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Old December 16th, 2006, 05:08 AM   #1
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My Shoulder-Mount Camera Rig W/Picture

Here's a description and picture of the best helper I have for shooting wildlife and most other types of video subjects. It's my own shoulder-mount/stabilizer, that I've been developing for the past 17 years. I started by adding attachments to a monopod and it gradually changed into its present form. It saves me having to lug a tripod through the swamps and over mountains.

It's made with a fiberglass baseplate, aluminum tubes and a wood front grip.
I can swivel the side handle forward or back. It has tension on its pivot, so stays wherever it's moved. The upper foam pad goes against my right side and the lower pad against my right leg. The bottom section has a counterweight and can be removed. I usually take it off when shooting birds flying overhead. I also have a monopod leg attachment I can use instead.
I swing the side handle forward and brace my forearm against it when I shoot fast-moving wildlife and move the whole rig away from my body.

The telextender is a Raynox 2.2X DCR-2020PRO. With the VX2100 shown in the picture, it delivers a total of 26.4X optical magnification. Even at full zoom, I can hold it steady with this rig.

The mikes are the Audix UEM-81C model and are very sensitive and directional. I've made my own XLR adaptor for them. I don't believe Audix makes them anymore. They're mounted here on a 30 cm. long wood crossbar, that dampens out most of the vibrations from the camera.

I have several other versions of this mount and have recently adapted one for my new Sony H5 digital camera.
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My Shoulder-Mount Camera Rig W/Picture-p1010040.jpg  

Last edited by J. Stephen McDonald; December 16th, 2006 at 11:23 PM.
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Old January 7th, 2007, 09:43 AM   #2
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ive been throwing the idea around of diy spiderbrace or some form of shoulder brace for my vx2100. How much does that rig you have weigh and do you get fatigued carrying it around....I would not be filming birds but bands/shorts/music videos, where in the later 2 i would be way back and zoomed in to get that shallow dof,

I would like to have a steadycam rig but i cannot afford and trying to research different ways to engineer one or a workable body/chestplate mounted counterweight system.
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Old January 7th, 2007, 07:46 PM   #3
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Michael, my shoulder-mount can weigh anywhere from 2.5 lbs. to 8.5 lbs, depending on how much of the lower section and the counterweights I leave attached. I have shot many live band performances with the full rig and have been able to slowly walk around in front of the bandstand while recording. After some practice, I can keep these shots steady, as long as I don't move too fast. However, it isn't primarily intended for anything like a full Steadicam function, but more for all-purpose, stationary-position shooting.
Despite the extra weight it adds, by having the load spread out over many contact points, it's actually less fatiguing and comfortable to use for long, continuous shots.

I once had a fullsize Beta camcorder on it, for a total of 23 lbs. and I shot 105 minutes nonstop. It wasn't completely pleasant during the last half of that time on my shoulder, but wasn't anything I couldn't endure. I was shooting a very active and contentious labor union convention in a large room and had to constantly sweep around to catch each person speaking from the seating area. It was a challenging job, to make those pans gentle and smooth, but yet fast. Such are the requirements of one-camera productions. The shoulder-rig let me do it pretty well. Later, I had to do an unexpected additional video segment. I walked behind a tour guide, as she led delegates around a hospital facility, that had contracted for the local union's health care. Fortunately, two people volunteered to become instant crew-members and carry a light and a microphone to stick in the face of whoever was talking. This impromtu sideshow actually produced an effective video that was appreciated by all concerned. My following the guideline of always taking 3 times as much tape and battery-power with you, as you think you'll need, saved me on this occasion.

Sometimes, when making "industrial" type videos, getting all the content is more important than following the standard rules of not zooming and minimizing the panning you do while recording.
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Old January 10th, 2007, 10:10 PM   #4
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Stephen,

Looking at your steady rig it looks pretty interesting!!! when the brace is on the shoulder does your right are go around the vertical post? do use a zoom and focus controller with the rig???

I was wondering what you feel you gain by using the two microphones as apposed to one good shotgun mic??

How do you like the 2.2 plex for quality of image when you reach out with it?

do you have it adjustable so that when you are out in the field you can set down for support or rest while you are shooting?
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Old January 11th, 2007, 02:31 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dale Guthormsen
Stephen,
Looking at your steady rig it looks pretty interesting!!! When the brace is on the shoulder does your right arm go around the vertical post? Do you use a zoom and focus controler with the rig???
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The large, triangular pad on the center post goes against my right breastbone and the inside of my right elbow presses in on it from the outside. My hands are directly on all the camera controls, just as if I was shooting hand-held. The left swingarm presses against my left breastbone with the back of my left arm pressing it back, just above the elbow. I grab the forward handle with my left hand. When I shoot fast-moving subjects, I hold it away from my body, move the swingarm forward, bracing it against the middle of my left forearm. There's a dozen different combinations of holding it and I can always move one hand or the other up to the controls.
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I was wondering what you feel you gain by using the two microphones as opposed to one good shotgun mic??
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Hey, I bought these things, and I'm going to use them! Not all the time, though. Just when I'm recording some special wildlife sounds or posing the rig for a picture.
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How do you like the 2.2 plex for quality of image when you reach out with it?
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The Raynox DCR-2020PRO is a fine telex and has better optical quality than any other I've used. However, it causes vignetting on a VX2100 at any point below 85% full zoom. I also use it on a 7-MP digital camera and it vignettes below about 70% full zoom (Sony H5). It has plenty of resolution for even this high level of pixel-size.
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Do you have it adjustable so that when you are out in the field you can set down for support or rest while you are shooting?
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I have a removable monopod leg I can use. Sometimes I'll set it in a low position on the monopod, with the viewscreen turned up. The fact is, that most of the time I shoot using only the upper half, without the counterweights or monopod.
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Old January 21st, 2007, 11:53 AM   #6
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I made a spider brace with parts from home depot for about $8. If you go to the electrical department and look at the plastic conduit elbows and union boxes. I think I used the 3/4 inch. The union box is right for the camera platform and you will need a thumbscrew to attach your camera.

Quite a rig--do you ever snag power lines with the mics ? LOL. Just kidding--they are way up there though.
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Old March 8th, 2007, 01:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Stephen McDonald View Post
Here's a description and picture of the best helper I have for shooting wildlife and most other types of video subjects. It's my own shoulder-mount/stabilizer, that I've been developing for the past 17 years. I started by adding attachments to a monopod and it gradually changed into its present form. It saves me having to lug a tripod through the swamps and over mountains.

It's made with a fiberglass baseplate, aluminum tubes and a wood front grip.
I can swivel the side handle forward or back. It has tension on its pivot, so stays wherever it's moved. The upper foam pad goes against my right side and the lower pad against my right leg. The bottom section has a counterweight and can be removed. I usually take it off when shooting birds flying overhead. I also have a monopod leg attachment I can use instead.
I swing the side handle forward and brace my forearm against it when I shoot fast-moving wildlife and move the whole rig away from my body. ........

....... have several other versions of this mount and have recently adapted one for my new Sony H5 digital camera.
I've spent some time wondering how your shoulder mount would suit me Steve for birdflight shooting. Even if it was for sale or if I was a crafty chap at DIY I've concluded that it's too elaborate for my specific purposes and locations. However I've recently seen flight footage of American Black Vulture shot by Keith Blomerley shown on IBC at www.ibc.hbw.com. His Intro as Contributor on that site shows him using a shoulder-pod and I'd be surprised if he was not using it when he took that footage. I've failed to contact him as yet and I wonder if you would take a look at his shoulder-pod and, if possible, estimate roughly how it compares with a basic version of your gear. Is there any particular shoulder-pod you might recommend? I am nowhere at DIY.
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Old March 8th, 2007, 07:20 PM   #8
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Brendan,

As you know I shoot tons of bird footage. Looking at stephans set up I would wager if you took off the leg support it would be useful in most any position you need to shoot a bird. I have studied it myself and will probably try something lik it this summer. For a gl2 or smaller I think the two handed spider brace (not expernsive either, go to the gl2 list and look at grazies spider set up.) would do you good service. I have a shoulder brace from varizoom and it is all right but I want something better.
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Old March 9th, 2007, 12:29 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Brendan Marnell View Post
I've spent some time wondering how your shoulder mount would suit me Steve for birdflight shooting. Even if it was for sale or if I was a crafty chap at DIY I've concluded that it's too elaborate for my specific purposes and locations. However I've recently seen flight footage of American Black Vulture shot by Keith Blomerley shown on IBC at www.ibc.hbw.com. His Intro as Contributor on that site shows him using a shoulder-pod and I'd be surprised if he was not using it when he took that footage. I've failed to contact him as yet and I wonder if you would take a look at his shoulder-pod and, if possible, estimate roughly how it compares with a basic version of your gear. Is there any particular shoulder-pod you might recommend? I am nowhere at DIY.
Brendan, I couldn't get through using that URL and couldn't find any other location for a view of Blomerly's rig. But, as Dale just suggested, I take off the lower section and the main counterweight of my shoulder-mount, for flying birds. Subtract also the two big mikes and it is very easy to swing around. I rotate the swing-arm about halfway forward, while grabbing the front handle and brace my forearm on its underside. By holding it away from my body, I can freely follow the target. I don't know much about any other types of these mounting rigs, as I live in a video wilderness here. At times, I've used an abbreviated version of mine, with nothing but the baseplate and shoulderpad and the front handle. This works fairly well and is a lot better than shooting handheld.

I've been practicing lately at using objects such as trees, fences, bridge-railings, etc., for bracing on long still-shots. I also have been dropping to the ground when possible, using various rifle-shooting styles. This doesn't work too well in the swamps, unless you're willing to dispense with being warm, clean and dry the rest of the day.
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Old March 9th, 2007, 07:12 AM   #10
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Sorry to waste your time gentlemen.

I should have said ... If you Google ibc.hbw.com/ you'd have the website address of the Internet Bird Collection ... open that and then click on IBC and then on ... Contributors. Keith Blomerley is 13th in alpha order ... your comments on his shoulder-pod would be appreciated.
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Old March 10th, 2007, 05:31 AM   #11
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Blomerly on Lynx Website

The rig Blomerly is using, seems to be a chestpod, with a neck strap and either a rod or some kind of connector, from the camera to the chestpad, that has swivels on each end. His camera is very small, being held one-handed. This is very different and lighter-weight than my mount. Mine doesn't fasten to any part of the body, but can be held out and swung freely around. Although he may use it on flying birds, I doubt if he could follow through on overhead shots very well. If your purpose is mainly for fast-moving subjects like birds, I'd look for something that can be held and moved through all positions and angles. Good luck in finding the right one. Everyone needs something different to suit them, so you really have to try out these things to know how well they'll work.

Added Note: After learning more about calculating the magnification of camera lenses, I now realize the figure I gave in the first message on this post for my VX2100 and the Raynox 2.2X telextender is not correct. Since this group of camcorders (VX2000, PD150 & PD170), which share the same lens, has a magnification factor of 10.37X, the combined lens power with the telex is 22.8X. This is based on the 35mm film equivalent. With .33-inch CCDs, you multiply the focal-length (FL) of 72mm by a factor of 7.2, to get the 35mm film equivalent FL of 518mm. That's how much larger the 35mm film frame is than the width of the active area of these CCDs. You divide this by 50 (the 35mm film frame gets 1X of magnification for each 50mm of lens FL), to get the 10.37X figure for the basic lens. The zoom range of the lens is 12X, but the magnification factor is less, because it starts at 43.7mm of FL at the wide end, where the image is just 87.4% of 1X in size. This fairly long wide-end FL, is why these cameras need wide-angle add-on lenses for many closeup shots.

Last edited by J. Stephen McDonald; March 10th, 2007 at 06:07 AM.
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Old March 10th, 2007, 05:43 AM   #12
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Thank you for your observations and thoughts Steve.

I'm currently looking at eBay:Shoulder Support Steadycam ... for Can $166 but it looks as if it would not be much use above normal eye level ... that's an important consideration you have raised Steve. I'm trying to figure out how your gear facilitates stability above and below the horizontal.

... shoulder mounts on B&H are priced way out of my reach, up to $7,000 ... I wonder what you get for that? Someday I must make a safari to B&H ...
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Old March 10th, 2007, 06:23 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Brendan Marnell View Post
Thank you for your observations and thoughts Steve.

I'm currently looking at eBay:Shoulder Support Steadycam ... for Can $166 but it looks as if it would not be much use above normal eye level ... that's an important consideration you have raised Steve. I'm trying to figure out how your gear facilitates stability above and below the horizontal.

... shoulder mounts on B&H are priced way out of my reach, up to $7,000 ... I wonder what you get for that? Someday I must make a safari to B&H ...
Brendan, I started out with a commercial monopod, as a steadying device, in developing my shoulder-mount. I added parts as the design and function progressed and I still make changes to it on a regular basis. Much of the stability when it's held for overhead shots comes from having the left hand and forearm braced on the two handles and the right hand in the camera's strap. The weight of the whole rig and about 12 extra oz. at the bottom of the main stem helps. Of course, the long and heavy lower stem section is removed for action shooting. You'd be surprised what you could work up yourself, if you start with just a simple shoulder plate and front handle.
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Old March 10th, 2007, 10:56 PM   #14
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building supports

Stephen,

building is always fun and a challange. What I would like to know is what parts did you rob off old gear or buy for the actual camera mounting plate or what have you.

I have been working slowly on making an aluminum rail for an ef adapter and longer heavier lenses. I do not have it right yet. first rig I stupidly made the holes in line, but the xl2 base mount and lens center are not on the same line!!
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Old March 11th, 2007, 08:26 AM   #15
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Dale, I'll work up some more detailed descriptions of how I make these rigs and post them here in a few days. Good luck in your project.
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