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Manfrotto Fig Rig or Varizoom Flowpod

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jim smithManfrotto Fig Rig or Varizoom Flowpod
by on Aug 26, 2005 at 9:25:24 pm

I am looking at getting one of the subject stabilizers for a Canon GL2. Anyone have any experience with the two as to which would be better? My use will be for events and product promotion video. Or is there a better choice? I realize this is probably a personal preference issue but not having experience with either I thought I would ask the experts.


JIm Smith

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Doug GrahamRe: Manfrotto Fig Rig or Varizoom Flowpod
by on Aug 27, 2005 at 2:07:23 pm

These are two totally different animals.

The Fig Rig gains stability by imposing a two-hand grip on the rig, arms out, like holding a steering wheel (and that's what it looks like, a steering wheel with a camera on it). The big drawbacks are that any remaining hand shake will still affect your camera, and that your arms will tire quickly in this shooting position.

The Flowpod operates in two modes. It is a monopod, which gains stability by being in contact with the ground. In the stabilizer mode, it gains stability by being a pendulum, with the center of gravity below the pivot point. In this mode, it is similar to devices like the Glidecam and Steadicam JR.

As a monopod, it's just fine, although some have complained that it's a little shorter than they'd like. As a stabilizer, it shares the drawback with all similar devices of tiring the arm quickly. That's one reason why Varizoom also sells a vest and support arm that can be used with it. I've also seen correspondence from several Flowpod users who have complained that balancing the rig is tricky.

In my opinion, you can get probably 70-90% of the Flowpod's stabilizer effect with any ordinary monopod. Just hold it in a two-finger grip slightly below the camera mount. And that would be my recommendation: The best bang for the buck is an ordinary monopod, which costs under $100. If you need a stabilizer, get a "real" one...with a vest and support arm. But be prepared to spend $5000 to $10,000.

Doug Graham

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Mark SuszkoRe: Manfrotto Fig Rig or Varizoom Flowpod
by on Aug 29, 2005 at 2:44:51 pm

I agree with much of this.

I would say for ENG news and wedding reception type shooting, where you need to move quickly from point to point but then shoot very stable, perhaps with a motion-sensitive telephoto lens setting, for long periods that would tire you if hand-held/shoulder-held, a regular monopod is the ticket. Especially where there's just no room for a tripod, or it's too heavy.

Where the Fig Rig would work best is if you are working very close-in, lens full wide, and you need to move around a relatively stationary subject a lot and move at various heights, and there's no room for, or it's otherwise impractical to use dolly/jib/track.

The kind of stabilizer that uses a vest and arm is most fitting for use where you're going to have to walk or even jog along with the actors a bit and the terrain/situation makes a dolly or jib impractical.

My belief is too many people, especially beginners and indy "wannabees" ascribe supernatural powers to these stabilizing tools and insist on using them for every little thing when they should just be practicing good shot composition, good tripod and proper hand-held shooting technique, which works just fine, maybe better, 99 percent of the time. Like Johnny LaRue and his quest for the Big Crane Shot, they think it's impressive "movie-like" TOOLS that make it a good movie, instead of *technique* and craft applied judiciously. Not every shot is improved by flying the camera around people's heads like it's a cloud of gnats.

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jim smithRe: Manfrotto Fig Rig or Varizoom Flowpod
by on Sep 1, 2005 at 5:10:10 pm

Thanks for the input!


JIm Smith

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