Steadicam Merlin: Shooting on Stairs

One of the best accessories a videographer can have is the Steadicam Merlin. This nifty piece of equipment allows for steadier handheld shots. Any videographer knows that when it comes to tracking action or doing backpack shoots, unstable camerawork always poses a problem. With the Steadicam Merlin, you merely have to mount your camera on this stabilizing mount, and you can shoot handheld without your shots coming out jerky or shaky.

When shooting movement on stairs, videographers have the hardest time with keeping the camera steady. If you’re following your subject up a flight of stairs, you also have to be mindful of maintaining your framing and the headroom. With the Steadicam Merlin, these problems are lessened.

Tips for Shooting on Stairs with the Steadicam Merlin

Avoid Being Bottom-Heavy. Normally when you’re tracking someone going up a flight of stairs, you tend to shoot up directly behind the subject. The result is a series of shots of the person’s back. Make sure that you angle yourself accordingly to be able to take the person’s side view or profile instead.

To shoot the person’s profile, counter-clock the Steadicam’s Guide one turn. Trim appropriately according to the average angle you’ll be using.
Keep in mind that your subject will appear to have a bouncing movement, because you are both climbing or descending the stairs at the same time. Trim the Steadicam so it tilts upward, then you can maintain your framing with the boom range.

If you’re ahead of your subject and you’re both ascending the stairs, then trim the Steadicam to tilt downwards. With the boom range, adjust accordingly to avoid shooting your subject’s crown throughout the sequence.

Have an assistant spot you. Since you will be focused on your camera’s viewfinder, you would want to avoid any casualties or accidents on the stairs.