Weds 28th Sept
DAY 1: Learning how to set up the Steadicam.
Joe Bullen began by teaching us how to set up the large Steadicam rig mounted with the F55. At first there seemed like a multitude of parts but after a while it all seemed to fit in to place.
Components of the Steadicam:
The Vest (see bellow) which is comprised of a velcro adjustable harness which allow it to fit any body type comfortably. The straps fit around your hips and shoulders which means the bulk of the weight is put on to the core of the operators body making it feel much lighter and manageable than it initially appears. The padding and cross front and back straps are essential in balancing the rig correctly, allowing the operator to stand comfortably. There should be no space between the vest and operator or it will be an incredibly painful experience.
The Sled (see bellow)supports the camera. It hangs by the gimble on a mechanical arm which is comprised of various parts itself.
The Stage (see bellow)is the area where the camera is mounted and is home to the power/video connectivity which is ergonomically design for the operator to reach comfortably.
The Post (see bellow)allows the operator to extend or shrink the rig to different sizes in order to achieve different kinds of shots using different mounts. Telescopic posts can dramatically extend the camera height.
The Monitor (see bellow)is used to allow the operator to see what they are doing. In the 80’s/90’s the monitor screen used to be a green colour because it was easier to see in bright lights. However a new monitor screen has been developed in colour, which in fact displays an even brighter/clearer image when light hits it.
The Arm is the link between the vest and the sled, bringing the rig together as a whole. The arm mimics that of real human parts: the shoulder, upper arm, elbow, forearm and wrist.
For our graduation films we will be using the smaller rig so Sian (an ex student and winner of the best Steadicam operator of the year at NFS) taught me how to set that up using the C300. The c300 is far too light to use even on the small rig, its incredibly hard to balance without putting loads of weights on it.
The large rig is incredibly heavy (nearly 5 stone) and my knees began shaking after ten minutes of use. The smaller one is slightly lighter but still tough to manoeuvre as much smaller and less stable so has a lower mass. I finally understand the different levers which adjust which way the arm moves ones its on you. The silver wheels
of the smaller rig are for adjusting the side to side movement of the arm where as the black knobs
affect the forwards and backwards movement. When adjusting the silver wheel the top one should be the one you loosen and the bottom one should be in more with about two threads on show. With the black knobs it would be the opposite way round so the top one in more and the bottom you loosen more. This sounds relatively simple but can become incredibly confusing once the rig is on and you have to loosen threads form a different angle. Joe had set up different tests for example we had to follow a line of tape keeping the x’s in the centre of the frame. We also were to step over apple boxes keeping the x in the centre of the frame. One of the most difficult tests was following the lines of a small square on the wall using only your fingers but keeping your body in the same spot. It was all about control and keeping the lightness of your fingers and trust in the arm of the Steadicam. This test was far more difficult using the smaller rig as small movements affect it much more drastically the large rig.
I was absolutely exhausted by the end of it but really eager to just keep practising.
Here are some more photos of me getting used to the rig and working on some of the tests (The large rig was far to big for the majority of us so we had to improvise using a pillow to fill in the space between the lower back and the vest.)
Its essential but difficult to remember not to firstly, lift the weight of the rig with your right arm but to allow it to settle and a point where the bionic arm supports it and secondly, to not grip with your left hand but to touch your finger tips lightly against the pole and only adjusting them when you want to pan or tilt.