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How Do I Become a Steadicam Operator?

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  • Written By: M. Kayo
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2016
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Before making the decision to become a steadicam operator, make sure that you meet all the physical requirements necessary for this job. Start by learning about the equipment and its capabilities either through a training school or by talking with some people in the industry. After that, gain some hands-on experience working with cameras on your own and then with a film production crew or an advertising agency that specializes in shooting commercials. Experience and proven results are what matter in the film industry.

The basic design of the steadicam equipment provides an isolated space within which the camera can operate smoothly. Probably the most important factor to become a steadicam operator is learning to handle the equipment and to shoot without adding any additional instability into the shot. This requires the operator to actually provide assistance to the steadicam to help maintain this isolated space, which is created and maintained by the specially designed rig. The only way to develop this level of acuity is through experience in operating the equipment and evaluating the resulting film footage.

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Even though the Steadicam apparatus was designed to distribute the overall weight of the unit, typically between 30 to 50 pounds (13.6 to 22.7 kg), the unit still adds weight to the body. The load may seem light for the first few minutes of operation, but working for several hours on your feet with the steadicam unit attached may present a physical challenge for some. The load is distributed across the front of the operator's body and may prove to be a challenge to those without a good sense of balance. Overall physical fitness, a lack of back problems, and a high level of physical stamina are the most basic physical requirements necessary to successfully operate a steadicam.

Previous experience working within the film-making or motion picture industry is the best way to get started on the road to become a steadicam operator. Since you will technically be working as a camera operator, some basic experience or training in setting up a shot, framing a shot, smoothly panning, pulling focus, following a subject, and zooming in or out decisively is necessary. The only way to learn to do all of these things well while on a set is to have the experience of actually doing it. If you are new to the industry, start by getting a basic camera and shooting your own films, work on a local television show or alongside a production crew that is shooting a commercial. No amount of training or book-learning is going to take the place of actual experience.

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