In short you could say the steadicam mechanically isolates the operator’s movement, allowing for a smooth shot, even when the camera moves over an irregular surface. But it goes beyond that.
Many people think it’s only made for long takes, nothing could be further from the truth. Chris Fawcett (www.steadivision.com) wrote it down beautifully: “Steadicam brings new possibilities to film and documentary making; and not just for master shots, it cuts well too. The percentage of usable footage is increased, and more choice offered to the editor. When shifting camera positions, the steadicam glides from one composition to the next. A static shot becomes a tracking shot becomes a static shot again. Pan, boom, tilt, track, and zoom interact in a seamless storytelling continuum.
Traditional compositional features—the rule of thirds, the golden mean—become moments through which the moving frame passes. Vanishing points are supplemented by appearing and disappearing points, and the Platonic vision of carving nature at its joints is superseded by the timelessness of a frame exploring space—not drifting aimlessly, but breathing with its subject; a frame free to blend the gravitas of a stare with the lightness of a glance, matching qualities of action with qualities of movement in four-dimensional composition.”
What is the ‘VOLT’?
The Volt is a new device that helps the operator to deliver the high-quality demands of modern film sets by actively assisting in holding virtually any horizon or tilt angle. This gentle assistance helps to remove the effects of wind, acceleration, or natural body movement in the captured image. The Volt assistance can be engaged or disengaged with a single push of a button.
All this helps to speed-up a production and use the steadicam on shots where you’d normally would’ve gone for a dolly or tripod.
What is the difference with a gimbal?
The steadicam is a weighted stabilizer that uses gravity and physics to stabilize. A gimbal stabilizer uses motors, batteries and a computer to stabilize an image.
In contrast with the gimbals a steadicam can carry almost any camera-build with a wide range of accessories. Controlling the camera is completely in the hands of the steadicam-operator, so it’s very important the DP and the operator talk beforehand about the purpose of the shot.
Is any of the two better? NO! Both have their own place on the filmset and it’s very important to know the differences of the two. If you’re in doubt about which one to use, get in touch and we’ll see what is the best for your production.