Thursday, May 12, 2011

The "Big" Rig Dilemma

In the few years since I decided that I wanted to pursue Steadicam as a career, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go in, gear-wise. I’ve poured over countless rigs, new and used, read every review I could get my hands on, looked through pages upon pages of posts over on the Steadicam Forum, and done more business planning and financial hand-wringing as is probably sane for a person of my age. This is a struggle that I’ve seen many new operators go through recently – there’s a plethora of gear out there right now, and much of it is coming down in price. Also, with changes in modern production (lighter cameras, new video technology), it’s become increasingly tempting to pick up lighter-weight rigs, which cost significantly less.

So, how did I pick what range of rig to buy? It’s a long story, but it boils down to a simple point - I never wanted to turn down a job because my rig couldn’t do it.

I had owned a lightweight rig for a few years, and not only was I not taken terribly seriously by anyone who knew their equipment, but I also had to be very careful before applying for jobs. I never knew when a DP would ask me to put an extra accessory on the rig that would take me over my meager weight capacity. It’s not a good situation to be in!

Additionally, I found a big bonus to buying bigger, and it’s something I never would have believed until I got the rig. The bigger a rig is, the more stable it is. It’s a simple point of inertia – the formula for the inertia of an object is its mass times the velocity it is traveling at – thus a heavier rig has more inertia than a lighter one, assuming both are doing the same shot. More inertia means that the rig requires much less “babysitting” from the operator, allowing more focus on fine control. It’s a big, big improvement.

Finally, I had to work out what age of gear I was comfortable with. In my situation, it made much more sense to buy a bit older, and get a rig that could actually do everything I wanted. After looking at it, and realizing that I had a lot left to spend outside of the rig, I decided to go for the rig I have now, a PRO I, which allowed me to focus more budget on accessories. Even something as small as cables can add up quickly, when for every cable, you need a spare. On a set, I know I’d rather have a whole bag of spare cables (like when a PA dropped the monitor off my rig a few weeks ago and tore a cable in half) than a flasher, newer rig.

Finally, the dilemma is solved – big rig it is. Now to get back to practicing for the next shoot!


  1. Sorry for writing a comment here, as I´m no professional Steadicam operator. Anyway, I made the same experience after a lot of reading and trial and came to the same solution. Heavier is better! I tried the (lighter) Steadicam Flyer, but decided to buy a Glidecam X-25. It´s cheaper (about 2.000 $) and, because more weight, the results are better. As a non-prof I´m not married with Steadicam and have the free choice. Sometimes it´s better to be a non-prof ;-)

  2. Thanks for your story. Great to hear from someone who has experienced what I am experiencing atm, gives me hope for the future.