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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old May 15th, 2016, 09:27 AM   #1
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Health/Back Concerns

Others have posted here with similar issues, I'm sure we've all encountered it. Personally, my back has really been shot this past off season, and I'm concerned about this year really beginning. I'm a weekend warrior, working full time and doing about 7-8 a year, maybe more. I do like doing them, and was hoping to see this grow into more of a fulltime with other video gigs, but I"m not sure thats in the cards.

I'm 43, and I have a bad back. My father did, and he didn't run around on weekends carrying around multiple bags and tripods setting up & shooting at a moments notice like I'm doing. I use a (dated) Sony Z5U which is a bigger camera, and a Sony VG900 which is a smaller handicam sized. My tripods are pretty heavy, and I usually bring a slider &/or a glidecam, but I try to leave that in the car and pull that out only for the photo session or dance floor footage.

However, I really feel I can't keep doing this as-is. It is soon time for a new camera, and while I'm not entirely sold I'd make a DSLR shooter (I really like/need having the run & gun and zoom ability of a standard video cam), I would really like the benefits of simple and lightweight. My tripods especially, just feel like a burden to lug around. I've been thinking about the following:

1. Another VG900. Not the greatest camera, but I'm already familiar with it, and I have a theory about just buying one sick zoom lens for it, and I already have a few primes. Doesn't give the greatest look, but maybe that's just me not getting the most out of it. It's mostly a 2nd camera though towards the end of last year I began using it more throughout the day.

2. A7s - Not sure I'd get one, plus the 20 minute time limit if it has one. Still worth considering and the quality is great.

3. Dual handicam route. Look into something like using 2 AX100s, small and lightweight, easy to match up too.

4. FS5 - A bit more than I'd like to spend, however in retrospect I said the same thing about the Z5U when I purchased it in 2009 and that got me 7 great years (originally it was the date/time stamp which I wanted for depos, and secondly was its wedding/low light ability). However I imagine this would keep things at bulky and heavier.

5. Slowly wrapping this up. I'm serious,

I think of it like this, I can downsize/adjust, and while I likely wouldn't be the perfect fit for every couple, I can adapt and still offer packages at fair rates. I spoke with a photographer a bit about this and he told me the old adage 'Work smarter not harder'. It resonated with me. Using 2 handicams or VG900s would definitely keep it light, especially if I were to find lightweight but sturdy tripods (Any suggestions?). It could be a bit of a learning curve, to switch up and learn an entirely new camera and setup. On the other hand an AX100 is probably fairly similar to a Z5u, with full camera controls, just a different menu, probably all on the LCD, and a DSLR/FS5 would be similar to a VG900.

Anyway sorry for the long post, but just wondering if anyone else has similar dilemnas or went thru this with any advice. I shoot average weddings budgetwise, probably a bit lower. Does anyone think 4K is going to pcik up steam real quick, like within 2-3 years?
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Old May 15th, 2016, 12:54 PM   #2
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

David get two hfg40s or two ax100s dead simple, after 30 weddings a year with camcorders DSLR messing around this that and the other and a bad back to boot? its great and dead simple with two cams that produce good footage. The bride and everyone else no nothing about DSLR look and bokeh, just get the story right and the wedding footage and all plain sailing,..
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Old May 15th, 2016, 01:14 PM   #3
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

My kit has grown a bit every summer. I always fantasize about the ultimate in portability, but the nature of weddings makes it extremely hard to not carry a bunch of crap "just in case".

For advice, I'm going to come at from a different angle. I feel weird saying this, because I'm afraid it might come out as some kind of humble brag, but I do think the advice is helpful to a lot of people.

I would say, consider hitting the gym and doing a serious strength training program. Deadlifts, squats. Heavy compound exercises. It's a side hobby of mine, and I've noticed that my experiences with fatigue and soreness seem to be far less than what many people describe on this forum, and many photogs/videographers I work with.

I know people think of running and cardio as the tickets to getting fit, and don't get me wrong... they are great. But what we have to do, lugging around heavy stuff, bending, moving, sometimes quickly and haphazardly, I really think having a strong back and a good work capacity for moving heavy stuff can really help prevent creeping injuries and just make the day less of an unenjoyable strain.

Just my 2cents, hopefully it's helpful!
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Old May 15th, 2016, 01:53 PM   #4
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

Get yourself an aspiring 19 year old who wants to learn to shoot. Get a couple, so they can compete against each other.
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Old May 15th, 2016, 02:00 PM   #5
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

Quote:
I would say, consider hitting the gym and doing a serious strength training program.
I wish it was that simple, in my case I am following a specialized training program for my back which doesn't focus on muscles that control motion but the ones that are located just beside the spine and the lower abs and who mainly support the lower spine, my training doesn't involve any heavy lifting at all, instead it takes a lot of concentration to train these muscles as they are very hard to "activate", you can compare it with trying to move every toe one by one on your foot, it can be done but it's very difficult to achieve. This is something they don't teach in a gym, in my case a serious training program would have the opposite effect and make my backproblem only worse.

As advise for David, if you where satisfied with your z5 you will be with a sony x70, prices have come down a bit now and it's basically a ax100 with more functionality. I would even try to continue using your vg900 as second camera for darker events, not sure though how well it performs in low light or how well you would be able to match up with a x70.
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Old May 15th, 2016, 02:43 PM   #6
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

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Originally Posted by Steve Bleasdale View Post
David get two hfg40s or two ax100s dead simple, after 30 weddings a year with camcorders DSLR messing around this that and the other and a bad back to boot? its great and dead simple with two cams that produce good footage. The bride and everyone else no nothing about DSLR look and bokeh, just get the story right and the wedding footage and all plain sailing,..
Thanks. Yeah I do like the thought of matching cams.


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Originally Posted by Steven Shea View Post
For advice, I'm going to come at from a different angle. I feel weird saying this, because I'm afraid it might come out as some kind of humble brag, but I do think the advice is helpful to a lot of people.
Thanks, don't take this the wrong way but as I was reading this I was hoping I'd come upon a Eureka! answer, to solve all my problems. It helps somewhat, I do go to the gym, typically about 3 times a week. Some days, I can't even do the treadmill & choose the elliptical instead. Maybe situps or getting a personal trainer to help might work better. Ultimately though, I'm in pretty good shape. Even run a 10 miler in the city each year.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Noa Put View Post
As advise for David, if you where satisfied with your z5 you will be with a sony x70, prices have come down a bit now and it's basically a ax100 with more functionality. I would even try to continue using your vg900 as second camera for darker events, not sure though how well it performs in low light or how well you would be able to match up with a x70.
Thanks, I hadn't really stumbled across that one, but looked it up and that does seem nice. Definitely worth considering, and I could test it with the vg900, if they don't seem to match then i could sell that for another x70.

& Mike Watson, yeah I've thought of that, even just as a last resort in case I have trouble making it thru a season at any point. Just hire a 2nd to get thru the days. Even if its a pretty big hit in cost, just to be safe.



How about tripods? Does anyone use lighter ones? Mine are fairly heavy but I have a small camcorder one I use for some youth hockey games? I should use that at least for my 2nd camera, right now I have a bigger Sony & a Glide Gear, which is also pretty bulky.
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Old May 15th, 2016, 03:51 PM   #7
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

In looking at it, the X70 might be the best solution. It would give me a balance between the run & gun (zoom lens, ND filters, fixed lens), vs the vg900s low light ability & lens choices. Depending on the day, I could choose which I shoot most parts with (bridal prep, photo sessions, entrances etc), yet fairly easily shoot the bigger events using both.

Its tough lugging gear from a parking lot, to the hotel room, then walking a block further for a first look, then 2 blocks further for the church, whereas others the entire day takes place at a country club 50 meters from the parking lot. .
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Old May 15th, 2016, 06:27 PM   #8
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

Downsized myself, so I can understand where you're coming from. Getting old isn't for wimps, and adding lugging stuff around certainly doesn't help. My second shooter/photographer suffered injuries in an auto accident, and "slowly wrapping up" has been under consideration.... but I still have other uses for camera gear, and a couple potential second shooters coming up... Still, I did a one shooter event as a favor for a friend, and I was felling it big time after a couple hours, made me feel "out of shape"!



The X70 is the "pro" version of the AX100, so you could possibly go one of each or two AX100's - but you could also consider the RX10M2 or M3 (similar sensor, but improved over the 1st generation sensor in the AX100), or one of the A7 series - the 30 minute clip limit has been hacked, I have to get around to modding my cameras, but the reports are good that the hack works for unlimited shooting from most of the Sony "hybrid"/still cameras. Most of those options should be light enough even with rigging to be comfortable, and if you shoot 4K, you can pan/crop and at least sometimes get away with fewer cameras!

Stable tripods are heavy, and tall ones are heavier still, no easy getting around it. I might suggest looking at the Sirui carbon fiber footed monpods - weight isn't bad, and they actually are pretty stable with good height, might at least replace one tripod? I had my up and coming shooters on one shoot, and used two of those monopods and one tripod, it worked pretty well.

I've tried to cut back on both size and weight, as well as quantity of gear wherever possible, all the "toys" are nice, and for live events, sometimes you have to "be prepared" for anything...
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Old May 15th, 2016, 06:30 PM   #9
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

FWIW, I'm down to a sling bag, a small Sony aluminum case or two for "accessories"/3rd camera, one tripod and a couple of monopods.... not "light", but a LOT lighter than what I used to have!
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Old May 15th, 2016, 09:50 PM   #10
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

I don't think going dslr will necessarily solve your problems because if you want the functions a standard video camera you gave to assemble a cumbersome rig.

I'd concentrate on lightweight tripod and cart system to transport equipment. That and a combination of stretching , exercise and listening to your body for warning signs. For me long periods of time in one position followed by abruptly lifting heavy equipment is a recipe for throwing out your back.

Some ppl I know hire an assistant. Cuts into your profits but not as much if you hurt yourself, can't work and lose clients.
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Old May 15th, 2016, 11:37 PM   #11
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

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Originally Posted by David Barnett View Post
& Mike Watson, yeah I've thought of that, even just as a last resort in case I have trouble making it thru a season at any point. Just hire a 2nd to get thru the days. Even if its a pretty big hit in cost, just to be safe.
I have a couple guys working for a couple hundred bucks a day. It is a hit in cost, but I still make the lions share, and these are guys who would struggle to get business were it not for me. Once you find the right few people, it is a very symbiotic relationship. And I can continue it even when I can't do the physical work anymore.
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Old May 16th, 2016, 02:38 AM   #12
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

The best thing I've done this year is to use a collapsed monopod that slips into a waist pouch for most of the day (obviously tripod for ceremony/speeches) - I started to suffer a back back last year but this seems to have avoided it further

Pete
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Old May 16th, 2016, 02:56 AM   #13
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

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Originally Posted by Peter Rush View Post
The best thing I've done this year is to use a collapsed monopod that slips into a waist pouch for most of the day (obviously tripod for ceremony/speeches) - I started to suffer a back back last year but this seems to have avoided it further

Pete
+1 to that. The Manfrotto video monopod was one of the best things I've ever bought, I feel like a ninja! I actually used it for the speeches on Saturday! I fixed off another camera on a tripod and used mine for (careful) roaming.

Last edited by Nathan Buck; May 16th, 2016 at 08:05 AM. Reason: Typo
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Old May 16th, 2016, 04:35 AM   #14
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

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Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
or one of the A7 series - the 30 minute clip limit has been hacked, I have to get around to modding my cameras, but the reports are good that the hack works for unlimited shooting from most of the Sony "hybrid"/still cameras.
I'm wary of that hack - I've modded my A7s II and a couple of times during Saturday's wedding it randomly stopped recording - something that it hasn't done before.
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Old May 16th, 2016, 07:15 AM   #15
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Re: Health/Back Concerns

My back has been giving me grief this year, but I'm putting it down to the rapid weight loss that I'm still adapting to. Posture is still assuming I'm 18.5 stone. I do find that the more stressful weddings tend to affect me more than the easier ones. There's a reason why yoga and other calming exercises are said to be beneficial to a bad back. At the start of the year it was my knees, hence the weight loss, but exercising on a bike for 30 mins a day has beefed them up and they're fine now.

Other than that, I think the monopod is an excellent suggestion, having used one for years, I can vouch for its benefits. Smaller cameras and lighter tripods are the way forward if you're working multi camera. I find using my GH4s a delight, but of course such cameras are not for everyone. Still there are plenty of great cameras that are small and light and the RX10 and Panasonic FZ1000 are good compromise.

Best advice is to take a good look at your gear and see how easy it is to transport. I've seen Videographers with less gear than mine dragging as many as 5 seperate cases of gear around compared to my 2. I use a tall bag on wheels for all my tripods, slider and jib, with my camera, lenses and audio recorders in another bag I can carry on my back or place in a small suitcase on wheels if my back is causing me grief.

Only your main camera needs a professional tripod, if your 2nd, 3rd and in my case 4th cameras are smaller, a light weight photo tripod is sufficient.
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