Hollywood Cinematographic Approach

- #2 Steadicam Volt and the Future Potentia -

Hiroyuki HAGA / Director of Photography


If you heard that Steadicam operation might be no longer difficult to be dealt with, you would be surprised. Gimbal has been popular because of its easier operation than Steadicam. On the other hand, Steadicam requires more craftsmanship as an operator is trained and practices many times. Last year, Tiffen (Steadicam’s company) released “Volt” and the epoch-making technology will open Steadicam’s doors to more and more filmmakers.

Steadicam M-1 VOLT was borned

Those who have shot a movie by a smartphone before would have heard Small Handheld Type “Steadicam Volt”. There are many stabilizers for Smartphone from innumerable brands nowadays: for instance, DJI OSMO Mobile. They let us easily and smoothly operate a phone by one hand. “Steadicam M-1 Volt”, announced by Tiffen (a company which owns world famous steadicam) in 2017, is equipped with 2-axis gyroscopic stabilizer motor (accurate mechanical stabilization), which provides not only a smooth shot but also fast and accurate adjustment to desirable camera angle (other brands’ stabilizer usually delay pan adjustment), including pausing a camera angle at high & low angle: It contributes to framing by an operator very well. It was born by pickiness of Garrett BROWN, who is an inventor of Steadicam. Steadicam M-1 Volt was announced last year at CineGearExpo2017. Now this technology can be applied to the existing Steadicam models, which lets more and more people access to Volt.

Control Assistance for Inclination in Roll Direction

When you operate a Steadicam, you have to severely pay most attention to “Horizon”. No matter how wonderful a long shot, you have to resize the shot or even cannot use the shot at all if the shot’s horizon isn’t correct. Volt easily complements controlling the inclination of roll direction which is Steadicam’s most important point. The weight of Volt is 2 pounds (0.9kg), which was already sold for the top model of Steadicam “M-1” and will be possibly attached to different models like “Shadow” and “Archer” by replacing a Yoke part, and even the replacing Yoke would allow “GPI PRO” (it’s not Tiffen Steadicam’s product) to attach Volt, which should mean a manifestation of Tiffen’s confidence. This new Volt system has a single switch that controls ON/OFF. Of course, you can regularly use Volt as well. As you can control the strength of stability, Volt lets you operate a Steadicam with regular Steadicam mode and strongly helps you for stable operation with good horizontal balance even under windy condition. Moreover, it can be used even under sound recording with silent design. A Steadicam operator used to use a heavy Gyro motor, which is very noisy and hardly usable in sound recording, under windy condition, so it’s considerably evolutional. Also, in application from a smartphone model, a camera angles can be fixed with a vertical slope so that it is possible to operate smoothly while preserving right angle.
Steadicam M-1 Volt is clearly distinguished from old Gyro due to light weight and quietness, which improved ease of use, and also it is a wonderful technology and tool to allow individual difference of operators and cameras and accessories. The past Steadicam system rather depended on operators’ management and talent, but Volt compensates for the majority of it, so future Steadicam will devote more time to focusing on how to make a shot and scene.

Pursuit of Shot and Art

Ron AYERS and Robert ORF at Tiffen in Burbank

I had an opportunity to visit Tiffen in Burbank and the developer told me a few times, “From now on we should pursue the artistic nature of shots and carefully learn and check the basics of Steadicam every time.” I reconfirmed a key point of operator from his emphasis “carefully learn and check the basics every time”. In addition, he added, “Recently, amateurs and professionals are most likely to own Steadicams, but I have seen a quite bad operation by accident. As I looked over the reason, I found out failure of basics like weight balance and way of set-up. I learned that it is also important for Steadicam to hold back the basics.
As I am a director of photography, I remember “Pursuit of the Art of Shots” most. Old Steadicam has spent time to take “horizontal” and made us compromise shots in limited time and constraints, but the advent of Volt could let us not worry about the failures any more. We must appreciate it. As movie is also called “Story Telling”, pursuing best “Composition” and “Camera Work” in order to express what you want to convey should be most important and key point in filmmaking. As the developer said, we should understand the structure and basics of Steadicam, and then the new technology “Volt” helps difficult adjustments under any environment, which makes focusing on next stage (Story Telling) much easier. It can be said that we touch more pleasant part of filmmaking with director and Steadicam operator while discussing a best shot made from a scene and message we want to convey. By the birth of Volt, I as a Director of Photography was made to return to the source of the origin of image creation.

Seadicam M-1 Volt
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Ginichi (Interview Cooperation)
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