Subscribe to our email list for the latest promotions & updates. | Our response to Covid-19

FlySteadicam News & Blog

You can keep up to date with us for 2024 by clicking the EVENTS tab above, or scroll down for a summary
Gold Workshop, Gran Canaria
Euro Cine Expo, Munich
Media Production Show, London
Jakob Bonfils, Gold Workshop, Gran Canaria
Chris Fawcett & Vaky
Silver Workshop Feb 2023

What are we up to next....

 

Upcoming Events

News Articles, Reports and Interviews
Click the headers below for more info:

Steadicam Gold Workshops - Marrakech, Morocco & Tuscany, Italy - March&April 2023 - Review

Marrakech or Tuscany for Steadicam students? – Tough choices

By Mel Noonan-StylusMC

Tiffen, the U.S. company behind Steadicam®, Tiffen filters, Lowel lighting and other high end production products has built a reputation for providing outstanding Steadicam training workshops in great locations, but choosing which one sometimes makes a tough choice for potential attendees.

March saw the first ever Steadicam Gold Workshop to be run in Morocco, held at the impressive Riad Sirocco hotel complex in Marrakech. It not only provided great opportunities for training scenarios, but also included a pool to cool off when work was finished and a wonderful restaurant serving tasty local food, all just a short walk away.

Students included local Moroccan camera operators and those flying in from the Netherlands, UK, Spain, Italy and elsewhere. The instruction team was headed up by cinematographer / Exovest inventor Chris Fawcett, and included Richard ‘Vaky’ Mallaby, Evrim Kaya, Giovanni Gebbia, Robin Thwaites, and special guest Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown. The wrap party, always a high point,included certificate presentation and entertainment from a band of traditional Moroccan musicians.

Then closely following in April came the Steadicam Gold Workshop in Tuscany, Italy, organised by Diego Allegro and Isabell Fabel. The beautiful and historic Castella di Gargonza provided a stunning locale for training in and around the medieval stone walls and cobbled walkways. In the evenings the group enjoyed fine local food in the hotel restaurant.

Students included local Italian camera operators together with attendees from the Netherlands, UK, Spain, Portugal, South Korea, Mexico, Poland, Ukraine and more. The instructor team was headed up by Chris Fawcett, with Evrim Kaya, Jakob Bofils, Giovanni Geba, Danny Hallett and via video-link this time Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown.

For both venues Steadicams used were all Steadicam M-2 systems loaned by UK’s Tiffen International in various configurations as well as a great selection of grip equipment for the vehicle rigging day.

As always the workshops culminated in the inevitable high spirited wrap party and certificate presentations in the restaurant.

A Steadicam Gold Workshop is an intensive learning experience for the participants starting on day one with basic knowledge and then transitioning into a shot-based experience where each of the instructors designs and takes charge of a short sequence. The students are formed into small groups and each group takes on the challenge of each shot during the day allowing them close access to the instructor’s knowledge and skills whilst attempting to produce an excellent resulting sequence. Evenings are taken up with lectures, viewing and Q and A's filling up pretty much all waking hours. Gold workshops are usually residential for all, allowing the training to continue into the evening.

There is usually a mix of attendees, from students and camera operators at all levels, as well as camera department people like focus pullers, then Steadicam operators from early to well established, and sometimes DoPs and directors expanding their knowledge of Steadicam and what it can bring, all of which makes a great mix of camaraderie and new friendships found from the full-on days and evenings.

Ab Gulten was an attendee of the Marrakech workshop, his roots in Turkey, but now based in the Netherlands. Excited by cinematic images since childhood he became a cinematographer five years ago but Steadicam was always there in his mind.

“I didn’t know where to start, but researching I came across the Steadicam Gold Workshop. I was very excited and signed up, not knowing what to expect. I arrived in Marrakech and the adventure began. Full and long days,interesting lectures, super tasty food, friendly and experienced teachers. I have learned a lot. I think it would be impossible to use a Steadicam professionally without following a workshop. I made good connections with other students. Thanks to this experience I came out confident and have already ordered my own Steadicam M-2.”

Also attending the Marrakech workshop was Peter Demetris, a UK Steadicam owner/operator and director based in London. “I booked the Tiffen Gold course because I really wanted to immerse myself in the world of Steadicam operating, and what better way to do it than spending a whole week with a group of experienced operators and other like-minded students? The weather in Morocco promised much needed March sunshine, and the added bonus was a chance to meet Garret Brown himself.”

“The course was really well run with an excellent instruction team which included Robin Thwaites, whose knowledge of the Tiffen system is unrivalled and when it comes to the Volt, he is the Guru!”

“An added bonus of the course was meeting and learning with 19 other operators and sharing our experiences of the training days and tricks that the instructors had passed on. Evening meals at the hotel were like a United Nations gathering with up to five languages being spoken whilst sharing delicious Moroccan tagines and couscous.”

“Peers and clients alike recognise the financial and time commitments made in signing up for these workshops and this reflects positively on the operator. Personally, even though I had undertaken previous Steadicam introductions and training I felt I left Marrakech a more accomplished operator and in a better position to fine-tune my skills. I would highly recommend the Tiffen Gold Course to anyone who is serious about becoming a Steadicam operator.”

Alex Kingston, a UK based Steadicam operator who signed up for the Tuscany workshop, sent this thank you mail to the organisers.” I just wanted to thank you for the Gargonza workshop, it was honestly one of the best decisions I made in my career (second to deciding to become a Steadicam operator). It covered all the items and tasks I was seeking to clear, but went even further answering problems and techniques I hadn’t even thought about.”“Even though the strike has impacted the amount of productions and it being a slow year already, I am very grateful to have been able to find some work already since the workshop and have noticed small improvements already! Looking forward to getting even better and perfect the craft even more with all the lessons learned during that week.”

“I can’t thank you enough for what you have organised, it has changed so much for me, and showed me the beauty and kindness of the Steadicam community! Looking forward to working in it for the rest of my career, if I am lucky!”

Booking now, a UK Steadicam Gold workshop in Oxfordshire, November 2023. Instructors include Paul Edwards, Peter Cavaciuti, Roger Tooley, Junior Agyeman, Martyn Porter, Danny Hallett, Robin Thwaites and special guest, Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown.

Book Now! - https://flysteadicam.tiffen.com/products/steadicam-gold-workshop-booking-page

Bristish Cinematography Special: https://britishcinematographer.co.uk/marrakech-or-tuscany-for-steadicam-students/

 

Tiffen’s Silver Steadicam Workshop at The Bull, Gerrards Cross Nov 2022 - Attendee's Review

-the attendees of our Silver Workshop in November 2022, share their thoughts on taking the course – interviews by Mel Noonan - stylusMC

Last November 2022, 11 individuals who’d signed up to have expert tuition on handling the latest
Steadicam rigs turned up in winter gear for the three day immersive course. The Instructors were Robin Thwaites, Tiffen’s Intl. Dir. of Sales, Danny Hallett, Dir. of Sales, Prof Markets, and Paul Edwards, one of the UK’s top Camera/Steadicam operators.

Some of the attendees give their names here, their status, and talk of their experience of the course:

Kit Bessant
I’m a full time film production student at Ravensbourne, my career so far has involved Camera Trainee, PA and SA work. Ideally I‘d like to be able to Cam Op, 2nd AC, 1st AC and eventually progress to Steadicam Op.

Why did you decide to participate in the Steadicam Workshop?

I’ve always had an interest and admiration for Steadicam, and since beginning studying cinematography at university, Steadicam has become more feasible as a career for me in the industry. As such I knew that my first step would be to take a Steadicam Silver Workshop to get some first hands on experience with industry standard rigs.

What did you learn about working with Steadicam from the course?

I learnt how many subtleties and nuances there are to operating Steadicam effectively, and the physical challenges that Steadicam exerts. It takes a lot of practice and after my three days, I feel competent but definitely in need of more practice.

What was the most surprising thing that you found out about Steadicam?

How little the operator is meant to control the sled with their hand, it’s all in the hips.

Has doing the Workshop changed your thinking about Steadicam in any way?

The workshop has demystified the Steadicam equipment, and how to begin in this profession.

What did you think about how the Workshop was run?

I thought the workshop moved swiftly and efficiently, with enough time to understand everything that was said. The instructors were full of knowledge and helpful tips, and really took the time to get to know us. Their advice was invaluable.

Amy Yeats

I work in the camera department, mainly on feature films as a 2nd Assistant Camera. I have been in the field since 2009 after studying film in South Africa for 3 years. I would like to move on up now and am going to pursue being a Steadicam and camera operator.

Why did you decide to participate in the Steadicam Workshop?

A Steadicam Operator that I work with suggested I give it a try as I am looking to move forward with my career in camera.

What did you learn about working with Steadicam from the course?

I learned that it is physically possible for me to do Steadicam and that in order to do so, I will need to put in a lot of time and practice as much as I can in order to finesse the technical skills learned on the course. And more excitingly, that I really enjoy it.

Did you find Steadicam difficult? Compare the first day to the last day.

Initially yes. It felt quite foreign at first, but the more I pursued, the more comfortable I felt and I was able to understand where I was going wrong which I think is quite a positive place to be after a 3 day course. With practice, I believe it will feel a lot more natural and seeing the progression from day 1 to day 3, I’m confident of this.

What did you think about how the Workshop was run?

I think it is a solid introduction to Steadicam with a good amount of theory and practical experience. The fact you can progress so much in 3 days suggests to me that there is a good balance between the two. I really enjoyed setting up scenes and applying the exercise drills to actual operating.

Do you think that you will go on to make Steadicam your career?

Yes, it will take a lot of practice but it is something I’d like to pursue.

Jose Armengol

I have been working in the Film industry for 10years doing a combination of VFX and Camera work. I am now on the path to pursue my dream of becoming a cinematographer and Steadicam will be part of my toolkit to find a good rhythm and flow within the stories I work on.

Why did you decide to participate in the Steadicam Workshop?

I wanted to learn more about the art of Steadicam. I have been interested in trying this out for a long time and was never on time to get a space on this course. I love the long Steadicam shots in films and how they can contribute to stories.

Did you find Steadicam difficult? Compare the first day to the last day.

I found that the Steadicam was more comfortable to wear as the days passed. The weight was not an issue. The hardest part was to keep the collective focus of all the students to take the exercises seriously. Also, the fact that we had to keep re-adjusting vest and arms to the users (standard to goofy) helped me to get better understanding of how the rig needs to be on me.

What was the most surprising thing that you found out about Steadicam?

I found it more intuitive to operate as instead of using motorised gimbals. The action on operating is immediate and very responsive. It was easier to move wearing the rig and maintain good spacious awareness when filming moving subjects. It was also amazing to learn how the Volt stabiliser works and operates.

Would you consider taking a Steadicam Gold Workshop?

In the near future I would love to attend a Gold Workshop. I would love to train more with developing my Steadicam cinematic language and get some experienced rigging onto vehicles. The Gold Steadicam Workshop sounds particularly interesting as it is longer and 100% all about Steadicam from the minute you wake up. The thought of sharing the passion for this craft with other operators makes it another incentive to commit to a Gold Workshop as I am all up for sharing knowledge and experience with other operators.

Brian Whar

I have a degree in Fine Art, worked as an artist for 5 or 6 years exhibiting worldwide and at Tate Modern amongst others. Took a bit of time off working, then got back into my first love, photography, and did a post-grad, and worked as photographer. I plan to pursue camera stabilisation work for the next 6-10 years.

Why did you decide to participate in the Steadicam Workshop?

I’ve worked as a photographer for the past 11 years and over the last 4 have slowly moved to more video.

I’ve used a Ronin Gimbal for the past 3 years, recently bought the Tiffen Steadimate and saw training as a Steadicam operator as a natural progression.

What did you learn about working with Steadicam from the course ?

There’s a wide-range of learning on the course and the instructors did a great job simplifying it as being based around preparation, practice and determination.

Firstly the technical, setting-up properly and thoroughly in advance possibly being the most important aspect before you’ve even loaded the rig on your arm.

And then that once have the full rig in action it’s evident that less is certainly more regarding the steering of the sled and camera.

Most the core principles of learning are fundamental and universal for operating the rig however the fine-tuning idiosyncrasies that each Steadicam operator has for their personal preference were only then advised and taught.

Did you find Steadicam difficult? Compare the first day to the last day.

Like anything worth doing, it was difficult as first and got less so after accepting this fact.

The more difficult something is, the more gratifying it is when one sees any advances of competence.

I found the first day very much different to the last - physically and even more so mentally.

The first day was almost like unlearning any pre-conceptions I may have already had then acknowledging the difficulties in order to make them not so.

It felt like a case of incremental bit by bit of improvements throughout the course which obviously contributed to my level of achievement seeming like giant steps comparing the first day to the last.

What was the most surprising thing that you found out about Steadicam?

It’s hard in all the ways I thought it would be easy and easy in all the ways I thought it would be hard. I originally thought the meticulous tick-list of preparation of balancing, adjustments and technicalities required before use would be a little daunting but it isn’t - and I thought the actual use of the rig in action would be more rigorous and require more strength and control…and it doesn’t.

Has doing the Workshop changed your thinking about Steadicam in any way?

It felt like the last, albeit large piece of the jigsaw required for practising by myself.

With the skills taught plus the encouragement and constructive guidance I now feel both mentally and physically competent enough to develop my skills in my own time.

I’ve read the Steadicam Operators Handbook and watched plenty of video tutorials, and nothing beats being hands-on with the kit it’s self, however even more so was the guidance and advise from the instructors and their vast amount of experience and knowledge.

What did you think about how the Workshop was run?

I came away with pages and pages of notes, and I had a general feeling of enthusiasm running through the course, that remains with me now.

Each step throughout the course was broken down into bite-sized advice only relevant at that point, therefore the learning didn’t ever feel overwhelming and daunting.

All the teaching and learning was presented clearly and what felt like the exact right order relevant to what came before and after, all explained in a simple, friendly, effective manner. Proper value for money.

Yichao Chen

I have been working in senior positions of the Camera Department since 2018 in China. My expertise spans commercial work, documentary, indie films and micro-budget projects, with special focus on fashion and advertising. In addition to professional work, I am also earning a Master’s Degree in Filmmaking at the London Film School. For the future, I hope to enter the film and television industry and become a member of the camera department in the UK.

Why did you decide to participate in the Steadicam Workshop?

How to use Steadicam correctly and what it can do is fundamental for my career, and the Workshop is a fast track way to learn.

What did you learn about working with Steadicam from the course?

That Steadicam is all about balance instead of force. I don’t need to use brute force to control it. It’s a combination of skill and technique. This is just like being a friend with Steadicam, grasping the distance and discretion, and then being able to cooperate with each other.

What was the most surprising thing that you found out about Steadicam?

It is very friendly to people who are light and not strong. Usually, some operators I know have lumbago due to Steadicam, but I found that it is actually the wrong posture that would be the cause.

Has doing the Workshop changed your thinking about Steadicam in any way?

At the beginning, my understanding of Steadicam was limited to missionary shot. However, I learned different skills of Steadicam in the workshop. It is an efficient and fast piece of kit, and can change at will, and skillfully complete all kinds of difficulties.

What did you think about how the Workshop was run?

Clearly and efficiently. Master the core concepts through practice and preaching.

Do you think that you will go on to make Steadicam your career?

Yes, Steadicam will appear in my career. I don’t necessarily need to operate Steadicam, but knowing and understanding Steadicam provides another option for me in designing shots.

 

Interview with Max Zaher, professional Steadicam/Camera operator based in Germany 

Interview with Max Zaher, by Mel Noonan, Stylus Media

Q: You ordered and used the very first Steadicam M-1 in Europe. How has the experience been?
The experience has been great. I’ve been working with a couple of other rigs before. After flying the M-1 with the G70x arm I wanted to have it, and ordered it right away when it was available. I never looked back. There was not a single time I felt that using another sled would have been the better option. There has never been a challenge that I couldn’t master with it.

On one shoot a while back we had to send our gear ahead to the next location, and so we rented another rig to keep shooting. This gave me the chance to really work with another system, but then I was only more convinced by the M-1.

Q: You have a three section post - do you use the extra extension very often?   When you do use it, can you tell us why and what difference it makes for your work.
I got the three section post also quite early and I believe it was, as well as the sled, the first one delivered. I needed it because I had to shoot people on horses while being on their eye level. We were also doing OTS shots over people sitting on horses to people walking alongside. The three section post was very helpful and I couldn’t have done it without it. There’s been four movies now where I used it for shots on horses. Besides that I often use it for very low Low Mode shots and when I use an Omega or something like a very heavy camera setup for which the post needs to be extended. It is quick to set up because I usually leave the monitor on the middle section so it doesn’t have to be mounted and adapted to another section.

Q: When and how do you use the tilt stage?
I like to keep the post as vertical as possible in case I need to tilt up or down while being on the move. Panning around while being tilted up in a bigger angle would, with the tilt stage in use, then be closer around the nodal point instead of a concave move. On many occasions I also just don’t have the space for the sled to be strongly tilted while panning. There could be a frame, a flag or a car right behind you, so the tilt stage will give you some more space because of the more vertical post.

Q: The Volt stabiliser came later; did that change anything to do with your operating technique? Is it something you have been using now for much of your work?
That is a very good question, because I think of the volt like an electronic drop time that could be isolated to the roll and tilt axis. So no, I don’t think it did change my operating style. I usually set the motors quite low, especially on the tilt so that the sled could still fly freely and I could feel every bit of movement. I always adjust the settings so that I have the most of it for the shot that needs to be done.

Q: Are you still using the M-1 rig as it was delivered or have you made any changes to it and why?
Since my M-1 was the first one and some little things have changed, it is not the exact original any more. I sent it in at some point and got an upgrade to the later version of it, but it was minimal. Never changed anything myself. It is fine as it is.

Q: Since you took delivery of your M-1, what do you think are the outstanding jobs you have done and why were they outstanding?
I wouldn’t want to name only one or two. I always give the job everything I’ve got and do my very best. It would be unfair to judge. Every job, feature or TV, horses, children, cars, whatever, presents its own challenges and every movie has its own rhythm, style, etc. On some sets you are always on the move and do all the crazy things; on others you work slowly and move almost imperceptibly. It‘s the story and the style that is important and it always needs to be done properly.

Q: Also in that time, cameras have changed quite a lot, some camera bodies have got lighter but there are also factors like some being more power hungry. I wonder if that has had an effect on the way you have to use the rig?
Well, every camera body as well as all the different weights possible have their own characteristics. A small body could still end up being heavy with bigger lens or vice versa. Also, smaller bodies are not necessarily more compact since they have to have even more accessories attached. If there is a newer challenge then it is to find a way to attach all those extra pieces in a way the camera isn’t too side or top heavy. Power has never been a problem with the M-1. It could feed 12 or 24 Volts and with the right battery system, with a third battery mount and adaptors you could easily power every system you need.

Q: You have had a great deal of experience now with Steadicam, Would you say you are still learning as each new job comes along?
It never stops. You either keep getting better or get more routine in some things or you ll be presented with a kind of shot that you haven’t done before. I mean it is part of being in love with the job. It is always different and there is always a new challenge.

Q: As a Steadicam operator do you actively operate the technical side of camera as well as compose and move?
It depends on the production you are working on and on the DoP; on what they hire you for, and how much input they need from you. If hired for a day as a Steadicam Operator, you might have to do nothing more than the core of your work, which is moving and composing, as well as creating the proper choreography that suits best to underline the drama.

Quite often I am hired to operate the A or B Camera as well as being DP of a 2nd Unit and be a Steadicam Operator if needed. In this case you need to be aware, and work with the options a particular camera system offers you. You might not need to push any buttons yourself, but you need to be the one to make decisions on settings and setups. It is a constant process to learn about the cameras and their options.

Q: In the last couple of years have you shot anything on film?
Unfortunately not, as sad as it is. I miss the sound and the smell of the film stock a lot.

Q: In the last couple of years have you worked outside Germany?

Yes, quite a a lot, at least once a year if not a couple of times every year. Travelling with the gear can present great challenges that I strongly underestimated when I started operating. You need to consider sizes and weights as well as the packing order of your cases when you buy your gear. I have a ton of different sized cases for different ways of travelling. Going by plane could be very different concerning the airline. If I travel with my own van I would pack up more conveniently to work out of it.
Travelling has always been my favourite way to work for a couple of reasons. You concentrate exclusively on the movie you are working on. You spend most of your time around the actual time on set with your colleagues, which is great fun, especially if they are locals. They would share their regional experiences with you and you learn about their way of working which could be very different. And, what is even best, you get to know the places you are travelling to much better than being a tourist. Filming took me to Iran, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and of course most European countries. This year I have already been to Czechoslovakia, Belgium and Spitzbergen. Some places you would never get to if you weren’t filming there.

Q: What is the production work situation now in Germany? Is there a lot of production going on?

The general situation is fine. There are a lot of productions going on and it doesn’t seem to slow down. In the main season it is hard to find people and you better book your guys a couple of months in advance. It is very individual, I guess, but I am in the lucky situation that I could usually choose between productions. There can be very hard choices.

Q: Did Covid affect your work or did you manage to keep working?
The only thing that happened was a 6 weeks break in the very beginning when no one knew what was coming. The production company came up with a strict Covid protocol and on it went. Other than that there was neither, less jobs nor less work. I guess I was a lucky one but nothing changed and there has been a lot of work since the industry understood how to work with a safe Covid protocol.

Q: What work do you prefer these days, feature films, television series, television drama, documentaries, sport,.and why?

I like to work on all sorts of fictional movies. Mini series are fine as well, and I have been on some great ones. Since streaming portals are getting more and more attention, those are being done a lot and they are a great way to extend a story as needed instead of squeezing it into a two hour movie. I like the story telling, and in the case of being an operator and a Steadicam operator, to underline the drama within a scene with the dynamic of the movement of the camera. I worked live on the sideline of an American Football game once, but figured that this is not for me. It is not as much fun for me to just follow an action. I am having fun creating the action.

Q: To finish off, how do you feel about about your role as a Camera operator/Steadicam operator, and what it brings to you?
I love my job. There is nothing that I would rather want to do. Being a Steadicam Operator, Camera Operator, 2nd Unit DP is the perfect fit to me in terms of creativity, technical aspects, work life balance, life style, just everything. I enjoy being on set every single day.

When I was starting as an Operator I didn’t take the choice of the rig lightly. I probably annoyed a lot of people by constantly asking questions and wanting to try out all the gear available. Now it feels like I made the right choice. There is no need to look into a new rig. I am very happy with my M-1 and the updates, like the Volt, as well as the service from Tiffen. 

Shooting the European international co-production The Seed in an underground station in Prague. We needed a couple of shots following the actor trying to run and hide before seeking help. We created a sequence where he walked fast looking for places to hide that we shot on Steadicam, and super close wide angle handheld shots while he rested, nervous and terrified.

Photo by: Karel Fairaisl

Everything you always wanted to know about Steadicam

https://www.redsharknews.com/production/item/3302-everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-steadicam

Everything you always wanted to know about Steadicam

Hiding behind the Steadicam Pilot is Tiffen International trainer and resident guru Danny Hallett.
8 minute read
Hiding behind the Steadicam Pilot is Tiffen International trainer and resident guru Danny Hallett.

Replay: We first published this a few years ago, but it is still relevant. An interview that first appeared in the GTC's magazine, Zerb. Mel Noonan talks to Robin Thwaites and Danny Hallet of Tiffen International about the Steadicam line, including options, usage and how to get started.

 

The Steadicam system of camera stabilisation has had a huge impact on cinematography and television since Garrett Brown invented the first version forty years back. Steadicam has affected the way stabilised images are used in film and television work and has introduced a whole different genre of shooting. The latest big rig, the M-1, is the seventh generation of Steadicam and embodies all the advances that precision engineering, technological advances, innovation and operator feedback has been able to bring to it.

Steadicam_instructor_Kat__Kallergis_with_the_new_Steadicam_M-1_and_the_Fawcett_Exovest-_a_Gold_Workshop_on_board_the_Queen_Mary_Long_Beach_California.jpg
Steadicam instructor Kat Kallergis with the new Steadicam M-1 and the Fawcett Exovest at a Gold Workshop on board the Queen Mary, Long Beach, California.

Robin Thwaites and Danny Hallett of Tiffen International have a combined forty years of experience in advising the best Steadicam solutions for those considering becoming owner operators and also training for Steadicam operation at all levels. Here they give an outline of the overall system, the higher end Steadicam kits and the various Steadicam workshop levels available for training.

"With Steadicam, it is highly desirable to be a camera operator first," says Robin,"or at the very least you need to have the right 'eye' and the ability to compose pictures. That is then compounded by the fact that you are using a moving camera and you have the freedom to move it through space. You suddenly add timing and parallax to your compositional technique, because, as with a crane, your foreground and background are going to move in relation to each other. You have to think about not only where images align, but also when, obviously crucial for music videos, but vital for narrative work, as well.

"You've got other things you can do, too, because Steadicam can move in all directions. You can control headroom or lens height just by moving the arm up and down, which can have a huge impact on composition."

Stabilisation

"If you think about hand held camera work, what you tend to see is a lot of micro movements. The camera will tend to move about its centre of gravity – it could be a roll, pan, or tilt. You often see small variations which you can't easily eliminate. By taking the centre of gravity outside of the camera and putting it below the gimbal on the Steadicam, you get rid of those small movements. That's a clever thing about Steadicam, which goes right back to Garrett Brown's original design.

"There are other types of stabilisers – optical stabilisers and gyro stabilisers and gimbals that basically stabilise either the image or the whole camera, but the nature of the beast means that if you were asked to do a whip pan or accurately hold headroom (especially on a tight lens), you'd probably have difficulty. Steadicam can do that – it is second nature."

Steadicam's components

Vitali_Agronov_from_the_Israel_Film_School_with_the_Steadicam_Zephyr-_location_Terre_di_Cinema_workshop_in_Sicily.jpg
Vitali Agronov from the Israel Film School with the Steadicam Zephyr
Location: Terre di Cinema workshop in Sicily

"If you divide the Steadicam into three parts, you've got the sled, the arm and the vest.

"The sled is really just a post with the camera on the top and monitor and batteries on the bottom (although they can be reversed for what we call low mode for shooting with the camera near the ground). It's the part that carries the camera and all the accessories that go with it. You can't put your eye on the camera viewfinder, so you need a separate monitor which we locate somewhere down low on the sled so that you can also see where you're walking. It also carries the batteries that are used to power the monitor and may also be used to power the camera and ancillary systems.

"It's complex, because of the additional things that people need to use, like follow focus and radio transmitters. They need reliable power and reliable video to go from the camera down to the monitor and then potentially the recording systems. The main thing about the sled is it's got to be rigid and easily adjustable and something that the operator can relate to.

"The arm is the clever bit that attaches the sled to your body and not only allows you to take out the shocks when you move around, but also to change the height of the camera for framing. On the G70x arm, we've got just under a metre of height change.

"The vest is the part you wear that transfers the weight into your body, on to your skeletal structure. It's designed to carry the weight in a way that's best for the body and allows you to breathe and move around."

Gimbal

"A gimbal is simply a device where you suspend something and it can move on three axes with the minimum friction and is the heart of the Steadicam, allowing the operator to frame the shot with maximum isolation between the human body and camera lens.

"What some people are now calling gimbals probably should be referred to as 'brushless motor stabilised gimbals'. Steadicam does a very different thing. It is tactile and intuitive, making it feel more connected to the composition process. Electronic systems always introduce a little remote feeling, whereas Steadicam invites the viewer into the image."

The arm

"A very clever part of the Steadicam is the bit that connects the rig to your body, which we call the 'arm'. If you had the dumb gimbal as it stands, as on our lightweight Steadicams like the Smoothee, you can hold it and use your arm to take the shock out.

"Of course, if you are carrying a heavy camera payload, your arm isn't strong enough, so you need a sprung suspension system which attaches it to your body, hopefully in the most efficient way that it can. It should be free moving enough so that you can also use that to adjust the height of the camera with minimal hand pressure (often referred to as Iso-Elastic). The G70x is the latest arm for the high end rigs."

Starting with Steadicam

"If you're considering starting Steadicam, you need to begin by thinking what camera you are likely to have to carry on the rig. To us, a camera is something which produces a picture and has a weight. The Steadicam doesn't care whether it's 4K, 6K, whatever, if it has some mass and produces a picture, that's what we need to know first. All Steadicams are rated on what weight they will carry and that weight must be of the camera, lens and all of the accessories. We would call it the camera payload.

"As an example, the Pilot2 will carry a 4.5 kilogram camera payload, the Zephyr will take a 10 kilo camera payload and the Archer will take 14.5 kilos. The bigger rigs like the Shadow and the M-1 will take 20 to 22 kilos.

"To put this into context, the Pilot would typically be carrying DSLRs and lightweight video cameras – think small promotional, corporate and wedding videographers. It's designed for that and works very well in those areas.

"The Zephyr will take 10 Kilos and there are quite a lot out there. It's used often in small commercial type productions, music videos, all that sort of thing. It's a very good rig and you could happily put an ENG camera on there of 7 or 8 kilos. The Alexa starts an 9 kilos, but with the camera plate, lens and all the accessories, next thing you know you're at 14 to 15 kilos, so out of the question on a Zephyr.

"The Archer would be very happy with an F55 or a RED and with one of the more lightweight Arri packages; the Amira for sure, but the Alexa XT has got heavier. If you are using compact primes, probably OK, but if you get to the location and it's not a compact prime and you're shooting anamorphic, you're probably in trouble.

"The Archer also sits very well in the TV/ OB /sports type scenario, because it's light enough to wear for long periods. However, a lot of the TV companies will buy one of the bigger rigs to be safe enough, in case they want to use it for studio work with a prompter also.

"And then the Shadow and the M-1 will take anything that you would really want to carry!"

Steadicam_owner_op_Charlie_Cowper_with_the_Shadow_-_that_figure_in_the_background_is_none_other_than_Steadicam_inventor_Garrett_Brown.jpg
Steadicam owner op Charlie Cowper with the Shadow
That figure in the background is none other than Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown.

The Steadicam workshops – is Steadicam right for you?

"To anyone considering taking up Steadicam or adding the skill to their arsenal, then it's really a good idea to start by going to a Steadicam workshop," says Robin.

"Even if you are an experienced camera operator, they're a great thing, because you've got two aspects – first of all is the technical side – because unless you can set up and balance the Steadicam, you don't have a hope. The balancing and setting up tends to be a personal feel thing as well so, unless you've had the opportunity to experience what it should feel like, you don't know how to set it up to make it feel the way you'd like it to feel. It's very much a Catch 22 thing.

"Then, you've got to learn how to use your body to carry it around the best way – that's the other half of the equation, because obviously you're carrying this load and I wouldn't say it's an athletic thing, but it is certainly a physical activity – it's a very centred thing. It's to do with poise and balance as much as strength."

"I would agree that the Steadicam workshops are the best way to find out if Steadicam is right for you," adds Danny Hallett."We've got three flavours of workshop, Bronze, Silver and Gold.

"The Bronze workshop is 2 day non-residential and we only use rigs up to Zephyrs.

"Silver workshops we use all rigs and it's a 3 day non residential course.

"The Gold workshop is something special because we use all the rigs; it's 5 days, it's residential, it's full board, and it's a kind of total immersion experience which puts you alongside some of the best known operators as your instructors, right there to answer your questions. It's about techniques and we get into the choreography of shots and moves, and linking them together.

"With the Silver and the Bronze, we teach as much as we can in the given time. We're very strong on people learning the basics, so what we are doing is teaching people how to practice, and not practice badly; it is so important that they practice correctly. Also, it's fundamental that you learn how to set up and balance the Steadicam before you start to use it.

"All the workshops are going to require practice afterwards – it's the beginning of a road, not the end of a road.

"The other thing is, particularly the Bronze and Silver are a relatively inexpensive way of finding out whether Steadicam is right for you.

"We have workshops in the UK, we've got the American ones and in Asia and Australia, too.

"You'll find them listed on the www.flysteadicam.com website."

Work, purchasing and finance

Steadicam_owner_op_Emmanuel_Dinh_working_in_Reunion_with_his_Archer_2_Steadicam.jpg

Steadicam owner op Emmanuel Dinh working in Reunion with his Archer 2 Steadicam

"I'd say that most operators who are half way good have plenty of work," says Danny.

"If you're already a camera operator and you're thinking of going for Steadicam, obviously one of the concerns is 'how do I approach this in a way that it's going to be financially advantageous'?

"What you have to remember is that most of your existing clients could well be your clients for Steadicam, as well. If you've already got a good client list – they're going to be interested if you say you've been trained in Steadicam or are buying one or whatever, that's quite a big deal.

"If you're starting off fresh, with no experience, and don't have the client list, you've got to start knocking on doors and selling yourself.

"Although we are very hot on the technical training and we love the idea that it's got to be artistic – not all the most successful Steadicam operators are the best Steadicam operators – but they may be the best business people.

"If you've got the both talents, then it's a winning combination.

"With Steadicam, if you consider buying it on a lease, say over three years, with one of the top rigs, and you go out at the correct rate rather than a cut down rate, you could probably work three days a month and have it paid off at the end of the three year period. If you are actually working five to six days per month, then you're paying the lease back much faster – we often find that 18 months is a common break-even point.

"Steadicam is a great creative tool and, while the workload can be immense, it is uniquely satisfying in that it that often allows more creative input from the operator than just about any other role in production."

First published in Zerb, the journal of the GTC. For more information on Tiffen's Steadicam line, visit www.flysteadicam.com

BACK TO TOP