Saturday, January 17, 2015

Prologue - A bit about me

Hi there folks ,

Before posting about my journey with my Steadicam Master Series i want to give a little bit information about my background and how i get into this bussiness.

I started doing some short films back in 2009 when i was in highschool with my buddy. We where both huge action genre fans. Back then all we had was a Panasonic DV handycam and a photo tripod with a broken plate on it. ( We had to tape the camera on it each time we need to use it , also no pan and tilt  was possible). First couple of short films we made was all about actions , guns and explosions so we except the vfx shots camera was always in our hands running around. The thing we didn’t realise back then that little handicap got built-in image stabilization. When i switched to a dslr (in this case Canon 7D) because of using a CMOS sensor and rolling shutter issues handheld wasn’t as pleasing for us as it used to be especially in the time where we were moving towards more dramatic themed projects. In this point i have to give credit to famous youtubers , Rocket Jump (back then it was freddiew) and Corridor Digital , our main inspiration and also education source :) . Their style were the main reason for our frequent handheld work. But as i sad we needed to find a way to move the camera smoothly in space for the genres other than action !. So we started to experiment different DIY methods. I tried to put the tripod on different things with wheels like shopping carts. But they were only working fine in limited speed and on a good surface.

Trying to move the camera by placing it into shopping carts
DIY dolly were both humble because of their size and limited range of movement and they were also hard to transport since we didn’t have a car (neither driving licence due to my age). So i started to look for some sliders , both DIY and branded ones. Problem with them was they were more limited than dolly and after some length you need a second tripod to handle it. So i started to look for a solution again and one day i came across something magical called Glidecam 2000 ( this was all before this gimbal trend of course ) İt was light (since we were only using a dslr and a kit lens - no fancy rigs) and can achieve all the movement smoothly and attached to a human ! . It was the perfect device for us which almost operates like handheld but stable as a dolly. 

So i searched local dealers to find where i can get one (living in Turkey / Istanbul). Since its almost impossible to find good camera equipment in Turkey , i came across a brand called Flycam , its also the same time i realised there also a vest and an arm for heavier steadicams to distribute the weight and operate smoothly. After doing some research i decided to buy a Flycam 6000 with vest and arm. — i need to give an information here. i’ve been working as a camera assistant since 2010 and became a cameraman in 2012. I was able to work during holidays and in 2-3 days length productions. So i had a small amount of cash collected from these shootings. enough to buy a small rig :) 

First time getting into a steadicam vest in local camera store
Trying to figure out how the arm work. The model i was trying is Flycam 5000 with single spring arm. Much lightweight than my current Master Arm , can't say the same for the performance though :)

After getting my hands on a proper steadicam ( i mean vest-arm-gimbal and in time a monitor) configuration i started to use it almost in all my shorts , even after a while it started to replace tripod shots. For about a year i mostly practice on the physics of the steadicam. After about a year i got call from my "mentor". They were about to shoot a commercial film with the lightweight Panasonic 3D camera and because of operator had an Master Series (same rig i'm using right now :) ehich i will mention later about that) he needed a rig for lighter camercas like mine. I immediately accepted the job under one condition that i was going to be the steadicam assistant. Whereby i met Deniz Aslan whom operating since 1998

The commercial where i met Deniz Aslan. After 2-3 days we decided to continue with master series instead of my flycam :)

Since then until 2014 summer in certain jobs (paid or student projects) i started to use his rig and being his assistant in certain projects when i didn't have to go to school. When i graduated from highshcool and started to study film in college it got easier for me to work. During the summer 2014 he bought another rig , an Tiffen Ultra 1 , for him self so i was able to spend more time with the Master Series. In the end of that summer i decided to buy the master series rig which i was assisted for about 2 years ! I made the offer and he accepted claiming that the rig should stay in the family. 

Since then i own an Master Series rig with efp vest. When i first got the rig i was in his original form (CRT monitor , old fashion batterys). Back then i didn't have the courage to make any updates or any changes to the rig. But the. I took the Steadicam Workshop which took place in Pennsylvania. It was an extremely life changing 6 days of my life. Meeting the inventor of steadicam and studying with all these epic operators reaaly changed the whole deal in my mind about this machine. Which i can easly say that my operating life divides in to two parts. Pre and after workshop. 

When i came back to turkey i started to some updates and changes to my rig. After meeting novice operator like me i realised that a brand new rig can be extremely dangerous invesment in short term. I was glad i own a master series rig and also i became aware of good operating is not connected by owning a brand new rig. I mean think about Garret Brown's shots in Shining considering the rig he used back then. Even though my master rig is 1994 model ( same age as mine) i was as good as its operator. And also very suitable for upgrades. I have to mention LA based operator Neal Bryant for being an inspirational source in this whole upgrading by rig thing. I learned so much by just stalking his instagram feed :).

It is easy to find a Master Series rig in the market with a good price tag and i believe its amazing for beginners and also for experts to use it. The main purpose of this blog is to help newbie operators get into bussiness without spending thousands of dollars to a brand new one and how usefull can a master rig be with upgrades and minor changes.

Shooting a music video just before leaving for the workshop

I'm planing to post every changes i made and situations i faced in this blog , also future plans

Enjoy and have a good flight :)

Mert Ercin
Steadicam Operator based in Istanbul / Turkey

You can reach me for any questions and recommendations by my facebook account and e-mail below