Thanks to Ted’s brother, Jack for permission to republish the "Manual." COPYRIGHTED© Ted Churchill

Steadicam: The Future

The Basic Nature of Difficulty

  1. Attire
  2. Perspiration
  3. Arrival
  4. Set Up
  5. Suiting Up
  6. Humping the Big Guy
  7. Attitude Toward Crew Members
  8. Discussing the Shot
  9. Breakdown: Equipment
  10. Breakdown: Operator
  11. Expanding Your Legend
  12. .The Wrap
  13. Gravity
  14. Height
  15. Drugs &The Operator
  16. Choosing your assistant
  17. Choosing your Clients
  18. Determining Your Rate


If you are graduating from film school and about to join the countless

others entering the industry or are already employed and considering a lateral

move within it, consider the following: As you must know, technology is

changing our world at a frightening pace, and in the forefront of this change

is communications. Thousands have already been affected. The tears of those

caught in obsolete professions and categories within the industry could

put out all the annual brushfires in southern California and still fill

all it’s swimming pools (as usual the solution being invisibly close to

the problem). In this time of crucial choice your ability to look into the

future will determine your success and security for years to come.

Undoubtedly you have heard at one time or another of the Steadicam –

technology’s darling and that awesome and magical object of the industry’s

affection. Its popularity is beyond question; its potential unlimited. Therefore

as a career choice it is worth some consideration. Let us examine it for

a moment. As a Steadicam operator you can "glide" through life

confident that you are one of a select group of individuals for whom the

word "obsolescence" has little or no meaning. With this

technology you can rest easy as others protect your interests and provide

job security in the continual and raging patent infringement battle. Since

the Steadicam is a relatively new invention and skill within the industry,

there is great need for good operators. This provides quick placement

within a field which is often impossible to enter. Since the

Steadicam is state-of-the-art technology you as operator become a truly

contemporary personality. No need to seek out the most advertised designer

jeans, be able to excel in roller skating, own a home computer or a multi-functional

digital watch.

If you still insist on calling yourself an artist, the technology

ot Steadicam can satisfy that need. Because of it’s unique potential it

is quickly becoming synonymous with the artistic as well as the

technocratic. For all the countless film students who have become crestfallen

at their first sight of a major picture being shot there is now blessed


If you’re a freak about health the Steadicam is just the thing.

No more need to spend uncountable miserable hours jogging; spend vast amounts

of money on health clubs around multitudes with the same problems, eat bland

dreary. hard to chew sugarless foods or wince as you watch commercials for

designer jeans. With the Steadicam you can again look like you did at sixteen.

You’ll develop a new self confidence and muscles in your back and legs that

even the medical profession doesn’t know you have.

On the set, where it is often impossible to tell director from teamster

you’ll instantly stand out in your black anodized operator’s vest.

No need to tell others what you do You do what no one else can. As

a specialist you can demand a scandalous salary; as an artist you can demand

an explanation and justification for the shot: and as a technician you can

demand your meals served hot and on-time.

And finally as a Steadicam operator you will have the opportunity tor

world travel – places you thought correctly you would never see doing

industrial films. Not New Jersey but Nepal; not lowa but Indonesia. Since

you’re always working in close proximity with the best known stars

of the day you can drop interesting tidbits about them to friends and business

associates. As your ability to impress others increases you’ll never have

to pay for another meal or want for a place to stay as those cognizant of

your reputation lust for your attention. In short you’ll be riding

the Concord instead of the Eastern Shuttle.

It’s a wonderful world and one worth some consideration. But, realistically

speaking it’s not all roses. Indeed for all the benefits of operating the

Steadicam there are equally as many pitfalls. From the instant your telephone

rings to the time your check arrives in the mail, professional self – destruction

hangs leering in the wings of your career. Up until now little

has been said of these issues – the issues the trade magazines refuse to

print (unfortunately including this bit of literature). Consequently, I

have taken it upon myself to make available my own experience with the hope

that it will be helpful to all those about to consider a similar career

trajectory. Although the subject is "operating the Steadicam".

I am confident that many from other categories will find something of value

in the manual if only its sporting approach.

/ / Top / /


It becomes quickly obvious to anyone who utilizes this technology for

the first time that it is decidedly more challenging than one would suspect.

Displaying the strength of a professional wrestler, the delicacy and temperament

of a prima-ballerina and the boorishness of the barroom drunk the Steadicam

is a companion of the most subtle and seemingly arbitrary personality. Fortunately

for the novice owner /operator manuals now exist which provide comprehensive

information on both it’s physical and mechanical operation. Utilizing this

information in conjunction with practice and perseverance, the operator

can quickly overcome the initial difficulties and become – in time – an

articulate and masterful technician.

But if we put aside the actual manual and technological skills of operation

there remains another area which though often overlooked, is vitally important

to the success of the operator. This area encompasses such elements as the

operators appearance to others on the set, the appearance of the operator’s

equipment and the appearance of the relationship between the operator and

the operator is equipment. Although this sounds unduly complicated in actuality

it is no more so than, for example, the Steadicam Quickcharger.

As a specialist the Steadicam operator can inspire confidence and professionalism;

win friends and impress others; be invited to parties and special events

and become a hero and eventually a legend. On the other hand, the uninitiated

operator has an equal ability to create suspicion, disdain, despair, hostility,

violence, confusion, and even panic on the set. And more often than not

the sole determining factor is nothing more than a matter of appearances

– a matter of Style

/ / Top / /

1. Attire

First Impressions, it is said are the most important. One is often judged

on looks alone. Therefore it is imperative that the Steadicam operator be

properly dressed when he or she walks onto the set. Fortunately we have

a major advantage in this respect all other production categories (with

the obvious exception of the Louma Crane Operator) are subject to predetermined

codes of attire. We on the other hand – being technician specialist and

artist – form a unique hermaphroditic Personally whose true identity remains

relatively unanticipated or formed by general opinion. Therefore there is

enormous potential for latitude for in attire. Yet freedom itself provides

its own limitations.

So what should one one wear? Practically speaking, your attire should

not be competitive with the executive producer, yet it not need not inspire

others to demand you plug in the coffee machine either. Leisure suits don’t

imply artistry, or designer jeans hard work. Dress for the job: high concentration,

worry, and enormous physical exertion. Be comfortable. Avoid clothing which

easily shows perspiration, wrinkles easily or on which the colors are liable

to run when in constant contact with moisture. Remember that if you arrive

on the set really pressed out you’re going to look like garbage at the end

of the third take. On the other hand if you dress like garbage you will

look approximately the same at the end of the day. So always opt for less

apparent disintegration in your apparel. Always avoid wearing loud color

combinations. If noticed you may be asked to shoot everything.

/ / Top / /

Page / /

2. Perspiration

To the Steadicam operator, the greatest enemy of Good Form is sweat.

It is practically unavoidable and inherent in the nature of the job. Ignore

it and within the first five minutes of shooting you will look like James

Brown after a concert at the Apollo in July

There are solutions. That much advertised item, The Underarm Deodorant,

is the operator’s best friend, I personally have found Mitchem very effective

and apparently it works for women too. It is always good to carry a few extra

with your equipment, within easy reach. In addition to the obvious location

the generic name implies, the deodorant should be applied to all areas of

the upper torso where the operator’s vest comes into contact. This of course

should be done at home and not on the set. Should reapplication

prove to be necessary , find a private bathroom or use the darkroom of the

camera truck. In the warmer months, the deodorant should be mixed with Scotchguard

at 3:1 and applied to the inside of the vest (A small application to the

Stabilizing Arm won’t hurt either ). Even if one works a great deal, dreaders

cost should not exceed that of Dust off. Often it is possible to bill the

production for this expense although this practice varies from coast to


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3. Arrival

You arrive for the call on the set in the morning your attitude is positive

and your attire flawlessly casual. Yet within fifteen minutes people are

glancing uneasily in your direction Others are engaged in hushed, intense

conversation with an occasional gesticulation implicating you as the subject

of discussion. You look for your assistant but he is talking animatedly

with the production manager. Something is wrong, but what could it possibly

be? Your concern turns to consternation and your consternation to fear and

extreme anxiety . Somehow you have blown it

Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of the producer and director quite

as much as the arrival of brand new equipment on the set, especially when

accompanied by an owner/operator. The implications are obvious it is therefore

incumbent upon the operator to alleviate these fears – indeed to allow no

possibility for them to incubate.

Look at your equipment; look at your cases. What would you think

as producer if they arrived on your set? See the large case that

houses the vest, arm, and batteries? Dump it: it’s ridiculous. Replace it

with some funky old padded bag. If the other cases look new pound the edges

with a hammer place small pieces of crumbled gaffers tape on top and bottom,

affix a few old travel stickers, tie old baggage tags to the handle. The

equipment inside deserves no less attention. With the careful and sensitive

use of sand paper, steel wool and the common file it is possible to make

the vest, arm, and camera platform look like they and you have come through

many a trying but triumphant encounter. Look at any rental Steadicam and

you will quickly determine scrapes, marks, and wear points occur. Emulate

them exactly. But don’t overwork the front of the monitor or sled, as it

implies an undue amount of contact with foreign objects such as walls, doors,

the ground and (God forbid!) the faces of talent.

The Steadicam gives the operator gives a unique format for self expression

– it can actually become the billboard of your personality. All told there

are 3.27 square feet of potential advertising space on the Camera Mounting

Platform alone all waiting for your personal touch. But be careful The addition

of non functional personalizations on your equipment such as decorative

emblems, clever sayings, logos from sports, or other technologies could

all easily backfire should you actually encounter difficulty with a shot

above your current level of skill. Therefore, these additions should be

employed in conjunction with (and representative of slightly less than)

the actual level ol your experience.

All containers for accessories and functional additions should appear

well-worn and technically plausible. You can’t go wrong with military

surplus. In addition, substances from other allied technologies such as

aerospace, automotive, boating, and skateboarding all tend to enhance the

look of your equipment, provided, of course they are used in moderation.

Finally, and I know this is a sensitive point for many – if you should

happen to be an owner of the Universal #1, you would do well to have a few

well chosen rationalizations ready to counter anyone who might be crass

enough to bring the point to your attention. Never appear to be on the defensive.

Such dirty phrases as "last year’s equipment is last year’s technician"

are not funny even in jest. Remind the offensive pugilist that the Model

#1 is actually lighter than the #2; that the #1 is preferable in the low-mode:

that the best operators seldom, if ever, change the position of the monitor

on the #2, and finally that if he doesn’t like it he can go sit on it.

/ / Top / /

4. Set Up

The first rule of "set up" is to let someone else do everything.

Not only will you be saving yourself for the real work later on, but should

any technical problem surface, blame will not immediately be cast in your

direction.(Always carry a list of assistants on the job). If you are forced

into a projected set up time by the production manager, figure how long

it will take and triple it. Better to have a little time on your hands then

to become a whimpering hysteric. But don’t get caught hanging around the

honeywagon, coffee machine, extras or stand-ins during "set up time".

If you encounter a major technical problem, keep your cool. Remember that

unless the equipment has been dropped, the problem is always somewhere in

a cable. Don’t panic. lf you can’t fix it you can always pack up your equipment

and split. As a friend of mine say’s "F*** ’em if they can’t take a


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l o a d i n g . . . 5. Suiting Up

When it’s actually time to "suit up" for the shot there are

a few important things to remember. First and most primary is the fact that

one or a number of people will be watching you. When the Steadicam is called

for all heads will simultaneously turn in your direction. So when you hear

the call cease and desist the perpetuation of all frivolous, unflattering

or deviate activity. Be cool. Remember that the process of suiting up is

– in and of itself – a ballet, and that your performance will be harshly

judged by your audience.

Never put the suit over your head. Not only will it mess up your hair

but it might even catch your hair on the way in. If you want to spend some

time with your head in the vest, it’s your decision but there is no need

to describe how it looks to others. Instead, slide the vest on from your

right side (not the left) and briskly snap the latch on the left collar

. Auditorily, this latch represents the single most important dramatic moment

in suiting-up. So don’t blow it. If the latch is tight, file it down at

home in your spare time until it will catch on the first try. Always carefully

prepare the velcro straps on the sides. It is very easy to end up holding

both strap and buckle in your hand wondering how to get it back on the vest.

Check the back to make sure it won’t fall apart as you put it on. Don no

allow the assistant or anyone else to help you suit up, it makes you look

like a geriatric invalid at best.

If you find you are consistently having trouble with the vest, practice

at home in the mirror. Don’t look at your hands, do it by instinct. lf you

don’t own the equipment visit any rental house and borrow theirs. Have one

of the technicians time you until you get it down right. lt should only

take a half hour before you are out the door.

As you suit up try to engage someone near you in conversation. That way

if you are having problems you can use your hands in the conversation while

determining the nature of the difficulty. When fitting the arm into the

socket on the vest, slam it home with your right elbow (another definitive

dramatic moment). Unfortunately, if the arm is correctly balanced. it will

hit you right in the mouth and eventually make you look like you spend your

spare time making passes at the executive board of the Hells Angels. Therefore

tuck it behind your shoulder. That way when it swings it will undoubtedly

hit someone else – possibly even the assistant who still insists on trimming

the vest in the back behind you.

Remember to balance the rig at the beginning of the day. Correct operation

of the Steadicam is almost entirely dependent upon it’s proper balance in

relation to it’s center of gravity. When the AD shouts "Roll camera"

many a novice operator has been yanked off the set by his own Steadicam

and is still hopelessly chasing the rig somewhere through remote pastures,

trying desperately to get it under control when the director yells "Cut!"

much later. Don’t spend an enormous amount of time in the vest. It looks

macho at first, but that wears thin very quickly. Everyone of importance

knows why you’re there; no need to constantly remind them. Avoid wearing

the vest on breaks and to meals – you’ll look like a West Point Cadet at

Plato’s Retreat.

/ / Top / /

6. Humping The Big Guy

Taking the monster off the stand is probably the most challenging part

of operating, the greatest test of flare and style, and your best opportunity

to truly bull shit an audience. Everyone will be watching your face, looking

for a sign in your expression, waiting for you to sag into a puddle of crushed

bone and proto plasm or be dashed into the ground and simply disappear from

sight. Desperate to catch even the glimpse of a tear before you finally

expire or some eloquent howl at your disintegration, they will stand transfixed.

But you can fool them. Not only will you not die an untimely and repulsive

death, but the smile will never leave your face. You will continue the conversation

which you have previously planned and executed, without missing a beat,

laughing as you lift your burden and all the way to the bank. You will defy

the laws of gravity ands cowl at Newton, fly through the shot in one take,

save the production and wed or bed the star. It’s important to have a positive


/ / Top / /

7 Attitude Toward Crew Members

As Steadicam operator you may perhaps view yourself as something quite

out of the ordinary. But whether you consider yourself to be techno-specialist,

artist, dancer, Master Blaster or the Incredible Hulk,you are still only

an operator. On most productions, however, the operator is given just slightly

more attention than a special business extra. So don’t overrate the importance

of your job to anyone. Special attention and sensitivity must be paid to

the relationship with those on the set whose economic survival your presence

and the technology you carry threatens to either immediately or eventually

terminate. These usually rather large individuals value entertainment even

beyond relaxation, and one well-placed foot during a take can provide hours

of it at the often justified expense of the arrogant clown in the suit.

/ / Top / /

8. Discussing the Shot

Successful operating depends to a large extent on attitude. And since

the face is the mirror of the mind, let’s talk about it for a moment. A

falling face at the sight of stairs, a quivering lower lip as the choreography

of the shot is discussed, all do nothing for the image of the operator.

Bursting into tears is equally disadvantageous. Remember that the relationship

with producer or director is nothing more than a poker game with both players

pretending to know what they are doing. You generally have the upper hand

because chances are they know little of what you can and cannot do. Besides,

you may be there simply for the sake of experimentation or to impress the

Agency. But don ‘t make assumptions. If they have had occasion to work with

Mr. Numero Uno, God help you.

Remember to smile. Never let it go. The more adverse the situation, the

wider your grin should become. Practice slapping a smile on your face in

the mirror each morning when you get up. And holding it. Suit up at dawn

and extend the camera platform on the arm to its maximum length in front

of you without hands for ten minutes. And Keep smiling. Good luck.

If the director wants the clearly impossible, don’t reject the shot out

of hand. Rather, formulate your position as the shot is being discussed

and at the proper moment initiate a technical or logistical argument which

will hopefully bring the cameras choreography within the realm of physical

possibility or the level of your own experience, whichever is less. Don

‘t allow yourself to be bullied; like you, they are always looking for an

opportunity to show off. lf you absolutely must, remind then that they do

not have to wear it. lf they don’t respond, make them try it on. One successful

woman operator circumvents the issue by simply saying it doesn’t do that,

referring to whatever they want and you can’t. But it is a constant problem

. Unfortunately, pictures like" The Shining" don’t make any of

our jobs easier and, as you know, Carvel spots don’t utilize the Steadicam.

/ / Top / /

l o a d i n g . . . 9. Breakdown: Equipment

When it comes to the malfunctioning of equipment, there is little that

can be said either by me or by you. lt is simply incumbent upon the operator

to develop his or her skill in articulately and subtly placing blame on

others. Obviously if the equipment belongs to you, this presents a particularly

difficult situation. Remember that for every component of the equipment

there should exist in your mind a carefully constructed list of plausible

explanations and excuses, none of which are under your control. Since this

information is not provided by the factory, it is left to the imagination,

intuition and dramatic talent of the individual operator.

Perhaps the best overall solution lies in the backup system – that is,

having at least two of everything. In the case of the Steadicam this would

appear to be prohibitively expensive. But actually it isn’t. Certain components

of this equipment have very little susceptibility to failure and do not

need to be duplicated. We of course are talking about the operators vest.

Therefore, backup for the remaining equipment should only cost the operator

about $30,000.

/ / Top / /

10. Breakdown: Operator

Next to perspiration, fatigue is the operator’s worst enemy. Quivering

like a dog shitting peach seeds (as my old army sergeant used to say), many

operators could provide a healthy challenge to the greatest of Olympic sprinters

in their desperation to hit the docking stand. Fatigue creeps up on one

and escalates, as we all know, at an alarming rate. Learn to recognize its

first signs, arm your self beforehand with an arsenal of non – fatigue related

auxiliary suggestions, complaints and objections. Should you run out of

these, do not hesitate to criticize any of the other categories functioning

on the shot. On larger films there are a substantial number to choose from.

Actors never hit their marks, so they’re always a walking opportunity. Always

allow yourself enough time to advance the excuse, have it aptly considered

and still be able to stroll casually to the docking stand. Always leave

the mechanism open – those few moments could become crucial. If you find

you have misjudged the situation and things reach crisis pro portions, call

the assistant and pull the breakaway handle on the left shoulder of the

vest. Good assistants will always make a try for the stuff before it hits

the ground, and often they are successful. Besides, it keeps them on their


/ / Top / /

l o a d i n g . . . 11. Expanding Your Legend

Things can get pretty rough out there, but they can also go the other

way. As the shooting day progresses and it begins to shape up as a piece

of cake, perhaps you may choose to capitalize on your success. The reputation

of the Steadicam operator is not necessarily based on the amount of time

spent in the equipment, but there’s no reason to overlook an opportunity

to improve your image.

Therefore, instead of docking after each take, you may simply choose

to continue to wear the rig, pretending it does not even exist. Hang it

loosely on your hip at either side (the right looks better) and engage others

in idle conversation. Attempt an activity, personal or social, which requires

the use of one or both hands. Pouring the coffee from the machine by yourself

is always impressive. A trip to the john even better. But be careful: challenges

often require risks. Don’t casually place the coffee on the sled. It may

look funky, but if it spills the megavolts inside may reduce you to a steaming,

smoldering, unidentifiable mess on the floor.

/ / Top / /

12. The Wrap

This signal, unique to the film industry, provides a unique opportunity

to enhance the image of the operator. When wrap is called, it’s time for

you to relax, have a beer and associate with other’s on a non professional

level. Let the assistant deal with dismantling and packing the equipment.

Engage the producer, director, director of photography and production manager

in a friendly and relaxed conversation. Pretending to feel good, if not

better than at the start of the day, create an audience. Suggest the possibility

of getting together for a few drinks in an hour,an elegant late supper somewhere

(the production will undoubtedly pay), catching a late movie around midnight

and still having time to put in an appearance at the Rollerdisco around

two. Chances are they will decline, but the impression is made. If by some

remote chance they should accept, you re in Big Trouble. So don’t push it

too hard.

/ / Top / /

13. Gravity

Laughing in the face of gravitational pull, as I mentioned earlier, is

a bit of an exaggeration. Gravity is a force that must be taken into account

by the operator. The Steadicam has not been around long enough to give an

accurate evaluation of its cumulative effects on the operator. Studies have

shown, however, that for every year spent operating this particular piece

of equipment, the average height of the operator is reduced somewhere in

the neighborhood of .627 inches. This potentially alarming fact would indicate

an inevitable limit to the work expectancy of this technician group – that

is to say, they would eventually disappear entirely. But further study proves

that this is actually not the case. For example, if an operator twenty years

of age with a height of six feet operates until mandatory retirement age

of sixty-five, he or she would still have, after all this time, a standing

height of three feet, eight inches – more than half original size and clearly

an acceptable rate of compression for any non-sport related profession.

One well known operator started out six years ago at a height of seven feet,five

inches, and is still doing fine today.

/ / Top / /

14. Height

Advertising, more often than not, inadvertently or purposely leaves an

inaccurate impression. And contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary

to be tall in order to operate the Steadicam. In some instances it is even

advantageous to be shorter. I have been in formed by a reliable source that

some of the most accomplished operators in the world are from countries

such as Thailand and Vietnam, and we all know how small they are.

Apparently those little buggers are running around the jungle with the equipment

at a temperature of over one hundred degrees in the shade all the time.

Not only that, but they operate very effectively and very quietly. In addition,

they are specialists at operating such other diverse technology as the 2C,

AK47, 35BL, M79, CP16 and the M16. Most impressive, and clearly more of

a threat than English DP s. So don t worry about being small; with perseverance

you will undoubtedly win out.

/ / Top / /

15 Drugs & The Operator

The operator who finds him or herself working constantly will undoubtedly

experience times when both the pressure and fatigue of the job seem almost

unbearable. In these instances there is always a great temptation to seek

support from an ever – present assortment of chemical and biological substances

which appear so commonly on the set and which are believed to provide instant

energy, relief from anxiety, and escape from reality.

Don’t be fooled by those who tout the instant solution as the "Drug

du Jour" They don’t work, and none will substantially improve your

operating. Indeed, the stories one hears of drug folly on the set are all

too true: the Steadicam operator who did a few downers to relieve his anxiety

and when asked by the director why he could n’t get into the vest slurred

simply and honestly that he was,in point of fact, just to tired. Another

operator who smoked a little weed from the Coast and ran full tilt, head

on into a brick wall, stated from traction that he was just trying to pay

off the shot. Probably most alarming was the operator who found a little

hit of Nose Candy helpful before each take and beat up the director, agency

art director and his own long – time favorite assistant when be became mildly

agitated as his only battery finally went down toward the end of the day.

/ / Top / /

l o a d i n g . . .

16. Choosing your Assistant

Novice operators often need all the help they can get and require substantially

more support than the seasoned veteran. Such support is best provided by

a good assistant. But certain qualifications are imperative for your particular


First, the assistant must be dedicated to you and you alone. Often assistant

camera persons will use camera persons as stepping stones to other camera persons

or even to other categories – in this case, yours Therefore, if you

hire an assistant with little aspiration to do your job, the possibility

of your replacement by one who is brighter, quicker, stronger, better looking,

or more attractive of personality is greatly minimized.

Second, consider the assistant who has had previous experience with your

particular equipment, has had at least two years of post – graduate courses

in both mechanical and electronic engineering, has a basic understanding

of Newtonian physics, access to a machine shop and friends at all the rental


Third, hire an assistant who is kind, patient, humble and on whom (in

moments of extreme stress) you can lay blame and heap abuse without fear

of verbal retaliation or physical violence. Hire an assistant who is quiet.

There are assistants who will scream across the set to you at the first

sign of mechanical or electronic malfunction in your equipment, there by

successfully snatching defeat from the possible jaws of victory and immediately

propelling themselves and you into the necessity of another profession.

Be extra cautious of assistants who have foam cutouts in Haliburton cases

for such items as pliers, screwdrivers and c-clamps. This level of concern

for the virtually indestructible indicates a potential for the mix up of

priorities. Beware of assistants who use slang terms for equipment and make

a habit of firing off combinations of letters and numbers at you. For example

The DP’s AC says the POV with the 28F3.2, 85N3 & LC3 at 4.5 push 2 at ASA125

is NG with the HMI, 2K’s & the 20 by. Besides, at 4ft. the 35BL is 42db

with the 18T1.3 which is only OK if its MOS. All of which, by the time you

figure it out, will have put 52 on OT at 3X for 6 and effectively 86 the

Steadicam operator from the production and possibly from 644, 659 or 15

as well. At the same time however, keep in mind that the assistant should

have complete mastery of the numbers when it comes to calculating your overtime,

meal penalties, short turnaround and pension & welfare.

/ / Top / /

17. Choosing your clients

As a novice operator you will of course accept gratefully any job which

comes over the phone in order to improve your skills or pay off the equipment.

Many operators simply answer the phone with I’ll take it! But as you begin

to become more successful within the industry you will enjoy a new found

ability to turn down work. Perhaps you will choose only the 35mm work because

that’s where the glamour and big bucks are; or you may choose only the16mm

jobs because that’s where the lighter cameras generally are. But now, at

least, it s your choice.

The phone rings; the job is offered. You must consult your calendar.

Make mumbling sounds into the phone as you try to juggle your already overcrowded

schedule. As you examine the possibility of a free day somewhere, ask about

the nature of the job. Is it a musical extravaganza at night on Broadway

with plenty of exposure for you and your equipment, or an industrial film

on the mating habits of small rodents somewhere in lowa? Are they familiar

with the potential of the Steadicam? lf so, as sum the worst. lf not, also

assume the worst. Since the job will always incorporate there cording of

some moving thing,find out early what it is and how fast it will be going.

This will affect the amount of work you will be required to do.If you talk

to the director, be suspicious of high artistic aspiration and allusions

to well-known films of the past, especially those which have utilized the

Steadicam. If they mention "The Shining" hangup. (You can always

say later that you were disconnected.) Slip your rate casually into the

conversation. If there is silence on the other end, change the subject or

change your rate. And always remember that you never "take" a

job – you "fit it in"

/ / Top / /

l o a d i n g . . .

18. Determining your Rate

More often than not, the operator – after a particularly grueling day

– will feel that he or she has not been adequately remunerated for the gross

amount of effort spent. Therefore, it behooves the operator to establish

a rate schedule which will accurately reflect the work done and with which

there can be no disagreement and misunderstanding. For example:

$ 100.00 at the time of your appearance on the set

$ 2.00 per yard forward (walking)

$ 5.00 per yard forward (running)

$ 3.50 per yard backward (walking)

$ 7.00 per yard backward (running)

$ 10.00 actor in the shot

$ 15.00 actor not in the shot

$ 20.00 per flight of stairs (up)

$ 15.00 per flight of stairs (down)

$ 10.00 each additional consecutive flight

$ 25.00 to put the camera in the Low-Mode

$ 15.00 to put it back

$ 35.00 to change sides with the Arm

$ 25.00 to put it back

$ 5.00 per rehearsal minute, 16mm & Arri 2C

$ 10.00 per rehearsal minute, Arri 35BL

$ 15.00 per rehearsal minute, Panaflex on Steadicam

$ 35.00 per rehearsal minute, Panaglide

$ 3.50 per focus change

$ 2.50 per iris change

$ 8.50 both focus & iris at the same time

Remind the producer that the above costs are on a per take basis

and not on a per shot basis. Further more the above costs vary according

to the length of the lens used. Additional cost for the16 or 18mm is negligible

but repeated takes with the 50 or 85mm can become prohibitively expensive.

Still another alternative for the accurate determining of operator rate

is an item just released on the market by Cinema Products. As manufacturers

of the Steadicam system they have been closely allied with those who utilize

their product. A need arose and they filled it.

The new Cinema Products Docking Stand Meter was unveiled at the 1980

New York SMPTE show this month. Unique in its design and conception, the

Docking Stand Meter performs numerous functions, such as unassisted dialing

of the manufacturer’s toll-free number in case of emergencies, the instant

calculation of all union situations and regulations into hard cash figures,

and, after twelve hours of over time the merciful and expedient termination

of the operator. In addition it reminds the operator when the coffee is

ready when the eyepiece is open, when the camera is out of film or the operator

out of control, the proximity of criticism or exhaustion, the attention

span of your assistant, whether the rig is balanced or the extras attractive,

the mood of the production manager, the talent of the director, the age

ot the principals,the patience of the producer, and finally your own astrological

and biorhythmical status for the day.


Ted Churchill

Please see See Ted Churchill IMDB for more about Ted’s career