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April, 2015

  • The most important thing to remember as you unbox and assemble your Steadymaker 3-Axis Gimbal, or indeed any other stabilizer (although why on earth would you buy one from someone else? :P) is that your stabilization issues aren’t permanently fixed.

    As powerful a tool as these machines are, they do not solve all your problems, you are not suddenly ‘reborn’ as a consummate professional , the oscar for cinematography isn’t going to be thrown in your direction anytime soon. However, the 3-axis gimbal stabilizer goes a long way to cleaning up shakey moving footage, as the following clip shows…

    So, apart from what you saw, what else can be done?

    Well, practice makes perfect.

    Take it out for dry runs, set yourself a series of tasks…(filming from a variety of positions, move up to, and around people and objects.

    Grab a friend and follow them around in the street…better yet, follow them around indoors (nothing will train you faster than manouvering a stabilizer around tight confined indoor spaces).

    Try a variety of ground conditions, up and down stairs, over rough terrain.

    Become familiar with it’s strengths, and more importantly, limitations, so that you know the best times to utilize (and avoid) the stabilizer.

     

    So, you have arrived at the shoot, you have set up your stabilizer, what can you do to maximize your time there?

    For any shot required, take a test run (or two) so you are familiar with the terrain, the shot, what is needed for the take.

    Two hands are always best. These machines aren’t light. Unless you have an overhead support system (more on that in an upcoming video) then you will rapidly tire. The first thing that will suffer will be your form, and the footage will reflect that. Preserve your energy for the takes.

    One hand is great for low angle shots, but my suggestion is, keep that for short takes, with small movements. Unless your stabilizer is very well tuned, you maximize the risk of needing significant post production with long one handed takes. One suggestion is, use it like you would if your camera was in a slider. Small steady tracking shots around a subject, movements that would take more finesse.

    Be inventive. You have in your hands a fantastic machine. You can put it in crazy angles, you can hand it off to others, you can remotely control where it looks…don’t be afraid to try new, unique shots with it that couldn’t have been done in any other way.

     

    Your stabilizer is a tool…a powerful one, but just another tool in your selection of tools, a way of showing visual information, one amongst many options in order to portray what is happening. The real skill and talent comes from you. Go out there and make something wonderful.

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  • Stabilization did not begin with The Steadicam, but it is a good place to start with the modern era of steadying footage while on the move. This technology was a huge stride forward in terms of both portability and stabilization. The era began with one man called Garrett Brown. It is a testament to his design that his invention is in wide usage in modern cinema and television, despite the rapid evolution of camera technology.

    The first movie use of the steadicam, Bound For Glory stands up well even with modern Steadicam usage, combining a crane shot with a tracking shot.

    Additional links:

    Refocused Media has put together a fantastic visual representation of some of the best STeadicam shots in movie history. It is far from a complete guide, but it is a great way to showcase the artform.

    SteadiShots is a fantastic resource for an archive of Steadicam shots in the movies, showcasing camera operators. Easy to navigate.

    Garret Brown‘s own words. Straight from the inventor’s mouth. Still alive, still innovating the medium.

    Wiki entry detailing the history of the format.

    One of many great interviews with the creator that you can find on the internet.

    A little more about the usage and techniques HERE.

     

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