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Old November 18th, 2008, 10:02 AM   #1
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Homemade Shooting Brace for Canon XH

Since buying an XH-A1 for videoing weddings I've found it to be very heavy for prolonged handheld shooting, I decided I needed some sort of support, I didn't want a shoulder brace and I quite liked Canon's own SBR1000 shooting brace - but not the price (130/$180), so I decided to make my own variant of it.

Firstly I bought a Hama Star 75 tripod, I cut it up as I wanted only to use the centre extendable shaft, see here how I modified it by cutting away the legs, shortened the panhandle and then replaced the cheap quick release head with a better quality Cullmann quick release that I already had - this I bolted on from below using the threaded hole in the bottom of the Cullmann.

Next, from the tripod I salvaged the central plastic guide sleeve and left connected to it one of the bracing arms, this I riveted to the 'base' that rests against your stomach, for this I actually used a motorcycle sidestand plate but anything similar would do the job, I also fastened to it a shoulder strap (I used the original XH-A1 strap), then glued some rubber on the back for comfort - see here for a photo.

The shoulder brace is now virtually finished - it looks ok, function well (the weight of the camera is transferred to the neck strap/stomach plate, but you have added adjustability over Canon's own brace in that you can adjust swivel, tilt and height - and as well as it being quick release, plus the quick release is the same fitting as I use on my Velbon tripod so its a fast changeover.
Another thing I added was a clip to attach it to my belt when not in use. See a photo of the finished product in action here.

One last thing - I used one of the spare tripod legs to help make my Homemade Remote Control
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Old November 18th, 2008, 10:53 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Pratt View Post
Since buying an XH-A1 for videoing weddings I've found it to be very heavy for prolonged handheld shooting, I decided I needed some sort of support, I didn't want a shoulder brace and I quite liked Canon's own SBR1000 shooting brace - but not the price (130/$180), so I decided to make my own variant of it.
Brian, that looks great - not at all DIY - and I think you deserve an award for recyling.

I nearly bought the Canon brace, but when I enquired about it at the store where I bought the camera they were strangely reluctant to sell me one and suggested that I try one out before committing that much dosh (nice of them don't you think)?

I haven't managed to try out the Canon, but I did made a temporary brace with an old tripod as an experiment and also came across this cheapo at Maplin Camcorder Tripod Support > Maplin

Both of these try-outs alerted me to a major disadvantage with "belly braces" - I could either film or breathe, but not both. If I took a breath at all, it showed in the shot, especially if I had been literally (sic) running before gunning. Even with the brace resting at waist level it still moved. How do you work round this (part from being a lot fitter than me)?
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Old November 18th, 2008, 11:30 AM   #3
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Thx Brian for sharing, I too have been brainstorming for a while now how to deal with the weight. I also use a swit light with an adapter and big sony battery which is attached on top of the xh-a1 and during my last assignment I was forced to handhold the camera quite long with bad shoulder and neck pain one day later as a result.

I also think as Colin said that your body will transfer any movement to the camera, I used a similar setup in the past but with the tripod resting on a belt but that also transfered unwanted movement to the camera when you walked forward. If the monopod you use would have some kind of spring suspension so it would absorb shocks or that you could move your camera up and down a bit that would make a big difference. The fixed monopod will force you to bend your whole body to make a tilt movement, that's when your looking through the eyepiece. If you look at the lcd you can use the monopod head but that I also found to make some jerky moves sometimes.

I'm not a real macgyver like you but I was hoping to build a set up that extends to my shoulder with an extra weight on the backside so it would compensate for the weight of the camera. More like a "real" shouldercam.

It is a pitty that most of these devices cost so much money, sometimes very simple in set up with a bare minimum on used material and they charge 300-600 euro for it which often is ridiculous.
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Old November 18th, 2008, 02:13 PM   #4
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Brian,
That's a good looking harness you made. I offer up my solution as well:

Will Mahoney's Tutorials - A1 Shoulder Mount for Nothing.

I made a shoulder brace for my A1 out of some misc. stuff we had lying around here at work.

Now, let's see some footage with your new brace. Keep up the good work.
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Old November 19th, 2008, 03:30 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Will Mahoney View Post
I offer up my solution as well:
That's a great construction Will, I was thinking about a similar setup but it should not extend as long as your shoulder support does. If you have all the place no problem but in crowded rooms you will bump against allmost anything with the counterweight that extends really far to the back.
I Already would be happy if something like this would take about a kg from my hands so it doesn't have to be balanced.
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Old November 19th, 2008, 07:55 AM   #6
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I did a few tests using my shooting brace and (for me) found very little breathing movement, I don't know if the belly location is, by coincidence, quite effective at not transmitting much movement or I'm reasonably good at controlling my breathing - but either way it is much better than hand holding.
Most of my hand held shots at weddings are made up of lots of clips, maybe 8 to 10 seconds long, so breathing and absolute stillness is not a problem. Longer shots of speeches, vows etc are always done on a tripod.
I do recommend this as a good alternative to handholding, the tripod I used to make this, apart from being cheap is constructed of very lightweight aluminium so the whole setup is very light - infact I think the Cullmann quick release is heavier than the rest of it put together.
I generally use the lcd display for framing shots but I still set the brace up so my eye lines up with the viewfinder, I tighten all the adjusters and if I want to tilt down for a shot I just ease the camera away from me and it pivots at the belly, to tilt up I lean back slightly - in practise it is very effective.

I thought about a shoulder mounted brace but its the weight of the camera that is the main issue, Will's idea of a counterbalance is good but in a confined space could be a problem like Noa mentioned. My shooting brace is obviously not as effective as a Steadycam but it is easier to use in a hurry (camera straight from tripod to hand held in a matter of seconds - any of you filming weddings will know you have to be quick to do these things!), costs only a few 's and only takes a few hours to build.

In use I normally have it permanently hanging round my neck (like a big medallion) and the other part clipped onto my belt, when I've finished filmed the vows (at weddings using a tripod), I then quickly put the tripod into a shoulder bag, unclip the shooting brace, attach the XH-A1 and I'm away to film the signing of the Register and leaving the church etc.
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Old November 19th, 2008, 02:12 PM   #7
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Gents,
You words are correct. I forgot to mention that my shoulder rig is about 18" too long. And now that you've reminded me I'll hack it off this weekend. Yes, keep the camera closer to my eyes now and the counterweight is just behind my shoulder, with my extra brace material sticking out back. I will totally cut it off this weekend and get some new footage up.

Keep up the good work, gents.
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Old November 20th, 2008, 05:12 AM   #8
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this summer i made a shoulder brace from an old carpentry square for my XH-A1.
i attached the quick release mount for my Libec 38 tripod so i can go from tripod to shoulder brace very quickly, and then back again.
the pouch at the rear zips open and is originally for a water bottle, but i put in batteries/tapes/multi-tool etc. for counterweight and to keep them handy. the shoulder pad is foam covered by a bike inner-tube, which grips well. the hardest part was having to 'machine' longer screws for the mounting plate with a grinder (grooves in the right places and flush head).
it is definitely not perfect, but i am getting much better shots, and can also use it creatively off shoulder, as its balance is better than with the camera alone.
also, i wanted to show a Vangaard case that fits the XH-A1 with batteries, charger, tapes, manual, cables, etc. it was only $120 CND. it is a hard case that has a pull out handle/wheels that can be quickly removed, fits the overhead compartment on airplanes, locks in FIVE places, and looks pretty cool. i added padding and made a separator by gluing foam on thick matte board and cutting out places to fit tapes and batteries (originally to fit my digital SLR and lens). i like it so much i actually bought a second one for my laptop (which the case is supposed to be for), audio interface, mics etc!
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Homemade Shooting Brace for Canon XH-support1.jpg   Homemade Shooting Brace for Canon XH-support2.jpg  

Homemade Shooting Brace for Canon XH-support3.jpg   Homemade Shooting Brace for Canon XH-case1.jpg  

Homemade Shooting Brace for Canon XH-case2.jpg  
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Old November 20th, 2008, 02:30 PM   #9
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Great job, Brian!

That is a really killer looking shoulder mount. And yes, I've noticed that when holding my rig handheld, or way down low I can get super-smooth shots with no shudder. Very nice.

I like your setup. Keep up the good work!
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Old November 20th, 2008, 05:26 PM   #10
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I bought a "professional" shoulder brace on ebay but it was of dismal quality (plastic threads!), and it had a chest support that transmits every motion from breathing to the camera. So I replaced the plastic threads with proper nuts, removed the chest support and slightly modified the brace. It rests on my shoulder and lets me use the EVF (which I find superior to the LCD screen anyway).

I'd love to have the shop space that some of you do. I'm sure I could tinker a perfect brace.


J.
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Old November 20th, 2008, 05:46 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian David Melnyk View Post
this summer i made a shoulder brace from an old carpentry square for my XH-A1.
You guys should team up and develop a killer shoulder support, it will make you rich :)
The one you made brian can be bought in that kind of shape but is often quite expensive. the only disadvantage I see from it is that you can't keep it on your shoulder and look through the eyepiece viewfinder. From what I can tell you have to look through your lcd but that seems a bit unpractical to me, no?

these zacuto shoulder supports look like the solution to my problem but the price is a bit out of my league (first i thought it was camera included :))

Newsman Baseplate Kit - Zacuto
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Old November 20th, 2008, 11:41 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Noa Put View Post
the only disadvantage I see from it is that you can't keep it on your shoulder and look through the eyepiece viewfinder. From what I can tell you have to look through your lcd but that seems a bit unpractical to me, no?
Newsman Baseplate Kit - Zacuto
the base plate screws that attach to the camera can slide, and when in the front position, i can look through the eyepiece viewer. i rarely do, though! i find i always use the LCD, and just continuously check exposure with the meter and zebra, and check focus with the peaking and auto focus button. i did spend some time adjusting the LCD's brightness to mimic the eyepiece viewer as *close* as possible...
i had originally tried to find a T-square, so that i could have handles on both sides of the camera, but none i found were flat at the T crossing (screws or rivets). i think it would have been more stable, but this way i can keep my left hand on the camera to help stabilize and always be manning the focus/iris. PLUS, it actually fits in my tripod bag!!!
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Old December 9th, 2008, 01:20 PM   #13
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This is what I did

I wear a fanny pack and took a monopod (3 section) and removed 4 inches from each of the three monopod parts. Monopod then gets attached to XHA1 and foot is inserted in one of the fanny pack pockets. Weight of the camers is now distributed on my hips instead of my neck and I now have the use of the full monopod when necessary.

Don
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