Wireless Lens Systems: Is this Still the Steadicam Op’s Responsibility?

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

There’s no doubt that Steadicam was the driving force for the development of wireless lens and camera control systems. At that time there were no remote heads. Operators and assistants rode giant cranes… So there was no need for remote follow focus in that application. Handheld focus pulling could be done with a whip. So it was primarily the Steadicam operator that needed the wireless control. For this reason, Steadicam Ops became the responsible party in providing productions with remote focus systems. Nowadays, these systems are so prevelant (Preston, Scorpio, Bartech, C-Motion just to name a few) that it bears the question… Should Steadicam operators still shoulder the burden of providing a system?

With rental rates as competitive as they are, you surely won’t see the payoff of owning a system if production already has several units rented for other applications. It’s almost assumed you will have it in your kit, and you’ll get the same package rate if you have two or three Bartech Systems (approx 8-10k investment) as if you have a full Preston system (25-30k investment).

Now that these devices are used in many different facets of production (handheld, remote head, Steadicam, vehicle mounts), perhaps the burden of ownership should be with the camera house. These systems are of course available at the rental house, and camera manufacturers even offer their own proprietary systems (e.g. Arri). So why do Steadicam Ops still insist in owning the equipment themselves?

There is the convenience of having your system wired and mounted to the sled. But then if camera is pulled off for other shots, it’s typically a big hassle to remove your focus system so it can travel with camera.

So what I do is the following… I provide my system (Preston FI+Z H2) with my rig at industry standard rates, I’ve modified my receiver mount do it can come off the rug quickly, and I charge a rental on my system if it’s used on anything other than my Steadicam.

What do you do? Share your comments here!

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