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Supporting weight of handheld camera


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#1 Dan Collins

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 08:42 PM

I've just been given a great opportunity to be a camera operator for a new TV show. I have not done handheld on real, full-size ENG cameras in about 4 years, and even that was merely short 1-2 hours a day for my college. It's going to be almost 100% handheld because it's documentary. Even most interviews I'm told will be OTFs handheld.

I'm worried because after an easy day of test shoots, my shoulder is killing me. At one point I even got dizzy because the camera was weighing down too much toward the inside of my neck. I have very narrow, thin and bony shoulders so I bought a shoulder pad, but I'm wondering if that made it worse falling in toward my neck and putting weight on on places.

Should the camera be centered on my shoulder or more on the outside resting on the bone of my shoulder? Any other tips for a newbie on how to manage the weight better? I'm shooting again tomorrow, so please help quick!
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#2 John Brawley

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 11:14 PM

I'm worried because after an easy day of test shoots, my shoulder is killing me. At one point I even got dizzy because the camera was weighing down too much toward the inside of my neck. I have very narrow, thin and bony shoulders so I bought a shoulder pad, but I'm wondering if that made it worse falling in toward my neck and putting weight on on places.



Dan you could look at an easyrig for endurance...but not for looks ;-)

jb
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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 09 April 2010 - 01:38 AM

The camera should rest in the curve of your shoulder, not on the outside. Check to make sure the camera is balanced - it should stay level on your shoulder with minimal effort to keep it from tipping forward or backward. If it is front heavy, try removing the mattebox. If it is back heavy, try smaller batteries. If the camera is not balanced, then you will quickly wear yourself out just trying to keep the lens level. Minimize any camera mounted accessories that you don't need like an on-board monitor or an on-camera light. Try to keep the center of gravity as low as possible.

For padding, you can use a folded up sweatshirt in a pinch. Your current shoulder pad may be too hard if it is causing the camera to tip side to side. The pad should have a lot of give to it. ENG cameras come with a shoulder pad built in, so you may not need as much padding as with a Red or Arri SR style camera with a flat bottom. Get a grip to spot you so he can support you if you start to lose your balance. Don't pick up the camera and keep shooting if you're feeling really dizzy, it's not worth damaging the camera when you fall over or drop it.

Other than that, you'll just have to man up and suffer for about a week until your muscles get stronger. It can be hard the first few days but by about ten days in you should be fine. Good luck!
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#4 Dan Collins

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Posted 09 April 2010 - 10:49 AM

The camera should rest in the curve of your shoulder, not on the outside. Check to make sure the camera is balanced - it should stay level on your shoulder with minimal effort to keep it from tipping forward or backward. If it is front heavy, try removing the mattebox. If it is back heavy, try smaller batteries. If the camera is not balanced, then you will quickly wear yourself out just trying to keep the lens level. Minimize any camera mounted accessories that you don't need like an on-board monitor or an on-camera light. Try to keep the center of gravity as low as possible.

For padding, you can use a folded up sweatshirt in a pinch. Your current shoulder pad may be too hard if it is causing the camera to tip side to side. The pad should have a lot of give to it. ENG cameras come with a shoulder pad built in, so you may not need as much padding as with a Red or Arri SR style camera with a flat bottom. Get a grip to spot you so he can support you if you start to lose your balance. Don't pick up the camera and keep shooting if you're feeling really dizzy, it's not worth damaging the camera when you fall over or drop it.

Other than that, you'll just have to man up and suffer for about a week until your muscles get stronger. It can be hard the first few days but by about ten days in you should be fine. Good luck!


Thanks for the tips Satsuki
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#5 Dan Collins

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 12:29 AM

We've been shooting a few days a week now and I'm getting better and more comfortable but I'm still noticing my camera work is a lot more shaky than it should be for a full-size, shoulder-mounted camera. I've had to shoot for 1-2 hours in a static position where I'm a human tripod, not moving except for framing from wide to tight. I find it much more fatiguing to not be able to take a step without causing shakiness.

I'm trying to breath through my stomach, not my chest, but still I seem to see my breathing effect the steadiness of my shots. Is there something different I should be doing?

Thanks!
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#6 Dan Collins

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 12:30 AM

Double post, deleted.

Edited by Dan Collins, 24 April 2010 - 12:32 AM.

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#7 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 07:48 PM

I tuck the camera up close to my neck then to help stabilize it, particularly on tighter lenses, I push my head up against the camera and minimize breathing.

Word of warning... after about twenty years of carrying cameras and other stuff (like tripods) on my right shoulder, I have a bit of scoliosis which is causing a pinching of nerves in my right shoulder blade. Just be aware of how repetitive motion can cause injuries over time.
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#8 Chris Keth

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 01:43 AM

I set the camera close in to my neck, on the big muscle that bridges from my neck out onto my shoulder.

Remember that the shoulder "pad" on ENG cameras is adjustable front to back. Use that to balance it on your shoulder. Beyond that, the best thing I've done is purchased a carwash sponge and velcroed it to the shoulder pad. The sponge starts out about an inch and a half thick and squishes almost flat under weight but it's enough to spread the weight, keep the camera from cutting into your shoulder (which tires out the muscle it sits on), and it feels much better.
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#9 John Sprung

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 04:19 AM

Word of warning... after about twenty years of carrying cameras and other stuff (like tripods) on my right shoulder, I have a bit of scoliosis which is causing a pinching of nerves in my right shoulder blade.


I had that sort of "S" curve to the left in my spine. This has helped a lot:

http://www.teeter-in...n.com/index.asp





-- J.S.
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Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

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