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Old January 27th, 2011, 05:14 PM   #1
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Perfect Counterbalance, any camera, any head..........

Bet that got your attention, huh?

Thought I'd started this thread some time ago, but it must have been an aside in something else, so here it is.

Some of you may know I've been talking about this for quite some time without getting a huge amount of traction, but what's really shone the spotlight on the subject of late with quite some intensity, is the new rash of super dinky cameras enabled for HD.

There were enough problems with the last lot and the lot before that, the lower model Sachtler FSB's and the Vinten Vision Blue coming to the rescue there.

This new lot is going to pretty well see new mechanical CB systems out the window as a system solution, due to the incredibly small weight range such a system would have, the relatively limited market and pretty eye watering prices, just to rub it in.

Each of those 3 reasons sort of multiply with each other to make any new systems almost impossible to bring succesfully to market.

So, where does that leave us?

Right back where I started banging on about this problem 6, 12, or even 18 months ago, except this time neither Sachtler or Vinten will be able to "White Knight" a solution (probably).

If the heads can't be made to work with such low weight/ COG cameras, we have to find a way of making the low weight/ COG cameras work with the heads, right?

Oh, and BTW, wouldn't it be nice if, as a by product, it was possible to get just about any camera to counterbalance perfectly with any head?

At the risk of boring you all to sobs, let me run through the problems in doing just that, may I?

Take any counterbalanced video pan/ tilt head, It will have one of the following types of couterbalance options:

1. Fixed Spring.

This has a small range of weight/ COG combinations that will work with it, every head and every manufacturers are different and you have about as much chance of correctly counterbalancing your camera on any of them as winning the lottery.

2. Stepped/ changeable spring.

These have a series of bands that will perfectly counterbalance with various weight/ COG's, with "dead" bands in between.

In order to get your camera to cb if it sits in a "dead" band requires using tilt drag to hold the camera, it will hold where it's put but you can't dial the drag back or it lets go again, so permanent loss of a tilt drag option or options.

Better luck at getting a hit on a "good" band as there's more of them.

3. Continuously Variable

As long as your camera rig matches or exceeds the "event horizon" base line weight/ COG for the head, and doesn't exceed the upper limit, the head can be configured to work with your rig.

So, how we we get a small weight/ COG camera to work with ALL of the above systems?

Every one, spot on, every time, every manufacturer, every head version, every camera?

Well, we have two weapons in the fight.

Height and weight. Easy!

All we have to do is figure out a way to get both infinately variable height adjustment and match that to infinately variable weight application and we're home free, right?

Yeah, right, doesn't sound so damn easy about now, does it?

Now, I've been banging on about this subject for a very long time indeed, and been wracking my brain for a solution to this puzzle for just as long.

Two things have happened.

The first, is that some people in the right places have been listening and have started thinking about it as well but until recently put it in the "too hard basket".

The second is that I have actually designed a system which does exactly what we're looking for.

It gives anyone the ability to take any camera below about 7 to10 kilos in weight and lift it and weight it to work with just about** any MORE POWERFULL couterbalanced head, spot on perfect counterbalance NO MATTER WHAT TYPE OF CB SYSTEM THE HEAD HAS!

Just let that sink in for a while and do take on board the proviso here - the head MUST have a more powerfull CB system than required for the camera in question.

It doesn't have to be much, but it must be more. I can't do this in reverse as that requires levitation, which even I haven't quite mastered.

There are some other "gotchas" which should be pretty obvious.

For example,if you're trying to get a pencil cam working on a Vinten 250 you're going to need so much height and weight it will look like the Empire State building, not a good look.

OK, so why am I posting this thread here and not in "Camera Counterbalance Monthly" looking for someone to make the thing?

Well, the people who were listening have decided that maybe taking this out of the "too hard basket" might be in everyones best interests, if only "upper management" (you just know the people I'm talking about now, right?) could see the point.

Well, boys and girls, here's your chance to get your point across.

You want something to allow you to perfectly cb your brand new "smaller than a matchbox Super HD camcorder" on a Vision Blue or a FSB2 or 4?

Knowing there's probably not anything else coming in a loooong time to do it?

Get that Canon XL 2 to finally, finally cb with that cheap fixed cb head you bought off e - bay 5 years ago, that keeps trying to launch the cam into space?

Get your Canon HV20/30/40 to work with the same head as your XH A1, just by swapping slide plates for one with this new system on it?

[Insert any dinky cam name here] to work with [insert any popular tripod head here]?

Speak up now 'cos this is where it gets interesting.

Believe me when I say this, you wouldn't believe the level of people in the camera support companies who read these threads and DO take note.

Well they're reading, so you lot better start talking, er, writing.

Fire at will.

Chris Soucy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 28th, 2011, 01:03 AM   #2
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Good topic Chris.... I can't rule out wanting to use a Panny TM700/750/900 on a Vision Blue at some time, but I would make the point that a solution that added weight and thus increased the inertia of the small camera would suit me best. Light cameras with low drag (however smooth) are just so difficult to handle. (I'd anticipate I'd be using the Vision Blue with a more substantial camera most of the time.....)
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Old January 28th, 2011, 03:59 AM   #3
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I would love to be able to put smaller cameras (and less loaded versions of my own cam) on the Vision Blue and still get counterbalance. I'm talking about putting a 1kg or 0.5kg camera on a tripod with a minimum payload of 2.1kg.

Whatever sort of device it is, I would want it to be easily removable/mountable, so I have the choice of swapping between tiny cam and no-so-tiny cam.

And I don't want it to cost £1000!
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Old January 28th, 2011, 10:51 AM   #4
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I'll never buy a big tripod with a heavy head. Just not going to happen. There's a couple of reasons why.

First, video cameras are on a non-stop path to smaller, lighter, cheaper, better. See Moore's Law. The tripod manufacturers can't escape this -- it's completely inevitable. And me, personally, I'm entering the market when entry level cameras are tiny. Yet, I still need a tripod with an excellent fluid head. I need a way to make good smooth pans and tilts with good control, without any rebound, and the camera has to stay where I leave it -- no drifting. None, not even in moderate wind.

Second, a large part of what I want is to take my kit on my back up the mountains, away from the roads, away from the crowds. I'm not a big guy; I can carry about 35kg on my back up and down the mountains -- including water (a liter of water weighs about a kilogram). With everything else that goes into a video/audio kit, the tripod/head has to come in well below 10kg. Closer to 5kg.

I can't buy a heavier camera just to suit a tripod. The tripod has to suit the camera. And this next one is going to be a GH2 for better or worse. I'm willing to spend the money on a good tripod, but it has to work with the new very light cameras for me to give it a look.
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Old January 28th, 2011, 03:04 PM   #5
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Interesting comments, all.

Just a bit more background on this might be in order.

The reason for this thread is that, as it stands, there are maybe a million tripods and heads out there, every one mechanical, with mechanical counterbalance.

Every unit on sale today is the same, mechanical.

The cameras keep getting smaller, lighter, smarter and the OIS systems keep getting better.

Take a look around your home.

I don't know about yours, but every single mechanical object that I can see or think of here is digital - dishwasher, washing machine, toaster, microwave, bathroom scales, heck, even the electric tooth brush has a computer chip in it.

Where are camera supports?

Hiding under the bed, hoping nobody will notice that this is 2011 and mechanical simply won't cut it anymore.

Take something as simple as OIS (it's bloody well not, but it's a starting point).

Why, oh why do I have to turn my OIS off when I put the camera on a tripod/ head?

Because the tripods too bloody stupid to talk to the camera and tell it that a) It's a tripod/ head b) The user is doing a pan NOW, so don't correct for it c) all that other junk you can see, wobble, warp, sway and backlash IS NOT me, so fix it!

Why wasn't this introduced 5 years ago?

Don't ask me, 'cos I plain don't know.

Now, kick and scream as I do to the support companies on this subject (it's like talking to a sponge, it all goes in, nothing ever comes back again), at this point in time, we're stuck with steam age mechanics, for better or worse.

I'm not asking anyone to like it (personally, I think it's a joke, but there you go) but the camera developement cycle has (again) faced many of us with a conundrum.

The new smaller, lighter, smarter camera's have outgrown (in reverse) the available (or pending) support options.

I see no sign that is going to experience a sea change, any time in the next 12 months, so what to do in the interim?

Get human and find a way around it.

That I have done.

It's a short term fix for a much longer term problem, BUT, it gets everybody where they want to go, for now.

So, specifics:


The next "REAL" camera supports will not be "fluid head". That will have gone the way of the Dodo.

In fact, they'll be junk, every one of them. But that's cool, because there'll be a small but oh so powerfull computer inside each one, talking to the camera to make sure that the shivering, quivering piece of support rubbish underneath is made to look a million dollars because both systems know what the other should be doing, and what they actually ARE doing, and fixing the bits that shouldn't be there.

They'll be lighter, smaller, smarter but probably not cheaper, alas. The volumes simply aren't there for the last.


The system I have designed has a quick release on the COGStack, so that the camera can be removed for hand held etc with the flick of a lever.

If you wish to use another cam on the tripod, the head slide plate/ COGS can be removed just as easily.

Those with at least three cams (there are many of us) could, and probably will, end up with three head slide plates with COGS's on two of them for the smaller cams.

If it ends up costing a 1000 quid we might as well ditch it in the North Sea, as it will be a non product.


To get this to fly we only have two weapons at out disposal - height ands weight.

The COGS uses a combination of both to get there.

There is a trade off with this, tho' - if we make the COGS with a large foot print so each stage can be heavier, the stack will be lower for a given CB, but the lower it is the more difficult it is to achieve perfect CB.

If we make the footprint smaller, the stack will be higher but the CB can be honed to within micrograms.

We need to find a happy medium, which we will.

But, no matter what, that light dinky cam that won't CB on your existing head will look (and feel) a lot heavier with the COGS under it, because it has to.

Last night I was trying to work out the possible combinations and permutations of the COGS as currently proposed. I got to about 17 billion and gave up! (Yep, that's a "b").

More as and when.

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Old January 29th, 2011, 12:14 AM   #6
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Okay, let's try another tack............

What if we throw all current pan/ tilt head options in the bin and start with a clean sheet of paper?


A head that isn't bothered by weight/ COG, or lack thereof, is self adjusting for same (preferably) and has the same handling characteristics as a Vinten Blue/ Sachtler FSB.

What if we developed a low slung COG (Centre Of Gravity) head that had auto centering as an option, manual standard, would take any camera from 1 gram to 8 kilograms with perfect "where you leave it is where it stays" balance, camcorder or DSLR, give you the option of using it on the right of the head or the left, even both at the same time (with optional adaptor) if you really are keen and want to use different lens focal lengths on each camera.

No counterbalance to worry about and the ergonomic form factor for DSLR shooters is almost perfect, with the platform on the right of the head.

Camcorder, swing the support bracket assembly 180 degrees around the head and hey, presto, it's a perfect form factor for camcorders, again, up to 8 kg.

Any takers?

I'm trying to think out of the box here, but I'm not you guys, so, what would you think of such a product if it came out with either a Vinten or Sachtler badge on it?

Oh, and it was at a price that didn't mean putting your kids on the streets, selling the mother in law (interesting tho' that might be) and generally plunging the entire household into penury?

[Note to self: You must stop sounding like a Vitec rep until the bastards actually start paying you. Guess that's when Hell freezes over then? Bugger.]

If anyone can add anything to the above list of requirements, please do, I'm not a HD DSLR shooter, so I can't speak for you guys.

What does everbody want?

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Old January 29th, 2011, 04:07 AM   #7
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Sounds great in theory Chris....

....but I've just bought a VB and my money box is empty. Now I can't even afford a VB stubby!
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Old January 29th, 2011, 06:45 AM   #8
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Underslung was always my favourite - Ronford Fluid 7 for example. Best head ever (but I had a camera assistant to carry it...)
TV Director / Cameraman
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Old February 11th, 2011, 01:06 PM   #9
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Anyone tried this one?

VariZoom ZeroGravity (Zero Gravity) Tripod Head, Tripods, Lens Controls, Camera Stabilizers & Supports, Batteries, Monitor Kits - Phone: 512-219-7722
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Old February 11th, 2011, 06:12 PM   #10
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Hi George,

I have asked the same question about the Varizoom Zerogravity head on this forum without getting a single reply, and this is an award winning head!

I have made and used this style of head because they have a couple of advantages: -

1. The tilt axis can be set on the c. of g. thereby reducing the need for counterbalancing mechanisms.

2. The camera can be positioned very close to the ground which is of interest for my natural history work.

They also have disadvantages: -

1. They are bulkier and the extra material needed can be a source of flexion unless they are very heavily constructed.

2. If they are to be used in low mode they have to be suspended from something like a mini boom. This means counter weights and heavy tripods etc. All this means that rigidity is a problem. I have used such a system and found that it is both slow to set up and very heavy and thus difficult to move to a new location.

I have now done a complete rethink and I am completing some feasibility tests on a new “system”. My new “system” permits use very close to the ground and could easily be used on a tripod.

In its lightest form it can be quickly set up for static shots. Preliminary tests indicate that it is very easy to fluid damp the tilt axis and it is also very easy to motorise the tilt axis. Motorising has considerable appeal as it permits hands off operation. I have not yet experimented with panning control.

Of particular interest to me is the ability of this system to handle slow tilts when using long lenses. I have an EX3 and a 300 mm lens - the 35 mm equivalent of 1550 mm. I can adjust my new system so that I can tilt either by hand or motor. I can tilt slow enough with a 300 mm lens that it takes several seconds to tilt the full height of the picture and this is with a very crude prototype.

I believe this system has considerable potential and would be very adaptable for other cameras and I certainly will be continuing my efforts to make a unit for my own use. There is nothing about it that is difficult to make - given a lathe and a milling machine.

I guess my main question is, does anyone know of a manufacturer interested in offbeat ideas?
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Old February 11th, 2011, 06:51 PM   #11
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Hi, Alastair..............

How, er, "offbeat" are we talking here?

Better still, fire me a mail, I have, um, contacts.

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