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Steadicam

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#1 galenb

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 02:24 AM

Hey everyone, I hope I don't get in trouble for this being so off topic but I don't really know where else to ask about this. Maybe someone can at least steer me in the right direction. I've always had a thing for steadicam. To me, it seems like the ultimate dolly/track/ jib arm/etc, camera mover all in one. But as far as I've known, Steadycam systems are prohibitively expensive. So usually you would just rent one on the day of the shoot (hopefully along with an experienced operator). So I was surprised to happen across this on ebay:
Steadicam pilot, $4,000 for a steady cam seemed really cheap! But then I ran into this:
Magic FM arm, around $1,400!!
but the ultimate bargain basement steadicam appears to be this guy:
Laing Hotweel because unlike the others, It can carry up to 33 lbs. Here's there website: www.szlaing.com. These guys sell the exact same model just with a different name: www.wondlan.com. Even though shipping it expensive, you can find these for even cheaper so the initial cost is still under $1,500. That seems crazy to me when I see people selling sliders or boom arms for that much.

As far as I can tell, load bearing seems to be the big dividing factor between them. But that's only what I've been able to gather from the internets. I don't know anyone who has ever used one and I have only ever seen one being used once before and never bothered to ask any questions back then. So now the prospect of owning a steady cam has come into mind. Especially after seeing the John Brawley BMCC footage recently.
So I have a few questions:

1.) What do you guys think of these Chinese made stedicams? Are they any good?

2.) Is 33 lb. enough to carry a Red (EVF not included since it will be mounted below)?

3.) If you have to hold it below the yoke with one hand and on the yoke with the other, how do you do follow focus?

Thanks for any help you can give me!

#2 Chrad

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 04:00 AM

Changing focus can offset the balance of the rig. Not to mention that attempting to control thin planes of dof while flying a Steadicam is prohibitively awkward. So forget follow focus. Steadicam shots are usually done with a slow f stop and focus set to infinity.

#3 galenb

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 04:42 AM

Interesting. Yeah, that makes more sense. Although, the more I think about it, you might be able to rig some kind of remote or even just one of those cables that extends from the focus wheel (don't know what they're called). Might even be able to attach it to the yoke somehow. I'm sure someone has done something like this before. I can image it would be a cool effect to have a medium shallow depth of field during a nice smooth move.

#4 sanveer

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 04:48 AM

I was checking products of "http://www.szlaing.com/", and I realised, that, their prices are similar to Glidecam, which, they have obviously ripped off. Maybe, they were the manufacturers for them.

I guess, all US manufacturers (as well as manufacturers from other countries), who outsource their production to China, have to suffer the inevitable ignominy of having their products duplicated in China, and attempted to be sold worldwide. Also, since the original product is manufactured in China, no real judgment on quality, can really be made.

Btw, shipping is pretty expensive on this one.

#5 galenb

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 07:14 AM

Yeah, I agree. It's a gray area to be sure. You know though, the same might be true the other way around too. A local supplier finds some cheap equipment from china (or even gets a license to sell it in the US), slaps a new label on it and jacks up the price. We might not even know any better. Actually, this has happened to me now that I think about it. Many years ago I was going to buy a Dell laptop until I discovered that Dell was only licensing that particular model from an Asian company called Scepter and sticking their label on it. So I just bought one from the original company and saved about $500.

Btw, shipping is pretty expensive on this one.

This place has them for even cheaper: www.aliexpress.com $1144 + $189.47 for shipping still come out to be $1,333.47 so that's still a super low price to pay for all that. Plus, it comes with it's own foam packed flight case, and mounting stand.

BTW, I ran into this old amazingly informative Steadicam video. I think it's something that came with the system to teach new owners how to setup and operate one. It even covers advanced topics like how to achieve certain moves and proper posture and all sorts of stuff. Man, those guys are huffing all the way through it while lugging around a huge Betacam.

#6 Axel

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 02:27 PM

http://vimeo.com/9827192

This is the intuit focus, a special follow focus for steadicams.

It is widely known that chinese products are cheap and look convincing, but are of inferior quality. There are no exceptions, even a simple design like a plastic ball for kids can't be recommended. If it is a technical challenge like a car, a camera or any kind of rig and has a hinge or a screw involved - forget it.

You might consider the simplest and smallest steadicam available for your camera, so that you can hold it without vest and arm. Few days of practice and a task for a steady shot are more than half the battle. Then there is software like Warp stabilizer, Mercalli or Smoothcam, with which you can make almost smooth clips perfectly smooth. Read this:
http://www.eoshd.com...hots-on-the-gh2
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#7 HurtinMinorKey

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 03:19 PM

Then there is that whole, probably built by slave labor thing.....

It's not always the case, but it often is. So F China.

#8 sanveer

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 03:46 PM

Yeah, I agree. It's a gray area to be sure. You know though, the same might be true the other way around too. A local supplier finds some cheap equipment from china (or even gets a license to sell it in the US), slaps a new label on it and jacks up the price. We might not even know any better. Actually, this has happened to me now that I think about it. Many years ago I was going to buy a Dell laptop until I discovered that Dell was only licensing that particular model from an Asian company called Scepter and sticking their label on it. So I just bought one from the original company and saved about $500.


This place has them for even cheaper: www.aliexpress.com $1144 + $189.47 for shipping still come out to be $1,333.47 so that's still a super low price to pay for all that. Plus, it comes with it's own foam packed flight case, and mounting stand.

BTW, I ran into this old amazingly informative Steadicam video. I think it's something that came with the system to teach new owners how to setup and operate one. It even covers advanced topics like how to achieve certain moves and proper posture and all sorts of stuff. Man, those guys are huffing all the way through it while lugging around a huge Betacam.


I agree with u. India has a Huge proliferation of chinese goods, since the borders aren't secured well. But, some of them, are pretty cheap and interesting.

I am usually only vary, with Higher End Chinese stuff. Since, I can usually just get rid of the cheaper stuff, if it doesn't work.

#9 galenb

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 09:12 PM

This is the intuit focus, a special follow focus for steadicams.


Oh Yeah! I've seen these remote focus units before but only ever mounted on a tripod. Thanks!

It is widely known that chinese products are cheap and look convincing, but are of inferior quality. There are no exceptions, even a simple design like a plastic ball for kids can't be recommended. If it is a technical challenge like a car, a camera or any kind of rig and has a hinge or a screw involved - forget it.

You might consider the simplest and smallest steadicam available for your camera, so that you can hold it without vest and arm. Few days of practice and a task for a steady shot are more than half the battle. Then there is software like Warp stabilizer, Mercalli or Smoothcam, with which you can make almost smooth clips perfectly smooth. Read this:
http://www.eoshd.com...hots-on-the-gh2


Thanks for you input Axil! So first off, I don't want to get the low load bearing ones because here in town, most people use RED and these can get pretty heavy. Those are some pretty cool rigs though. :-)

Second, I forgot to mention that I'm actually thinking of trying to rent myself out as a steadicam operator if I get good at it. So the unit I get has to be able to handle wide variety of loads. My question is, do you think the fact that I had an off-brand steadicam would make me seem unprofessional? Asked another way, if you were shooting a commercial and there was a steadicam shot, would you not hire me because I didn't have a "real" steadicam, even though my reel was fine?

#10 Axel

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 06:07 PM

I forgot to mention that I'm actually thinking of trying to rent myself out as a steadicam operator if I get good at it. So the unit I get has to be able to handle wide variety of loads. My question is, do you think the fact that I had an off-brand steadicam would make me seem unprofessional? Asked another way, if you were shooting a commercial and there was a steadicam shot, would you not hire me because I didn't have a "real" steadicam, even though my reel was fine?


This forum probably has more amateurs than professional steadicam operators.

However, I saw quite a few showreels of them and learned about how much they earn. For casting shows, for example, they add production value. Not only do they mimic the grand gestures of cranes and dollies and spice the lousy show with emotions from camera movements, they also make the dandruff look MUCH bigger. Traditionally the studios for such shows are diminutive. By having an extreme wide angle lens, used at exactly the right height, with exactly the right distances, you can't help but see a giant arena filled with thousands of fans.

These operators have to be masters. They record big portions of the show and charge at least 10.000 € for one evening. They shouldn't fiddle with their arm springs, they shouldn't fall off the catwalk, they shouldn't tilt in the wrong angle. I doubt very much that they trust a chinese crap.

One of the best known operators in germany is Norman Bever:

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#11 Chris Mann

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 06:15 PM

If you want to be a professional Steadicam operator then I think you need to own the real thing, not a knock-off, and also get some training in how to operate it properly.

It's definitely not a device that you can just pick up and get instant results with - the setup has to be correct (and is different for each camera), and the operating technique is not just a matter of getting smooth shots but also about heath and safety - you can injure yourself and possibly others if you don't learn the correct technique and also safe operating procedures around other people, negotaiting obstacles such as cables, steps and stairs, etc.

I attended a three-day Steadicam course with Robert Starling (who shoots for TV shows such as MTV Cribs), and I was amazed at how much there was to learn and what a difference correct technique made. The first day I ached all over and was quite dispirited, thinking I would never be able to fly the thing successfully. But with time (and lots of practice) it's a skill that like any other can be masteerd.

Getting the rig balanced and using the correct posture is not only aimed at getting a good shot but also about not hurting your back in the process. Then there are some very important general safety procedures to be observed (such as always having someone guide you when walking backwards while wearing the rig).

As for the hardware itself, yes there are cheaper alternatives to Tiffen-made Steadicams, and some of them (e.g. Glidecams) are pretty good I believe, but I think it's worth having the real thing that was designed by Garrett Brown who invented the device in the first place.

The different Steadicam models are designed for different camera loads - so you need to be fairly specific about what kind of camera you are going to put on the top before buying a Steadicam. The Merlin for example is rated for cameras weighing from 0.5 to 5lbs, the Pilot for cameras from 2 to 10lbs, and the top of the range Phantom and Ultra models for cameras in the 20-48 lb range.

Bigger isn't necessarily better; using a lighter camera on a Steadicam that's designed for something heavier will require you to either operate with the stage raised up too high relative to the gimbal, or add weight to the platform to balance out the rig correctly and achieve the desired "drop time".

Although I trained on a Steadicam Flyer and operated that for a number of years, these days I use a Merlin with a Panasonic GH1 camera - a very small and light rig that I can operate on my own safely at weddings and other events, where I'm making shots in a situation that is not a controlled environment.

I think if your goal is really to become a professional operator, I would start with a rig that can fly the kind of camera that's likely to be used on independent, low-budget productions - a Pilot or Scout perhaps - and graduate to bigger rigs when the need arises.

But if you possibly can, sign up for a proper Steadicam training course - it will save you a huge amount of trial and error and save you from getting into bad and possibly dangerous habits.
Photographer & filmmaker based in the UK specializing in weddings and commercial work

#12 galenb

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:01 AM

Hi Chris,
Yeah, I absolutely intend on getting the training. I watched an hour long training video already so I know it's not just running around all willy nilly. ;-) The video is actually linked in the original post and is really fun to watch. Especially once you get past the setup and into the shooting.

I really don't know what to do. I mean, I totally see what you're saying about just going for the real thing. It makes more sense from a professional standpoint. The more I read about these Steadicam competitors (not just the ones mentioned above but also Vericam, glidecam, floatcam), it seems the arm is the place where "Steadicam" makes the most difference. But, I just can't help feeling like the chinese made one is still a good way to get into steadicam operating with the aim that later, I could get a real one. But I don't know. My main fear is that I would affect the perception of my professionalism. I guess I could always paint over the labels. :-)

Also, I'm not sure I'm totally on board with Axil's views that all chinese made goods a crap. I really wish there were some reviews of these products. Not that this is conformation or anything but there's a post by someone who said they've seen a Leopard and thought that the arm was better machined then the Flyer: Link to post. (as far as I can tell, the Leopard is the same as the M-01 above) Here's a little more on CheesyCam page But admitadly, this is really the only outside information I've seen. :-(

#13 starcentral

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 08:36 PM

hi galenb, I was also evaluating some of the no-name versions and came to this conclusion. What ever price you pay for a knock-off, if you were ever to decide to sell it you might only get 25% back on what you paid. On the other hand if you go with name brand like Steadicam you will pay more up-front but it will hold its value very well should you decide to sell later.

As for your comparisons on the different no-name steadycams; there are a variety of confusing models and some from even the SAME manufacturer may look similar but are in fact quite different. Here's a quick guide to various DUAL-ARM complete steadycam systems that I've researched - and by no means comprehensive:

Laing / Szlaing / Hotwheel (Chinese)
- 1 to 15kg (non two-section adjustable post)

Wondland (Chinese)
- 1 to 7.5kg Leopard II (non two-section adjustable post)
- 1 to 15kg Leopard II (non-deluxe model. non two-section adjustable post. has blue quick releases.)
- 1 to 15kg Leopard II Deluxe (has a two-section adjustable post)
- 1 to 15kg Leopard IV Deluxe (has a two-section adj. post but comes with additional weights)

GMCAM GM-018 (Chinese)
- unclear if 5 or 10kg camera

Indian (Indian)
- 1 to 9kg Flycam 7000 (has a two-section adjustable post)

Eemov (Hungarian)
- 1 to 6kg Hawk XT (non two-section adjustable post)

Zolinger (USA)
- 1 to 12kg XT2000 Pro Carbon (non two-section adjustable post)


The fact is you can over weight any sled if you like and it will work - but in the long run it will cause damage to the gymbal/bearings and stop being free and smooth so its best to operate within manufacturer specs. With the knock-offs I don't believe they can handle the weight that they specify. It's probably half what they say it is to be safe. I also personally think a two-section adjustable post is superior to a non-telescopic centre post by giving you more options when it comes time to achieving balance.

Post last updated Sept 4th 2012

#14 hbqckzj

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 01:56 PM

Hello! Everyone!

I am one of manufacturer for Steady Cam from China. Our brand name is LAING. The above mentioned www.szlaing.com is our official website.
We have excellent designer who are dedicated in developing and research on Steady Cam, so our product is reliable.

We have many users in China, including some Steadicam operator from famous TV station. They are satisfied with our products and gave us useful advice, which help us to produce more perfect product. We will improve our products continuously.

We also sell our product outside of China, including Europe and USA. We are quite sure about our product quality. What are provide are not the cheapest one but we do best in quality control. Some China company offer lower price product but with terrible quality.

Should any of you be interest of our products, just feel free to contact me at hbqckzj@gmail.com.

You can also purchase from us on www.amazon.com directly.You can get me by search keywords "Steadycam Laing".

Thank you!

#15 galenb

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 10:55 PM

Hello and thank you so much for answering directly! I've been searching for information on the M-02 for quite a while but have only been able to find that setup video and there is nothing in english. There doesn't seem to be any reviews of the product anywhere. One thing I've been wondering about for a while: is there a relationship between Laing and Wandlan? The two products M-02 and Leopard look almost the same. Do you use the same parts or something? Or is this manufactured by a third party company and the two of you just assemble them to your own specs? Or do you manufacture the original parts? Very curious about this.

Thanks again!

#16 Leang

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 12:35 AM

If you're willing to spend around 4k then maybe save up just a tad more and get the Glidecam X22 kit. Amazing rig,

#17 hbqckzj

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 05:33 PM

Hi Galenb,About your question:

Our relationship between laing and wondlan,no relationship,only competion,we are competiter.

We have own factory. before a long time, we OEM for other supplier outside of china. now we have own brand,so we can guarantee the quality.

So the products manufactured by ourself,everything made by us,never relationship with wondlan.

Thank you!

#18 starcentral

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 05:43 PM

I've been doing extensive research and analysis as you can see from my post #13. In conclusion I decided to spend a little extra and bought a Steadicam Flyer 24LE. You can find them for around $4000 - $4500 USD used.

The 24LE flyer is the second generation of Flyer steadicams with wider grip and other improvements such as dual voltage 12/24 capabilities.

The best part is the name brand, you get what you pay for and it holds its resale value very well. It will also hold up to 20lbs rig which is not an exaggerated specification.

I'm also looking at modifying the cable going through the post so it will handle SDI signal from the BNC connector on the SLED to a newer HD SDI capable monitor. This way I can fly older and new equipment.

I have no regrets with this purchase.

#19 galenb

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 09:17 PM

Awesome. Thanks Starcentral. I'll keep that I'm mind. I totally agree that you get what you pay for. Right now, I'm saving up for a newer camera (bmcc) so I don't have the money to spend on a Steadicam flyer system at this time. I should explane that my initial thought was that since the laing M-02 was only $1400 it might be an easier way into steady cam work. Since Ive never even done it before, it might be a good learning platform. Later, after I made some money, I could upgrade to a full Steadicam branded system. But it would be foolish for me to buy something like the Laing, in that situation, sight unseen. Honestly since there is absolutely no English reviews or even press on Laing products, I can't afford to spend money blindly like that. It's very tempting @ $1400 though. I think I could get work around here pretty quickly so it's still very tempting...

#20 galenb

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 09:24 PM

Hi Galenb,About your question:

Our relationship between laing and wondlan,no relationship,only competion,we are competiter.

We have own factory. before a long time, we OEM for other supplier outside of china. now we have own brand,so we can guarantee the quality.

So the products manufactured by ourself,everything made by us,never relationship with wondlan.

Thank you!


Thanks so much again!

That's good to hear that you are the original producer of the equipment. Do you know of any productions in china or elsewhere that have used your steady cams?

Do you have any people in the US currently using your systems? Some place I could go to try one out?

One last question, I noticed that on your amazon page, there is no shipping information. How much would it cost to ship to the west-cost USA?





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