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Great Rig Ideas For 25K?

Sean Theman

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Hello Amazing Operators!


Let me first start of by saying I have learned a lot from you all, even just by being a humble observer.


I am looking to invest in my first rig ever, I don't have any experience and plan on attending a SOA week training. I am of the mindset " Buy once, Cry once" and know for an absolute fact that I want to be a Steadicam Operator.


I want to invest 25k all in, Vest, Arm, Sled, Batteries, Storage, Etc. I prefer to go "New" because of payment options. My goal is to get a rig that allows me to fly as Heavy/Professional as possible. I know 25K is a little "light" in this world, but I'm hoping you more seasoned Operators have some ideas that can work for me.


I greatly appreciate any feedback that comes my way, I am simply a sponge.


Thank you,

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Hey Sean,

I'm sure others will far more knowledge will weigh in here, but if you're adamant about going new, given your budget, you should start by looking at Tiffen's Steadicam line (I personally fly an old GPI Pro Cinema HD rig so I don't know much about Tiffen's rigs).

A big factor in how heavy a build you can fly will depend on the arm. You might consider going new on the rig and vest and find a used arm with a high payload support. Six to nine batteries is probably a good place to start. Depending on what you end up flying (some rigs use two batteries on the lower electronics, others three), that will give you three rotations or four and a half rotations on batteries. Remember too that most projects will rent batteries from a gear house along with the camera package. "Professional" is a subjective term. Some think professional is Panavision, some Arri, others Red and all three have different weights.

Hope this helps.

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Thank you Maxwel, I highly value your input.


I am definitely open to a used component, if it means I end up with a more valuable rig. My main concerns with going used are, Lack of payment options, Unknown pre-existing issues in components, Warranty and forward compatibility.


Since I am new to this, some of my concerns regarding used may be "non-issues". If so I welcome some clarity on the matter.


I would really appreciate some specific model/part recommendations. I've looked at Tiffen, Pro, Xcs, Klassen, & Preston. But with my lack of knowledge/Insight I feel as if I'm looking at another language, especially in regards to the modular components and which I need vs those I don't.


I welcome more feedback from the knowledgeable Operators here, 




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Sean, you are so welcome. 

I bought my rig from a retired steadicam operator a few years back and it has served me well. No issues whatsoever. He did a great job maintaining his gear and as part of the purchase, he had the gimbal serviced before I took ownership, mostly because he was concerned about some play in the handle and yoke. 

You'll find that with the cost of gear, operators do a pretty good job of maintaining it. Some companies, like XCS (Owned by Greg Bubb) have an incredibly extensive record of any piece of gear ever sold that has a serial number on it. For example, I bought a used TB6 and he was able to tell me its build date, how many hands it has passed through and when it was serviced. Additionally, I'd say everyone here is pretty honorable when it comes to selling used gear too, considering how small the community is. Some might even be comfortable with setting up payment plans. 

XCS and Pro build their rigs to be modular. I believe Betz does as well. Can't speak on the others. There are some cross compatible components for each (While I have a Pro rig. My gimbal and post are both made by XCS). Every rig and manufacture has their pros and cons and every operator chooses their rig based on price and personal preference. 

Taking classes is going to be a good way to get an idea of what you want. Also talking to other operators and trying other rigs. I see you're in So Cal based on you avatar. See if there are operators in the area who will let you try their rigs. That will also help you decide on the vest and the arm.


Personally, I absolutely love my rig. That said, I also a little have XCS envy. I like the pro vest, it's lightweight and fits like a glove. I do find that I use my Klassen vest more often as the way it distributes weight is better for MY body.

I wouldn't worry too much about have a wireless FIZ in your kit just yet, but Preston I think is still considered industry standard. Arri's WCU-4 though is awfully neat.


Start by exploring the websites for each company and don't be afraid to reach out to them to ask questions. Then check around in your area to see if there are local operators to connect with. You'll also find A LOT of information within the forums if you continue to go digging. 


Best of luck!

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Sean, I agree with Maxwel! I started with a zephyr and then had an older GPI and now I have an Arri Artemis/ trinity. I would jump over to the for sale section and set up some notifiers. So when equipment is posted for sale you can get an email letting you know what’s for sale. I would buy used as this stuff gets expensive quick, and your 25k can go fast. 
Right now some one is selling a tiffen G70x for 11k pretty good deal for that arm. It’s what I use, I love it. Or find a G50x they are about 1/2 the cost of the G70x.

Sleds get listed all the time, but the good ones go fast. So you have to stay on it. Lots of old GPI rigs, I’d say start there if you can find one. They are solid and work well. Even the old ones. Just make sure they have been updated to HD.

batteries I recommend buying new, you never know how old ones where treated, or how many cycles are on them. Check out Batteries4broadcast! They are really good and inexpensive for a set of 4 and a charger and Kevin is really good to work with. The 2 other ops in my town use them as well.

happy hunting. 

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