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Reality Camera Weight on Back and Shoulders

reality eng camera operator heavy heavy camera camera stabilization

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#1 Scott Wagner

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 03:15 PM

Hi,

 

I currently work on a home improvement reality show and we use the Panasonic HDX 900. I am curious to see if anyone on this forum has a piece of gear that he or she may use to help lighten the load on the back. I began shooting reality about a year ago and I am really starting to feel it in my back and shoulders. Any help would be appreciated!


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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 04:12 PM

No real pieces of kit, but doing Tai Chi is good exercise for camera operators.

 

Keeping the camera well balanced helps, accessories can upset the balance of the best designed cameras.

 

However, Easy Rig could be a possibility to check out.


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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 20 May 2014 - 02:20 AM

Easy rig is a nice little piece of kit to keep around if you want to. It does help to move the weight off of one's sholders, and to get the camera into interesting positions more readily and easily then putting your arms at weird positions.

I think they're way overpriced, else i'd've picked one up by now.


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#4 Jaron Berman

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 03:58 PM

Ain't reality fun!?  Posture is the biggest thing, there's no trick to making it more fun to shoot insanely long takes.  Luckily the 900 is only a 33 minute load - when they discover you can roll 3 hr straight on a C300 (loaded with all the same fun toys), that gets REALLY fun.  The other thing is being proactive, if you don't ASK for a break every so often they won't give it to you.  In reality you're dealing with producers over a very huge range of experience levels, though you'll only find 1 every 10 years or so who has ever ACTUALLY operated for more than a shot.  A lot of times people will say "oh yeah, I've shot, I know how heavy that is," but unless they've done what you do EVERY DAY they have no idea and they could care less.

 

Stretch between tape changes, never carry the camera with your right hand when you're not shooting, hand it off when possible.  All producers have war stories of how "the op on my last show" - but again, you're not that op and it pays to make them see you as a human vs. a button punching monkey.  Most people big and small can hold that much weight for a while, most people can even walk around with it.  You need to advocate for yourself.  

 

There's no cross-training for this stuff and what your producers may forget is that it's not just carrying that weight - it's doing your actual job (and usually theirs too) on TOP of carrying that weight.  Reality is a specialized set of skills for ops, and I know I'm saying it over and over in different ways but respect is the biggest way to save yourself and prolong your career.  There are plenty of prod. companies (495 ahem cough, food network) who pride themselves in how long they force ops to be shouldered up - for the people sitting in video village street cred is won by the ridiculous things they make you do.  The more you can get them on your side, the less you'll shoot extraneous stuff and the more it can be collaborative.  You're closest to the action as in any type of production, and good reality ops know exactly the story at all times (how else can you anticipate your next shot?) - when producers learn to trust your instincts and rely on you, seeing you as a collaborator not a servant then your takes get shorter.  Yes, there's the time when it's REALLY necessary to shoot 3 tapes/discs straight, but it's rare, and that's when the conditioning kicks in.  

 

When you're scanning your finder, include a "self" scan - make sure you're not death gripping the camera and you'll be a lot steadier and also just note your posture.  It's a good mantra to tell yourself to stand straight!  (Learned that one from steadicam).  43min into a disc holding a shot on the long end of a 22x this is important!  If you got into a weird position to snap a quick shot - make it quick.  If it ends up being a longer beat, then get yourself into a good (safe) position - even if it means asking for a second.  ASK.  And drink stupid amounts of water.

 

 

As for E-Z rig….. 99% of people who use them do so incorrectly, have less control over the camera, less mobility, more setup time and generally ADD weight to their bodies vs. stripping the camera.  Yes, I've known 3 specific times when it was the right tool, but if you're looking to improve handheld comfort then improve handheld comfort, don't throw more crap at it. Treat the issue itself, stand straight and use the tape changes as mini breaks - if you're stretching and drinking a water even the worst producers will say, "when you're done getting some water that can you get me……" - use that time, it's yours.


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#5 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 08:27 PM

I started out shooting doco and reality, and ended up with a variety of back problems. There's really no way of avoiding them totally, but there's good advice in the previous posts. One thing I would advise is regular exercise. Having a camera on your shoulder all day forces your back into an unnatural 'S' shape, and causes the muscles on the right side of your spine to overdevelop. This in turn causes an imbalance in your core muscles, and leads to all kinds of problems further down the line.

 

Go to the gym. Get a trainer to advise you on a proper system of exercise, not just for your back, but your whole body. You'll feel a whole lot better for it.

 

Get a deep tissue massage at least once a month.

 

Have a chiropractor on speed dial.


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#6 Scott Wagner

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 04:11 PM

No real pieces of kit, but doing Tai Chi is good exercise for camera operators.

 

Keeping the camera well balanced helps, accessories can upset the balance of the best designed cameras.

 

However, Easy Rig could be a possibility to check out.

Hi Brian, thanks for the response. Yes I did check that out but a coworker of mine said that would surely limit mobility. I will try the Tai Chi for sure.


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#7 Scott Wagner

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 04:15 PM

I started out shooting doco and reality, and ended up with a variety of back problems. There's really no way of avoiding them totally, but there's good advice in the previous posts. One thing I would advise is regular exercise. Having a camera on your shoulder all day forces your back into an unnatural 'S' shape, and causes the muscles on the right side of your spine to overdevelop. This in turn causes an imbalance in your core muscles, and leads to all kinds of problems further down the line.

 

Go to the gym. Get a trainer to advise you on a proper system of exercise, not just for your back, but your whole body. You'll feel a whole lot better for it.

 

Get a deep tissue massage at least once a month.

 

Have a chiropractor on speed dial.

I definitely don't do enough exercises to help with this problem, thanks for the advice! 


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#8 Scott Wagner

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 04:24 PM

Ain't reality fun!?  Posture is the biggest thing, there's no trick to making it more fun to shoot insanely long takes.  Luckily the 900 is only a 33 minute load - when they discover you can roll 3 hr straight on a C300 (loaded with all the same fun toys), that gets REALLY fun.  The other thing is being proactive, if you don't ASK for a break every so often they won't give it to you.  In reality you're dealing with producers over a very huge range of experience levels, though you'll only find 1 every 10 years or so who has ever ACTUALLY operated for more than a shot.  A lot of times people will say "oh yeah, I've shot, I know how heavy that is," but unless they've done what you do EVERY DAY they have no idea and they could care less.

 

Stretch between tape changes, never carry the camera with your right hand when you're not shooting, hand it off when possible.  All producers have war stories of how "the op on my last show" - but again, you're not that op and it pays to make them see you as a human vs. a button punching monkey.  Most people big and small can hold that much weight for a while, most people can even walk around with it.  You need to advocate for yourself.  

 

There's no cross-training for this stuff and what your producers may forget is that it's not just carrying that weight - it's doing your actual job (and usually theirs too) on TOP of carrying that weight.  Reality is a specialized set of skills for ops, and I know I'm saying it over and over in different ways but respect is the biggest way to save yourself and prolong your career.  There are plenty of prod. companies (495 ahem cough, food network) who pride themselves in how long they force ops to be shouldered up - for the people sitting in video village street cred is won by the ridiculous things they make you do.  The more you can get them on your side, the less you'll shoot extraneous stuff and the more it can be collaborative.  You're closest to the action as in any type of production, and good reality ops know exactly the story at all times (how else can you anticipate your next shot?) - when producers learn to trust your instincts and rely on you, seeing you as a collaborator not a servant then your takes get shorter.  Yes, there's the time when it's REALLY necessary to shoot 3 tapes/discs straight, but it's rare, and that's when the conditioning kicks in.  

 

When you're scanning your finder, include a "self" scan - make sure you're not death gripping the camera and you'll be a lot steadier and also just note your posture.  It's a good mantra to tell yourself to stand straight!  (Learned that one from steadicam).  43min into a disc holding a shot on the long end of a 22x this is important!  If you got into a weird position to snap a quick shot - make it quick.  If it ends up being a longer beat, then get yourself into a good (safe) position - even if it means asking for a second.  ASK.  And drink stupid amounts of water.

 

 

As for E-Z rig….. 99% of people who use them do so incorrectly, have less control over the camera, less mobility, more setup time and generally ADD weight to their bodies vs. stripping the camera.  Yes, I've known 3 specific times when it was the right tool, but if you're looking to improve handheld comfort then improve handheld comfort, don't throw more crap at it. Treat the issue itself, stand straight and use the tape changes as mini breaks - if you're stretching and drinking a water even the worst producers will say, "when you're done getting some water that can you get me……" - use that time, it's yours.

I definitely use the tape and battery changes as an informal break time for sure. I figured that out very quickly!

 

I think I have a great working relationship with the producer so in terms of trust, it is definitely there. I get into trouble when it is towards the end of the day and the posture starts to weaken and the shots suffer because of it. It sounds as if job specific conditioning and exercises like you and a couple other camera operators have suggested would really help. I'm going to have to try those as soon as possible. Thanks a lot for the great advice, it sounds like you have a handle on the reality shooting, or as much of a handle as is possible in the reality world!  


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Visual Products

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Paralinx LLC

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

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The Slider

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Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Wooden Camera

FJS International, LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineTape

Willys Widgets

Aerial Filmworks

rebotnix Technologies

Glidecam

Metropolis Post