Flycam Flujo – The Problem

24 Dec

I took a Tiffen workshop in 2009 to become a “certified” Steadicam operator. I was bit by the bug then–it seemed to combine my favorite parts of work and film (engineering and camera) and completely changed the way I thought about camera movement in a 3D space or environment. Now, almost five years later, I’ve been aching to get a rig of my own, so I can start operating as a freelancer in the area.

When I looked around, I found that I would be the only Steadicam owner-operator local to the Virginia Beach area. This presents me with some interesting issues. Firstly, is there even a market out here for that? It’s a fairly small and young video market, and Steadicam may be a bit above the milieu so far. B) how could I make myself more marketable and important to an area that doesn’t have any competition at all? And ultimately, how can I keep my costs low to begin with? A smaller overhead lets me charge a lower day-rate starting out, which means I don’t have to be stuck with a huge investment in case there, in fact, is not a market out here.

In the 2.5 years so far of graduate school, where I’ve actually been teaching Steadicam basics to students using a Glidecam X-22 (kill me) and used said rig for a couple of shoots, I had come across an oddity: one student with a credit card and a lack of inhibitions had bought a whole Indian-knockoff setup on eBay–for about $3,000 received a DSLR rail system & mattebox, a monitor, and a “steadycam” rig that, according to different websites, could hold between 6kg and 22kg (13-48 lbs.) which seems entirely too good to be true. But, being the “Steadicam teacher”, I agreed to help him do an initial setup.

When I pulled the long, slender cases open, I was shocked by the quality of what I saw. There was quite a bit of “modularity” in it, most things were metal or carbon fiber, the connectors looked like actual LEMO’s, and the vest had a clasp-like system (much better than the velcro thing that Glidecam has going for it.) We rigged it up, and that’s when the problems arose–hooking up a JVC HM-700u camera to the power showed 12v for ’bout 2 seconds, and then nothing. The post cables consisted of two straight cables (which, coming from Glidecam, I already know is a huge problem), one a simple HDMI female-to-male, the other a 12-pin LEMO that connected the base to the J-box. As soon as I put an Anton Bauer Hytron 150, the bottom box fell right off the sled!

BUT! for all its problems, the bones are there. I’ve used it twice now, once flying a RED Epic with Schneider-Krueznach Cine-Xenar III’s, and once with a RED Scarlet and the 18-85mm lens (NOT a lens for Steadicam) and I’ve been pretty optimistic about the rig. And, as time has worn on, I am just ready to be on the market. I would love to get a Steadicam Zephyr to start off, but that’s $10,000 for just a rig–a wireless follow-focus, any wireless monitoring, etc. would be extra. If there’s no market here, then what would I do but sell that rig for a small loss and suffer the psychological effects of failure?

So, the problem is this: get a Steadicam-type rig, with the appropriate accessories, for a decent price (I figured a $5,000 24-month loan would make my payments about $300 a month, which is pretty low for Steadicam equipment rental) and start acting as an owner-operator.

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