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Old August 29th, 2006, 09:50 AM   #1
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To shoulder or not to shoulder

Since the technology existed to make cameras small, pro video camera were put on the shoulder and only consumers were hand-held (I think) but for some time now, there are all sorts of Sony (DCR-VX2000, DSR PD-150), Panasonic (AG-DVX100A), and Canon (XL1S) prosumer video cameras that are about 40cms long and not put on the shoulder but held in the hand.

About 15 years ago I heard a pro news cameraman say that the reason why his camera was big and on his shoulder was *partly* because it weighed about the same as his head, and was in the same place as his head. As a consequence of which, the movements of his shoulder-held camera of about 8kg weight were about the same as the movements of a human head and so there were not the jerks and shakes of a consumer camera, but rather the smooth natural movements that professionals desire. He sounded convincing. (I paid a local garage to make a 5Kg steel girder into shoulder mount for a handheld S-VHS camera but did not get much practice with it in the end). To this day there are people on (the Japanese version of ebay) saying that television companies are still using big shoulder mounted cameras for similar reasons.

My question

Today, are shouldered cameras a thing of the past? Are DVX100 type (by type, I only mean size and weight and method of holding) cameras okay? What makes them okay? Judicious use of the tripod? The anti shudder and shake mechanisms that smaller cameras have? Or is it that steadicam contraptions will take over from shoulder mounting?

Or will shoulder mounted cameras always be the camera of choice among broadcasting pros (even if they get lighter)?

And the long and short...

Should I buy an old (or new if I had the money) shouldered camera (such as the Sony DSR's) or a hand held camera such as the ones mentioned above, bearing in mind only the size/weight/method-of-holding: to-shoulder-or-not-to-shoulder issue.

I want to interview people. I am interested in the news cameraman's view.

Tim
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Old August 29th, 2006, 10:11 AM   #2
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I use both types today and have for a number of years. A camera is a tool and you use the tool that best fits the job. There are certain things where a handheld camera works best and others when a full sized camera must be the camera of choice. I've done news work with both, I've done social events with both, I've done seminars with both, but there are certain clients that feel they want to see a full sized camera not a handheld when they are footing the bill no matter that the smaller camera might actually be the better camera for the job or at least do the same quality as the full size rig.

There are advantages however to the full size camera. For me the fact that I can have a wireless receiver and a light on the camera and not have all sorts of wires hanging off of me is an advantage. DISADVANTAGE: the camera weights more. ADVANTAGE: I can hold it very steady on my shoulder longer than I can a handheld in my hands. DISADVANTAGE: it weights more. PLUS accessories cost more for the full size camera. Example; batteries, for a small camera like a PD170 or such, you can get the real Sony 970s for about $100 each. 3 of them and you're good to go for a long time. Get a 2 battery Sony charger for about $85 and you're done. For a full sized camera lets say you get Anton Bauer Dionic 90s-about $465 each, you need at least 3 preferrably 4 as most full sized cameras pull about 18 to 25Ws of power, then you need a charger. A four battery AB charger is about 13 to 14 hundred bucks. Just buying a soft bag for the bigger camera can be about 3 to 4 hundred and then sticks and head will generally be more because you need heavier duty stuff that can carry the weight. So its a trade off and only you can decide what to use for the work you intend to do.

Don B.
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Old August 29th, 2006, 10:36 AM   #3
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Thanks Don,

About looks...looks too are important to amateur me.

At the moment it seems that a shoulder-held camera looks better in the eyes of your clients. Will there come a day when having a shoulder-held camera will look out of date and clunky? Now having a beta camera looks rather too big but perhaps having a shoulder mounted DVCAM, DVCPro camera looks cool.

(I have a digital SLR and a couple of handheld digital camera but I feel a lot better about holding my digital SLR partly because of the look :-) )

About batteries...this is strange...and related.

There is nothing inherently more power consuming about a big camera than a small one. The big cameras are presumably doing something (moving bigger tapes, moving bigger lenses, pushing power through bigger circuitry) that smaller cameras are not.

Is the reason why big cameras are more powerconsuming and cool looking because they offer more functionality, or is it also becuase they are big that they have a bigger-mass is better advantage?

I almost want to buy a HDV sony handheld and add weights and a girder to it!

Imagine a celebrity interview in ten years time. Will the news camerapersons of the future generally use a handheld or a shoulder mounted?

Thanks again,

Tim
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Old August 29th, 2006, 10:52 AM   #4
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Shoulder is best if you want to hold a shot for any great length of time.

You can hold a shot for a lot longer with the DSR 250 (the shoulder mounted version of the same camera) than the PD150. There's point that your arm starts to ache holding a dead weight in front of you, especially if you've got shotgun mics etc mounted on the camera. The out front design was originally developed for the consumer market, where the operator tends not to shoot long sustained interviews.

You need the stabilizing on the the small cameras to give steady hand held shots. The only one that doesn't have this feature is the shoulder mounted JVC HD 100.

The small cameras occupy a market of their own, different to that of the larger cameras. So far the picture quality of the larger cameras is a lot better than that found on the prosumer type cameras.
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Old August 29th, 2006, 11:50 AM   #5
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Well looks are up to the individual. If you like the way a FS cam looks then go with it but be aware that there are times when a small cam is preferable. I do some ride alongs with fire departments and you just don't have the room to use a FS camera so out come the PD150. Plus it doesn't use up the batteries like a full sized cam.

When I used my JVC5000U for a wedding I would always get into the 4th battery (Dionic90s) to complete the job. WIth my DSR250 I rarely go over 2 but it also depends on the light issue, I use a 35W bulb in my on cam light and it sucks up the juice way more than the 20W bulb. Why does a FS cam use more power than a small cam? I'm guessing here (I'm not an engineer) but since the chips are bigger and the transport is generally more beefy it makes sense to use more juice. The older Beta cams would use 30W or more to run them. Batteries were the #1 accessory and sometimes you felt you needed 1 person just to watch the power issue and change batteries for you ;-)

Again, its a tough call. Carry around a full sized camera for an 8 hour day and I know I feel beatup, carry a PD150 for the same time and not so much. Generally speaking the bigger camera will give a better image BUT again, it depends on the situation. Some big cameras don't perform very well in a lower light situation but some of that is the lens and not the camera.
Honestly IMO, its best to have both BUT you have to buy and use what you feel is right for you.

Don
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Old August 30th, 2006, 12:12 AM   #6
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Thanks very much again.

I wonder if News cameramen of the future will have both sorts of camera.

I would like both.

Tim
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Old August 30th, 2006, 06:34 PM   #7
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Hi Timothy,

Seems to me it's simpler and cheaper to just buy or build (as I have) a shoulder mount device for the smaller quality Cam. That way you the best of both worlds with out the cost or maintance.

If you're convinced you need/want more weight for stability, just make the shoulder mount out of heavier stock or add some weight to it.

Harold
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Old August 31st, 2006, 06:46 AM   #8
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Forget shoulders, use stabilizers?

Thanks. A shoulder mount sounds like a good idea. I am also looking into a stabilizer.
http://camera-shop.ca (From India, bringing out a vest + stabilizer soon)
http://www.test.homecastpro.com (the cheapest DIY thing but no vest)
http://www.laigleparis.fr/eagle-order.htm (back mounted )
http://www.indicam.com (appears to be the best value for money - I want one)

Mail to magicam bounced back to me. Can't find the site now.

DIY instructions
www.DVcameraRigs.com
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Old September 6th, 2006, 09:53 PM   #9
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From an ENG monkey's point of view, the handycam style is not looked upon too happily by the traditional news photographer.

Typically, if a news affilliate has switched to handycams, it was a decision by management and not by the photog staff. These decisions are made to save money, and not for quality. Full size cameras are more rugged, have more durable tape transports, bigger chips, better lens options, so on and so forth. Stations that have handycams in their equipment fleet, they probably weren't accepted happily by the photog staff.

For instance, a lower south NBC affiliate switched over to P2, and their daytime photog staff was forced to use the HVX200. The photographers weren't used to the form factor, and currently their in search of a shoulder mounted stabelizer. It needed to be cheap yet rugged enough to hold up to the day to day use of ENG. That means hours in the hot sun, under deep humidity, pouring rain, and knocks agains news units and other inanimate objects. There was no good solution. If it was cheap, it was flimsy. If it was rugged, it was expensive and heavy. So on an so forth. Two photographers ended up switching to the nightside shift, just so they could use the P2-400 full size cameras.

A full size camera, odds are will hold up to more abuse. I would prefer a used DSR 300-500 camera, to your handycam HDV. Why? Odds are it will have a better lens, bigger chips, so on and so forth. There's a place for cameras like the PD150 and DVX, if you're needing DOF and better low-light, get bigger chips and a full size. It might cost you more (camera support/tripod wise) but when you're shooting handheld, and you're arms arent giving out, you'll understand.
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Old March 18th, 2007, 06:41 PM   #10
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I would always prefer a shoulder mount in the news business because I am much quicker to react to different situations than with a small prosumer type camcorder. Sounds weird? Well, it's not - with the shoulder mount I am at full manual control all the time, I never switch anything to automatic, and that's because I can! The viewfinder is a high resolution b/w crt (one of the main reasons a shoulder mount sucks a lot of power...) on which I can see changes in focus better than on any tv. Also I have a real focus ring and I know that if I turn it to the right all the way then I am at 0.9 meters (depending on the type of lens, of course).
I have a double zebra set to 70% and 100% and the iris ring is easy to use and it's quick (try setting the iris manually on a DVX100 for example, you'll need 3 times as long!)
A big and heavy shoulder mount moves more smoothly when you walk with it. It will never look as shaky as with a small handheld cam. The stabilizers in handhelds don't help a lot, especially not when you try to walk with them - at a certain amount of movement the stabilizer reaches its outer limits and the results of that happening look really cheap...

Then, of course, quality. We have some really old Sony DXC D30 DVCAM shoulder mounts at work, two of them with a cheap and old Fujinon news lens and they can still embarass a DVX 100 easily. One of the cams has a better Canon lens (still nothing outstanding, it's a standard news-type 9-162mm) and the quality is even better.

A friend of mine (he's a freelancer) uses the DXC D35 with a Canon broadcast-type (i.e. the best quality) wide angle lens, 7-82mm - I can tell you it totally rocks. The 7mm wide angle is perfect for any kind of news/boulevard tv shoots. You can walk so smoothly with it, and it shows so much (especially indoors it's amazing) and still there's absolutely no optical distortion.
There must be a reason why a good lens for a shoulder mount starts at triple the price of a complete handheld prosumer camcorder, right?

With a shoulder mount you also have bigger chips, most of them have 2/3", which is almost the size of 16mm film - talk about shallow depth of field in interviews...

But let aside technical quality, you're faster and more accurate with a pro shoulder mount and every movement (except from a tripod) looks way better and more professional than with a handheld.

I almost forgot: try a smooth zoom with a PD150, DVX100, HVX200 - it just won't happen. It always starts with a little "hickup" no matter what you do.
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Old March 18th, 2007, 08:09 PM   #11
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Should mount adapter

Thanks very much. I would have liked a shoulder mounted camera but I just could not afford one.

I got a HVx2000 and FSPro steadicam. I have not mastered the use of either! But I don't think that they are going to provide the same sort of performance. It will be different. Even with a lot of practice, steadicams need space and a level of care inappropriate for a news situation. And I take your point about lens quality and chip size.

I may get myself a shoulder mount adapter too.
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Old March 18th, 2007, 11:08 PM   #12
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[QUOTE=Timothy Takemoto;535254.
I wonder if News cameramen of the future will have both sorts of camera.
Tim[/QUOTE]

Some news stations are downsizing their field staff. They are able to cut their budget or get more cameras in the field. News1 in New York sends out one person crews with the smaller cameras.
Put the camera on a tripod, hook up your mic, stand in front of the camera and your good to go.
Allen W
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Old May 8th, 2007, 08:10 PM   #13
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My 2 cents

As a former SportsChannel NY cameraman, and an event videographer for 18 years; I often longed for the day of smaller form-factor cameras. Fact is, I found that they change my shooting style, and I still prefer the shoulder-mount beasts. My old Panasonic F-250 with AB Nicad bricks on the back weighed in at almost 25lbs (without wireless receivers). Add to that a heavy-duty tripod to support the rig and I was walking with an extra 50 lbs on me! Still, the fact that I could zoom in for a closeup while holding a steady shot, and get that beautiful narrow depth-of-field made it worth the hassle (mostly). Switching to a DSR-300/390 shaved some weight off the rig (especially with LiOn batteries), so my fatigue level dropped and I was in heaven.
Now I have a XH-A1, I can't fathom holding a steady shot for 10+ minutes with one hand (I've done 20 minutes shoulder-mounted without twitching for a particularly long toast). No more film-style shallow-focus shots (unless I'm on a tripod). I haven't used the small cameras enough to know if my shots will 'suffer' from the switch. I do know that my style will change to accomodate the new tool.
In the end, its the image that counts, and I've seen some kick-butt images from cameras of all shapes and sizes. To paraphrase 'Rummy'; you go to shoot with the camera you've got, not the one you wish you had.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 08:56 AM   #14
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anyone see the cnn.com footage of Bush welcoming the Queen? What happened? I guess no room for a tripod and he is shooting from a great distance?

http://www.cnn.com/video/partners/cl...bush.queen.cnn
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Old May 9th, 2007, 10:46 AM   #15
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[QUOTE=Oren Arieli;675219]
Now I have a XH-A1, I can't fathom holding a steady shot for 10+ minutes with one hand (I've done 20 minutes shoulder-mounted without twitching for a particularly long toast). No more film-style shallow-focus shots (unless I'm on a tripod). I haven't used the small cameras enough to know if my shots will 'suffer' from the switch. I do know that my style will change to accomodate the new tool.
QUOTE]

I know someone who has added weight to the rear of their XL H1, together with the full size batteries (IDX/PAG/Anton type), to balance it better for hand held shooting.

Agreed, shoulder mounting is much better for hand held work, especially when a decent microphone and radio mics are fitted to the camera and everything gets very front heavy.
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