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I thought I’d take a moment to share little bit of history which might be fun. Scrounging through some really old photographs I came across a couple of beauties dating back to around 1989. As aged as they appear, they indicate a counterculture that was taking root as Cinema Products struggled to understand the needs of the Steadicam Operator. While still living in South Africa, I met some aeronautical engineers whose day job was designing the Heads Up Display for the Rooivalk Attack Helicopter. As the technologies that applied to Steadicam covered some common ground, it seemed like a good place to start. I explained some of the quirks that we endure with the Steadicam, particularly its desire to depart perfect level when in the hands of a faltering and inadequate operator. As a member of that club, I pitched the idea of a cradle coupled with level sensors and a stepper motor that would take away our pain. It took a few months and these photos are the only evidence of what we came up with. It was a rough prototype but mechanically it worked pretty well as long as I kept the post travelling from left to right. The hitch in the giddy-up was the processing speed along with the level sensors of the time. As a concept it was limited, but the best sensor of that era, which might have improved our chances and which were probably only the equivalent of the sensor that was put in the very first iPhone, would have cost us around $18,000. If I remember correctly, it worked on the basis of a harmonic or acoustic signal that would distort as it departed level. After playing with the prototype for a while, it was clear that we had a long way to go.

 When I arrived in the USA and got into similar discussions with George Paddock, the challenge seemed more achievable. We were sadly humbled as we endured however.  It is one thing to produce a rough prototype, but to consider putting it out to the world is another thing completely. Over the years we tried three times to launch the project but each time we encountered another problem and I have to say that the cash required was somewhat daunting. In a strange way, I was divided between the elegance and exclusiveness that lived within the Steadicam, while at the same time trying to create what amounted to be both a shortcut and a crutch. One of our attempts was in the era of Lynn Nicholson’s development of the Alien, and with the amount of money he had already invested, we felt that it would be underhand and deceptive to proceed with a vaguely similar concept. A group of us had been invited to a private demonstration of the Alien in a motel room near Universal and essentially Lynn demonstrated that he had solved the challenge of Camera Orientation according to planet earth.  As the years past and the dust settled, we took one more stab at it and agreed to call it a day. It started to feel like we were in conflict our initial intention of keeping the PRO simple, clean and beautiful.

 I kept these two photographs which I carried with me when I settled in the USA on the off chance then I would find myself in a complicated conversation regarding the origination of the idea and the tricky issue of “Prior Art”. That may have been astute but as the years passed it became redundant. I'm also including in this collection a particular design that George and I approached along the way. We came to the conclusion that the arc of the leveling system actually needed to run in the inverse of what was conventional. When we mounted a camera and wore the Steadicam, we fully understood in about 2 seconds the concept of a mechanical system that has become un- coupled. That has to be one of my strangest Steadicam sensations I’ve ever felt, and thousands of dollars lay at our feet. It was with a certain amount of whimsy that I watched Chris Betz so elegantly achieve what had eluded myself and George for so long. It is one thing to tinker with prototypes, but to bring a product as complicated as the WAVE to a fickle and demanding market is a sign of incredible perseverance and fortitude. When George and I ran out of gas, others were better equipped to embrace the emerging technologies. What may have been telling, is that throughout the years we never came up with a name for it. The future is now saturated with camera stabilization that we couldn’t even imagine back in the 80’s and 90’s. Ironically, no matter how much technology is brought to bear, the best results still emerge from a neutrally balanced system and Garrett’s fingerprints can be found throughout.

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