable with your footage always in motion? (not shaking, but in motion)

I tell all people getting into this to wait at least a year before buying a stabilizer system. Shoot some events and find out exactly what areas you could improve if you had that equipment and how it would benefit you. And those rigs aren't cheap. They're an investment and if used properly and often they make a great return, but if it doesn't work out then you're taking a loss even if you sell it.

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Old March 3rd, 2007, 05:52 PM   #6
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luck counts too. i was fortunate to have mine useable within 24 hours. mi've heard stories where users can't get it to work for the longest time.

mind you though, mine is not perfectly balanced. it WILL sway when not supported by the second hand. but i've learned to live and work around it.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 07:10 PM   #7
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On hold.

Ben,

Thanks for your reply. You and the others are confirming what I guess I knew already. I'm going to focus on tripod and handheld technique for now. Will be shooting with PD-150s (rentals) as my main cameras and the VX2100 for coverage shots this year. Want to be more confident with the fundamentals and then look more seriously into a Glidecam. Will start training with some weights this summer, so my wrists/forearms are ready when the time comes.

Regards,

Bill
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 07:12 PM   #8
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Jason:

I guess this depends on how you define "luck"--possibly certain units come from the factory with more precisely aligned gimbals than others, and/or a given user may "luck" into the proper settings of weights and balancing trim more quickly than someone else.

Otherwise, the science of balancing a stabilizer is something that is not all that intuitive and improves with experience. The only time I have used a Glidecam was helping a friend out on a shoot and he had just bought one with the Smooth Shooter--I was a little stunned when he handed it over to me in the middle of the shoot day, still in the packing boxes! Even without being familar with the Glidecam specifically, I was able to get it assembled and running and completely balanced within half-an-hour. But that's with 20+ years in the big rigs, so I had sort of an "unfair" advantage...! Most users should be able to puzzle through it in a few hours, but they may discover that it takes a longer period to refine the subtleties of balance while they are learning the actual skill of operating the rig, which can take months and realistically years to "perfect" (I still learn a little every day I operate, that's just the nature of the beast).

I would be concerned if I were you about the situation you describe--fighting through an improperly balanced rig will always result in a dimished return with any stabilizer, particularly a lightweight one. If it is requiring anything other than a featherweight fingertip control for you to excute a simple walking shot with your rig, I'd recommend spending some more time examining your balance. "Sway" is a bit vague though--even a balanced rig will kick out in a predictable fashion when it is put through an acceleration, which one learns to control, but if you are saying that when standing still, you take your operating hand off the post and the rig falls over in one direction or another, you should address this from a balance perspective.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 07:44 PM   #9
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Something else to think about for "live events" such as weddings with the use of a stabilzer is:

Plan out when you want the use of stabilzer shots opposed to random shots.....sure you may get lucky by catching something with your rig but well planned shots look much better.

Have a purpose for the stabilzed shot. More times than not.....a steady shot on sticks or handheld can be more usefull.

At weddings in particular, because they are unstaged and things unfold in the moment.......if you are using a stabilzer, it will most likely take more time to have it ready for thses type of shots you could have had being handheld.

Space....the environment you are shooting in, also will dictate whether you should use the rig or not. Tight environments, crowded areas are not the place for full stabilizer rig imo. It is way too easy to knock into something.....worse...someone....this is at live events such as weddings.

Also.....going from location to location to location.....putting gear back in the car and taking it back out various times is a sure way to have your rig become out of ballance...even if you are carefull. At wedding shoots......you are rushing around more than not.....this adds to what I was just talking about.
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