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Holger Zechel

The Crystal Ball

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Hello everybody.

I was asking myself what is the Future of Steadicam and Steadicamoperating ?

For all you Operators who are more in to the Business than i am. What do you think ? With all the Mövi Stuff and other Brushless Gimbals and Productioncompanys who trying to lowering the Rates ?

Is there a Future for Newbieoperators to Enter the Business ?

I did all my Jobs with Rentalequipment. As well as Big an Small Rigs with Alexa and C300.

Now i think of investing more and more in own Equipment. Might this a Good Idea ? What Kind of Rig ?

Big, Medium or Small ?

I would like to hear some Ideas Out of the Crystal Ball ;)

Maybe i see some interesting Stuff at the IBC in Amsterdam the next to Days .

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No one can predict the future. All I can predict is that at least half the people here will disagree with whichever conclusion you will come up with and that at least of the people here will be wrong (hint: might not be the same half)

 

I an starting in Steadicam and I believe that there is a future for it. On the other hand, I am also opened to using a Movi-like device existing or to be designed in the future.

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I've been in the business for 20 years. I've been doing steadicam for 15. In 20 years, I've worked on around 50 feature films and done about a dozen seasons of television. On every one of those 60 or 70 productions there has been a full time or part time steadicam.

 

I'd also make an educated guess that a large percentage of feature films and network and cable television shows use a steadicam. Operators move to director of photography, director and or retire every day...... I don't see the steadicam going anywhere and I don't see a shortage of demand for skilled technicians. Owning equipment does not guarintee you work but a skilled technician with a good work ethic and a well maintained piece of highly specialized equipment is probably going to work for the forseable future. Box office sales are ever increasing, more and more networks pop up and create original content.

 

I have yet to loose a job because they went with a movi instead.

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The Movi.

 

Not a day passes on set that I don't have somebody come up to me and say that magic word.

The word smells of absolute freedom. The camera glides through the air with the touch of a button.

Or as a PA put it to me "we can shoot these things now without having to train people like steadicam

operators".

 

 

It is quite incredible how excited people get about technical gadgetry, without ever thinking about the implications

of it.

 

First: I am not a Movi hater. If you don't embrace technical change in this profession you will be under the bus

real quick-like.

 

 

Now lets examine the movie on a real set:

 

- Reliability:

 

The last thing you ever want on a set are consumer electronics. Because if they fail you it messes with

your zen and costs production a boatload of money.

Well - those brushless gimbals and all the electronics that make it work basically come from RC toys.

And they are finicky little bastards and will fail you once in a while.

Actually quite regularly. And then they are very difficult and time consuming to trouble shoot.

 

I just shot a film for Red Bull in the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia - aka The Middle Of Nowhere. And we had

an octocopter for overhead shots.

Exact same technology.

Failed spectacularly on the first day. Cast and crew watching the desperate pilot trying to fix the gimbal.

This guy is very good by the way. Has a masters degree in electronic engineering.

He could not get it to work that day. We lost a lot of time that day and he spend all night rewiring and

reprogramming everything.

 

Did we get amazing shots after that ? Yep. Absolutely. But it was hardly a 'push one button'

solution.

 

- Cost and skill

 

Lets face it: Experienced people cost more money. Rightfully so. What nobody every mentions is that you

really need three people to run a movie. A pilot, a cameraman and an AC to pull focus. All of them need some wireless

video link to work.

And all of them have to be in tune with each other or they will blow every second shot.

All the footage I have seen so far was from very experience helicopter crews that have been doing this stuff for

years.

 

- Equipment limitations

 

Right now, because of weight limitations you can just - but barely - put an Epic with a Super Speed Lens and a side handle battery on

this thing. Filters, more motors or other lenses are completely out of question. The rig dictates what gear I can use. Not all that great.

 

Lens changes take quite a while. The system has to be completely re-calibrated and rebalanced. You have quite a few batteries running at

the same time that can not be upgraded / combined because of weight limitations. Which means you have to change batteries all the time or you run out of batteries all the time.

Anything over 15 minutes right now you need to change batteries.

 

Also: You will have to carry this thing. With your arms aka shoulders. That is a different beast than having a steadicam on a vest

that distributes the weight over the entire torso.

Test: Take an Epic, stretch out your arms and hold it. Over and over again during the course of a day. Now praise the Movi again :-)

 

And last but not least:

 

Where does the bounce go ?

 

There is a reason the promo video was mainly shot on roller skates. Other than that a spring arm will come in handy (steadicam anybody ?)

or you will see the steps.

 

 

 

Generally I think there will be some really, really awesome shots in the next Bourne franchise movie pulled off by very good operators.

There will be a lot of crappy stuff or somewhat good stuff on indie sets where nobody really gets paid and time so time doesn't matter all that much.

 

I think as it is right now the use of the Movi will be very limited on the professional sets that are a steadicam operator's bread and butter.

 

However if somebody could please make some little platform that is integrated into my top stage that automatically keeps my camera

horizon leveled at all time I'll take it.

 

Feel free to steal the idea. Unless Jerry is already working on it.

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Here is my take on the Mōvi, based on a very smart thing I read in Wired magazine http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2013/04/start/the-disruptor

 

Steadicam is save at the high budget productions where reliability of the equipment and the know how and artistic skill of the operator is key. The very low end will get the full pressure right away. All those who can't afford a good Steadicam op and know a newbie may suck big time will go for Mōvi like devices (they grow like mushrooms) or production will buy it. The play ground for emerging Steadicam ops will dry out. With time the stabilized gimbals will become more sophisticated, robust, reliable, feature rich and expensive and will eat they way up into our sinecure.

There is a good reason companies like Steadicam and now PRO are offering lower priced rigs. They want to survive as a company. The effects on our community are there. Rates go down as supply of rigs and operators go up. Steadicam won't die, but it will take a share out of the jobs that are there any given day. It will increase pressure on our rates.

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Just last week I was at a rental house where they were prepping a Movi, Epic, with a Heden Focus motor, a 100mm Prime Still lens with an adapter on it to fit the Epic, It had a Paralinx transmiter.

The following day I went to visit the set for a moment and watched a few shots where the Movi Carrier was running from point A to point B, while the camera operator was controlling the RC remote looking apparatus, and about 40' away, in front of a large monitor, the AC was pulling focus.

Simple enough shot, during the run the camera operator would pan from one subject to another at a precise moment. After Several takes they got it really really close, I'd say close enough for the client and they moved on.

 

But all the while while I watched the run, I couldn't help seeing the up and down bounce. The previous day I had asked the technician that came from LA with the Movi about mounting it on a steadicam. He mentioned that they were in the process of making a plate that mounts a steadicam top stage plate instead of the top handle. So the test everyone wants to see is on it's way to being done.

 

Great tool, but all the little exposed wires are nuts and the adjustments that have to be done at first set up are daunting to me, the inexperienced Movi person. This might be something that once refined, just lives in our Kit. How many near $15K accessories do we have that we use don't always use? Don't some of us have a complete replacement HD sled, spare Arm, spare vest, Hell a Real complete Boxx Meridian system costs that, a spare sled cost more than that. It's just another tool to play with.

 

Then again, I don't see how it could be a two person operation. There will always be the AC to focus the camera, but to move in the rig, and control the pan and tilt, all while controlling the boom and movement in physical space is yet to be seen.

 

A PERFECT way to use the Movi would be while doing stunt tracking shots from a Go Cart or Motorcycle like Mike McGowan does, similar to his special cage to fly just the camera system. Sort of bringing out a Libra head when you need it.

 

The technician said they are about to put an Alexa M on there and have a backpack with the recorder, but that will be a system where the Movi carrier will probably be wearing an Easy rig.

 

Only time will tell .

 

In time if the Movi takes off, we will be able to tell who at the SOC meetings are Movi carriers.... The Guys with the huge forearms and shoulder traps.

 

Ozzie

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I worked with an Octacopter last week. Same exact gimbal as the Movi. The technician was really good. But he brought his own camera/lens, which he spent hours balancing the night before. I asked him about doing a lens change. He said roughly 45 minutes to rebalance and test, depending on the lens.

 

Then he handed me the camera controller, which was an RC radio, for pan and tilt. This is the same controller as the Movi. It was useless. The joysticks were like on/off switches. No feathering at all (to be fair this was my first time operating with one of these). So we kept the camera moves to a minimum, and let the flight path follow the action.

 

There are going to be 100 horrendous Movi shots for every good one. There will be 100 wasted hours on set with a Movi for every productive one.

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IMHO, with the exception of the occasional specialty shot, uncoupling the framing from the camera move and delegating these functions to two different people is a major step backwards.

 

Granted, grips and operators have been coordinating to execute complex camera moves since forever, but perhaps there is something to be said about the benefit of having to deal with the added mass of a dolly, a crane, or a jib-arm when attempting to feather a move to a start or a stop as opposed to a steadicam, an easyrig or a hanheld camera.

 

Perhaps that Movi joystick will find its way on the yoke, or someone will be able to interface the sled’s position in relation to the Movi head in a way that the head will ignore our panning and tilting of the post. Let’s see how things develop…

 

Mounting a gyro-stabilized head on a steadicam sled is not a new idea, and most of us have seen such attempts. As it was mentioned in another thread, one of the closest permutations, was that Rollvision head, back in 2001. That was also a two-man operation. That 3-axis stabilized head indeed created a buzz for a little while, but the amount of communication and coordination that it required in order for two crew members to execute any predetermined shot with any kind of accuracy, was a clusterfuck of epic proportions. According to the company that produced it, Garrett himself was involved, offering advice on how to streamline the device even further and make it more steadicam-friendly. But it was not worth the headache. The concept never took off, not even for that rare specialty shot.

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The future of stabilization, or Steadicam in general...

With the right plates and bracketry in place, I can go from Steadi to sticks in 2 minutes or less. It usually takes longer to retrieve the sticks from the cart than for me and the 1st AC to have the camera ready to mount. I can then go back to Steadi in less than 5 minutes and be dynamically balanced if I got all my marks at prep. When a DP or AC asks to mount something to the camera, I say, "Sure!" and we throw it on. When production hires a Steadicam Op they know they are hiring someone that can easily accommodate anything from a weightless DSLR to a fully loaded cine setup. We can execute very precise whip pans. If we want to simulate a bomb impact or some other earthshake, we or an assistant can give the camera a little tap at the right moment.

When someone shows me another stabilizer that can do all these things, and do them better, faster, and safer than a Steadicam, I will feel threatened, until then...

The simple fact is, the changing technology is a big game of hype and marketing. If you are a skilled operator, with reliable gear, a great attitude, and good ideas, there will always be a place for you on set. Steadicam operators have developed a legendary reputation for being versatile problem solvers. People still look at us like we are magicians. Because we are, and we will be for a long, long time to come.

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The faint irony is not lost on me that we are called Operators ( either of Steadicam™ or another brand ) and they are called carriers.

 

Reminds me of the true situation prior to the first U.S. astronauts being placed into Friendship 7. They insisted that there be a window so they could fly the ship, a joystick for control, etc. The NASA engineers regarded them as luggage, not highly skilled pilots.

 

We're not carriers. We are either highly skilled Operators, or working hard to become highly skilled Operators.

 

Therein lies the rub.

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