Zephyr | ION | Owner`s manual | Zephyr ION Owner`s manual

Zephyr ION Owner`s manual
Operating Manual
p/n LIT-807000
Operating Manual
The Tiffen Company
90 Oser Avenue
Hauppauge, New York 11788
631 273-2500
800 645-2522
631 273-2557 fax
Technical Support
1-818-843-4600 ext.17
Manufactured in the United States of America
© 2011 The Tiffen Company, LLC. Written by J. Holway & L. Hayball
Table of Contents
Basic Operating22
The Zephyr™ Sled 6
Getting Started
Attaching the Camera 10
Advanced Techniques
Dynamic Balancing Low Mode 24
The Vest 14
Accessory for lightweight cameras Zephyr™ sled connectors and pin-outs
Accessories Cases and Packing 28
The Arm 16
Setting Your Threads
Picking Up the Sled
Adjusting the Lift 20
Operating a Steadicam® stabilizer will take time and effort. One key to great operating is setting up and
balancing your sled properly. Another is adjusting the vest to your body, and setting the arm to properly lift
the load.
The next steps are learning how to balance yourself with the rig, how to stand and walk, how to prevent
pendular effects as you move, and what each hand is used for.
This manual is to be used to instruct you in setting up and using your Steadicam® Zephyr™ stabilizer system.
If you have not already done so, we strongly urge you to take a 2, 3, or 6-day Steadicam® workshop for
the best possible training and start to your career as a Steadicam® operator (find more information about
workshops at www.steadicam.com).
The Zephyr™ is not a push-button magic stick that instantly creates great images. It’s a precision instrument
that responds to your touch. Although it’s not that difficult to operate, it is a skill that takes a bit of time and
effort to learn. The more effort and practice you put into operating, the better you will be, so it’s important to
develop good habits from the beginning.
Several two-hour sessions will get you started, but an operator can always be more skilled with a
Steadicam® stabilizer and also be more effective and artistic in choosing how to start, move, and stop the
camera. In the beginning, it’s helpful and more fun to have a friend work with you. Take turns practicing
and spotting for each other. Use a second video camera to record your exercises – how you stand and move
is critical for great operating.
STEADICAM®, UltraBrite®, Ultra2® and Scout™ are trademarks of the Tiffen Company, LLC.
The Tiffen Company, 90 Oser Avenue, Hauppauge, NY 11788 • 631-273-2500 • 1-800-645-2522 • www.tiffen.com
Tiffen Steadicam® Operations, Glendale, CA • 818-843-4600 • 1-800-593-3331 • www.steadicam.com
The Tiffen Company takes great
pride in producing the world’s
best stabilizers. The Zephyr™
stabilizer continues our tradition
of excellence and innovation,
filling the need for a high
performance, lightweight, and
low-cost rig.
Like all our models, the Zephyr™
stabilizer is designed to be
user-friendly, field-serviceable,
tool-free, straightforward, and
versatile so the operator can
quickly and easily configure
the sled, arm, and vest to the
best advantage for each shot.
Change the sled length, balance,
inertia, and go to low mode in
a heartbeat. Solid, versatile,
and fast – it’s a breeze with the
The base Zephyr™ system starts with a sturdy, two section, indexed
telescoping carbon fiber post coupled to a sturdy two-axis vernier
stage for quick and precise balancing. A new solid base is equipped
with independently telescoping monitor and battery rods. The Zephyr™
system comes standard with the Tango™-ready, tool-free gimbal, 16:9
SD LCD Color monitor, and a single battery mount for 12 volts—either
V-Lock or Anton Bauer (AB). 24 volts is optional.
A word about 12 and 24 volts as used in the manual: 12 and 24 volts
typically refer to the nominal voltages required by cameras and
accessories, but the voltage range accepted by the device might be 10 to
16 volts or 20 to 34 volts. Each camera or accessory has its own range
of useful voltages.
Different battery chemistries and numbers of cells typically result in
nominal battery voltages of 14.4 or 14.8 volts, or with two batteries in
series, 28.8 or 29.6 volts. The actual voltage in a battery might be from
11 to 17 volts, depending on charge and battery type. Nominal battery
voltages are always higher than the nominal required by the device, so
that when the battery is almost depleted, it still has more voltage than
that required by the device.
Options for the Zephyr™ stabilizer
include a 7” high definition
monitor, 24 volts, and a compact
vest, plus batteries, chargers,
cases, stands, power and video
cables, low-mode kits, vehicle
mounts, and other professional
accessories. Visit www.tiffen.com
for more details.
The monitor and the batteries are
adjustable in and out, which, along
with the add-on Merlin™ weights,
creates many choices for viewing,
balance, and inertial control.
All of the above features are
integral to the Zephyr™ stabilizer
design, ready to be used when
All “12 volt” monitor and power
connector ports are supplied
via unregulated battery voltage,
typically 11 to 17 volts.
Included in the base package: the
Zephyr™ Iso-Elastic Stabilizer
Arm, Lightweight Zephyr™ Vest,
Zephyr™ Docking and Balancing
Bracket, 8 add-on Merlin™
weights, wheeled hard case with
handle, 12 volt power cable,
video cable, 2 video adaptors, the
EFP instructional DVD, and the
owner’s manual.
The Zephyr™ sled
The Zephyr™ Sled
Camera mounting
Side to side
Post clamp
Clamp for sliding monitor
and battery rods
Battery mount
1/4-20 threads
for mounting
accessory weights
additional LEMO
power connector
Registration pin
for monitor rod
Registration pin
for battery rod
Prepare the stand and docking bracket
Getting Started
Set up the stand and docking bracket:
• Set up your stand at about chest
• Use one or more sandbags to
stabilize the stand.
• Put the docking bracket on the
stand and tighten the docking
bracket locking knob.
• Push the button at the end of the
aircraft pin and pull the aircraft pin
out of the yoke.
Prepare the sled for the camera
Adjust the monitor position:
• Position the monitor and battery
sliding rods as shown. If required,
you may need to temporarily
remove the locating pin for
the monitor rod to achieve this
• Add the accessory weights to the
rods as shown. For starters, use
1 middle and 1 starter weight on
each tube.
• Tilt the monitor to about 45 degrees.
Adjust the gimbal position:
• Slide the gimbal close to the top of
the center post, but always leave
enough space between the gimbal
and the stage to accommodate the
docking yoke (about 1in/25mm).
Adjust the battery position and
attach the batteries:
Remove the dovetail from the
stage and set aside:
• Attach the battery onto the battery
mount. Be sure the safety catch is
• Loosen the dovetail locking knob
until the dovetail can be tilted out
• Safety stops on the dovetail keep
the dovetail from sliding off the
stage when the dovetail locking
knob is loose.
• The stops also prevent the dovetail
from being inserted into the front
or rear of the stage. Therefore, do
not attempt to slide the dovetail into
place from the front or back.
V-lock battery
AB battery
Dock the sled in the docking
• Hold the sled upright, with the
monitor (front) to the left. Place the
center post into the bracket so the
bottom of the stage rests on the
• Push the aircraft pin back through
the yoke, securing the post in the
side to side
Back of stage:
• Camera power connector. 3 pin
LEMO: EGG.0B.303.
• Standard definition (PAL/NTSC)
composite video in. BNC
Front of stage:
• Two expansion ports for future
options and accessories.
• Additional power connector.
3-pin LEMO: EGG.0B.303.
Attaching the camera to the sled
Attaching the
We attach the camera to the sled via a dovetail plate. With the Zephyr™ stabilizer,
this plate has safety stops on the ends, and several holes for mounting screws. We
want to attach the dovetail to the camera so that we have the widest possible range of
adjustment, both fore-aft and side to side.
We start this process by finding the
camera’s center of gravity (c.g.) or
balance point, then properly position the
dovetail plate relative to the camera’s c.g.
Finding the camera’s c.g.:
• If you like, remove the battery from
your camera if it has an auxiliary
power input, either 12 or 24 volts.
With a very heavy camera (15+
pounds/6.8kg or so), this is a good
idea, but it’s not necessary or
advisable with a very light camera.
• Attach all accessories, matte boxes,
obie lights, etc. and load the tape
or film. If the camera has a quickrelease plate (tripod adaptor), leave
it on the camera.
• Balance the camera fore-aft on a
rod or pencil (as shown) and mark
the balance point with a piece of
• Repeat for side to side.
Attaching the dovetail plate:
• Examine the dovetail. Turn it over to
locate the three rows of large and
small slots, and the stops.
• Remove the screws that are stored
at the front of the dovetail.
• Place the dovetail against the
bottom of the camera (or quick
release plate) and move the dovetail
fore-aft until the second slot from
the rear is over the camera’s c.g.
This position is not intuitive, so
pay close attention to this detail.
• Now move the dovetail as little as
possible until one or more screw
holes are accessible. Choose
holes as far apart as possible for
maximum stability.
• Insert the screws and tighten with a
Finding the camera’s fore-aft
center of gravity.
Finding the camera’s side to
side center of gravity.
Mounting the camera on the sled:
• Place the camera above the camera mounting platform. Be sure the locking
knob is loose. Angle the right edge of the dovetail into the holder. Be sure to
keep everything parallel. Lower the left side into the holder.
• If the camera won’t drop fully into place, be sure the right side of the dovetail
is fully inserted, all is parallel, and the locking mechanism is out of the way.
It’s a close fit.
• Camera power connector.
3 pin LEMO: EGG.0B.303.
• Standard definition (PAL/NTSC)
composite video in. BNC
Connect the power and video
cables and test that everything
• After the dovetail drops into place, slide the camera until the fore-aft c.g.
mark is about .5in (12mm) behind the centerline of the telescoping posts.
The post is 1.1in (28mm) in diameter, so you can use the back of the post
as a guide for placing the camera c.g.
• Tighten the locking knob to fully lock the camera into place. You are now
ready to static balance the sled.
• Connect the BNC to BNC
video cable (use the BNC to
RCA adapter if necessary)
from the camera to the video
input on the back of the stage.
If necessary, choose the
camera’s video output that
allows you to watch playback
as well as “live” video.
• If necessary, connect the
power cable by plugging the
three-pin Lemo into the Power
output on the back of the stage
and the other end into the
appropriate DC power input on
your camera. Several power
cables are available for various
cameras and voltages. See the
accessories page for the power
cable details.
• Secure the cables with cable
ties, Velcro®, or gaffer tape.
Leave enough slack for
adjustment of the stage.
• Power up the monitor and
camera to make sure you have
a picture. If you do not, try
adjusting the brightness and
contrast controls; check the
cables, battery voltage, etc.
• Turn off the camera and
Now proceed to static balance
the sled.
Balancing the sled
The Steadicam® Zephyr™ stabilizing system works, in part, by the careful balancing of
components (camera, monitor, accessories, and battery). We always balance the sled
to help us get the shot, so that the operator does the least amount of work to aim the
camera. There are several components of balance. The first one to work on is “static”
balance, where we balance the sled in all three axes (top-to-bottom, side to side, and
fore-aft), so that the sled hangs upright and is not too bottom heavy.
To adjust the balance, we need to put the sled on the docking bracket
balancing stud where it can hang freely from the gimbal
• Pull the aircraft pin and remove the
sled and camera from the docking
• Release the top clamp knob and
slide and extend the docking
bracket. Tighten the locking knob.
• Place the gimbal’s mounting hole
on the balancing stud.
If the sled is neutrally balanced (neither
top nor bottom heavy) it’s impossible to
balance the sled fore-aft or side to side,
and the operator must do all the aiming of
the sled – not good either.
Top to bottom balance
Let’s start with top-to-bottom balance, as
it is one of the least understood aspects of
It’s best if the sled is slightly bottom
heavy. Clearly, if it is top heavy, it will
tip over. If it is too bottom heavy, it will
hang upright (a good thing) but be hard to
tilt and very hard to control as you move
around (not good at all!).
Note: changing the
length also changes
the range of lens
heights. This can
be a useful tool with
any weight camera.
Note: Before letting go of
the sled, be certain that
it will hang more or less
upright. If the sled wants
to hang upside down, the
camera weight is beyond
the weight specifications of
the Steadicam® Zephyr™.
So immediately, you should understand
that top-to-bottom balance is a
compromise between competing desires.
If it is just slightly bottom heavy, it can
be balanced to hang at a particular angle
and easier to control.
How do we get the right top-to-bottom
When balancing a
heavier camera, you
may have to extend
the post. While holding
the bottom of the sled,
release the post clamp
and lengthen the post.
Close the clamp.
First we position the gimbal, which acts
as a pivot point, just a bit above the
center of gravity on the center post, and
here’s how we do that:
• Rotate the center post to horizontal.
Hold it securely.
balance point of
the gimbal
Look at the sled from the side. If the sled is tipped up or down:
• Hold the center post vertical.
• Move the camera forward or
backward by turning the fore-aft
knob until the camera is level. You
can use a bubble level to help you
find vertical.
Fine tune the side to side balance:
• With one hand firmly holding the
camera or the center post, open
the gimbal clamp. Remember to
always keep the post horizontal
when the gimbal clamp is
• Grasp the center post and carefully
slide the post in the gimbal. Use
your thumb to push against the
gimbal. Find the place where the
sled is balanced on the gimbal
like a seesaw on a fulcrum. Then
slide the post through the gimbal
about 1/2” (12mm) towards the
battery. This will place the sled’s
c.g. 1/2” (12mm) below the gimbal
yoke bearings, and the sled will be
slightly bottom heavy.
• Close the gimbal clamp.
WARNING: If you open
the gimbal clamp when
the center post is
vertical, the whole sled
will drop rapidly and
damage your sled.
• Look at the sled from the front or rear.
Adjust the side to side knob on the stage
until the center post is vertical. Again, you
can use a bubble level to help you find
side to side
Now we are ready to fine-tune the top-to-bottom balance by using the
“drop time” test
• Make sure the dovetail locking knob is tight.
• It’s good to have an assistant hold the stand.
• Rotate the sled to horizontal.
• Let go of the center post.
• Count how many seconds it takes the center post to fall through vertical.
If the rig has a drop time of less than two seconds it is too bottom heavy. You need to
move the sled’s c.g. upwards, closer to the gimbal. If the drop time is more than three
seconds, move the sled’s c.g. lower, further from the gimbal:
• With the rig horizontal, open the clamp and slide the centerpost through the
gimbal about 1/8” (3mm) in the proper direction.
• Close the gimbal clamp.
• Re-do the drop test. Keep making small adjustments until the sled has a 2
to 3 second drop time.
• Recheck the fore-aft and side to side balance by looking at the sled. Trim
with the fore-aft and side to side knobs as necessary.
Note: A drop time of 1 to 4 seconds might be best for a
particular shot. You will eventually determine what works
best for you for average shooting, and what works best
for you for each shot. But let’s start with a 2 to 3 second
drop time.
We will fine-tune top to bottom balance
after we get close to fore-aft and side to
side balance. We may need to fine-tune
the balance in one axis after we balance
in another axis. The object is to get as
close as possible to the best balance for
the shot.
The vest
The Vest
Use an allen key to unlock
and adjust the angle of the
shoulder connector.
(see insert)
Chest pad
Chest plate
release pin
Socket block
height adjustment
Socket block
Note: Shorten or extend the shoulder
straps so that the clip is high on your
shoulders when the chest straps are
Also be sure that the shoulder straps
are evenly extended and at the same
angle to the Velcro®.
velcro® straps
Putting on the vest
Please read the vest instructions
completely before you try to put the vest
on. It is very helpful to have a friend help
you the first time you put on the vest.
Otherwise use a full-length mirror.
• Pull out the chest plate release pin
and adjust the center spar up or
down so the hip pad sits centered
on your hips. Replace the chest
plate release pin in the nearest
Open the vest
• Loosen both chest straps.
• Release the hip straps on the left
• Open the chest buckle on the left
• Open the shoulder buckle on the
left side.
• Be sure the Velcro® straps are
horizontal on the hip pads, and
tighten the hip straps completely
and evenly.
• Slip the vest on.
• Close the shoulder buckle.
• Close the buckles at the chest and
• The vest should be very snug,
but not uncomfortable. Adjust the
straps as necessary.
• Close the chest buckle.
• Center the chest plate on your
• Tighten the chest straps evenly and
secure the loose, Velcro® ends.
• Push down on the chest plate to
seat the shoulder pads on your
Removing the vest
The vest should be unbuckled on the left
side only, from bottom to top:
• Undo the hip strap first.
• Undo the chest buckle.
• Undo the shoulder buckle and
slip out of the vest. When you
put it back on, you will not need
to readjust the chest plate or the
chest straps.
Pay close attention to the good
fit of the vest in the photo
above. It’s very important how
the shoulder pads contact the
shoulders and the shoulder
connectors are not too high (a
common mistake).
Note: A few operators have
body shapes or sizes that
are out of the general range
of adjustments. You may
find you have to add or
remove padding, shorten
or extend straps, etc. to
make the vest fit perfectly.
The arm
The Arm
Arm post
Forearm section
Double action
Upper arm section
Lift adjustment
Socket quick
release pin
Mounting the arm to the vest
Rod ends
The arm mates with the vest via an
adjustable socket in the arm and a
female socket block on the vest. The two
adjustment screws in the socket block on
the vest and two “rod ends” in the mating
section of the arm determine the lift angle
of the arm. These two adjustments are your
“threads,” and they are specific to your
body size and shape. Setting your threads
correctly is critical for good operating.
Some combination of adjustment of
these screws – and your physique and
posture – will make the arm lift straight
up when carrying the sled. The angles
of adjustment are not directly “in-out”
and “side to side”, but rotated about
30° clockwise (relative to the operator).
We will suggest approximate threads to
start, but the only real way to test your
threads is to pick up the sled and see what
happens. You can’t set your threads fully
without picking up the rig.
The arm socket is inserted into
the socket block on the vest.
Determining your threads is part of basic operating technique
Adjusting your threads
For almost all operators, regardless of
body type, the typical adjustment for the
“side to side” screws (the rod ends in
the arm) is 1.5 to 2 turns out on the top
screw and ALWAYS all the way in on the
bottom screw.
• If you have big pectorals and a
flat stomach, the top screw is
almost all the way in. If you’ve
been eating well and exercising
less, the top screw will be
further out.
• Always dial in the top screw first
to your setting, then turn in the
bottom screw until it just snugs
up against the fitting. There is
no need to tighten the bottom
screw very hard.
• Always keep a hand on the
free end of the arm, otherwise
it might swing around and hit
something, someone, or you in
the face.
• With both pairs of screws
properly adjusted, the sled
will float in all positions with
the operator standing in good
posture with a vertical torso. If
the threads are not adjusted
well, the sled will tend to fly or
fall away from you.
Use the rollers when the arm is not
under load. If you are flying the sled,
lift it up with your left hand to take the
weight off the screws before adjusting
them. The two side to side screws work
independently of one another. Do not
tighten the lower screw, but be sure it is
all the way in, and then back it out 1/8th
of a turn.
side to side: 2
turns out on top
in-and-out: count
threads here
The “in-out” screws work in tandem,
and the adjustment varies greatly by the
operator’s body type.
Goofy foot
If you want to operate “goofy-foot,” – with the sled on the right side – you will
need to reverse the socket block before starting.
• On the vest, remove the breast plate: Loosening the lock; pull the locator
pin; and slide the plate completely off. Then remove the socket block in
the same manner. Flip the block 180° and re-attach (above).
• On the arm, pull the aircraft pin to separate the socket from the arm. Turn
it over and re-attach.
• Set the top screw about two turns out, and the bottom screw all the way in.
Picking up the sled
Picking Up the
Undocking, setting your threads, and docking the sled
With the vest on and the arm attached to the vest, undock the rig:
• Face the sled and bow at the waist.
Do not bend your knees. It is
helpful to have a friend spotting you
the first time you do it.
• Align the gimbal mounting hole to
the arm post and slip the arm post
completely into the hole. It’s easiest
to align the parts if the gimbal
handle is positioned behind the rig
(i.e., not to the side, aimed at you).
• Use your right hand to hold the arm
and gimbal together (frame 4).
• Place your left hand on the center
post just below the gimbal to
control the sled. Do not touch the
camera (frame 4).
• Step forward and stand up straight.
You are now flying the sled, but still
locked in the dock.
• Pull the aircraft pin out of the
docking yoke (frame 6).
• Step back from the stand to remove
the sled from the docking bracket.
• Take a deep breath. Relax.
• Move the sled to a position about
45º off your left hip as shown.
• Aim the sled slightly across your
body (frame 9).
Holding the rig might feel awkward at first. Don’t worry
– you will gain control and endurance rapidly as you
practice. The first time is typically the most annoying,
because there are so many adjustments to make before
it all falls into place and “magically” works with you. It
may be that you will want to adjust the lift capacity of the
arm (see pages 20-21) before fine-tuning your threads.
Eventually you must adjust them both.
Test your threads
• Stand as upright as possible, in
good posture, with the rig off your
left hip. Don’t be stiff or tense.
Do not ever let go of the sled
completely, but let it move a little.
• If it tends to stay in place, try
moving it further out in front of you.
Lean back a little as you feel the
vest pushing against your stomach
and pulling your torso forward. The
trick is to lean a little bit away from
the rig – more if it’s further from
you, less as it’s closer to you – so
that the sled wants to stay in place
or float next to you.
• If the sled wants to move off in one
direction rather dramatically and
you can’t lean forward or back
easily to correct it, you need to
adjust your threads. Typically it’s a
matter of the “in-out” screws rather
than the side to side screws.
• If the sled wants to move away from
you, loosen the bottom in-out screw
and dial in the upper screw a few
turns. Snug up the lower screw and
• If the sled wants to move towards
you, loosen the upper in-out screw
a few turns, snug up the lower
screw, and re-test.
• Do not get too fussy with your
threads at this point, as much of
the trick is learning to properly
stand and move, rather than
adjusting your threads.
• Take a few steps and experiment
with the feel of it all. Try panning
and tilting. Before you get tired,
dock the sled.
Practice replacing the sled in
the docking bracket
• Step up next to the docking stand
with the camera aimed to the left.
• Insert the center post in the bracket
and rest the stage on the docking
• Insert the aircraft pin back in the
docking yoke to secure the sled.
• Bow from the waist and step back.
• Move your left hand to the gimbal
handle, and your right hand to the
• Hold up the gimbal handle and
let the arm post slide out of the
gimbal mounting hole. Don’t force
it or bend your knees; just find the
correct angle so that the arm post
slips out of the gimbal.
• Always keep a hand on the free end
of the arm, otherwise it might swing
around and hit something.
• Rest. Stretch.
• When you don’t have time to dock
and undock, you can relieve some
muscle tension by holding the rig
close to your body on either side or
clasping the camera close to your
Setting the lift capacity of the arm
Now it’s time to adjust the arm for the weight of your camera.
Adjusting the Lift
Important: The lift
adjustment knobs can
only be turned when the
arm segments are slightly
above horizontal. They
cannot be turned when
the arm is unloaded, i.e.,
when not lifting the sled,
nor if the arm sections
are boomed too far up or
down. Do not force the lift
knobs. At the right angle,
they turn very easily.
Adjusting the arm
• With the vest on, attach the arm
and undock the rig as before.
• Stand with the sled off your left hip,
with the lens slightly crossing your
• Move the arm to the middle of its
boom range and let it rise or fall.
Do not completely let go of the
• Turn the weight adjustment knob
clockwise until the forearm wants to
float slightly above horizontal.
• Keep making small adjustments
until the forearm settles at a 5º
angle up from horizontal.
• Repeat the process with the upper
arm section, but this time try to get
the upper arm to follow the forearm
as you boom up and down.
• Ideally, each section of the arm
should come to rest slightly above
horizontal, about 5º to 10º.
• Adjust the arm section nearest the
sled first (the forearm section).
• If the arm floats at too high an
angle, pull the sled down with your
left hand until the forearm section
is about 5º above horizontal.
Turn the weight adjustment knob
counterclockwise until the forearm
wants to float at this angle.
• If the arm floats at too low an angle,
pull the sled up with your left hand
until the forearm section is about 5º
above horizontal.
• Remember, the weight adjustment
knob turns freely when the arm
section is slightly above horizontal.
Never force it or use a tool to adjust
the arm lift.
Now let’s fly the rig again
• Move the sled off your left hip
as before. Keep the camera
close. This is what we call the
• Move your torso ever so slightly to
test how your body angle controls
the sled.
• Repeat with the sled further away
from you, but keep your torso
• The sled should stay in place with
only a little help from your right
Boom the sled all the way up and down while watching the arm
sections. Be sure you are in good form at all times. The upper
arm should follow the forearm smoothly and not lag behind in
either direction.
Do not bend over or lean back as you boom the sled up and
down. Boom the sled with your right hand; your left hand is just
for aiming the sled and camera.
Hand grips
Basic Operating
The two-handed technique was invented
by Garrett Brown while working on The
Shining, and it has been the preferred
method of operating ever since.
Basically, the right hand does the work
of positioning the sled in space (moving
horizontally and vertically relative to the
body), and the left hand aims the sled
(and therefore the camera) by panning
and tilting.
If the sled is properly balanced, very little
force will be needed to aim the camera.
Clenching the center post or gimbal hard
will counteract the sled’s “float.” Light
control is the key to a steady camera and
smooth moves.
The left hand also has the interesting job
of keeping the sled level as we move
about. As we accelerate or decelerate,
go around corners, etc., the left hand
must prevent the sled from going offlevel before it happens. One of the big
operating skills is anticipating how the
sled will behave as we move along. There
are several classic “grips” we use to aim
and control the sled.
The preferred grip, using the
pinkie finger to prevent a
pendulum effect.
Finding your grip
• Grab the center post with your left
hand just below the gimbal. All
five fingers should be LIGHTLY in
contact with the post, but this isn’t
a tea party. Don’t just use your
fingertips – wrap you fingers a bit
around the post.
• The right hand fine tunes the
position of the sled, moving it side
to side or closer to or farther from
your body, and booms the arm
up and down. It also has the job
of eliminating the bounce of the
springs – i.e., preventing unwanted
up and down movements as you
move along.
• Grab the gimbal handle with your
right hand.
• Make sure that this hand does not
cross the bearing and touch any
part of the Y-shaped yoke, as this
will influence the aiming of the sled.
Also used, the full hand grip: all
fingers surround the post with
a light touch.
Basic movement
More Practice and Training
Try moving around and get used to the
way it feels. Pay attention to how your
movements and posture affect the sled.
For operators who have not yet taken a workshop, we (once again!) strongly urge you
to do so, as it is the quickest way to learn how to operate properly.
Relax your muscles and control the
Zephyr™ stabilizer rig with your body
position and a light, fingertip touch.
However, there are several good training videos, including the 1990 Classic EFP
Video Training Tape, which has been remastered to DVD. Although some of the
information on the EFP video is specific to the EFP, most of the concepts, information,
and exercises are still taught in the workshops today.
Leave the monitor turned off for now.
Don’t worry about making shots – you
want to experiment, test, play.
We suggest you spend some time with your Steadicam® stabilizer learning how to start
and stop moves cleanly, pan and tilt, boom up and down, walk the line, do switches,
track sideways, do pass-bys, use long lenses, and a host of other techniques.
Get used to walking with the sled next
to you.
You already know what you want to
do with your Zephyr™ stabilizer. The
exercises and concepts presented on the
video will help you quickly develop the
necessary skills to make your shots.
Balancing with your body
As the sled gets farther away from your
body, you must lean back a tiny bit more
and use your arm reach to keep that light
balanced touch.
If you lean forward, the Zephyr™ will
try to move away from you — fast!
— requiring a firmer grip, tiring your
back muscles more quickly, and most
importantly, not flying properly with that
great Steadicam® stabilizer feel.
Placing the camera in space
Swing the arm around to find its range
of motion. Practice gentle boom moves
with your right hand. Find the lowest and
highest positions the camera can reach.
Avoid hitting the stops as you boom (it
won’t hurt the arm, just your shot).
As often said in the workshops, running
around chasing your dog is fun for
awhile, but it’s hard to judge how well
you did or if you are improving.
Many experienced operators are still
perfecting their moving camera skills
after 25 years of operating, and most of
them thought they were pretty good at the
end of their first workshop. How good
you get is part of the artistry and fun of
being an operator. You have a great tool
in your hands. Practice, practice, practice.
Dynamic Balancing the Steadicam® Sled
Advanced Techniques
Dynamic Balance
A sled is in dynamic balance when the
center post remains vertical as the sled is
panned (and this is critical) at any and all
panning speeds.
Dynamic balance is extremely important
for precise operating and for whip pans.
For each arrangement of camera, monitor
position, post length, accessories, etc.,
there are many possibilities for statically
balancing the system.
However, for each arrangement of
camera, monitor position, post length,
accessories, etc., there is only one
combination that balances the sled both
statically and dynamically. There is some
leeway as to the required precision of
dynamic balance. What is acceptable
depends upon the operator and the
Dynamic balance can very easily and
quickly be achieved by the trial and
error method.
In all cases, when a sled is in dynamic
balance, both the camera’s c.g. and the
battery’s c.g. will be to the rear of the
centerline of the center post. This rule
gives you some point to begin balancing
the system.
Three figures to study for understanding dynamic balance
The top figure looks like the Model One or the SK sled. The camera c.g. is centered
over the post; the monitor and battery are on the same horizontal plane, and their
common c.g. is in the post. This unit is in dynamic balance and pans flat.
The second figure has the monitor raised a bit. This looks like most sled
configurations, in either high or low mode. Note that the battery c.g. is closer to the
post, and the camera c.g. has moved to the rear. Why?? See the third figure.
In the third figure, the monitor has been raised all the way up in front of the camera.
It’s absurd, of course, but it makes a point. Now the common monitor and camera
c.g. is over the post, and the battery’s c.g. is directly under the post.
So you can see that as the monitor is raised, the camera c.g. must move to the rear
and the battery c.g. must move towards the post. With most sleds, the monitor c.g.
is raised above the battery c.g., therefore the camera c.g. is always to the rear of
the centerpost.
It typically works out that the camera c.g. is pretty close to .5in (12mm) to the rear
– a bit more if the camera is light or the monitor is higher, and somewhat less if the
camera is very heavy or the monitor is lower.
We put the rig in dynamic balance by
first choosing the monitor position and
then placing the camera close to its final
position. Then we discover the one-andonly ideal position for the battery by the
trial and error method.
First, set up your sled at the proper
length for the shot and place the monitor
where you want it for proper viewing
and inertial control. Typically with the
Zephyr™ stabilizer system, the monitor
rod will be extended slightly past the first
stop and two weights are attached to the
rod (see page 8). Two weights are also
attached to the battery rod.
Next, position the camera so that its c.g.
is about .5in (12mm) behind the center
post. The center post is just over an inch
in diameter, so you can use the back of
the post as a guide. Next, static balance
by sliding the battery in or out so that
the sled hangs perfectly vertical fore and
aft. Make sure the top-to-bottom balance
is set with a drop time of 2 to 3 seconds.
Trim side to side with the camera, using
the knobs on the stage. Fine-tune the
fore-aft balance with the camera. You
want the sled’s post perfectly vertical.
A spirit level will help you get the post
Each time you lock the battery in a new
position, you must rebalance the sled
statically with the camera. Do not move
the monitor! Once you are in static
balance, spin the sled again. Is it better or
worse? Again, you have two choices for
moving the battery.
Re-rack, rebalance, and spin again (and
again!) until the sled pans flat. This
should not take a lot of time.
When the battery is within about .25in
(6mm) of ideal, the sled will behave
nicely – pan flat – and feel “sweet.” We
suggest you do not attempt to do this for
the first time on set!
Adding any accessory or extra Merlin
weights to the sled will affect both static
and dynamic balance. Changing the
length of the sled, and/or moving the
monitor in or out will change both static
and dynamic balance.
How much will dynamic balance change? It
depends on how much things have changed.
In practice, it’s a lot easier than it sounds
on the page, and luckily, there’s one
great gift in all this: it doesn’t matter for
dynamic balance what weight camera you
are using or if you change lenses, filters,
etc. Really!
So if you make any changes with the
camera – or use a different camera –
there are no worries about getting back
in dynamic balance! You only need to
rebalance statically and you will be in
dynamic balance again. Honest.
Put the other way around: you can set up
your rig in various ways with a practice
camera at home, making it long or short,
monitor in or out, with an extra weight,
etc. Just note or mark the positions of the
monitor and batteries, and you will be
able to get into dynamic balance quickly
on set, regardless of the camera you
carry. Really. Honest. No fooling.
For the complete story, see the Dynamic
Balance Primer and play with the
Dynamic Balance Spreadsheet, available
online at www.steadicam.com.
Dynamic balance spin test with an Ultra2™
Give the sled several careful test spins.
Very important: do not spin the rig very
fast – certainly not much faster than a
normal panning speed (3 – 6 rpm). Note
the results. Is it good or bad, i.e., does it
pan flat or wobble? Is it your technique or
is the sled out of dynamic balance?
If your sled is not in dynamic balance, do
not move the monitor!
Instead, move the battery a little bit first,
then rebalance statically with the camera.
There are only two directions to move the
battery: out or in. You have a 50% chance
of choosing the right direction, so stop
worrying about it and give one direction a
test. Just be sure to make a note of which
direction you move the battery.
Spinning a bit wobbly.
Looking good!
Configuring the sled for low mode
Advanced Techniques
Low Mode
In order to configure the sled for
low mode operating, you must:
• Flip the monitor and the camera
• Attach the F-bracket to the gimbal.
Use the provided safety pin.
• Rebalance the sled, both statically
and dynamically.
• You also might change to a longer
post in the arm and/or raise the
socket block on the vest to restore
some of the arm’s lost boom range.
The camera will need some means of
attaching a second dovetail to the top of
the camera.
Many film cameras come with dedicated
low mode brackets and 100% video
viewfinders. Some camera-specific low
mode bracketry might also provide
a means of mounting motor rods (or
a dovetail with motor rods), and this
system should not interfere with camera
functions or working with the camera in
high mode.
A low mode handle clamp (P/N 8027417) works for some cameras, but
be sure the camera’s handle is strong
enough. Many plastic handles on video
cameras are inadequate, and a custom
cage or bracket is required.
Most operators work with the low mode
bracketry and second dovetail in place —
ready to go at all times.
Attach the second dovetail directly above
the first dovetail. Check that it does not
interfere with changing tapes, film mags
or any other camera functions.
Tip: Many video cameras – or video cameras with film lens
adaptors – do not have a proper way to mount a dovetail
above the camera. We suggest you use the “bottom”
dovetail for low mode, shooting upside down. You will need
to flip the image in post production, so be sure that’s okay
before you shoot. You can either leave the monitor upside
down, or physically flip it over for better viewing. The latter
will require electronic flipping of the image.
Flip the monitor by unscrewing the
monitor mount, turn the monitor over and
replace the screw.
Attach the F-bracket to the gimbal handle
by inserting the post into the gimbal
handle and securing it with the pin. The
F-bracket brings the arm back into a
proper relationship with the inverted sled.
Without an F-bracket, the end of the arm
can be next to the camera. When this
is the case, switches are impossible and
operating is severely limited.
Balancing on the stand with
the F-bracket attached.
Balance the sled
The sled can be balanced the same as in
high mode. Hang the rig by its gimbal
on the balancing stud. The camera will
still be on top, but it is upside down.
Balance statically and dynamically. Once
balanced, adjust your drop time so the
camera now falls to the bottom of the
rig: simply slide the gimbal towards the
electronics to achieve a proper drop time.
Cautionary Tip: In low mode, the dovetail
lock works better if the camera weight is
supported as you lock the dovetail.
A useful trick
The range of low mode lens heights
can be lowered by extending the center
post and/or making the rig more bottom
Hand positions for operating
with the F-bracket.
Low mode operating
Traditionally, it’s considered harder to
operate in low mode than in high mode.
Several factors may work together to
make low mode operating harder. The
operator usually holds the sled further
from his body than in high mode. The
operator’s hands are not at the same
height. Many times, the post is tilted from
vertical. The boom range is sometimes
reduced. The rig may not be in dynamic
balance. The operator often cranes his
neck to see the image. In addition, every
director wants the lens height lower or
higher than one can properly reach. And
it’s just plain weird to have the monitor
so far above the lens.
Accessory for lightweight cameras
When using very lightweight cameras,
it’s often better to add weight to the
camera or stage, so that the gimbal
position remains close to the stage.
It’s very easy to use the Merlin™ Stage
Weight Bracket and any number of
Merlin™ weights as shown.
See the accessory section for part
You also can make a custom weight
cage for your lightweight camera - we
use a variety of cages in the workshops.
If you make a custom cage, be sure you
can access the battery, media, and all
other functions. Many operators add a
quick release plate to their weight cage to
facilitate easy changes.
Zephyr™ sled connectors and pin-outs
12/24V POWER
PIN-2 = +12V
PIN-3 = +24V
PIN-4 = +12V
12/24V POWER
PIN-2 = +12V
PIN-3 = +24V
12/24V POWER
PIN-2 = +12V
PIN-3 = +24V
Equipment and accessories
Zephyr™ sled
Zephyr™ arm
Zephyr™ vest
Hard case
Cable, 3 ft video Cable, 12V power 7” 16:9 Monitor
Docking bracket Adaptor, phono-BNC Adaptor, BNC-RCA Instruction manual DVD, EFP Training 078-4122-01
Optional accessories
The Steadicam® Operator’s Handbook LIT-900000
Steadicam® Tango™
Merlin™ stage weight bracket
Dovetail plate assembly 802-7417
Low mode kit 078-7393-01
Video low mode cage 078-2038-01
F-bracket for low mode 300-7901
Merlin™ Start Weights 801-7920-04
Merlin™ Middle Weights 801-7920-05
Vehicle kit
SteadiStand™ 601-7910
Mounting block 803-7801
Thumb screws for block 078-0627-01
Long straps for vest 803-7817
Long arm post 602-7237-01
Cable, 12V power, spare 078-7351-01
Cable, 3 ft video 078-4122-01
1/4-20 camera screws 078-1121
3/8-16 camera screws 078-1122
Tool pouch FFR-000013
Saddle bag-sand bag/portfolio FFR-000014
Steadicam® cap
Trolley for system soft case DAA-22B
PowerCube™ battery IDX VL-4S battery charger IDX VL-2SPlus battery charger PowerCube™ battery hard case FFR-000035
Anton Bauer Dionic HC (Li-Ion) battery
Anton Bauer dual charger Anton Bauer quad charger w/ LCD display FFR-000151
Visit www.tiffen.com for a complete list of Steadicam® accessories.
Also recommended
Wireless follow focus system and brackets
Video transmitting and receiving system
Wired zoom control system
Camera specific low mode brackets
Inertial augmentation
(Antlers™ or Gyros)
Video recording system
Cases & packing
When repacking the sled into the case, make sure the gear gets wiped down and not
put away wet. Remove the batteries. Don’t leave any loose components in the case as
they may work their way over to the monitor and scratch the display. The arm should
be packed inside the vest to keep things compact.
Most operators have several other cases for their accessories, tools, low mode
brackets, video recorders, video transmitters, diversity receivers, remote focus
equipment, etc.
Zephyr™ stabilizer system shown with the
optional low mode kit.
Disclaimer: There is no implied or expressed warranty regarding this material. Specifications,
accessories, etc. are subject to change without notice.
The Tiffen Company, 90 Oser Avenue, Hauppauge, NY 11788
• 631-273-2500 • 1-800-645-2522 • www.tiffen.com
Tiffen Steadicam® Operations, Glendale, CA • 818-843-4600
• 1-800-593-3331 • www.steadicam.com
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