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The ALIEN / Alien Revolution - All about...

Ari Gertler

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There have been a lot of threads about the AR. Now we know it´s for real and to me the question arises how do I keep track of the monitor when I rotate the sled 180° from lomode to high? Will I need 2 monitors? Does the monitor rotate, too?

Calculating that the AR costs as much as a used Steadicam system, has any of you guys that already fly this nice piece of equipment, found out how the clients respond to the more costs. Or do you just put this thing on top of the tons you already bring along? Can´t really believe on that :P



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Markus, have a look at the videos/quicktimes on the MK-V site and AR site and on one of the links that was posted some time ago from a video from Cinegear (US) where you can clearly see that the monitor keeps level as does the camera. Thats a part of the system and that´s one reason why it is so sophisticated in design and pricey as well.


Now if one can only rotate the wrist in a similar way..... on the videos it sometimes looks that the wrist is in an awkward position, but this is probably part of the learning curve....


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Hi Rob / Markus - how are you?


Yes the AR monitor does track the camera or horizon.


Re the wrist position, yes sometimes certain shots require different ways of holding the sled.

But as we have found, the finger tip grip is purely for horizon control. So now this is not an issue, you can hold the sled with a full grip and not just on the gimbal - All of the demo film was shot like this.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank and also praise Chris McGuire - he did all the shots on the AR demo film and a very nice job too. - not easy with me over his shoulder..


If anyone has any questions re the AR system please email me - AR@mk-v.com


Hope to see you at IBC


All the best

Howard J Smith MK-V

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Hey Iain:


As you can tell from the responses, most people agree that fancy equipment will never replace the skills of a good operator.


You have however brought up an interesting question about new operators, and you do have other reasons to worry.


I remember in the late 90's when Steadicam was seen as a special skill and was therefore paid $7-$20/hour over a regulator operator. I'm talking TV here. Then there was an influx of new operators that were extremely hungry to get in and get working. Guys that would work for any rate, and now it would seem that getting paid $1/hour over scale for doing Steadicam is not unusual. That's right... ONE DOLLAR PER HOUR...... Series PM's love this kind of deal. They ultimately don't care who's doing the job as long as it's cheap. This is where Feature Films differ. Feature PM's don't fall for that kind of shit.


Now since you make your living in TV land, watch out for what's next. Because the next batch of new hungry guys won't have any room to offer great deals on the hourly, so what comes next??? That?s right the kit rental. Mark my words, it won't be long before you're up against a new guy for some series and the new guy is offering his complete Steadicam package for $100/week. What does the new guy care, he just want's to be an operator.


Food for thought.


Tim Merkel

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Hi Tim,


Let's hope that it never gets quite that bad, but you are most likely correct. But that's a part of life in any industry. We are, after all, just skilled factory workers. The movie or series that employs us is here because of the dollar, or tax breaks, not because of me or you. It's the same when a plactics factory moves down to Mexico, it's not for the weather.

I know all about the Series PM who only want's to pay a little more for a Steadicam Op, I actually have bonuses built into my deal memos that pay me more on any day that I fly the rig. It works for both of us, they don't need to pay on days that I don't steadicam, and on days that I do, I'm paid accordingly.

I'm moving on from the series work, I'm tired of the marathons. But even now, on a 45 million dollar mini series, I had to fight for my wage. I think its just a sign that PMs are in the same competitive field that we find ourselves in. The ones that can keep the budget down will live to spend another day.


I'm more worried about our dollar as it soars to 83 cent's (in the late 90's it was 70 cents - is it coincience we were paid more?)


All the best Tim, say hi to Mark for me.




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Hi All,


Finally a little info. Here is a little slideshow of the first sync sound AR set up for a major motion picture. RENT is due out this November.




The cable routing on the sled has since been greatly streamlined with the addition of a cable routing bracket.

-The center post length is a very normal 23" long. Camera heights range from 22" to 7'6" ! Awesome.

-With 2 x Dionic 90's and 1 x Proformer Nicad (also what I now use on my regular sled set up), I get at least 10 mags (400' 35mm) / many hours / half a day on one set of batteries.

-Weight wise it is a heavy sled at 75lbs. BUT there is a big pay off with how you are now able to carry that mass much more efficiently on or 'across' the body now that you don't have to have the sled in the typical missionary position next to you.

-It is important to have as much mass at the bottom of the sled in order to draw the gimbal AWAY from the camera. This is opposite to a regular sled set up. Reason being that the sled has to be effective both in Hi mode and in Lo mode, and now also MID mode to really take full advantage of the AR's potential.

- ie. Imagine if the gimbal was hi up near the top of the center post. Hi mode is not as hi, and when you turn the rig upside down, lo mode is also not as low.

-Therefore a greater gimbal to lens distance is desirable with the AR. Pictured is a 14" distance from gimbal bearing to lens center. Quite good.

-By switching one of the batteries to a ProPack (Hytron 120) the net gain is 3.3 lbs to the bottom of the sled. Then adding 1" to the length of the post, now 24", I was able to achieve a gimbal to lens distance of 16".

-This meant that in the shots over the pool table in the slide show, I was able to get the camera right out over the center of the table. This is not pictured accurately, but was indeed achieved.


Overall, the AR performed extremely well. As one of the Pioneers I have put alot of time into how to make it work well for me. Luckily I was on the B-camera on RENT, so I was able to get to the truck to make modifications and work out issues, make cables etc. One such mod included mounting my Preston FF system to the bottom. This became critical in the quest to get as much mass away from the camera and down to the bottom in order to increase the working range of the AR.


I must add that my XCS sled took on the challenge most admirably. Greg Bubb did such an awesome job as usual by adding internal communication lines for the level sensors, and isolated power supplies to run the additional electronics needed. This leaving the Preston motor cables as the only externally run cables that come up from the bottom. This was not a problem at all as far as operating, and the benefits in mass distribution that added to performance, far out weighed the aesthetic down side of running cables from top to bottom.


The 2" post system is absolutely imperative since the post is no longer only in a vertical orientation but horizontal and anywhere in between. This exerts forces never before demanded from the post. In addition there is more mass hanging off the ends of your post, so it had better be a bomber connection. The fact that the XCS sled has the trim knobs at the bottom I found to be a great thing from the point of view of rigidity of the system. Howard made up a wonderful side to side plate (based on the old CP model) to be able to adjust the camera position within the AR cage. This has greatly improved getting the AR balanced. However, it doesn't quite fit in the AR cage, since it is the V1 and so I have made it work by tapping my XCS plate on to the bottom of it.


On that note. Howard has been working to the utmost of his abilities to get the AR up and working. I don't have his sled so I can't speak to that experience. But so far I have really enjoyed working with Howard on the AR.


My feeling is this: Howard is also a working operator. So is Greg Bubb. So was George Paddock. George decided to stop operating and devote his time to GPI. You can always usually reach him directly therefore. Greg and Howard both put out excellent equipment that is tailored to their own personal desires as operators. This you should understand when considering their equipment, since these guys are sometimes out working on set. It is this love of their work that keeps them in the field and therefore constantly analysing how they can improve their product. I consider this to be an huge asset.


Since this post is turning into somewhat of a smorgesboard I must also say how important my dialogue with Lynn Nicholson has been, whom Howard has licensed permission from in order to build the AR here in the US. Lynn's 10+ years of experience with The Alien project are invaluable.


The AR will certainly have some growing up to do, but I'd say this is like a 15 lb baby! Ouch!


Seriously, it worked very well for me on RENT. But much experience is necessary to stay on top of this beast and to get top notch performance from it. There is definately a learning curve, and as I have written before, the advanced nature of the AR will get you into trouble alot quicker than it will make you look good. So you need to know what you are doing. When there, the potential of the AR is still to be discovered. It is very exciting.



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Hi Will


Great post - thank you for sharing this with us. (hope you are well and busy)

I am very excited to see 'Rent' from what I saw when I was on set and the rushes it is a good looking film, with some excellent operating from both your self and the A cam (open scene on the 50' techno..)

I am still humming the track you were doing that night.

I must also point out that some of Wills shots, people will assume they are on the AR, but the are standard 'Steadicam' - just very well done.

I am very happy and proud to have Will as an AR poineer and his feedback was very useful.

Gregg also did a great job modding the sled for Will to the AR spec, and they worked togther very well.

I am looking forward to seeing the subway scene which I believe is all AR?

Are you going to be creditied as an "AR" operator?


Sorry I did not get to see you when you were over, but hopefully see you soon.


Thank you for sheading some light on the "rush64 post" it was very odd - we had no emails from anyone requesting this info. I don't think it was Frank (well I hope not) - But I would love to know who they are?


Take care mate and speak to you soon

All the best


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Thanks Will,


Im sure I speak for many people in saying your post is a super interesting insight.




I second that,










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Just another note on some of the things I discovered about the AR.


Howard is right in that we did the whole subway car scene with the AR (all hail the back-mounted vest!) - except for the opener of the scene which was a real subway in Brooklyn, NY.


We didn't know just how effective it would be, but in hindsight it would have been far more expensive and time consuming using conventional methods. The only way I can conceive of would have been to use a 30' or 50' Techno crane that would be able to extend down the length of the subway. To do this we would have had to chop off the end of the subway car to be able to place the base of the crane in a useful position. Even then the physical size of the crane arm would have been very tricky to navigate all the way through the car. Then to turn the scene around and look back in the opposite direction would have been a huge ordeal. We could have easily spent 3 days shooting the scene this way. With the AR we did so in 2 days and got tons of coverage.


In the pictures you can see how we were able to place the camera close to the wall, above the passengers' heads, underneath the hand rail, and kick the bottom of the sled out to the side to avoid hitting the passengers' knees. This was constantly the challenge that the AR met so well, being able to maximise the useable space of the confined subway car. Even on the odd occasion that I bumped something, it was totally amazing how little it would show up in the frame since the sled would obviously react to the bump but the camera would stay level and pick up little to nothing of what had just happened to the sled.


I was also thrilled with how easy it was to get the camera into the correct position for the coverage of the scene. One guy is standing singing to his 3 seated friends. So getting the camera into that seated position we thought we would shoot conventionally with an O'Conner head on a Hi-hat, until I ended up sitting down and seeing how easy it was to operate from this position. There was alot of tilting involved as the standing character would come close then go away. This would have been close to impossible to achieve with a Steadicam in say normal low mode since by tilting up so much the top of the sled (the batteries in lo mode) would have hit the back wall very quickly. I hear all the Ultra owners saying "not with the tilt head", but that too would have been prohibitive with the hand rail above and the confined space. With the AR in mid-mode I was able to get the camera right next to our actors, exactly where it needed to be and remain very comfortable myself. Fantastic.


On a technical note I know it seems like I am portraying everything as 100%, but as I said before, the AR is like a highly developed new born. I would re-boot the electronics almost every take in order to eliminate error building up in the level sensors that shows up as level 'drift'. This I believe is the flip side to having very fast sensors, you forego a certain amount of accuracy. You can steer around this for the most part by constantly re-booting and therefore keep level drift to less than 1 degree. Howard I know is aware of this and is constantly re-writing the software to optimize the relationship between the speed and accuracy of the sensors. The V-2 will hopefully iron out some of the error problems and also give us the much awaited manual overide that will enable us to roll the camera without having to roll the sled.


I also forgot to mention in my first post that Fred Davis was very helpful in getting me lots of custom length cables sorted out.



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Wow, I just had a try-out with this newest toy for us Steadicam-geeks!


That´s a whole new world opening suddenly, don´t think for one minute that it will be easier because you don´t have to concentrate on level......there are many more new movements that the body, the arm and your arm/hand/wrist and your feet have to make and they all have to work together flawlessly or it looks ....not nice.


Very challenging and fun. Steadicam was always like "dancing with a stick" but this is even more a ballet forpost-130-1126292696_thumb.jpg man and gear!


Here is Mark de Blok trying it.

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