Steadicam work in Paris

Posted by on Jun 2, 2012 in Film | No Comments

Short clip from a music video shoot in Paris. Working the Steadicam Merlin with DSLR Video camera. Getting better but definitely is a skill that needs a lot of practise. This is from the courtyard entrance to the Louvre on the left side. This clip features music from the Bolts. The final video will have the actual soundtrack.

Now that I have a moment I thought I would mention a few thoughts about the Merlin. Firstly, I have only been using this for a week and a half so my experience and skill level at anything Steadicam is limited. Having said that, the Merlin is effective at steadying hand held shots and you can achieve some level of success at getting dolly and jib like shots in your footage. What it excels at is portability and being discrete. These are two things that were paramount in planning gear for this shoot in Paris. With little crew and no permits there was no possibility of strapping on a large body rig without drawing too much attention your yourself. The Merlin looks like an elaborate tripod like device and, other than a few curious looks, have basically been ignored.

As far as balancing the camera, the Merlin requires a bit of effort but does do a good job of steadying abrupt side to side motion when balanced properly. I tried a variety of configurations and ended up preferring a set-up with a one second drop. In my experiments I found anything more than one second made the rig top heavy and unstable. With a zero drop time the rig was bottom heavy and the drag on the bottom weight made abrupt side to side motion less perpendicular. Again, this is what I found in my experience.

The problem with the Merlin is that it is prone to a lot of boat rocking side to side and up and down. It is difficult to mitigate this in operation and, as such, one struggles to get the desired camera move without excessive motion. You can see this happening in my clip above. Although I have never tried other Steadicam rigs I would imagine, assume, this is much easier to achieve with more elaborate rigs. My thought is that this would be primarily due to the increase in weight. I think most of the swaying problems with the Merlin would be taken care of if it mounted a larger and heavier camera, thus allowing more bottom weight. This would make it less prone to wind and sudden shifts in motion that send it moving in all directions. Again, this is just my theory as I have never used larger rigs.

The Merlin has certainly proven useful in this Paris shoot. Mostly for its portability but also for not having to shoot everything handheld or on a tripod.

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