Filmmakers are constantly searching for the perfect stabilization units to use for handheld filming and stills. When shooting on a tight budget and often a small budget, filmmakers can come up with some of the most ingenious ways of creating professional finishes without spending the entire budget on one tiny piece of equipment for one specific shot; but trying to get smooth handheld shots and stable tracking shots without a rig is something that nearly all of the them struggle with.
There are many out there on the market, some designed specifically for use in bigger budget productions rather than independent and amateur undertakings. However, there are cheaper units out there that though they are not quite as expensive to purchase, still provide excellent results in handheld filming. Two models that fit into the cheaper price bracket are the OptekaSteadyVid Pro and the TiffenSteadicam Merlin. We took a look at the differences between the two units to help budding filmmakers make the right choice for their projects.
The OptekaSteadyVid Pro is a great stabilization unit for small units, it has a load capacity of 5lbs so can easily take the weight of smaller digital camcorders as well as digital cameras. The aluminum body construction means that the OptekaSteadyVid Pro is a strong unit as well as being lightweight so that it can easily be operated by any member of a camera crew without the need for prior experience. The adjustable mounting plate means that different angles of the same shot can be capture without the need for tools.
The adjustable mounting plate means that you can easily readjust the camera position in the vertical and horizontal axis without having to remove the camera or taking apart the stabilization unit. The comfortable grip handle is also a great feature, allowing camera stability when shooting tracking shots or even when the camera is moving around stationary objects and made from rubber, so that it is unlikely to slip out of your hand whilst you are using it. The smooth gimbal in this unit means that motion is accurately captured without any of those shakey hands moments that can mean hours of set up and preparation have to endured again to redress at set can be avoided.
The OptekaSteadyVid Pro comes with a one year warranty so if there are any problems with the unit, they can be solved without having to pay out anything extra. The OptekaSteadyVid Pro also comes with a counterweight, plus two add on weights, all in polished chrome so that you can customize the stability of the rig. The OptekaSteadyVid Pro measures 8 x 95 x 1.2 inches and is ideal given the price, for filmmakers who are just starting out.
The TiffenSteadicam Merlinis also a lightweight stabilization unit and is one of the lightest rigs that you can find, weighing just 2lbs. It is half the weight of its equivalent competitors and four times as stable. Despite its lightweight, it is ridiculously strongand extreme maneuverable, the Steadicam Merlin can support a load capacity of up to 5lbs. The counterweight system that comes with the Steadicam Merlin is precisely calibrated so that it can be adjusted anywhere between 0.25lbs and 1.5lbs.
It’s no surprise that the TiffenSteadicam Merlin is a product that is exceptionally well crafted and can carry an even higher load capacity if coupled with the optional Merlin Arm and Vest rig. The Steadicam Merlin rig has a patent pending folding caliper hinge that allows for instant folding of the stabilization unit so you can store it quickly and easily as well as being able to transport it without having to take the whole rig apart.
The TiffenSteadicam Merlin can be used as a stabilization unit when using it as a mounted shoulder rig or when holding it using the rubber handle that has been ergonomically designed for comfortable use whether you are right or left handed. The secure gimbal lock in the rig allows for precise turning so that when you are filming handheld shots you have much more control and smoother shots. The TiffenSteadicam Merlin also comes with an adjustable lens support platform for long lenses as well as a rigid camera mounting plate, complete with quick release system.
The Final Verdict
To get the most out of the TiffenSteadicam Merlin, there are lots of accessories that you need to purchase alongside the basic rig. If you intend to produce more than one film or a series of short films, then investing in all the bits and pieces of equipment for the TiffenSteadicam Merlin is worth the money as you will be able to create consistency in your shooting style. Equally if you can afford to invest in all the equipment it is well worth doing so for the versatility you can get out of this rig.
However, the OptekaSteadyVid Pro is still an excellent solution for shot stabilization, especially if you don’t need the additional load capacity that comes with owning the Arm and Vest accessory for the TiffenSteadicam Merlin.