InCinematographer - Issue 2 - September 2017 - 18
www.incinematographer.com | Issue 2 | September 2017
Steadicam's Game Changer
- the M-1 Volt
Mel Noonan from StylusMC discusses the new Steadicam
M1-Volt with Robin Thwaites from Tiffen International...
teadicam's camera stabilizing contribution to film
making and television is huge, enabling smooth
and creative movement in and around the actors, sets
and locations via the considerable added skills of the
Steadicam's Oscar winning inventor, Garrett Brown
shot close to 100 movies with Steadicam including
Rocky, The Shining, and Return of the Jedi and holds
over 50 patents taking in other equipment he has
designed. He remains very active, teaching, lecturing
and working with the Steadicam R&D team to make
the best even better.
The top of the range Steadicam rig, the M-1,
launched around two years ago has been a further
success with many in use around the world, not just
by top operators but also some new operators on the
way up who want to start with the very best toolset.
The M-1's modular and open design facilitates a quick
fit for updates and enhancements, and the latest
modular add-on, which rightly caused quite a stir
at CineGear Expo is the Steadicam M-1 Volt, in fact
another revolutionary step forward for Steadicam.
Robin Thwaites, International Director of Sales at
Tiffen International, Pinewood Studios, is also a top
level Steadicam trainer and was at Cine Gear.
"The M-1 Volt is quite something but quite difficult
to describe" he says. "You could call it a Horizon
Assist, because it helps hold the post vertical; this
has been achieved without adding any clumsy
motorised gyro device to the stage. Actually, what it's
doing is augmenting the light touch that you have as
an operator and effectively making it more difficult
to lose the verticals - that's one way of putting it.
"It works by driving directly on to the gimbal on
the roll and tilt axes, so it will hold the roll, and the
horizon stays stable. It will also hold the tilt, but it's
variable, because the software is very clever, and it
does mean that you can tilt the whole post and keep
your horizon level." "For an operator, until now,
things like whip pans are very difficult to do, to end
up framed exactly how you want on the subject and
with a perfect horizon level - with this, it's a doddle.
"It's adjustable, so you can adjust the strength of
the effect. You may even want to completely turn
it off and do the shot, which is possible because it
doesn't introduce any negative effects.
"It's working directly on the gimbal which is where
we like to control the sled, which means that you
don't need to have any additional post length to
compensate for a stage mounted device.
"The Volt module consists of two units, one goes on
to the gimbal, and drives it, and is the brains of the
unit, and then there's a small sensor which fits under
the camera and tells the brain when it's level.
"I think it weighs only about a pound or so,
negligible considering the overall weight of the rig
and camera, and it uses very little power.
"There's nothing else like it around. There are
third-party stage mounted gyro type devices that
are supposed to hold the camera level, but they can
introduce many negative effects and don't have the
nice feel and the versatility of the Volt.
"Someone at Cine Gear summed it up nicely as like
having Garrett's hand on the post."
Availability is September after IBC, price to be
"There's two more important new Steadicam
products to highlight. The first is the new threesection post. When we had the Ultra 2 rig we had
a four-section post so the whole post came out to
about six feet. That proved to be a bit excessive and
unnecessary, but when we introduced the M-1 with its
six section post, a lot of people said, they'd like the
post a bit longer so they could go lower in low mode.
"So we've made a three section post. Simple as
that. It's out and available. You just replace the two
section post with the three section. The final new
product is the Three Section Arm. The Steadicam
The main Volt module
in place on the M-1 gimbal
Jerry Holway, one of the design team and top Steadicam
trainer, shows off the M-1 Volt at Cine Gear
arm is normally two sections. The third arm section
is literally a half of a G-70x arm, which by way of
using the Exovest attaches on to your back and
allows you to get one complete section of extra
height movement on range, from high to low in one
hit rather than having to make any adjustments.
That means that if you put the camera in low mode
typically you're going to be able to do a shot which is
pretty well from knee height up to eye level.
"The great thing about doing it directly on the
Steadicam arm is that you do that with a vertical lift,
there's no arc, so you don't have to move your body
to manipulate around the shot; you can literally pull
it straight up and it'll go up like a crane. That's a big
"If you look around, there are a couple of devices,
third party products which will do the trick of going
high to low, but the issue is that when you do that,
although they have slightly greater range, there's
always an arc, be it sideways with one, or backwards
and forwards with the other. If you wanted to go high
to low with the first, you'd start off high and you'd
move the sled round so it turns into low mode, and
you'd have to step back, then step back in again to
maintain your camera position.
"So that's a thing that has to be learnt, whereas
using the three section arm you just simply boom up
and down vertically it always remains perpendicular.
"How you interpret that creatively is obviously
down to the operator but as far as I can see it, it's
kind of getting what Garrett always wanted, which
was to be able to move that camera vertically from
floor to ceiling. We can't quite go from floor to
ceiling, but you can certainly go from knee height to
eye level. It extends what a normal Steadicam can
These are all important enhancements for
Steadicam, but the M-1 Volt is outstanding - a game
changer, and will be no doubt be attracting a lot of
attention at IBC.
www.steadicam.com / www.tiffen.com