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Aero 30 as learning rig

Simeon Geyer

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Hey guys, 

I’m literally just starting out my steadicam journey and came across an offer that has the Exovest, A30 arm and Aero 30 for a pretty good price compared to what it would cost new. I’m wondering if this rig would be a good option to start practicing at home without having to go to a rental every time? I’m really trying to get the hours in to get the basics down. I read somewhere that learning on a more lightweight sled/rig is transferable to bigger rigs and might even help as a bigger/heavier rig is a bit more forgiving?

I know the A30 arm and Aero 30 Sled will quite quickly be maxed out for use on actual shoots, but I could update/replace those when I get there. The Exovest I could keep using. I’m yet to check out the different vests in general to see which suits me best. But in case I like the Exovest, do you guys think this could be a good step?

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  • 1 month later...

Hey Mate, I'm in the exact same boat as I've (in the last 6 months) bought a used A30 rig with the intent of learning on it, primarily practising at home. It serves as a great way to learn the basics; balance, movements, a lot of trial and error.. all that stuff. Additionally, I would buy the Steadicam Operators Handbook as it's a super useful bible as you go about your stuff. I would say that you shouldn't underestimate how quickly the jobs will come your way, as I started getting asked to do music videos real quick, whereas like you I assumed I'd have a long time to train before stepping into it properly. If you optimise it correctly, the A30 can fly an Alexa Mini Classic or Mini LF (although close to pushing it on the LF) depending on lens choice and optimisation of camera accessories. I have my rig set up so that the sled with the monitor and single battery weighs 4.6kg, giving my 9kg left for total camera payload, coming to a total of 13.6kg or 30lbs. I also tend to bring a scale to set to ensure that the setup is of an appropriate weight just so as not to push the rig too hard. I've managed to run the Mini Classic with Arri mini motors (F + I) and Cine RT, with a mattebox (LMB4x5), rods, vlock plate and Bebop Micro on the back (definitely your best bet as they weigh nothing and last for ages), Canon FD primes and obviously taken off any top handle/EVF type accessory that wasnt absolutely necessary and it came in at around 8kg which was great. With the Mini LF I could create a similar setup with Canon Sumire (i think) primes on one job and Super Speeds (Zeiss) on another, although coming much closer to the max 9kg payload, and possibly on the last one slightly surpassing it. I will say that it's very important to liaise with your 1st AC's and DP's prior to the shoot to figure out what will be on the camera come shoot day, and definitely attend some sort of pre production with either of them so that you can build the rig and figure it all out. Recently I've found that even when maxed out, the arm is only at roughly half tension, which you can tell from where the bearings sit along those gaps at the start of each arm section.. as you add tension they move upwards and vice versa. Though I wouldn't recommend adding much more weight it does seem the arm may be capable of it, however the sled, particularly in the gimbal handle may not. I believe the bottleneck may lie in the pins that hold the different axis. If not that, the top stage clamp would possibly be a liability, as on the last one I found I could easily push the camera along the stage with the clamp locked. I read here yesterday that there is a small allen key slot somewhere that enables you to tighten it, so perhaps mine has just come slightly loose. I'll have a look tonight and see if that's true. One final point (and stitch-up) is that when optimised this way, the rig is extremely top heavy. In order to have an appropriate drop time (ish...), the gimbal handle has to be so close to the top stage.. basically as close as you can get it and still fit it into the docking bracket. I've recently (lazily) been ignoring the drop time and just balancing fore-aft and side-side and then spinning it to find my dynamic balance is very close to spot on, presumably because the rig is so top heavy with the gimbal so close to the top anyway. I'm yet to figure out a solution to this as I'm primarily a 2nd AC and working a lot at the moment. Anyway, this all means that the rig doesn't sit as high as you may want it went holding it, which hasn't been so much of a problem for me as of yet as I'm quite tall. You could work around this problem by user a longer post perhaps, maybe a 15cm one from the Tiffen store, but I've yet to try that. Also the gimbal locking knob I've found to be a piece of s***. Mine broke and sheared all of its threads, and upon buying a replacement from Tiffen realised that the thread size of the collar that goes around the post to tighten it is a different size to the knob that went in there... I took it to the engineer at Panavision and we couldn't really figure it out, aside from the fact that there was seemingly a heli-coil between the collar that the screw would bite into that would tighten it, but i still dont really know how that works... What I've done as a replacement and will continue to do since i can tighten it a LOT more, is to use a nut and a bolt to tighten the collar. Simply a bolt long enough to go through the collar and wide enough to fit fairly snug (although it doesn't bite) through the hole, and a nut on the other end to tighten it. I use a combination of a shifter and a 3mm allen T tool to tighen/loosen it. This does make it a fair bit harder to change it on the fly, and in terms of switching to low mode, which I hate, I would use pre production or any experience you have where the rig is maxed out to find where your high mode/low mode gimbal positions are, and mark them on the sled for future reference. Anyway, hopefully your knob doesn't break. I will also add, in terms of monitor choice, that recently SMALLHD have released their OS5 software for most of their monitors, notably the newish line of 7" touch monitors. A major takeaway from this is the addition of a horizon indicator for all of these models, with a great deal of customisation. I've just bought a Cine7 for this exact reason, as it's relatively cheap compared to say a transvideo monitor, you can mount it easily, and it has the one tool on it you need. It's also very bright (1800 nits) and nice and light. In future you'd be able to use it as an onboard operating monitor for production mode and get it onto jobs as a rental, so once you eventually, way down the line, move to likely a Transvideo 8", the smallHD would still be useful. Anyway that's all I have for now in terms of info (I think), so good luck mate! Hope this all helps. 

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Oh also, I used the Exovest and hated it... my opinion is the Pro vest from GPI is the way to go, Super comfortable, lightweight, contours perfectly to your body and doesnt get in the way. Really just the bees knees to me. Also tried a couple others, Klassen Flex and the Tiffen whateverit'scalled vest (cant remember). All fall short of the pro vest IMO. ONE MORE THING.. the threads in the underside of the top stage that are supposed to be for the weights can be used to attach a cheese plate that comes out forwards under the lens. I use this with a cinelock as a way to mount a 5" low mode monitor and it works great. I simply clip it on when i need it and re-balance. Oh and there's a company that does 3d printed bits for Steadicam, though for the life of me I can't remember the name, I'll come back here if I do, but they do a little Y bracket or yoke for a monitor that's made for the Zephyr or Aero. Far superior to the one supplied with the rig since you can mount the monitor from the sides and get it further forward. Cheers.

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