2008 March 18th, 01:09
My First Merlin Experience
I have been waiting for my new HV30 to be used with the Merlin. Finally, I used them at a wedding Saturday. Before that, of course I have to go through the same painful learning experience on how to balance the cam. After spending 4 hours reading the manual and watching the DVD like 4 times, I think I finally get it.
Steadicam Merlin is a cool gadget. Just like the LitePanel Micro, it's WAY overprice in my opinion. During the setup part, there're lots of new terms to get familiar with. I hated it they invented so many new names. Being not a native English speaker, it's painful to go through. It won't be easy to remember especially you can't even pronouce those term on your own.
Since I'm using the BP-2L24 battery, I am not able to find the settings in the merlincookbook.com site. I have to balance it from scratch. The video is helpful but not exactly. When the guy said the center of the dovetail plate is hold H, there are 2 holes labeled H (the locating pin hole and mounting hole). I don't know which one he was referring to.
When I use the Merlin in action, it was really fun to operate. It looks cool that I can create shots that flys over people. Well, you have to be tall for that. I'm 6'3" with a long arm When I was using it in the reception, it draws quite some attention. A lot of people are looking and pointing at me when I was operating the merlin. Pretty cool.
Mine is an open box item. So I save some money. There is already a plastic button piece fell off. I super glue it back. Then the caliper arm is not tight. Even after I locked it, it still moves slightly causing the merlin out of balance. I am thinking of contacting the manufacterer.
Overall, I like it
2008 March 18th, 01:23
At least I think their service is good, so you should have no problem with sorting out the problems with the unit. Heck it's expensive enough so that they can AFFORD to provide good service!
2008 March 21st, 21:12
Hey I too had problems with my Merlin. The first one I received from B&H had the problem with the upper spar not being locked, it rotated around the joint, making it impossible to balance. I sent it back, a week later got my second one, opened the box to find the gimbal head was missing a screw. I was so angry I emailed Tiffen, and B&H. I got a call back immediately from Dan at Tiffen. They are in Glendale, I am in Simi. So I told him if I had to send back the second Merlin to New York it would be for a refund, not an exchange. He agreed to send me one straight from Glendale. I said I was willing to come to him to get an exchange. He agreed. So today I got to visit Tiffen. What a cool place. Dan gave me a new gimbal head, and the tripod adapter plate. So I was very happy to the response I was given. The Merlin is not cheap, but they sell Steadicams that cost 10x the Merlin. So I was happy how they treated the consumer that is not a professional spending thousands of dollars. Now I just have to learn how to fly the darn thing.
2008 March 21st, 21:15
Ha! You know what, I also called them today and I plan to make a trip to their office in Glendale next week. Since I'm in Pasadena it's about 15 minutes drive. I was also given a name Dan to look for when I get there. When I described the situation to the gentlemen on the phone, he said it sounds like a defective item. Anyway, I will still need it this weekend for a wedding. I will report back what happen next week.
I added a Raynox 6600 WA lens to HV30 and mounted on the Merlin. I have to add another weight to it and finally got it to balance. It looks cool!
2008 March 21st, 21:30
Here's a suggestion you can pass along to the Merlin people from me: my friend with all the cool toys of course bought a Merlin; he and at least one other person monkeyed around with it and a couple of different cameras, but never really got it balanced, and put it away.
Since we had a surplus of HV20's while I was out there, I decided I'd try mounting mine on the Merlin, but oops, someone had lost the absurdly-tiny eyeglass-like screw that holds the locating pin, and of course Tiffen supplies only ONE. For eight bills, they could include a spare, maybe??
PS: Are you really 6'3"? The way you're looking up at your A1 I'd have thought you were more like 3'6" ...
2008 March 21st, 23:12
2008 March 21st, 23:49
Yes I'm really 6'3".. or 5'15" ... the bogen tripod I have after raising the center pole go up to 9' tall. I raise it high so short people, I mean vertical challenged people, won't be able to block me.
Erik, do you want me to ask them for the spare locating pin? I don't mind doing so.
2008 March 21st, 23:53
Well, my friend still has the pin, it's the #!@$% screw which holds the pin that went missing ... just thought you might suggest in the future they include a spare, since it's tiny, necessary, easily lost, and not so easily replaced at the hardware store ...
2008 March 22nd, 00:18
Mine comes with 2 sets of screws and locating pins... but I will ask them for a screw for you.
2008 March 22nd, 09:12
2008 March 22nd, 09:18
I agree with Taky that this device is overpriced for what it is, but I don't ever plan on buying another one, so its cost when spread out over maybe the next 20 years isn't all that bad.
My one complaint about its design is that whenever you change the setting on one trim roller, the other one will need re-adjusting as well. They even mention this in the video, so its not just mine that has this problem. This is a design flaw that should have been fixed long ago. Its very frustrating to get the thing perfectly horizontal in one direction, only to find out that now its no longer horizontal in the other direction!
2008 March 23rd, 01:48
I also was given two sets of screws in my first Merlin. When the replacement arrived it had only one set. Tiffen does have excellent customer service. They respond quickly to email, I even sent them a link of my first footage using the Merlin and got a response that same day. I feel they took real good care of me, even though I am just an amateur that is not going to be spending thousands of dollars on my rig.
And aurelius, I don't think the fact that you have to change trim on both sets of rollers for two axis is not a design flaw. This gives you much more control over how you want your camera trimmed. There may be times when you want your camera trimmed in a unique position. Each axis having its own trim control allows for my precision in my opinion. It is something that I am sure will become second nature with time and practice.
My first experience with my Merlin http://www.vimeo.com/810762
2008 March 23rd, 03:13
2008 March 23rd, 03:58
I got frustrated in balancing not because of the way it is setup. Even they tried hard to put up a video and well written manual, it's still obscure on how to set it up right. The cookbook is not as useful because different battery size and accessories we used. I also hated they name all the parts with some unusual names. It makes it even harder to follow.
Again, in the video, the inventor said the center of the dovetail plate is hole H. ... err.. the letter H is printed between 2 holes. I don't know which one is the hole H he was talking about.
What I figure out is, to balance from scratch for a small camera like HV20, set the spar arc to the minimum. Have only the start and finish weight. Start increasing the arc distance to see if you can balance it. If you have the spar open wide still can't get it balance, add a mid weight. Then move the arc to the minimum positon and start again.
From my experience, for just the HV20 alone, just the start and finish weight is enough. After I add the Raynox 6600, I need to add a mid weight to get it balance.
I also have another plastic piece fell off. That was the small button for rotating the gimbal support to change the pivot point. For the price Tiffen charges, they should at least make it a little bit sturdier.
But still, that's a great piece of tool. It's fun the work with and the video output is great too.
2008 March 23rd, 20:14
I thing you may be misunderstanding what I'm saying. There are two trim rollers, call them A and B: one controls the forward/back tilt of the camera, the other controls the sidways tilt. The problem I'm having is that when I adjust trim roller A, trim roller B, which was set correctly goes out of whack and needs readjusting. Similarly, when I adjust trim roller B, trim roller A, which was set correctly goes out of whack. This means that every time I try to get the camera perfectly horizontal, I have to re-adjust both trim rollers repeatedly. That shouldn't happen: adjusting one trim setting should not have any effect on the other trim setting.
Originally Posted by bigd1971
2008 March 23rd, 21:21
Yes it should. It is not a design flaw. As you move the imaginary center of gravity point(roller A) , the entire mass (camera) moves accordingly, and it also introduces a whole new set of load to balance, in relations to the gimbal center point. You have to realize the balancing act is actually in three dimension. And as you film, the location of camera mass changes due to the relocation of the tape's mass.
Originally Posted by aurelius
2008 March 23rd, 22:00
I found a little "trick" that speeds up the balancing process...
If you look at the bottom of the handle on the Merlin, you will notice that there is a hole about 3/4" in diameter that extends the length of the handle. I believe this hole is probably designed to accept a similarly sized pin on the Merlin body harness.
I mounted a threaded rod through the working surface of a wooden work bench in my office, sticking ~2" above and perpendicular to the level of work bench. The rod is close to the edge of the work bench.
When I'm balancing my Merlin, I dial-in the rough balance parameters from my notebook, then set the handle of the Merlin over the pin on my work bench - where it will stay while I work to fine-tune the balance. I find the fine-tuning process goes much faster when you can use both hands.
NOTE: Before you start to balance, don't forget to get the camera in filming condition:
1) open the LCD screen
2) Put a tape in
3) Put a Mini-SD in
4) Put your big battery on
5) Put your mic on
6) Take off the lens cap if using a supplemental lens
I have removed most of the "hand strap" on my HV20. I found that the hand strap position had too much variability and would affect balance. I simply sliced it near the 2 metal retaining rings near the back of the camera. There is only a short "pig tail" attached to the back of the camera with the 2 metal rings.
Once the fine-tune balance is achieved, I just pick up the Merlin by the handle and I'm off.
Edited to correct SD chip model and add the lens cap removal item.
Last edited by V10TDI; 2008 March 24th at 21:43.
2008 March 23rd, 22:06
Lee, just to reduce any confusion with some readers, the HV20 accepts mini-SD.
2008 March 24th, 07:43
It looks like it was a lot of fun to use. The walk and talk had a lot of fluidity to it -- how do you compare that to your steadiness when doing the same without Merlin?
Originally Posted by bigd1971
2008 March 24th, 08:19
If you're not moving around much its OK, but try climbing stairs or walking without some type of steadicam device and it will look like you're experiencing an earthquake. Have a look at my video in which I do the comparison: http://www.vimeo.com/779326
Originally Posted by Dana Love
Mind you, the Merlin is MUCH smoother than the Calicocam device I was using in the video.
2008 March 24th, 20:11
2008 March 24th, 20:46
I thought that's call friendship.
Originally Posted by daveperk
2008 March 24th, 21:04
2008 March 24th, 22:14
2008 March 24th, 22:46