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Your first Steadicam vest is a milestone, and you should enjoy the experience. Some manufacturers advertise a great vest, but you need to know what you’re looking for, and this will help.
Before getting a pro vest (SC Merlin) you will want to go with a generic, cost effective one like the Glidecam gold vest.
Glidecam gold vest does well for the price and supports up to 38 lbs.
Some vests are sold as part of a kit, arm/vest/sled, which will greatly benefit a novice.
If you're a pro buy the PRO model (SC) and use the Glidecam as a back up.
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The straps should not be damaged
All buckles should be intact
If possible try on the vest before purchase (smaller frames will have to arrange for a custom fit.)
If Velcro is worn, the fit will not be very secure. It is not recommended to buy used Vests because the Velcro is usually pretty worn.
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Steadicam Vest Fit
The vest will have to be adjusted to fit your body. If you run on the small side you'll have to have it custom fit. The vest should always be snug, but you should still be able to breathe comfortably. Diaphragm breathing is absolutely beneficial to staying on your feet and getting an even shot.
Length should also be adjusted to your comfort. Freedom of movement at hip level is very important, and could lead to back problems if not adjusted properly.
Good fit takes into account the operator’s size and since everyone's body is shaped differently one size never fits all without adjustment. Striking the perfect balance is quite difficult; the general idea is for the vest to be tight enough so that you can't move inside it, but breathing normally should not be difficult.
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Another great characteristic when choosing a vest is weight. The more the vest weighs the more weight you’ll have to handle while filming. The Jib arm, and sled (in some cases) is quite heavy altogether. With a lighter vest, you’ll handle the Steadicam smoother, and the shots will reflect that. If you’re struggle with the weight, it will show.
Take your time, and find the right vest for you. If you find a snug, light, strong vest take it and run! Happy hunting!