Drew Janes and Seth Compton from Defy Gimbal were flying a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera on their G2 3-axis brushless gimbal on the floor of PhotoPlus Expo. We stopped them just long enough to find out their G2, for small cameras, and G5, for DSLR-sized cameras, are now shipping from the Arizona company.
A user on YouTube called ‘gimbalninja’ has been using it for Parkour:
Tiffen’s legendary Steadicam system has now been made super affordable to news and documentary shooter. For $499 US you will be able to buy the handheld version of the new Steadicam Solo, first seen at NAB earlier this year. It has a ‘proper’ Steadicam gimbal and has the option to be attached to a full arm and vest for an extra $1000 odd.
The system is small enough to travel with in a suitcase and is also lighter than a lot of the competition. It also converts into a monopod so you need to carry one less thing on your travels.
I’ve had a couple of weeks now to think about this year’s NAB show. It brought some truly stand out products that combined simplicity with technical awesomeness, which was good to see this after many years of over complex, not quite right designs.
Kessler is one company that I love because of their elegantly designed sliders and their new Pocket Jib Traveller is no exception (see video). The unit has been painstakingly designed to not only pack to as small a size as possible but it also has been made lightweight, thanks to the drilled sections in the body. Something no one else has even considered.
G-tech’s drive system is storage made simple. Their latest devices (see video) are highly proficient field drives, the larger of which uses a raid system for speed, and plugs into a base unit once you’re back in the office for super quick transfer speeds.
Rigs wise, it was nice to see Zacuto’s Recoil looking much improved (see video) and I love the ergonomics of their new shoulder pad. The restyled Tornado follow focus was also great. There was innovation from Movcam(see video), and Matt Allard was particularly impressed with their F55 rig. Top marks also go to Redrockmicro(see video) for their lovely little Gopro cage.
The highly anticipated Dietygear Mira loupe, shown to us by DP Sebastien Devaud(see video), is not cheap but really transforms the C300 screen into a high quality EVF. Teradek’s new wireless product line, meanwhile, includes the Bolt wireless SDI transmitters (see video) which have some really interesting options.
Away from large sensor devices, we have the Canon XA20 and XA25 (see video). Finally compact camcorders are getting the specs that they should have – amazing stabilisation, XLR jack packs, 20x lenses and SDI. It will be interesting to see how good these little cams are against the Sony NX30
Blackmagic pocket cinema camera
Blackmagic’s pocket cinema camera gets my top award for the show (see video). It’s a fantastic looking camera that most of us here are already pre-ordering. The one big question though is, can they deliver? Will they be able to ship sufficient quantities at launch? We will see in July.
Airbox inflatable soft boxes are such a good idea. Why did no one do this before now? These have been around for ages for strobes but with a cooler LED sources, they make perfect sense and combined with the latest, most powerful LED panels, like the Cineroid LM400 (see video), the results are very good.
Steadicam’s Solo was a big hit at the show (see video). The combination Steadicam and monopod still has the legendary construction, balance and smooth operation of the bigger Steadicam – it can be used on its own or with an Arm and vest. I can see it finding a home with many news shooters wanting something that packs in a suitcase. While the Movi was getting a lot of attention, I think it could actually be the Solo that finds its way into more real world shooters bags. The Solo is a fraction of the cost of Movi yet able to get 90% of the moving shots you might want to get.
On the lens front there were lots of new high end offerings – mostly anamorphic – beyond the reach of the average shooter. For the news and documentary shooter though, there was one interesting high end bit of info: Canon has a 35mm servo Zoom lens in development. No more info yet but let’s hope it is more affordable than the excellent but pricey Fujinons.
Zeiss NEX lenses
Perhaps more relevant were the newest Zeiss offerings in DSLR and NEX lenses. Working samples of both the new NEX range and their ultimate 55mm f1.4 were shown at the show. The 12mm f/2.8 and 32mm f/1.8 NEX lenses have working AF with cameras like the FS700 and FS100. The 12mm looks like a great option for solo Steadicam work. Even though it is primarily a stills lens the new 55mm f1.4 has a very cinematic feel; the focus is beautifully smooth and the sharpness is outstanding.
Convergent Design’s Odyssey 7 and 7Q are stand-out monitors and recorders (see video), with a great range of ‘a la carte’ options for users. The Odyssey 7Q is great news for Sony FS700 owners, too, as it is fully compatible with its 2K and 4K (compressed) formats.
DJI Innovations Phantom copter gimbal mount
DJI Innovations latest Phantom copter (see video) mounts a GoPro in a gimbal unit that stabilises the camera and also allows tilt control from the remote. This system can even be added to older Phantom models and really transforms the copter.
Freefly’s Movi rig is truly incredible (see video) and is undoubtedly one of this year’s highlights. You have to wonder if it will have the same kind of success as the Steadicam. For now though, costing around $15k, it is probably out of the news shooters reach.
Matt Allard talks to Pete Smith from Hexolux about their new LED lights that are focusable, stackable for a large bank of lights and have a high CRI rating that makes them behave like a regular tungsten light.
Matt Allard talks to Dale Backus of Small HD about the DP7 OLED monitor display. This unit features a 7.7in display with 1280×800 resolution and 100% of the NTSC colour gamut. It also boasts touchscreen with proximity sensors, HDMI, composite and component ports. It is fully programmable and has just about every feature you’d want from a field monitor. They also discuss the High Bright version, which can be seen clearly, without the need for a hood in almost any lighting condition.
Glidecam, the popular camera stabilization company gave us a look at a couple new toys they have brought to NAB 2013. Jonah Kessel looks into a new 3-axis gyro stabilization modification allowing Glidecam users to fly their cameras smoothly in cars or helicopters. Glidecam also demonstrated their new iGlide, a stablization device for iPhone, smart phones or hand held devices. The mobile steady cam will be available in most colors of the rainbow.
Interview shot by Chuck Fadely and Rick Macomberand.
Jonah Kessel talks to Vincent Laforet and Tabb Firchau from Freefly Systems about MōVi, a stablization system that Laforet calls “game changing.” Laforet had been building hype on his web site in the weeks before NAB 2013 about the device. With the announcement of the system, Laforet released a new short film titled “MoVi” with an accompanying behind the scenes.
While no one seems to be contesting the amazing footage, the comments section of Laforet’s blog are representative of an industry wide discussion happening: Is this product really a game changer?
Freefly describes their product as:
A handheld 3-axis digital stabilized camera gimbal, so advanced, it redefines the possibilities for camera movement. The heart of the gimbal is Freefly’s proprietary high performance IMU and brushless direct drive system. The gimbal is 100% custom designed in-house by our engineering team. No compromises were made to accommodate off-the-shelf brushless motors, motor drives or IMUs. Creating the gimbal from scratch allowed Freefly to precisely execute our vision for the next generation of stabilized camera gimbals. In creating this camera gimbal, we aim to empower a new era of stabilized cinematography. Freefly MōVI – “The New Moving Picture.”
Preorders for the system are expected to go on sale tonight with a $3,000 deposit and will ship in the fall of 2013. Smaller and larger models are also in the works.
See Freefly’s web site here and Laforet’s videos below.
Steadicam have announced what looks to be a really good solution for the shooter on the go. A combination of a steadicam and a monopod, which is incredibly well balanced and designed to cost less than the popular Pilot model. It can be used on it’s own, or with a Pilot arm and vest. I can see this being very popular with news and documentary shooters looking for a solution that fits in your suitcase.
Also launched was the Steadicam Curve, which is a mini-stabiliser designed especially for the GoPro. No pricing as yet, but certainly looks like a desirable piece of gear for the outwardly mobile. It will come in several colours and can also be used as a mini handgrip.
Talk Steadicam and most people think of The West Wing’swalk-and-talks or the guys you see on the sidelines of football matches, but it has a place in factual shooting too. I’ve always been fascinated by the look and feel you get and tried to use the lightweight Steadicam Merlin in some of my past DSLR news features.
Even so, I thought hard before paying out for Asia’s first Tiffen Steadicam Gold workshop. I’d previously considered doing a course but they’d always been far away. When my filmmaker friend Joseph Jang told me that there would be one in Malaysia, led by Steadicam legend Jerry Holway and inventor Garrett Brown, I figured I had to attend. It wasn’t cheap – but it proved well worth it. It was also the most fun I’ve had in ages.
One-on-one with Garrett Brown
The intensive five and a half day course was held at a resort in the Genting Highlands. There were twenty four students and seven instructors. Tiffen had a large range of Steadicams for us all to use, including top of the range models like the Archer 2, Ultra 2 and Phantom-V. The experience levels of the attendees ranged from novice to shooters already making a living from operating a Steadicam. We split into sub-groups of four students; mine comprised the very jovial Korean duo of Mr Kim (a regular Steadicam operator) and Mr Jeong (who is a full time TV news shooter) and the hugely entertaining Singaporean Vinod Varma.
Me and my homies: (right to left) Kim, Vinod, Jeong and me
Jerry set the pace from the get go – by the end of the first day we had all tried out full Steadicam rigs. The workshop was hands-on throughout and each day each instructor had an exercise or scenario that we had to learn to shoot with the Steadicam. We would rotate between instructors so that by the end of the day we had been through six different exercises, taking it in turns to fly the Steadicams under the watchful eyes of our instructors. Each morning and evening we had tutorial and theory sessions. It was pretty much like a boot camp! Exhausting.
Garrett Brown instructs the class
Garrett and Jerry gave engrossing presentations discussing their work on major Hollywood films like The Shining, Indiana Jones, Marathon Man, Johnnie Brasco and Rocky. I think I would have paid for the course just for these lessons in cinematic storytelling.
Garrett told us how and why he invented the Steadicam, and why he remains passionate about it to this day. He is convinced that the Steadicam offers the most natural representation in film and TV of how we actually see and move. He has a point – and says it much better than I would in these videos:
Garrett also trained us to use his latest rig the Tango. This is a combination of a Steadicam and a jib arm that can perform amazing moves from floor to ceiling.
Me learning to Tango under the instruction of Garrett
Jerry explained the physics of the Steadicam and had a multitude of practical pointers on how to operate correctly. He taught us how to set up a rig, how to hold it and how to operate in the missionary, Don Juan and Goofy positions. If you want to get into Steadicam the very first thing you should do is buy his book – The Steadicam Operator’s Handbook. It details all the theory we learned on the course and there is no more comprehensive guide to Steadicam around. All the students received a copy of the manual.
Jerry Holway - A maestro with a Steadicam
We also had an important lesson on good posture and safe working with Steadicam from instructor Chris Fawcett. I had always assumed that using a big Steadicam rig would be bad for your back, but Chris assured us that if done correctly Steadicam does no harm and can even improve your posture. He has a great write-up of his theories online here.
Steadicam vests - correct fitting is important
I found that I had pretty bad posture at the start of the course but with the help of all the instructors and their constant advice I found myself improving as the course went on. As my posture improved, so did my ability to control the Steadicam.
Coming from a news and documentary perspective it was great to see that not all the instructors came from a narrative cinema background. Instructors Rebecca (Bex) Wilson-Jennings and Phil Balsden shared their knowledge of covering live events with Steadicam and gave many valuable tips on how to work in the real world. I’ll be incorporating a lot of what they taught me into my daily work.
Korean instructor Mr Park worked us all very hard and showed us how to operate in a vehicle rigged with a Steadicam hard mount. That was lots of fun. We also learned to operate from dollies and in both high and low mode.
Instructor Park (R) teaches Anwar (C) and Vinod how to work from a vehicle
Steadicam on a dolly - lots of fun
Another thing that we were taught is to think about is how to use movement to tell a story, thinking about where the subject is within the frame and keeping it all flowing by anticipating the action. It became clear to me that Steadicam is not just a technical skill but also a highly creative one.
Jeong films Vinod being grappled by Mr Kim in one of our excercises
All our training was on full sized Steadicam rigs, but one other piece of equipment I have a new found respect for is the handheld Steadicam Merlin 2. I’ve had an original Merlin for about six years now, but never got on with it. By taking the principles I was learning on the larger Steadicams I now feel able to use the Merlin much better. It will certainly get used on some of my news assignments where I need to travel light.
Below is a short video from one of the training scenarios. I shot it with a Merlin while my fellow students acted out a scene set for us by Tiffen’s Robin Thwaites. The camera is a Canon XF105 set in full auto – obviously if I were doing this for real it would be in manual, but for the purposes of this fun exercise it was just fine. Hopefully you get an idea of just what the Merlin can do. You might recognise the actors as Mr Kim and Mr Jeong.
What was great was having so many enthusiastic students and trainers all working together with the common aim of improving their skills. All the students had an inspiring and rewarding time and they also became pretty damn good at operating a Steadicam. If you want to fly a Steadicam there really is no better way to get into it – this course will accelerate your learning and stop you getting into bad habits that are harder to correct down the line. I thoroughly recommend it.