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Recent Steadicam Workshop with Zephyr & Scout

At the recent Columbus Day Weekend Steadicam Workshop with Peter Abraham, I was intrigued by a couple of things.  First off, the people that I spent those two days with were AWESOME.  You literally walk away feeling like you are best friends (check out the photos at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rule-Boston-Camera/46957103796?ref=ts). Next to that, I got to use the new Steadicam Scout for the first time, which will be the replacement for the Flyer eventually.  The Scout is the first one in the country to be used in the workshop, so it was great getting a firsthand look at it, and seeing the differences and changes that so many people are going to want if they decide to update their Steadicam.  First off, instead of only having the ability to rig weights at both ends of the monitor, there is a screw-in spot in the middle, behind the monitor.  This gives you some added weight, and works well to balance out the 24 lb. capacity if you go up that high on top.  You can also slide the monitor backwards and forwards, which also works to balance out the weight.  Speaking of the monitor, it’s a new model, one not seen yet, and for being standard definition as well as glare proof, I was really pleased with the image and would buy it that way easily. Many people have asked me my preference- Scout or Zephyr.  Well, after using both, they are different tools.  The Zephyr is definitely a bit heavier, but also is a nice feel, and a bit more robust if you’re using something like the Sony PMW-320, which is what we had on it.  The Scout is a nice middle range.  Heavier than the Pilot, lighter than the Zephyr.  The Pilot vest is also being redone, and there is a kit available to update yours if you want to.  The current Pilot vest is mostly Velcro and if you’ve ever tried to get it off while shooting- well don’t.  It’s like popping the packaging bubbles that your camera comes wrapped in.  Loud. The new kit gives you clips, etc., to make it a little more like the Zephyr and Scout vests. And last, here are some tips from Peter Abraham himself (who by the way, shot Notorious B.I.G.’s first music video, and if you haven’t appreciated slight differences in Steadicam operators’ work, you will after watching this video). Sand- Get a can of air and spray the Steadicam every so often to blow off the gimbal.  You won’t be getting sand out easily if you let it build up.  If you’re walking on sand and don’t want to kill your ankles, get metal screening from Home Depot or Lowes, and lay it down on the sand for support. Shooting with DSLR- get a thin foam sheet from any fabric store, cut a small rectangle and screw in the camera to the Steadicam plate through that.  You won’t wear down the bottom of the camera, or scratch your Steadicam plate, and it won’t move around on you or come loose. Self Adhesive Velcro- This stuff is magic.  Keep your ends on your vest tied down with it, use it to attach a water cover, keep a roll with you at all times. Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales Representative

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In the Showroom: 3D, Euphonix MC Color, Tripods, Z-Finders, G-Drives & More

I was recently sitting in the Showroom looking over the latest additions to our stock.  We’re steadily adding to the inventory, so I’ll post what’s new in the Showroom as it comes in.  In the meantime, if you’ve been reading Mike Sutton’s blog posts or following the latest technology in the Learning Lab sessions you’ll know what’s new!   While I was in the Showroom writing this, one of our engineers, Alex Ulloa, came running down the hallway with an unfamiliar-looking manual, and as he pressed it against the glass everything went blurry.  And I bet the same thing will happen to you when you check out the new Panasonic 3D cameras.  They’re currently being tested by our engineers and prepped for rental and demo use.  If you’re looking to buy one, check in ASAP!  For a sense of what they look and feel like when shooting, check out Mike Sutton’s blog post (he recently took one out for a test drive), or come to the October 20th Learning Lab which is all about shooting with the AG-3DA1 3D camera and the BT-3DL 2550 25.5″ 3D LCD monitor (we’ll provide the 3D glasses). Another new product you’ll see in the Showroom is the Euphonix MC Color used for Color Grading.  Most of you Final Cut Pro users have probably heard about it, but what you might not know is that Euphonix was recently bought by Avid.  We like the MC Color because Euphonix built it specifically to avoid breaking the bank.  Any other color grading option out there starts at $3,650. Then there are the new tripods, specifically the Manfrotto 701HDV, 547BK, Sachtler FSB-6 SOOM tripod, Manfrotto 504HD, 546BK tripods (replacing the discontinued 503’s) and the standard Sachtler FSB-4 and FSB-6. Last but not least, we’re doing our best to get in some custom Canon and Zacuto catalogs.  I’m guessing that a lot of you are looking online trying to figure out which kit is best for you, so let us help you with advice from people who have already put together their own custom rigs and know the parts pretty well.  Bring your camera in along with any and all of your parts, and we’ll help you rig them to go with what you need.  If there are any missing pieces, we’ll order them right then and there.  It’s nice to be able to build something that fits your needs, not changes them. We’re becoming dealers for new brands by the week, adding Euphonix, Adobe, For-A, Ross and G-Tech relationships, so keep checking in!  We just got a LARGE shipment of Zacuto Z-finders and G-Drives so come in soon! Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales Representative

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A Unique Dual-Purpose Integration: Mobile & Fixed

The most recent integration project started with a phone call from a local producer who planned to build a portable HD control room for Harvard’s School of Public Health. As initially conceived, this would involve a switching flypack that would move between 2 separate spaces in one building and provide all the control gear to turn a conference room or large performance space into a remote camera production studio.  We were familiar with the construction of a portable flypack and the installation of remote cameras but putting these functions together presented some interesting challenges.  For example, where was the line between the portable and the installed equipment?  How do we connect the 2 systems so they’ll work well together and separate easily?  These questions made the project unique, and we were definitely up for the challenge. Once we started working on the portable production aspect, the architects who were overhauling the conference room suggested we design and build the audio/visual portion in that space.  Consistency was the main objective.  By building the mobile flypack first, once in the conference room, it had to work in tandem with the audio visual components (e.g., teleconference, boundary microphones, resident computers, a VERY large display, etc.) in this more permanent space. It was the right way to handle this type of design, and as we moved through this particular phase, we became increasingly aware of the relationship between both aspects of the project. Overall, whether the production equipment is mobile or in the control room, the objective was to produce the highest quality HD material for both live streaming over the web and broadcast feeds to a variety of news outlets.  Because both systems would overlap in some of their hardware, it meant that much of the equipment in the conference room would conform to very high specifications.  For example, it’s not common to use a high-end HDSDI signal to feed a teleconferencing system.  It’s also not common to use Lite Panels (production lighting) on the speaker in a conference room setting.  The dual purpose for this space made the high-end choices budgetarily necessary. After wrapping up the design phase, and then preassembling and testing the gear in our shop, construction is finished and we’re now moving the gear on site in order to have the entire room tested and ready for production early next month. At this particular point in the project, it strikes me that despite all the overlap within these 2 co-existing systems (and no matter what the final purpose of the room) — video is still video and audio is still audio! Ian Tosh, Director of Engineering Services