A steadicam is an incredible tool that lets you take professional–quality shots. Its effective use requires proper know-how and practice. Setting up this tool can also be challenging and somewhat intimidating. Thus, knowing how to set up a steadicam is essential to ensure proper functioning and minimize the risk of damages.
Before setting-up the unit, you should first familiarize yourself with the main components of a steadicam.
With an adjustable harness, the vest ensures proper fit and comfort for the operator. It allows even distribution of the combined weight of the camera, the arm, and the counterbalance. Good posture is maintained with the shoulder padding, back straps, chest pad, and lumbar support features of the vest.
The sled supports the camera mounted in the platform. It is composed of several notable parts.
A platform where the camera is mounted. The power and video connectivity switches are ergonomically located at the back for easier reach and better functionality. It has a handy feature that allows tilting and trimming of the camera while the main post remains in its original position.
A discrete part of the sled. It varies depending on personal preference and workflow. Some units have telescopic posts that can extend from several points that allow the operator to achieve better shots without any additional equipment.
An optional part that allows the operator to have a real-time view. It is usually mounted on a bracket that allows different screen directions and movements.
The arm serves as the link between the vest and sled, making it one entity. It is specifically designed to mimic the human arms and load an equal amount of force for an effortless movement of the sled.
Be sure to set aside ample time to check on your unit and prepare the following items within your reach.
Several factors should be considered in setting up a Steadicam unit. This includes the following:
Upon unboxing, you will notice that the unit is in a compact, folded mode. Be sure to fold and unfold in the correct sequence to avoid damaging the unit. You should regularly practice unfolding to flying mode and folding to travel mode for familiarization.
Other than the main components, you should also familiarize yourself with the following:
Know its range of motion. It has delicate bearings that should be kept within the natural capacity.
Acts as support and positions the unit in place. It should be held facing forward on the Velcro side, in contact with your fingers. This is to avoid impeded movements and damage of the unit.
Provides minimal interference between your thumb and fingers. This black ring allows better aiming and assists in tilting your camera.
Allows fine adjustments of the unit’s balance–fore-and-aft and side-by-side.
Set the balance of the entire unit. You should have slight bottom-heaviness to achieve stabilization. This can be done through:
Adding or subtracting weights gives the bottom-heaviness its coarsest adjustments. Steadicam usually comes with several stainless steel weights.
Increasing or decreasing the angle of the lower spar gives bottom-heaviness a finer adjustment.
Raising or lowering the threaded guide ring gives the finest adjustment at the bottom-heaviness.
Prior to mounting of the camera, the plate should be properly docked on the stage. There are stage markings to show the correct positions.
Grab your camera and determine its accessories. It has a big influence on the balance, so better take them off if they are not necessary for operating your camera.
Keep the following important things in mind.
Some mounting spaces are small, irregular, and weak. The use of plate increases friction for an improved tightness and fitting.
Attach the camera to the plate. Each model has their center of gravity giving variation to the positioning.
Be sure to inspect the trim rollers before mounting the camera. It should be properly attached to the plate to ensure correct weights and proper adjustments on the arc size. Several points should also be considered.
Whenever the locking lever is unlocked, keep a hand on your camera to prevent it from falling off.
Learn how to release the caliper hinge. Never rush in adjusting or it may result in bents and other damages.
The trimmings should be considered for perfect balance. Some units have preset settings and position on the stage. Know how to adjust unbalanced units and to what direction.
After following these steps, you are now ready to proceed with the exciting part—operations. This determines the performance of your unit and allows you to make the necessary adjustments.
Setting up a steadicam may vary on different models. These are just the basic principles involved.
With this information, knowing how to set up a steadicam should be easier. It should allow you to pull off the task with more confidence and no hesitations. You’ll soon realize that you are already a pro not only in operating a steadicam but also in setting it up.