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Old August 21st, 2003, 10:04 AM   #1
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Saving my back and getting good shots

I have a Panasonic DVX-100 that I am using for some run and gun documentary work. On a recent shoot I was trying to capture pretty much everything that the talent was saying while moving around. After about 10-20 minutes, my back was getting really sore.

I have been researching various camera support systems for some time, but I am having trouble making up my mind.

My requirements are:

1. Support the camera to keep minimal stress on my back/arms.
2. Provide steady shots, at a minimum when the camera is held still. At least as good as shoulder mounted cameras used in ENG work.
3. Allow a fairly full range of movement for high, low, over a table, dutch angles, etc.
4. Ability to mount/dismount quickly. Often I will need to move the camera between a tripod and the support system quickly.

I have pretty much ruled out anything that is totally arm supported. I have a Steaditracker but found that it does not do a very good job and is very tiring to use. That leaves me with the following options:

A. Rigs that make the handheld camera act like a shoulder mount.

These rigs should save my back and some come with a quick release plate that will allow me to quickly mount/dismount the camera. The disadvantage is somewhat limited camera movement and still shaky video during camera moves.

I have looked at the Varizoom, but the DvRigPro seems to be the best that I have seen online.It has limited distribution in the US. ( www.dvtec.tv) and I don't know of anyone (other than the salesman) that have used it.

B. Steadicam/Glidecam, etc.

These will obviously get the best shots, but from everything that I have read, it can take up to 30 minutes to mount and balance the camera. I would probably go this route, if I was convinced that I could mount and balance quickly.

I am not worried about spending the money on a system as long as it really does the job. So, I am looking for advice, suggestions, etc. on what rigs would best meet my needs.

Thanks,

Randall
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Old August 21st, 2003, 10:15 AM   #2
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Randall,

If you don't mind shelling out the money, then by all means go with a Steadicam.

I have a Glidecam and also the Varizoom rig. I use them both because they serve different purposes. When I want to go light and not be loaded down with a steady rig, the Varizoom works fine. The gut rest is really handy in keeping down arm fatigue, too.

But someday...if I'm a very good boy, maybe I'll be able to get a Steadicam.
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 12:42 AM   #3
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Try the Marzpak. I'm 58 with CHF and this thing is a breeze yo use. I carry a VX2K with a WA adapter, a 4x4 matte box and audio gear and it's easy to keep going. At $400, it's the best money I've spent (and I'm cheap).

The workmanship is superb. they're handbuilt by the wife of one of our members. The lady uses this rig for her filed work in nature videography. Her attention to detail and customer service is second to none.

It's a lot better deal than any of the shoulder rigs.

Give the site a read
http://www.marztech.com/
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 01:01 AM   #4
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Randall:

I think overall I'd agree with Bryan although I'm not an expert on all of the options out there.

Regarding a Steadicam-type system, once you have set up your own rig to your own camera it shouldn't take that long to mount and balance. It depends on the manufacturer. A tools-free setup like on the Steadicams (the Mini would be the rig in this weight class) would be fastest. With some practice, you could get it down to five minutes or so. But transporting the gear around when you are not using it during a shoot is cumbersome.
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 01:52 AM   #5
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I may have read the post wrong, but it sounds like he wants a steady camera platform and not some weightlifters bad dream.

He has a sore back and wants to get the weight off of it.
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 02:06 AM   #6
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<<< not some weightlifters bad dream.

He has a sore back and wants to get the weight off of it. -->>>

Which was the bad dream again???!

Well, to me a camera that can only be held in the hands with no provision for shoulder relief will cause eventual stress on the arms and upper back (between the shoulder blades etc.). It's a very unnatural position, to hold a camera steady with all the weight leveraged in the front. I think of it as the DV curse--this 4 lb cameras that are more uncomfortable after a few minutes than a 22 lb Betacam, which nestles nicely on the shoulder. Then there's all these aftermarket shoulder braces with huge handgrips that don't really address the issue of a (proportionally-speaking) absurdly front-heavy camera system.

The Marztech is a sensible choice.
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 08:26 AM   #7
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As Charles says, all of these shoulder mounts seem to add more weight to the front of the rig. My last comment was disjointed and may have been miscontrued as argumentative. That wasn't intended.

Charles is somewhat of an authority on weight balance so listen closely.

I was refering to some of the mini stabilizing rigs available, when i spoke of a bad dream. (bricks duct taped to galvanized pipe etc )
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 09:37 AM   #8
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I had not seen the Marzpak. My first reaction when looking at it was that it looks like some kind of orthipedic device that my doctor would perscribe!

It is easy to see how it works to take the weight of the camera off of my arms. I had been concerned with some of the other shoulder mount systems in that there was not enough counter weight to balance the camera. That is probably why many of them have ab braces.

Bryan, do you use and recommend the mini-stabilizer weight under the camera as well with the Marzpak?

Thanks for the pointer to the Marzpak!

Randall
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 09:58 AM   #9
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Randall,

My apologies, too. I didn't realize we were talking about a "bad back." I thought you were just talking about soreness caused by using support that's short of being top of the line.

That's why I recommended the Steadicam. It's the Holy Grail, I think, for most camera operators...but not so many can afford it. Sure, it'll kill your back the first few times you use it, but then after awhile you'd get used to it. It depends on your intended usage...that'd be expensive overkill for anything other than professional work.

As Bryan says, though...listen to Charles.
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Old August 22nd, 2003, 10:34 PM   #10
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I don't need any counterweights with my rig, it works just fine. Vx2K with big battery, cavision 4x4 bellows with support rods and an on camera mic.

I had bought a manfrotto universal quick release with the intention of mounting two 2.5 lb caste weights under it. if i'm going to mount anything to the underside of my camera it's going to have something between it and tripod thread just for safety.

The added weight of all my stuff sure help though. It almost seems the heavier the better.

Once you see this sucker you'll forget all about the orthopaedic likeness.
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Old August 23rd, 2003, 11:51 AM   #11
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Monopod.
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Old August 23rd, 2003, 01:20 PM   #12
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Thanks Bryan!

One more question. Does the cord simply streach as you pull the camera down? If you are not holding the camera does it just find its balance point and stay there?

The biggest problem that I have with a monopod is that the pod limits the ability to move the camera up/down and side to side with out tilting.

Thanks,

Randall
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Old August 23rd, 2003, 01:42 PM   #13
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It can be tricky, but I've found it pretty useful for documentary work. If you need to drop down quick, you can loosen the vertical pan knob on the head and just let the leg kick out in front of you. What I like best is that when you're not shooting, you can keep the camera in position with no effort -- you're always ready. Monopods really encourage low angle shots too.
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Old August 24th, 2003, 11:54 AM   #14
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The Marzpak comes with different shock cords (bungies) for different weight characteristics. The cord itself is quickly adsjustable through a cleat mechanism located at the small of your back.

Yes, the camera does find a balance point and it does stay there. You could scratch yourself, have a smoke or even a cold beer, without disconnecting. One of the people that wrote a testimonial uses the pak on rollerblades.

The more tension the steadier the move. You get movement but it's fluid and not jerky. Order the demo CD.

There are a fair chunk of closet Marzpak users here and I'm sure they'll chime in when they see the thread.
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Old August 24th, 2003, 06:08 PM   #15
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Mono-pod....

I've rigged a mono-pod with legs from a slik table mini pod and have used it for crowd shoots at street festivals and parades. It works well as a sub-stitute for a tripod in a heavy crowd but has inherent weaknesses producing steady cam like motion.
If I can get the licensing set on the music, a 5 minutes documentary will go up on Triggerstreet.com where the mono-pod was used for the shoot.
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