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Old November 4th, 2011, 06:29 AM   #1
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Shoulder mounts for outdoor filming?

Finally upgrading to HD. We produce a fishing show- waves, over the edge of the boat, camera guy in the boat, etc. We're use to using Canon XL's. Looking to go with smaller cameras (due to cost). Haven't decided on cameras yet. Question- what support do you suggest for a smaller camera allowing viewing through "eyepiece" and still using on camera controls & steady support with movement. Looking for small camera with shoulder mount camera support & freedom. Need your help guys!
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Old November 4th, 2011, 02:04 PM   #2
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Re: Shoulder mounts for outdoor filming?

There are many. The camera you want to use matters. Do a search on DVinfo of the camera name and "shoulder" for a start at plowing through the various approaches. Also, PM Dean Sensui as he produces just such a show using a Sony EX-1 and has a home made rig as I recall.

You specifically said shoulder so I assume you aren't thinking a Steadicam.... correct?

I've analyzed this far more than a person should. Unless you stay with the partial shoulder design of the XL as in the JVC HM700 or Sony EX-3, the rest of the cameras are handycams with the eyepiece in the back thus putting 100% of the weight forward of your shoulder.

Secondly, getting that eyepiece in front of your face and at eye level, shifts the weight to the center of your body (away from your shoulder). So getting the weight on your shoulder is less "straightforward" than you might think. Also, the entire mass of the camera can now me jammed into your eye when the boat jigs or jags in the wrong direction.

Thirdly, controlling all the weight AND finessing the camera controls is a feat on steady ground...I can't imagine doing it while getting thrown about in boat. I would think a rig that allows you to remove your hands is the most desirable yet have a quick release to hang over the side.

Some approaches to these problems involve spring loaded poles that attach to the belt or chest while others have rigs that manage to reach your shoulder(s) and use a counterweight to offset the camera weight from your arms to your body. But realize, as soon as you take that brick off your shoulder, the whole thing is susceptible to lateral movement.

There are combinations of all of these approaches. One of the unique aspects of the Sony EX1R is that the handgrip rotates. Think about it. No longer must your arm come straight down out of the camera. If you can tolerate more of a chest/waist height POV, that rotating grip enables a Hasselblad style of shooting. You can use the eyepiece looking down and a jig or jag will be less perilous to your eye.

One creative approach for the Sony EX-1R puts a diopter on the LCD to approximate the eyepiece that you are used to as well as the necessary shoulder pieces and counterweight. Everything isn't quite in the right place and the LCD moves around. Being used to the XL, I found it less than satisfactory. I shoot Hasselblad style whenever handheld. YMMV.

Westside AV who sponsors this site makes some of these rigs. Olof is a regular contributor and a user.... a wealth of knowledge and experience. Call him, he might even build a custom one for you.
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Old November 4th, 2011, 03:12 PM   #3
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Re: Shoulder mounts for outdoor filming?

Thanks Les, great info. I'm looking @ the JVC 710. I would love the EX 3. Just a little costly @ this point. Have considered the EX 1 with a mount. Really looking for an add on that would give the freedom of a true shoulder like the 710. Love the 1/2 chips of the Sony's for low light. Decisions---have to decide if the EX1R is over kill, cost of cards, etc. The JVC would solve these problems- media cost, mount, etc.
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Old December 1st, 2011, 10:11 AM   #4
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Re: Shoulder mounts for outdoor filming?

I'm working on the same issue for my EX1R shooting from the boat (I have a sailboat and spend a fair bit of time filming offshore sailing) - mostly because it produces a beautiful picture and is a small camera so it is easy to carry on the boat.

I've been fabricating a shoulder mount for the camera using fiberglass over balsa (materials I know how to work witih), and have decided it's better to shoot using a SockLoupe or HoodLoupe on the LCD display as the viewfinder, as using the camera's built-in viewfinder simply moves the camera too far out in front. I bought both loupes, the SockLoupe optics are far better than the HoodLoupe.

I like to operate the camera with both hands on the camera - right hand on the grip, left hand controlling the lens - which means there's not much to support the camera's weight and it needs to be counterbalanced on the shoulder mount. I've been using dive weights tied off on the rear of the shoulder mount as counter balance - so far it's working better as I refine the mount. It would a good idea to move the battery to the rear of the mount as well, something I've not done yet.

The key for me has been adjustability to allow the camera to be shifted sideways towards the eye, keep the brace comfortably on the shoulder several inches to the right, the counter balance weight shifted in the opposite direction to counteract the camera wanting to roll/tilt from it's own weight. A vertical adjustment allows me to set the camera sits at a comfortable position such that I'm not craning my neck to peer into the lcd, and finally a fore-aft adjustment to set the camera a comfortable distance in front. It's actually pretty easy to do using slots routed into the mount's parts.

The brace is a work in progress and would be simple for anyone that has some experience with fiberglass repair and a router to construct and then start to modify to suit themselves. I'm on iteration 4, and hope to have time this weekend to tweak it some more. I suppose if it were painted black it would look better, but I'm still cutting, sanding, and shaping the brace to get it where I want it.

I also like Les' approach of holding the camera like a Hasselblad, I find it more stable than trying to use the camera's rear eyepiece. Plus it's easier to see what's going on around you on the boat which makes the camera safer to use (at least when bouncing around offshore).

- rob
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