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Steelcase Leap review – crooked back update (also, video is hard!)

I have updated my review of the Steelcase Leap office chair with information about the “crooked back” issue, which has been reported by users here and on Reddit. I even recorded a video that demonstrates what the issue is and – I think – pretty conclusively shows that it is caused by a design flaw, not some kind of random manufacturing defect.

Making the video was a surprisingly fun project, even though it did confirm what I already knew about video as a medium: it takes an awful lot of work to say anything with video, especially if you’re aiming for semi-professional quality. Just filming the shots took me two days – finding a decent, uncluttered spot in my apartment, setting up the lighting, experimenting with framing, fighting technical issues with my smartphone cameras, etc. Then there was audio – recorded in small pieces, with multiple takes needed due to my lack of skill as a narrator (for example, I tend to speak in a monotone, which sounds very dull, and when I try to jazz up my speech, I often end up sounding unnatural). Editing the video and audio together – choosing the best video takes, making sure the source videos (from different devices) play well together, deciding which parts of the videos to use, strategically using slowdowns, speedups and still frames, drawing the on-screen graphics, cutting the audio and making sure it corresponds to what’s happening on the screen – all that while learning to use Hitfilm Express – took me a day or two as well. And then I had the idea to add a soundtrack to cover up the noise on the voice track, and instead of using a stock track, I decided to emulate 3Blue1Brown and make my own music for the video. That little side job took another 2-3 days, including 1 day to synchronize the music track with the voice track and the video.

In the time it took me to make a 2-minute video, I could have written several blog posts. At the same time, the work I’ve created is very hard to edit. If I want to correct a post – for example, because I made a mistake or because I’ve come up with a better way to explain something – I can simply rewrite a couple sentences. But I can’t do that with a video – I would have to re-record the audio, likely add more video scenes to show while the new audio is playing, figure out how to make the music track fit the new content (record extra music?), re-edit the whole thing – it’s just way too much work. What’s more, you may not know that YouTube explicitly disallows updating a published video – you have to delete the old video and upload a new one. But if you do that, you lose all the likes and comments, which influence your ranking in YouTube search, so you’d basically have to be an idiot to do it. Video may be easier to absorb for the viewers (at least for most topics), but yeah – it is HARD to work with.

Anyway, as I’ve said, I had a lot of fun working on the video. As an introverted programmer type, I had the most fun writing the soundtrack and editing the video. In another life, I could see myself working as a composer or a film editor. The least fun part was putting my voice out there – I’m just not very comfortable doing that (even though it’s still much easier than putting my face in front of the camera!).

By the way, I’ve uploaded the soundtrack to SoundCloud in case some mom-and-pop candy store wants to reuse it in a promotional video.

4 Comments so far

  • Tom Mitts

    Have you tried any chairs from Haworth specifically the Fern?

  • Teo

    Hi Tom,
    thanks for all your in-depth reviews, I’ve read most of them and haven’t seen anything as detailed as your explanations. I know that you are basically interested in and comment only on the top of the top, but sadly – due to budget constraints – I can’t get a Steelcase even though at this point I could give my left kidney just to get my hands on one.

    I’m curious about your views on Ergohuman GROSPOL (or Nowy Styl for that matter), which is highly advertised in Poland. It’s clearly not on the same level as it is a mid-range office chair and thus lacking in a number of aspects, but do you find it at least acceptable and would you trust your back with it? And what other options are there as far as mid-range chairs are concerned?

    • Tomasz P. Szynalski

      Thanks. I am very poorly informed when it comes to recent offerings from Polish chair makers. When I was doing my testing, the best Polish chairs were nothing special – at 2x the price and 3x the ergo, Steelcase seemed like the better deal. When I tested the Ergohuman years ago, my main problem with it was that the lumbar support was very prominent and had an awkward shape (like a pillow), with no depth or tension or height adjustment. Maybe Humanscale has something more affordable? Used Leap/Please? My friend snagged an almost-new Please for 900 zł a few years ago on Allegro. I’m not sure what the current prices are for Steelcase in Poland, but it’s worth asking for a quote — I would expect it to be significantly cheaper than the retail price you might find with a Google search.

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