What is a Steadicam?

Overview

The Steadicam is a tool that allows for smooth tracking shots. Unlike handheld footage which is shaky, the Steadicam allows the operator to walk forward, backwards, and even up or down steps smoothly. It allows the camera to track the action or talent with no shake or wobble. This allows the audience to concentrate solely on the talent and constant background. It is a modern look that can add a huge amount of production value to you video.
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How it Adds to the Story

When you are going for a professional looking piece with smooth movement, there is no substitute for a Steadicam. It allows the story to keep moving in a dynamic and exciting way. There is a very distinct mood to a Steadicam shot. The ability to freely move in any size space and change directions gives the creative director a lot of options for character movement. Along with that, it gives unique ways to show off a location, such as an office space for a recruiting video. Instead of having several tripod shots, imagine having one shot that smoothly ‘floats’ throughout rooms. While you could have characters walking towards a camera, how about we move with these characters to bring in the audience? Much more engaging and dynamic. The options are limitless with this tool.

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Comparing Other Ways to Add Motion

A slider is a great way to add (smooth) motion but can be limiting. When you want to cover more ground or even move in a non-linear direction, a slider won’t work. Even with a 5 ft slider, you are restricted in the direction you can move and how much exploration you have in a room. When it comes to static interviews or quick scene reveals, the slider is a great option.

Handheld rigs work great in intense situations to bring the audience in the scene. If it isn’t a very fast paced scene with a high intensity, the handheld look seems amateur and takes away from the story. Pans from left to right are also jerky which doesn’t look right in most situations.

A dolly is an extremely smooth device that gives the camera operator full control of the camera while someone pushes them on a track. Because you need a track to smoothly operate a dolly, space becomes an issue. It will not work in tight, windy spaces. The Steadicam saves space by being able to freely move around objects and change directions. Most office spaces could not accommodate a dolly.

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Other Benefits

And the best part? It is timesaving. It takes very little time to set up and balance (especially if the initial tweaks were made the day before). The steadicam operator can accomplish most shots on his own and only needs an assistant when walking backwards or on steps. For example, while the A Unit is shooting interviews, the B Unit can shoot broll on the Steadicam allowing us to save time for more shots which will give you a higher production value and more footage to choose from.

While searching the web for some of the best examples of steadicam shots, I came across this highlight video which contains the all time best steadicam shots from movies and television shows. Which one is your favorite?

The Art of Steadicam from Refocused Media on Vimeo.

Is Steadicam Right for You

The easiest way to answer this question is to ask your Creative Director. Not only will he know the ins and outs of your project, but he is very knowledgable in the available tools and their capabilities. Additionally, he will get the opinion of the Art Director who can be sure that it will work with the look and feel of the video. We want to make sure that the tools we use are adding to the story and not taking away.

The Steadicam is a very powerful tool that can add a lot to your next project so be sure to ask about it when contacting us!

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