Glidecam?

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by Mxsmanic, Jul 12, 2011.

  1. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    How well do Glidecams work? They cost 200 times less than a Steadicam, so what
    do they lack that a Steadicam has? How well do they work with small consumer
    Handycams and the like?
     
    Mxsmanic, Jul 12, 2011
    #1
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  2. I don't know the answer to your question, but I have a
    Steadycam Jr. (older version) to sell at a reasonable
    price. Due to a tremor and inability to hold much weight,
    I can't use it...
    --DR
     
    David Ruether, Jul 12, 2011
    #2
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  3. Mxsmanic

    Steve King Guest

    I have a Glidecam 2000. I haven't used it recently, but I did use it
    extensively with both a Sony PD150 as well as a smaller consumer camera.
    Mostly I used it for quick moving shots to provide b-roll for titles and
    transitions. I often work with a camera operator who is about 6'5" tall
    with upper body strength to match. With him shooting we've used the Glidecam
    successfully for reasonably long (30-45 seconds) travelling shots on an
    on-camera narrator, many with rather precise end framing off the narrator
    and onto equipment close-ups or background action as narrator moves out of
    the shot. Another shooter I work with uses a Glidecam 4000 with his
    Panasonic HVX200, which is a bit heavier than the PD150. It talkes some
    practice to use well, and your forearm muscles with burn after longer shots.
    It helps to mount a 6" monitor on the hot shoe. The Glidecam (nor any of the
    other similar supports not using a chest harness) will not replace a dolly
    for smoothness and precision, but it will allow you to put some life into a
    production, when used selectively. For what it is I believe the price is a
    bargain.

    Steve King
     
    Steve King, Jul 12, 2011
    #3
  4. I tried the Flowpod, and it just didn't work for me. The main factor is that
    it must be hand held, and usually by one arm only. That gets heavy, and it
    is hard to manipulate smoothly. What you need is somehting with support,
    like the origianl Steadycam with belt and shoulder harness.

    But that is just if you MUST walk around. I am leaning toward a crane like
    the CobraCrane Backpacker. Not sure how damped the movement might be, but I
    know it would be better than trying to hand hold a heavy Tracker and camera
    at arm's length while walking around.

    Gary Eickmeier
     
    Gary Eickmeier, Jul 13, 2011
    #4
  5. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    How does a chest harness help? And what does a Steadicam provide that
    justifies the 22,000% difference in price. I'm sure that no Steadicam is 220
    times more stable than a Glidecam, so there must be something else.

    Anyway, I am thinking of using the smallest Glidecam to make my shots a little
    smoother when I walk while shooting. The shots when I'm standing still are
    already fairly stable, as long as I stick to wide angles and let the optical
    image stabilization do its job.
     
    Mxsmanic, Jul 13, 2011
    #5
  6. Mxsmanic

    Steve King Guest

    As with most things the last five or ten percent of precision is
    incrementally more expensive than the lower ninety five percent. The chest
    vest provides an anchor point for a spring supported articulated arm that is
    motion damped by small air pistons. Meaning that with a chest harness with
    the camera mounted on the arm the big muscles of your body support the
    camera; your hands and arms point the camera but do not support its weight.
    That is a huge difference. The damping, think shock absorbers, is fitted to
    the weight of the camera. The full blown SteadyCam is an engineering marvel
    of precision machined components. The GlideCam is by comparison pretty
    crude, and it relies on arm and shoulder strength to support the camera. In
    fact, the muscles in your arms provide the motion damping vs. springs and
    'shock absorbers' in the SteadyCam.
    It will do that
    You are using a tripod, right? Hand holding a camera has its place, but a
    tripod will do more to elevate your video to a professional level than
    almost anything else. For instance, with a good tripod with a fluid damped
    head you no longer are limited to shots using only wide angle lenses. That
    alone opens up a big range of creative choices.

    Steve King
     
    Steve King, Jul 13, 2011
    #6
  7. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    How long does it take to adjust a Steadicam to match a specific camera
    configuration? Apparently the Glidecam must be carefully balanced in order to
    get the best results, which doesn't look easy.
    Nope. The main reasons for not using one are (1) it's a lot to carry around,
    and only some of my shots are static and would be able to use a tripod, and
    (2) tripods attract a lot of unwanted attention and harassment. Also, for
    video, I'd need a tripod with a fluid head, and I sold that tripod some time
    ago to pay the rent. A photo tripod might work for a simple pan or something,
    but I don't think it would work for anything else (especially mine, which is a
    ball-head tripod, rather than a panoramic head).
    I fully agree, but see above. The unwanted attention part is the worst
    disadvantage. It's bad enough that people yell at me for recording video with
    a tiny consumer camcorder.
    Had I but money enough, and time ...

    As it is, I'm debating whether the attention a Glidecam might attract could
    negate its usefulness, but it sure looks smooth on the YouTube examples I've
    seen.
     
    Mxsmanic, Jul 13, 2011
    #7
  8. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    My little camera weighs only 500 grams, so I'm hoping that it won't be too
    tiring. As it is, I have my arm elevated when I carry it for traveling shots,
    anyway.

    I see that the "quick release" on this gadget really isn't quick at all, so
    I'd have to find some sort of quick release that can go between the mounting
    plate and the camera. Unfortunately, most of these seem to have a tripod-sized
    screw on the bottom, and a camera-sized screw on the top.
    I looked at it on YouTube. Looks pretty cool, although I'm not sure how much
    use I'd have for crane shots in my own stuff at the moment.
     
    Mxsmanic, Jul 13, 2011
    #8
  9. Mxsmanic

    Steve King Guest

    BIG SNIP>
    If a tri-pod attracts too much attention for your purposes then a GlideCam
    or any other similar steadying device will REALLY attract attention. To
    answer your question... the GlideCam is not difficult to set up. Once its
    set for a particular camera it will remain set. Just fasten the camera to
    the mounting plate with the tri-pod screw. My comments about steadying
    devices and tri-pod use come from the requirements of my own video making,
    where clients who have paid for my services judge the end result. Anything
    less than fully professional results would mean I might not get paid. I
    don't do stealth video. If I did I might approach it as you do.

    Steve King
     
    Steve King, Jul 13, 2011
    #9
  10. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    Perhaps so, but the lack of stabilization in traveling shots is a lot more
    obvious than it is in static shots (at wide angles). Obviously static shots at
    long focal lengths remain a problem, so for now I simply try to avoid them.
    It looks like the balance is sensitive enough that the camera must be in the
    recording configuration (monitor screen open, and a specific battery in use)
    in order to get it balanced just right. Hopefully with all the screws
    tightened and a true quick-release mount (not the one that Glidecam calls a
    click release) it would stay adjusted once it is balanced initially.
    I understand. I don't get paid for my work.
    I don't think there is such a thing as stealth video, at least not with any
    purpose-built camcorder. Maybe with an iPhone or something it might be
    possible.

    Besides, being inconspicuous isn't really stealth. A camera operator who
    doesn't attract attention isn't the same as a camera operator who hides. It's
    just that paranoia and hysteria are constant problems these days.
     
    Mxsmanic, Jul 14, 2011
    #10
  11. I was really astonished at how steadily I could hold these little HD cameras
    when I was cruising at Best Buy. I picked one up and just turned it on and
    found I could hold it absolutely steady and move it right, left, up, down,
    with no strain or shake because it was SO light. Try it. Hold your wallet or
    something in front of you and pretend it is a camera. Very nice.

    Gary Eickmeier
     
    Gary Eickmeier, Jul 14, 2011
    #11
  12. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    I find that as long as I'm not walking and as long as I'm shooting at a
    somewhat wide angle, the combination of the size and lightness of the small
    Handycam-style camcorder and the active optical stabilization built into the
    camera make it extremely steady ... so much so that I don't really need a
    tripod.

    However, for long focal lengths, or when moving, the camera movement becomes
    too extreme to ignore. I don't shoot many close-ups, but if I do, a tripod
    seems to be the only option. For walking, however, a Glidecam or similar
    gadget looks like it will provide the solution. The demos I've seen are
    impressive, when compared to the price points of the inexpensive HD-series
    Glidecams. When I see demos of Steadicams, I truly wonder what they are
    bringing to the table for $66,000. The shots with cheap gadgets are already
    very stable, so they can't get much more stable. Maybe it's all the gear
    options for the Steadicam that justify the price (although I'm sure there's a
    huge margin built into that price).

    I've also figured out a difference between the expensive gear and the cheap
    gear. As people here have already pointed out, the Steadicam and its ilk
    contain complex mechanisms that effectively cancel out translational movement
    of the camera, whereas the cheap gadgets don't. The thing is, though, the vast
    majority of unwanted camera movement is rotational about the camera's center
    of gravity, and both the extensive Steadicams, and the inexpensive Glidecams
    effectively cancel this out with a kind of gimballed arrangement. This means
    that 99% of unwanted movement is already eliminated by even the inexpensive
    stuff, leaving only the 1% of unwanted translational movement that requires a
    very complex mechanism for compensation.

    (For those who are perplexed, translational movement is movement of the camera
    that does not cause it to rotate about its own center of gravity, whereas
    rotation is when the camera turns around its own CG. Most human-induced
    movement is rotational, rather than translational.)

    I can see where cancellation of translation would be important when shooting
    at long focal lengths, though. If you're shooting with a wide angle,
    translation of the camera through two inches doesn't even produce a noticeable
    change in the image, but if you are shooting extreme close-ups, a two-inch
    translation will move someone's eyes or face nearly out of the frame.

    Rotation, in contrast, swings the camera through large angles, producing
    significant shifts even at wide shooting angles. Fortunately, it's much easier
    to stop than translation.
     
    Mxsmanic, Jul 14, 2011
    #12
  13. Mxsmanic

    Steve King Guest

    SNIP
    No close-ups! Why not? The close-up is what sets film and video apart from
    other forms of dramatic presentation.

    but if I do, a tripod
    Go get a strong bag...maybe six or seven garbage bags inside one another.
    Put about twenty pounds of bricks inside, which is probably lighter than
    your typical high-end HD camera with accoutrements for movie making. Now,
    hold that at arms length and pretend it is a camera. Now, pretend you are
    framing on a first shirt button head shot on an actor. Now, follow that
    actor maintaining framing as he or she moves quickly down a NYC sidewalk
    talking on a cell phone. Do that for a minute, walking backwards of course.
    Now, with a five minute break go back to the start of the shot and do it
    again. And, again. And, again. Now, suggest to the producer that you can
    save him a bunch of money on his 30-40-50 million dollar movie (or a
    $100,000 tv commercials for that matter) by using a GlideCam. Sure, the
    framing of the shot won't be nearly as good. Sure, as the actors get better
    the camera operator gets more and more fatigued and the shot looks more and
    more amateurish. But, hey, you saved $66,000. The point is the full-bore
    steadycam isn't made for the kind of videos you do, but for what it is made
    for its worth every penny.
    You are thinking of this only from your experience with tiny cameras with
    itty bitty lenses, relatively speaking. That's not what SteadyCams are made
    for.

    SNIP

    Steve King
     
    Steve King, Jul 14, 2011
    #13
  14. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    Currently almost all of my videos are touristy things showing the city in
    which I live. Not only would close-ups of people be out of place here, but
    these days anyone who sees a camera starts spouting complaints about image
    rights that don't actually exist, and I can do without that aggravation.

    I do shoot medium shots of some things for variety, but close-ups are rare.
    If you are shooting people, yes.
    I guess that's a good thing, since about 95 pennies out of a hundred are pure
    gravy for the manufacturers of gear like the Steadicam. But if you have $50
    million to play with, I suppose it doesn't matter.

    In any case, my videos have a budget of only a few dollars at most. Most of it
    is spent licensing background music, if there is any music in the video (I
    can't always afford it).

    There is apparently a vest attachment for the Glidecam as well, although it
    doesn't cost $60,000.
    No, I'm thinking of it from my (not-insignificant) knowledge of physics.
    Rotation is responsible for far more visible camera movement than translation.
     
    Mxsmanic, Jul 14, 2011
    #14
  15. Mxsmanic

    Steve King Guest

    The requirement for a stabilizing camera support in higher end productions
    is not merely to eliminate camera jiggle. You may be disregarding the need
    for the steadycam operator to tilt, pan, zoom, and rack focus, all as part
    of a shot, and all while walking or running to follow action.

    I'm not trying to pick a fight. I'm just saying that different levels of
    video production and film making require different tools. I'm not even
    suggesting that the more elaborate models of the GlideCam with body vest and
    support arms are cost effective for your video making. You might want to do
    a Google search on home made steadycam devices. A number of people have
    designed and constructed very low cost devices that appear to be quite
    effective although limited in their flexibility. One of the least
    expensive, and least attention getting, may be an unextended monopod with a
    small weight, perhaps a velcro attached ankle weight used in exercising, at
    the foot. That will provide surprising stabiltiy for wide angle shots. One
    hand just below the camera and the other hand on the monopod a foot or so
    lower works pretty well.

    Steve King
     
    Steve King, Jul 14, 2011
    #15
  16. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    I can understand the advantages of this, but at the same time, great movies
    and videos were being made long before Steadicams were developed, so I'm not
    sure that I'd call a Steadicam a requirement, unless a particular video will
    truly stand or fall based on a shot that only a Steadicam can provide.

    There are times when it seems that Steadicams are overused, especially on
    television shows. I'm so tired of seeing an overzealous Steadicam operator
    completely blocking the talent from view in a TV show whenever any other
    camera is used. They seem to think that they're alone on the set, or that they
    are transparent and can hold the camera five inches from an actor's face
    without anyone else noticing.

    Anyway, I'm reminded of this extraordinary shot from _Soy Cuba_, which I'm
    sure was done without a Steadicam (you've probably seen it, but others may not
    have):



    I'm not convinced that the shot was worth the effort required to make it, but
    it was certainly a technical tour de force.
    Nor am I. My videos are just very modest, extremely low budget videos that I
    prepare mainly for simple purposes of information. If someone gave me a
    Steadicam, I guess I'd try to use it, but if I had $66,000, I could think of a
    lot of other gear that I might be tempted to buy before the Steadicam. It
    would be on the list for higher budgets, however.

    Anyway, I'm going to try out this Glidecam gadget. Leaving the camera exposed
    makes me a bit nervous, as does the crude mounting plate provided (I need to
    look for some sort of quick release) and the unwanted attention it may draw,
    but I'm getting tired of bouncing traveling shots, and I like to walk during
    my shots, as it's more "you are there" than static shots.

    I've actually been shooting without any stabilization for decades, which gives
    some idea of how wary I am of new gadgets. But I really need to find a
    solution.
     
    Mxsmanic, Jul 14, 2011
    #16
  17. Mxsmanic

    Scubajam Guest

    I've actually been shooting without any stabilization for decades, which gives
    Sometimes it's the technique, not the gadget. Close-ups, esp of
    people, draw your audience into your production. People like to watch
    people. It's often the difference between holding the audience's
    interest, and boring them very quickly. There is certainly much to be
    said for wide angle and mid shots, if they are spectacular, as as
    sunrise, sunset, and of very interesting subjects. But as a general
    rule, make 50% or more of your productions close-up. If not, my guess
    is the only interest you will hold when showing your productions, is
    your own. Others will tire of watching quickly. It doesn't have to
    be people's faces. Going up stairs, shoot close-up of feet going up
    the stairs. Close-up of architectural designs, signs, even sections
    of crowds walking the sidewalk. Watch a sports event on TV and see
    how much is actually close-up of athlete's faces. Watch any movie.
    Watch a TV show. Close-ups is where it is at. Difficult to get for a
    family vacation, or "here is my city" shot? Maybe, but not
    impossible.

    That said, try this as a technique. I use a tripod with a quick
    release, and a monopod center; can use stand-alone monopod. I often
    remove the monopod to use alone when the tripod would be too bulky.
    Next, turn off all camera beeps, and turn off the red "Record" light
    on the front. Virtually all cameras allow this (or cover with tape).
    Remember, a person on the front of the camera cannot tell whether you
    are shooting a wide angle, or a close-up and filling the frame with
    their eyes. They take their cue from you, and how intently you are
    looking at the monitor. So don't. Handheld, this is impossilble.
    But tripod, and even monopod, it's fairly easy. Adjust height of
    monopod as desired. Takes more practice with monopod. Separate
    camera from monopod, and pretend to use latter as a walking stick (no
    real pressure on it). See a subject 30 ft (10m) in front, a person.
    Stop as if to rest; while camera is at your side, pointing down, start
    recording and zoom in; put camera on the monopod. Quickly center
    subject in frame, but don't stare intently at the screen. Learn to
    hold the monopod stable without looking at the monitor... takes
    practice. Now you aren't making a scene and the subject doesn't know
    they are a subject. It just seems like you are resting, perusing the
    scenery. Glance once in a while at the monitor to maintain frame.
    Get a few seconds, then let camera move around so it isn't obvious
    you've been recording. Don't even reach up to camera and stop
    recording; just hold monopod like a walking stick as if resting. When
    you get your few seconds, remove camera via quick release, put hand
    back in the strap, drop camera to one side, then hit the stop record
    button secretly. Edit out the excess in post. It isn't obvious you
    started or stopped recording, isn't obvious you were taking a close-
    up, and isn't obvious you've even been recording. The monopod is far
    less obvious than a Glidecam; use it like a walking stick, only don't
    put much pressure on it as it isn't made for such (or screw a quick
    release into the top of a real walking stick).

    Cleverness trumps gadets anytime. Place camera on a fence without
    holding it. Hold it down by your hips for a low angle shot. Keep the
    monitor out always instead of only for a shot, and people can't tell
    if you are just carrying it, resting, or shooting. This isn't
    necessary all, or even most, of the time. But sometimes it gets a
    shot that really helps hold audience interest. Put camera on monopod,
    point monitor screen down, raise it high above for a high angle shot;
    pan around (can't do that with Glidecam). Shooting street signs,
    panning around a street corner, shooting from an area where everyone
    else is taking photos or video, are all not necessary to be
    inconspicuous.

    e.g. Wide shot to establish a city water fountain/statue; medium shot
    with pan of people around the fountain; close-up of coins at the
    bottom of shallow fountain pool, then of statue face; close-up of
    someone looking at fountain statue & at the coins, esp if you can get
    them (maybe friend or family) tossing a coin into the water (what was
    their wish?). Optional - narration like "every coin represents a
    wish." Fade to black. Later, get a low angle shot of their face
    looking up then closing eyes as if making a wish (only clouds visible
    behind them so can't tell it was shot later). Cut this into just
    before the coin toss. Much more interesting than just wide and medium
    shots of a fountain. Every clip/scene should tell a story... do
    yours?

    Jim McGauhey
    Washington State
     
    Scubajam, Jul 15, 2011
    #17
  18. Mxsmanic

    Steve King Guest

    Amen. Preach it brother. Totally agree.

    Steve King
     
    Steve King, Jul 16, 2011
    #18
  19. For what it's worth (coming in a little late; haven't been here in a
    while) I use a Glidecam 4000 on an aftermarket vest-and-arm:
    http://www.amazon.com/VZ-DVSPORTSTE...LK/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1310849569&sr=8-17
    (this is just for the link; you can find it cheaper elsewhere).
    Very happy with the combo, and I find it's really not all that
    obtrusive in real-world situations. I put the vest on over a black T-
    shirt, and then an open black button-down shirt over that, and no one
    seems to much notice it all.

    The idea is that you need to get the weight off of your arm and onto
    your body to get smooth shots over a long period of time. A figrig is
    great for very lightweight cameras, but if you're shooting with
    something a little heavier, this sort of thing is hard to beat.

    A genuine StediCam is a lot more expensive but it's also designed and
    built for a lot heavier rigs, for long-term professional use, and for
    more skilled operators. Odds are you don't need as much as Garret
    Brown needs, so there's no reason to pay extra to get it.
     
    Steven J. Weller, Jul 16, 2011
    #19
  20. Mxsmanic

    Mxsmanic Guest

    My camcorder only weighs 500 grams, so hopefully I'll be able to hold it for a
    while without tiring. I've carried around much heavier SLRs for hours at a
    time (albeit not with exactly the same arm position), so I'm optimistic.
    Does a Steadicam have to be tediously rebalanced each time the equipment it
    holds is changed, or is there some fast way of balancing it for each change? I
    picture operators spending an hour trying to balance a specific configuration
    of equipment, but maybe that's not how it works.
     
    Mxsmanic, Jul 18, 2011
    #20
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