Prepping The Steadicam JR for The Add-On Lens:
First of all zero out the "Z" axis on the JR.
This means turning the gray ring (gimble) all the way up against the Steadicam stage until it cannot be turned any further. Now turn it back -6 turns on the "Z" axis. Remember that each full turn on the "Z" axis is interrupted by a detent catch on the front of the ring--press the detent button and continue until you've completed 6 full negative turns. On the JR camera stage mount the camera at hole #8 using the short screw. The JR will require the heavy stop at the juncture between the upper and lower spars, both medium weights in the lower spar battery compartment (under the C-cell batteries) and the small weight in one of the center slots (between the batteries) in the same compartment. As always is the case with the VX-1000 on the Steadicam JR the rubber flap which covers the video jacks on the side of the camera can be carefully tucked under between the JR stage and the camera body.
Mount the lens:In this example I'm using the Sony VCL-0752H wide conversion lens. It weighs approximately 7 oz. w/o lens caps and replaces the VX-1000 lens hood by screwing right onto the 52mm filter threads. Be sure all lens surfaces are clean and dust free before mounting any conversion lens because dirt will appear as white globs on-camera if you're shooting in bright conditions. DO NOT FORCE the lens once you have screwed it on all the way. ALWAYS keep lens cap on the lens when not in use. I found that the small black pouch that comes with the VCL-0752H lens is an ideal storage container for the VX-1000 lens hood and all lens caps, as well as a handy place to keep the small viewfinder eyecup.
What about filters?If you decide to add a filter to the equation be sure to (obviously) mount it onto the camera first and then mount the wide lens to the filter. I use a Tiffen 52mm Soft/FX 2 for beauty work, taming the sunlight, and softer telephoto shots. The filter itself doesn't really add much front weight to the camera but you will have to tweak the fore and aft trim on the JR. The main thing to look out for is vignetting--those little black areas in the corners of the frame. Those black areas are the inner edges of the actual lens barrel--which means the wide lens is doing its job TOO well! Adding a filter between lens and camera increases your chances that the camera will see the extreme inner edges of the lens barrel. Some folks complain that that wide lens adapters vignette too much in the first place so watch out if you're adding on a filter. Check out your video picture on a good monitor that has underscan. Underscan will allow you to see everything that's cut off on a normal t.v. and show you the extreme edges of the frame.
Adding more counterweight:Since the wide lens tips the Steadicam JR over with too much front/top weight I have custom fitted two (2) 1 oz. pieces of lead (measuring 3" Long x 3/4" Wide x 1/16th of an inch thick) side by side and lying flat on the inner cavity of the lower spar by using black electrical tape. (I chose black electrical tape instead of screwing the weights on because it allowed me to blend things in with the black finish of the Steadicam and not marr the plastic with hardware.
*YOU MAY ALSO WANT TO TRY ADHESIVE-BACKED VELCRO FOR ADDING WEIGHTS TO THE JR.
As a sidenote "gumming up" on the JR from the black tape's adhesive will occur) This extra bottom weight provides the necessary counterbalance below the Steadicam's center of gravity (the gimble) for proper fore and aft trimming. This is my own modification so all I can recommend is that you either do exactly as I have or apply an extra 2 oz. of weight evenly on the lower end of the lower spar to compensate for the extra weight of the lens.
An alternative for extra counterweight can be the removable mounting plate from a Bogen tripod (I use a Bogen 3046 model w/3063 fluid head--the mounting plate provides just over 4 oz. of even ballast for the wide lens and fore and aft ain't bad!) Leave it screwed into the last (or bottom-most) lower spar tripod mounting hole. A benefit from this is that your rig is ready for tripod mounting (should you ever require it during setups, etc.) but the big downside is that the camera cannot be set down unless it's on its side. The Bogen mounting plate prevents level resting once the JR is folded under the camera! (again, use the tripod during rest periods)
Let's fly:Now that the wide lens is mounted and your rig is properly counterbalanced (with a one-second-or-more drop on the lower spar) remove the lens cap and power up the entire system. It will be much heavier than you're used to and trimming the rig will be much more "control sensitive" but the extra weight added down below will allow for better steering and locking off of shots. The VCL-0752H lens will vignette when zoomed out all the way but the SuperSteady shot will help eliminate it for the most part. This lens is extremely susceptible to lens flare and I know of no useful lens hood capable of cutting down the glare. The particular type of lens flare you get from this lens is a stong diagonal series of smears caused by all the inner glass lens elements infinitely reflecting a light source back into the camera. The wide surface of glass allows lens flare from almost 180 degrees around the lens barrel.
That's all for now. Happy Flying!!
Complete the Handheld Steadicam Workshop Tour--all written by John Brune
The Workshop Home Page!
Steadicam JR FAQ!
Setup Recipes for Handheld Steadicams!
Caring for the JR Monitor!
Using the XLR-PRO with the Steadicam!
Attaching Microphones & Headphones to Your Rig!
Tips and Techniques
The Support Gear Page!
Steadicam User Gallery!
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Using the Zoom Commander Pro with the Cobra Crane!
copyright 2014 John Brune