I’m standing on the frigid deck of an expedition vessel in the snowy Lemaire Channel, somewhere along the Antarctica Peninsula. It’s lightly snowing, and there’s a biting breeze wisping over the deck. Despite this, the atmosphere is cheerful as passengers mill about soaking in the epic snowscape and towering icebergs around us. I have my trusty Glidecam 4000HD, a camera stabilizer that I absolutely adore.
I’ve relied heavily on this tool for many years now, allowing me to capture buttery smooth shots that would otherwise be impossible. The Glidecam isolates the camera’s movement from my body- this means you can essentially ‘fly around’ without having jittery or shaky footage. If balanced correctly and with enough operator skill, you can even run up or down stairs with total smoothness. I love this tool and it’s become an essential in all my shoots.
As I’m ‘Glidecaming’ the bustle of the passengers and ice around me, I notice a man staring at me from a short distance away. He seems very interested in what I’m doing. The Glidecam is a little unconventional looking and I’ve found it’s common to be approached and asked questions by curious onlookers, so this isn’t unusual. We lock eyes and he approaches me inquisitively.
“What is that thing?” the man asks.
I begin to explain the nuances of the Glidecam and show off how it functions. This lasts for about 2-3 minutes as I go into what a fulcrum point is, and even show him some of the footage. He quietly watches with intrigue and listens quietly.
“Can I see it?”
“Well, sure” I say, and hand him over the rig. He immediately takes the Glidecam with deft hands and begins to drop test the balance on it. Without getting too technical, drop testing is how you perfect the balance and equilibrium on the Glidecam, ensuring it works as intended. I’m shocked he is doing this. Maybe he isn’t just a curious tourist?
“Impressive balance” he says.
Wait what? Who is this man? He’s clearly familiar with Glidecams.
“You know about Glidecams?’ I ask a little taken aback.
“I invented them” he says with a wink.
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I was talking to none of there than Garret Brown, the inventor and founder of the original stabilizer brand Steadicam (used on all major feature film sets around the world). Glidecams are the less expensive competing company that ran with his technology. Garret not only invented the technology, he’s one of the best operators in the entire world. He shot the speeder bike scene on Endor in Return of the Jedi and the creepy hallway scene in The Shining all using a Steadicam! I am talking to a legend!
It was a really funny and surreal moment. Of all the places to bump into this man, I met him in Antarctica AND he fooled me by pretending to be a curious layman bystander. We talked for sometime about movies and stabilizers. He was a really nice, friendly and down to earth guy.
“Time to graduate to a Steadicam” he said.
A month later I got a package in the mail with a shiny new Steadicam Solo. Very cool. Thanks Garret!
It’s amazing who you bump into just being out in the world. I’ll never forget this moment!
If you’re interested, the video of that particular Antarctica trip is below.
Have a stellar week,