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-   -   Steadicam Pilot - Getting Started Q & A (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/stabilizers-steadicam-etc/115235-steadicam-pilot-getting-started-q.html)

Nick Tsamandanis June 22nd, 2009 06:04 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Just google "bubble level" and you get plenty, btw I have now glued mine to the top of the lcd monitor, much better. You will also need to buy another one to cailbrate the one on the monitor. Ever since the workshop I have been so obsessed with keeping a perfect horizon.

Charles Papert June 22nd, 2009 09:51 AM


If yours is glued on, how are you "calibrating" it...? If the Pilot monitor is not dead-nuts square to the camera platform it will give a false level. Another option is to use velcro and attach it to the bezel of the monitor which allows one to easily make adjustments--you place a second loose level on the camera or on the top of the camera platform, wherever there is room (if one the camera, make sure it is a section that is parallel to the camera platform, there's a lot of swoopy material on cameras these days) and then true the bubble on the monitor to that--and do this before every mission-critical shoot.

A word about levels. They are prone to acceleration and a great deal of interpretation must be used when starting to work with them; if for instance you make a quick lateral move (sideways), even if you maintain a perfect horizon, the bubble will kick out one direction when you start and the other when you stop, eventually settling at the "correct" orientation. You have to train your brain to know when you can trust the level and discard the information it provides the rest of the time, otherwise you will be constantly attempting to "force" the rig into a level that is incorrect. It is for this reason that many operators don't bother with levels (I do).

If you are unable to find one with a square housing, any hardware store will have inexpensive line levels (the type that hang on string)--you can just pop the cylindrical level out of the housing. The square type is preferable for mounting but they all work essentially the same (some might have different fluid spec'd so that they respond at different rates). FYI we have electronic levels for our big rigs that have the sensor located near the center post, which reduces the forces of acceleration especially in pan, and then inserts a digital level into the video which we can move around screen as desired.

Nick Tsamandanis June 22nd, 2009 04:58 PM

Hi Charles, I calibrate it by adjusting the monitor's position until the bubble matches the one on the camera stage.

Charles Papert June 22nd, 2009 05:25 PM

You can rotate the monitor (around the horizontal lower spar)? huh...didn't realize that.

Nick Tsamandanis June 22nd, 2009 05:38 PM

Yes, the ring that that loosens and tightens it is a bit of a pain though.

Paul Mailath August 5th, 2009 03:23 PM

Just getting used to the pilot and I have a question

I can balence the pilot with the Canon XH-A1, static & dynamic without using any extra weight - after reading here I've done the same thing with extra weight so the top stage is around 8 pounds.

apart from being heavier - whats the difference?

Dave Gish August 5th, 2009 05:24 PM

I can balance my HVX without adding any weights at all, but it doesn't seem to fly as smooth this way.

Adding weight to the top moves the gimbal closer to the lens, and adds a little inertia in general.

Adding weight to the bottom moves the gimbal further from the lens, but adds a lot of inertia in the pan axis.

To understand the gimbal position issue, grab a pencil. Hold it between thumb and finger of your left hand, and wiggle the bottom of the pencil with your right hand. When you hold the pencil in in the middle, the eraser moves a lot. But if you hold it up close toward the eraser, the eraser moves much less. So having the gimbal closer to the lens decreases the effect of sled movement at the lens.

Adding inertia makes it harder to move he sled inadvertently. Since the Pilot is such a relatively light rig, it reacts to the slightest pressure on your left hand, giving you that squirrelly/seasick look. Adding weights in general seems to help a little with that. Adding a couple of weights to each end of the bottom crossbar increases pan inertia significantly, which make for smooth pans.

So that's why I recommend 8 pounds of total top weight (camera, accessories, & weights), and two pounds of bottom weight (Pilot battery & weights). This seems to be the best compromise for good inertia and minimum lens-to-gimbal distance.

But as always, proper technique helps the most. Where you place your hips, your posture, your balance - that matters most. It's like learning to ski. Good equipment, properly adjusted, makes a big difference. But in the end, you have to learn to ski. And don't forget to have fun!

Terry Thompson August 5th, 2009 09:56 PM

Well explained Dave. For a moment I thought I was reading something from Charles P. Now that is a compliment.


Sean Seah August 5th, 2009 10:52 PM

Well said Dave! I tried the Flyer last week with a JVC Hm-700 and it was a big difference from the Pilot. The weight really makes the entire rig a lot more steady.

Charles Papert August 6th, 2009 07:45 AM

I'm currently on a feature with a relatively light film camera (Moviecam SL) and I'm having to work a little harder to control the rig due to differences in inertia between this and a "normal" camera. I'd guess the total weight of the rig (including arm and vest) is around 72 lbs vs the 82 I'm used to. Yet still, the inertia is so many times more than either a Pilot or a Flyer, of course.

A few weeks back I had a Panavision XL with two gyros (K4 and a K6) onboard, the whole rig probably weighed 90*lbs and was so inert between the mass and the gyros that it took significant effort to pan--a bizarre sensation!

Rob Epple September 8th, 2009 04:03 PM

EX3 Viewfinder
I read somewhere form those who are flying the sony ex3 that they remove the viewfinder - However, I can't figure out how to do that - anyone know how?


Dave Gish September 8th, 2009 05:44 PM


Originally Posted by Rob Epple (Post 1328778)
I read somewhere form those who are flying the sony ex3 that they remove the viewfinder - However, I can't figure out how to do that - anyone know how?

Yup, you want it off.

See page 32 of the manual for removal instructions:

You can see how it looks here:

Niall Chadwick September 14th, 2009 12:14 PM

Well Ive got a pilot now as well...still getting used to it.

Have used it already for a filming gig in manchester. Went well.

Need to lose some weight tho...a tad embarassing when the battery goes "bonnnggg" off my belly :(

Paul Mailath September 14th, 2009 03:22 PM

I know the problem :-) you may of course be positioning it incorrectly, I did a intro course recently and it was a huge help.

Dave Gish September 14th, 2009 05:50 PM

Getting in shape is never a bad thing, but I don't think it's critical. I've seen great footage from professional steadicam operators that had a few pounds to spare.

But if the battery is hitting your belly, it sounds like you're holding it wrong. If anything, the battery should be bumping into your left leg. The only time the battery comes near my belly is when I'm switching between shooting forward and backward.

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