I’d Rather Ride!

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I’ve always taken the approach with Steadicam that the best work is achieved when you (as an operator) are doing as little as possible. For instance, when you are in the zone… flying the rig with your body and not manhandling it with your hands… that’s where your best work comes from! In this particular example you did as little as possible… you primarily used your body to position the camera, and used your hands ever so slightly to finesse the frame. In the contrary example (manhandling the rig) you were using your body to position the rig AND over-using your hands to force the frame.

This same rule applies across the board… especially as shots become more and more complex. The perfect example is when our talent is running. Producers, Directors and even DP’s make the assumption that running with the Steadicam is a good application of the tool. Not really! There certainly are times when running is the ONLY way to approach a shot. For instance, running down a flight of stairs. There’s aren’t many other ways to approach that than on foot (although the approach might be to suggest they cut and avoid killing the operator). However, when possible avoid running with the Steadicam at all costs. There are better ways to approach to problem.

Again, the best work comes from doing as little as possible. There are a myriad of alternatives to running with the Steadicam. Steadicam works well when combined with an ATV, Insert Car, Rickshaws, and most recently the hands free Segway. I’ve had an opportunity to work with the Segway and I think its by far the best, simplest, most versatile choice for chasing after or preceding talent that is running. Its compact nature allows it to go most places that an ATV or Insert Truck can’t go, it only really takes one person to operate (although you still need quite a few people to make it safe), and it has a top speed of about 12mph (men at gyms typically set the treadmill to 7-9 miles per hour).

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There are two options for combining Steadicam with the Segway. The first is to wear the rig, and the second is to hard mount it. Again… the best work comes from doing as little as possible. So I’d suggest hard mounting it when possible. I did find that hard mounting wasn’t always an option based on geography. This might have been a limitation of the Segway I was using since I only had the option to hard mount on one side. So if you are buying or renting, look for units that are setup for hard mounting on either side of the Segway.

Soft mounting isn’t terrible. Its still better than running with the rig. It also affords you the opportunity to dismount (as seen in some spectacular YouTube examples). I personally haven’t tried this trick in any practical application but have tried it on the practice field and its a bit hairy. On the flip side, soft mounting adds a variable that you probably haven’t considered… standing in one place (flat footed) for an extended period of time with the rig on. Blood does start to pool in your feet and its not very comfortable.

All in all, the hands free Segway opens up lots of new opportunities with the Steadicam. Be sure to stay safe and protect yourself. A helmet is a good idea to start, but you might also consider elbow pads & knee pads. It’s a lot of fun to rid and you’ll be surprised at how much control you have… even for slow, dramatic moves!

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