Welcome to John Brune's
Celebrating 14 Years Online!
Welcome to the Workshop!
Handheld Steadicams are simply amazing devices. Much of the information on this website still applies to the Steadicam JR and I strongly urge you to review your Steadicam Merlin manual and DVD for additional questions--as well as going to Tiffen's Steadicam.com web page. Also you can download the Steadicam JR Operations Manual or the Steadicam JR Setup Guide (both in PDF format) for additional info.
Since the advent of DV, HDV, and tapeless video cameras the Steadicam JR and now the Steadicam Merlin mean more to video professionals than ever before because of their versatility and longevity. (The Steadicam JR was originally designed for Hi-8 and VHS-C cameras!) I used a Sony DCR VX-1000 for 4 years on the JR and since then the Sony VX-2000 and VX-2100 (The Sony TRV-900 worked great as well!) and now I fly a Sony HVR-V1U and Sony NEX FS-100 on a Steadicam Merlin.
I've provided some setup recipes for these Handheld Steadicams here at my "Steadicam Setup Recipes" page!
There's also complete setup info at the "Steadicam Merlin Online Cookbook" webpage provided by Tiffen--including user recipes.!
The Steadicam is a marvel of simplistic engineering that has revolutionized filmmaking and videography more than any other camera accessory. The Steadicam JR and Steadicam Merlin, invented by Garrett Brown and formerly manufactured by Cinema Products and now by Tiffen, are hand-held stabilization systems (costing around $600-$900) that can balance any video or film camera weighing up to six pounds. Combined with the pristine clarity of Mini-DV and HDV the Handheld Steadicam helps create shots that look identical in quality to a larger and much more expensive Steadicam system.
But shooting video in diverse situations ultimately means that add-on accessories must be utilized--like microphones, wide lenses, filters, etc. Adding such items to your Steadicam rig can add weight to the camera which then adds degrees of complication to your setup and operating efficiency. .....But different counterbalancing formulas can be designed into the scheme of Handheld Steadicam operation and through this website I shall try to exploit everything I know to help YOU--my fellow Handheld Steadicam videographer! I shall compile information to help make the Steadicam Merlin or Steadicam JR work easily and quickly for anyone willing to give it a try. Please be sure to peruse setting up the Steadicam JR with a wide conversion lens. and caring for the Steadicam JR screen. Also, check the Handheld Steadicam FAQ for additional info!
Enjoy your visit and feel free to contact me if you have questions about any of the information I've provided here.
You can e-mail me anytime at:firstname.lastname@example.org
The setup recipes that I provide are based directly from my own working rigs. Please keep in mind the following when using these recipes:
 Don't forget to have videotape and camera battery already onboard before counterbalancing Steadicam!
 Switch eyecups!! I prefer the large rubber eyecup on my camcorders over the small one because it shades my eyeglasses during setup in bright conditions--and it's heavier. Be sure to fold it back over the eyepiece when flying the Steadicam because it's more aerodynamic that way, otherwise its extended lip picks up wind like a ship's sail! (For Sony V1U completely remove large eyecup in windy conditions)
 The camera's hand strap should be velcro-tightened and flush to camera as much as possible (ANY extra onboard movement can throw off the Steadicam's counterbalance).
Hopefully anyone who has purchased a Handheld Steadicam also got the orientation DVD that explains the basics of Steadicam terminology. Let me help you if you didn't.
The "Z" axis is the grey ring on the gimble that begins its "minus" turns after it's been turned as far as it will go toward the camera stage. At that point you're at "minus zero" turns. There's a detent on the gimble ring you have to depress for each revolution.
"Drop" is the act of checking your Steadicam for proper balance. You simply hold the Steadicam handle straight (once you think it's balanced correctly) with one hand and tilt it either way 45 degrees with the other hand. Let go and if the lower spar drops to the final vertical position in less than one second then the rig is too bottom heavy. "Drop" should be one full second for optimal counter-balance or just a hair longer than one second for really good counter-balancing.
Adding counterweight to the JR is as simple as adding lead weights in the slots located inside in the lower spar battery compartment. Adding counterweight to the Merlin is as simple as screwing on additional weights to the front (nose) or lower spar.
Operating a Handheld Steadicam requires some physical conditioning. Consistent practice and/or operating will condition your arm for the weight of the system. Thank God most smaller camcorders have carrying handles on them because I switch hands between shots to let my operating arm rest. Some shots can be quite complex and taxing if the effort is put forth!
Flying a Handheld Steadicam takes a lot of practice and patience--skill comes later. Only after operating for a long time will you even begin to feel comforable approaching any video shoot. It's easy to be mesmerized by the footage but I always instill a discipline that each time I shoot I can do it better than the last time. I try to visualize the shot ahead of time or even walk through the setup without the rig to see if the manuevers I have in mind make sense as a shot. This camera system is so greatly overlooked by the professional videography community yet so many professionals strive for what it brings to me every day--high quality moving images for an unbelievably small investment. Hopefully any questions you have about the Handheld Steadicam can be answered by this website. My goal is to provide you with workshop-level information where no support group or workshop exists--but should.
ATTENTION 2-WAY RADIO USERS!!!
This does NOT occur with the Sony TRV-900, VX-1000, or the HVR-V1U--but it will make a crackle in the audio!
Canon camera owners had better check their systems out as well!