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Steadicam vs. Camera Stabilizers

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Chris Blair
Steadicam vs. Camera Stabilizers
on Aug 11, 2010 at 2:07:08 pm

We'll be shooting a project for a Seminary where the client wants the video to give the viewer the feeling that the camera is following a couple of students through a typical day on-campus.

We'd like for some of the video to have a fluid feel, with at least a few shots walking with the subjects, some shots that arc around a group or meeting or class etc.

We're budgeting for the client right now and debating the merits of the following:

1. Hiring a steadicam owner/operator for a day and getting all those shots in one day using our Panasonic DVCPro50 SDX900

2. Renting a steadicam rig and using a local videographer with steadicam experience to shoot for a couple of days with our camera.

3. Renting a smaller Panasonic HD camera with camera stabilization built-in and just shooting hand-held for the moving shots using that stabilization.

4. Renting a smaller camera and the smaller Steadicam Flyer or Pilot for a couple days.

I've been impressed with the stabilization built-in to some of the newer, smaller cameras and was scurious of others opinions.

Thanks

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com
Read our blog http://www.videomi.com/blog


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Emre Tufekci S.O.A.
Re: Steadicam vs. Camera Stabilizers
on Aug 11, 2010 at 3:33:11 pm

Hi Chris, here is my input on budgeting for you show.

1. Hiring a steadicam owner/operator for a day and getting all those shots in one day using our Panasonic DVCPro50 SDX900.

This is probably your best bet, steadicam is a very specialized piece of equipment that requires years of practice to master. You can find operators in your area at http://www.steadicam-ops.com

If the operator is charging less than $1100 a day they are probably running small rigs not certified to fly your SDX or they are inexperienced.

2. Renting a steadicam rig and using a local videographer with steadicam experience to shoot for a couple of days with our camera.

Larger rigs certified to fly cameras like the SDX are usually not available for rental. Most common rigs at rental houses are the Flyer/Pilot (or similar) that has a low weight capacity. A camera operator with steadicam experience will own their own rig, it's probably best to hire them as a package.

3. Renting a smaller Panasonic HD camera with camera stabilization built-in and just shooting hand-held for the moving shots using that stabilization.

Camera stabilization is not steadicam and will look nothing like it. The internal mirror systems are built to compensate for small movement in an handheld shot with no pans or tilts. If you pan it will "jerk" the shot.

4. Renting a smaller camera and the smaller Steadicam Flyer or Pilot for a couple days.

You can hire an Op with a smaller rig which will be cheaper $500-$700 but do not attempt to use it yourself. you will find it very difficult if not impossible to get a usable shot out of the rig.

Good Luck with your shoot.

Emre Tufekci
http://www.productionpit.com



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Todd Terry
Re: Steadicam vs. Camera Stabilizers
on Aug 11, 2010 at 10:28:07 pm

Hey Chris...

I'm with Emre... his suggestions are right on the money.

If it were me and the project's budget allows it, I'd hire Emre or another qualified and good Steadicam op with a decent rig to do the shooting. I say that even though at one time (many years and vertebrae ago) I was a decent Steadi op myself and still own a mid-sized rig. If there was very much stabilized shooting needed, I'd hire it out.

It's just so tough to do and do really well. Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown himself once said there were only 5 or 6 Steadicam ops in the world he would say are real "crackerjacks." That's an exaggeration as there are plenty of good ones, but it's not for newbies or the faint of heart.

All that is, if the floating camera look is what you are going for. A stabilized lens might work to a degree, but that's a completely different look and feel (i.e., ER with Steadicam, vs. Law & Order which is lens-stabilized handheld).

Just depends on the look and mood you are going for.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Chris Blair
Re: Steadicam vs. Camera Stabilizers
on Aug 11, 2010 at 11:38:47 pm

Thanks guys. I understand built-in camera stabilization isn't a substitute for a steadicam and won't approach the look of one...but the client's budget may not allow for hiring a steadicam owner/operator.

So the alternative would be to get just a few hand-held shots with "some" movement from the camera op to give it a free-form feel...and I've been impressed by the electronic stablization built into many of the mid-range camcorders...so that's why I put that option in there.

The shoot will also likely involve a LOT of setups, simple lighting and very little chance for blocking shots...and the few times I've used a steadicam it always seems to require a lot of blocking, both for the move and the people in the shots. I tend to work VERY quickly and we're very good at getting good looking stuff in a very short amount of time. In fact, when we hire people out...they usually cannot keep up...even extremely experienced DPs and camera ops.

Hopefully their budget will allow for hiring an owner-operator

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com
Read our blog http://www.videomi.com/blog


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