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Using Steadicam Merlin with GH3. Anyone have any recipes for balancing?
  • Hello fellow ghers!

    I just acquired a Steadicam Merlin (first edition) for a very good price and I'm having some trouble balancing it.

    On the website they have "recipes" for the gh1 and gh2 which are similar enough to each other, but the GH3 is a totally different body shape and weight and is proving to be quite difficult to find the sweet spot.

  • 22 Replies sorted by
  • Thanks @Vitaliy!

    I have tried all of these videos for setup already and still can't get a smooth balance. I've only had it a couple of days though so I'm sure I just need to work with it more! Thanks

  • tyler, i have tried the Merlin with a GH2 and had the same frustrating results as you. hours and hours of attempts to balance it. i figured it was because of how light the GH2 is. from what i understand the Merlin works best with a little more weight on it. i know the GH3 is heavier than the GH2 but perhaps it still is too light for the Merlin. i even tried other balancing rigs but didn't get very satisfying results from them.

  • I have a glidecam hd4000 and same problem, its flies fine with an HMC150 on it, but with GH2 even correctly balanced its too light, I think weight needs adding to the GH2/GH3, like a plate or something

  • I managed to get it working perfectly!!! If anyone is interested I would be glad to share my recipe.

    It's quite simple when you sit down and really think about the process of how this rig works.

    The major part is that you don't need to have weight on the nose of the merlin. I just used a single and an end weight on the bottom, put the baseplate on the camera at letter H, and put it at -1 on the unit.

    After some finetuning it sits perfectly level and I can move around with it very smooth!

  • @tylerknight, your recipe would be very helpful, I bought a Merlin 2 and I can't balance my GH3, I mean, I couldn't get nowhere close... I'm trying to balance my GH3 with the 14-140 Lumix lens. Thanks!

  • @tylerknight GH3 w/ Voigtlander 25mm: I tried removing the front plate, and then using 2 mids on bottom, using H, at baseplate position 5. However, it does tend to rock a bit still. I'd like to take it on a bus and see how it handles vibrations. Having a tough time fighting inertia when I start to walk backward, it does get a bit of a pendulum. Forward isn't so bad, but when I try to control pan using the micro-control, it throws off the top/bottom balance, and the camera goes into pendulum mode.

    For weights, I'm using 2 mid on bottom, no front. I found starter and end on bottom to be too light.... Anyone else have good luck with GH3+25mm Voigt? Wondering if there's a better way to do things. Thanks!!!

    Finally, has anyone found a good weighted camera base plate online to increase inertia and stop the wobbles (cheap and reasonable)? Anything better than this for the price?

  • @jfilmmaker I shoot a lot with steadicams, and used the merlin v1 for ages with good results from everything such as an HPX170 (no joke) to dslr's to GH2's with many, many lens variants.

    There are a lot of tricks to getting the balance that works best for the type of work you are hoping for, so maybe I'll make a video someday. In the meantime, don't waste your money, just go to a hardware store and pick up an electrical box plate or similar. Thin enough to screw between the base of the cam and the mounting plate, and heavy. This is good to add weight to tiny, light cameras like the GH2 with small, light lenses, like the oly 12mm or 20mm. It should cost no more than a dollar or so.

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  • Also, just a note - put a little gaff tape around the mounting 1/4-20 on the bottom of the cam. It will keep the mounting plate from loosening, and it protect the cam from scratching, too.

  • guys, I could need some help, too I totally don't get the Merlin 2 in balance with my GH3. I am shooting with the pana 20mm 1.7 lense. Any recommendations on the weights to use and the hole and how much the spars should be bent? thanks for help

  • @olli66 it is extremely touchy to balance. you need to try everything from removing the front weight, to adding two on the bottom. and then getting a proper swing time and then tweaking from there. It's different from the merlin 1 as far as I know.l

  • I tried all day, now my right arm hurts and my nerves are done... will try another day (already removed the front weight and added two at the bottom)

  • @olli66 I highly recommend a c-stand, or any small stand or bar you can mount the merlin handle on vertically. It will save your arm until you gt the hang of balancing it with diffferent lenses quickly.

  • me again, still no success in getting the Merlin 2 in balance with GH3 and pancake 20mm lense tried so many different things... I notice the merlincookbook webstite ain't working I was hoping to see some user's receipies at least... before I give up I might try my 12-35 lense 'cause it's heavier but I really want to use my 20mm lense with the Merlin 2...maybe add a plate for my weight? where can I buy a plate that adds weight?

  • @olli66

    You can try some weight attached to the flash mount. I saw such DIY solution somewhere.

  • @olli66 I went to Tiffen in Burbank and had them help me out to get it balanced with Voigtlander 25mm .95, without the hood. Also, if you put an ND filter on during the day, that's going to change things. 26 and 1/5 cm arc length (look at the minute pin holes on the side, it's from hole to hole), 4 turns downward on trim, platform at 1&3/4's in, on the bottom 2 full and 1 finish weights, on the top, 1 finish weight. Now, with a 20mm pancake lens, that's going to throw things off, you might need to do a "drop test" to determine proper count on bottom weights and adjust things as well. Without a doubt, it takes a lot of practice and is a challenge.

  • @jfilmmaker thanks for the tips, I already asked around if someone near Cologne has experience and could help for a small budget the best I can do is get it somehow to work but the drop test totally fails I will do a video tomorrow and post it, maybe someone can give an advice then thanks for your help oh by the way anyone knows where I can buy that stand so that I can put the Merlin 2 system in the stand for balancing it?

  • guys, I made a video that shows my Merlin 2 with the GH3 and 20mm lense. I would really appreciate any sort of feedback. Should I start from scratch or am I close adjusting the Merlin 2? Thanks for your time and sorry for my bad language.

  • @ollie66 I have only ever worked with glidecams, but that looks like it is bottom heavy to me. If you cannot make the bottom lighter then maybe add some weight to the top like recommended on previous posts, try metal washers on the hotshoe?

  • Of course, I could make the bottom lighter by removing weights but that seems to be the wrong way. If I do so the drop test always fails. Gonna try my 12-35 lense now if I can get the Merlin 2 to work at all... btw anyone could point me to any DIY guides or plates or whatever to add weight to the camera/base plate? I will try the settings not for my 12-25 lense from Melrincookbook. Just have to figure out what Dovetail Position, Carriage Position and 'Z' means...

  • Operating Steadycam is challenge. Balancing is not easy to do. I have Flycam flyboy II stabilizer. In starting I also faced the same problem of balancing but now I am master in balancing my stabilizer.

  • It really just takes some practice getting the balance right. I can generally get a very good balance in 3-4 minutes with any lens with my GH3. My preference is to keep the lower arm cranked all the way up and adjust top/bottom balance with weights and the gimbal screw. Not sure why that works better for me but it does.

    So, with the 20mm attached my recipe is:

    • H hole;
    • lower arm at minimum angle;
    • full weight on front;
    • 1 1/2 weights on the lower arm;
    • platform at zero;
    • front of the front/back screw about 1" from the front of the platform;
    • three threads are showing on the gimbal screw.

    Here it is in action: