Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Pistol Grip

>Published : 31st August 2006

>Hello all,

>After more years in the game than I care to remember, my shoulder and neck get so sore now that I can no longer ignore it. I've been advised that a lower grip position would help reduce the problem so I'm keen to get myself a pistol grip. Trouble is, we use Fuji lenses where I work and Fuji no longer make a pistol grip.

>Does anybody have one they no longer want? Does anybody have any experience with this problem and would a pistol grip really help?

>Mick Fanning
ABC Brisbane


>Mick Fanning's asks :

class="style11">>Does anybody have any experience with this (back/neck) problem and >would a pistol grip really help?

>I'm no stranger to the chiropractor and I'm sure most on the CML have similar issues with back and neck strain.

>I tried using a pistol grip but found most cameras are somewhat top heavy and the camera tended to list to one side making my wrist sore from over correcting.

>One thing you could try would be to use a combo shoulder brace/pistol grip. There are a number available in some of the video magazines.

>Having the camera self supported with a brace should allow you to stand somewhat erect.

>I think we suffer from neck and back ailments because in addition to toting a 25lb camera, we are constantly having to correct our posture in order to keep a level and steady picture.

>Also, as I get older I have made it a habit to either keep a tripod, apple box or AC handy because I'm NOT going to stand around with a camera on my shoulder while others discuss just what we are going to do next.

>Allen S. Facemire-DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc. Atlanta/Norcross, GA
www.saltrunproductions.com


>I find the old simple pistol grips leave a lot to be desired. What I find very comfortable is to get lightweight frontrods mounted to my camera (made by Chroziel and easily interchangeable between various cameras; QR plate still works) and then get left & right handgrips mounted to them.

>With a simple adapter you can even get the remote zoom control usually placed on the tripod pan arm onto the right front rod and use it as a handgrip, but I find the left hand either on the left rod or on a handgrip helps reduce stress and aids in keeping my balance and the image's level horizon with less workout of the right arm.

>With practice it is quite easy and comfortable to reach up and adjust focus or whatever while holding the left rod. I can even remove my right hand completely for a moment to shake it out.

>For a good and cheap pair of handgrips check out www.cavision.com They're plastic with no controls, but they're adjustable and very inexpensive. They also have frontrods for a lot less than Chroziel, but you get what you pay for.

>The Mercedes of right handgrips with controls is the Microforce, and the Rolls Royce is an Aaton film camera handgrip that's been rigged out to control a Microforce, but now you're really getting into serious money.

>Chroziel makes a frontrod mount that works for all Sony shoulder cameras (from the DSR-300 all the way up to the F900), and I believe it also works on some Panasonic cameras. There is another model for other Panasonics and I think the Varicam has its own part. There's another for older JVC cameras because that company used to use a proprietary QR plate design instead of the standard V-mount.

>Mitch Gross
NYC DP


>Two things that also help are shoes with flat heals and one of those stretching back belts that help keep pressure on the lower back which helps keep those nerves from acting up when you shoot handheld all day. What people don¹t often see is that the body will naturally arch the back when you have a camera on your shoulder which causes the stress and the pain.

>Walter Graff
BlueSky Media, Inc.


>Mick Fanning writes :

class="style11">>Does anybody have any experience with this problem and would a >pistol grip really help?

>Hi mate Mick...

>After having two spinal ops as a direct result of similar circumstance...I'm not so sure about the "pistol grip"...BUT...one thing is for sure...I can honestly recommend that you get yourself a good physio...

>Sounds like you need to seriously address your stance...posture...and this is not coming from me. I see a physio twice a week...and he is telling me this kinda stuff all the time...

>Frankly...the damage on my back / neck ...even with two op's... to this day has not been successfully rectified...and so I would suggest that you address this situation SOONER RATHER THAN LATER...

>Hey...that's just my two cents worth... I would not want anyone to have to experience the issues I deal with on a DAILY basis...did I mention the headaches???

>Get onto it mate...before it's TOO LATE...

>Allen S. Facemire writes :

class="style11">>I think we suffer from neck and back ailments because in addition to >toting a 25lb camera, we are constantly having to correct our posture in >order to keep a level and steady picture.

>ABSOLUTELY spot on...I could not agree more with your comments...

>It's a pity that this discussion was not had about twenty years ago...well, for my part at least, and by the sounds of things...a few other people as well...

>Kind regards

>------------------------------------
David Walpole
CML Admin/ Moderator / Cameraman / Photo-journalist
Avon Valley // WA // Australia
www.cinematography.net


>David Walpole wrote:

class="style11">>Sounds like you need to seriously address your stance...posture...and >this is not coming from me. I see a physio twice a week...and he is >telling me this kinda stuff all the time...

>My Osteopath has advised me that I should have a proper Massage at least once a month, and to visit her twice a year just to get all the muscles and joints loosened up. She was quite specific that no-one who does the job we do can expect to be free of back pain.

>Stuart Brereton
Dp, Bristol, UK


>Alan Facemire wrote:

class="style11">>the camera tended to list to one side making my wrist sore from over >correcting.

>I did wonder about that. It would most likely also be a pain to have to take the thing on and off constantly when changing lenses or putting the camera back in the box.

>They've given me an Easyrig but that is only of use some of the time and not very often. I've also stopped hoiking the sticks up on to my shoulder when moving about. It seems that is one of the worst things you can do. I now secure the legs and use the shoulder strap.

>As for the suggestion that I hand the camera to an assistant between shots... well I did have a good laugh at that one. We haven't had assistants at the ABC since the days when I was one.

>I suppose I'll just have to do what we all do - we put up with it because it's such a bloody good job.

>Mick Fanning
ABC TV Brisbane


>Mike Fanning observed :

class="style11">>As for the suggestion that I hand the camera to an assistant between >shots... well I did have a good laugh at that one. We haven't had >assistants at the ABC since the days when I was one.

>I kind of laughed myself when I wrote that.

>I fight everyday for my soundman and turn down gigs that won't pay for one.

>I can occasionally get an AC on bigger jobs I'M producing, but yeah, an assistant...what a concept.

>I guess for the most part I use the ground for assistance by putting the beast down at every opportunity and using BOTH hands to hoist her up again.

>It also helps that I'm only 5'7" and don't have a long lift...although I used to be 6'1" when I first started over 30 years ago!

>Allen S. Facemire-DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc. Atlanta/Norcross, GA
www.saltrunproductions.com


>I've found this thread really interesting as although I rarely operate a camera myself anymore I did go through many years of handheld hell.

>I guess that I never operated the way that most people do.

>I was talking to Chris Seager about this a couple of weeks ago, we both used Aatons with extension viewfinders and NEVER had the camera on our shoulders, the mag may have been rammed into an armpit but.....

>I also used this approach with video cameras, never having them on my shoulder but always being supported slightly in front, this required very strong arms and I'm sure that I couldn't work this way today.

>On THE OTHER HAND... I'm 50+ with no back problems.

>Cheers

>Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net


>>on THE OTHER HAND... I'm 50+ with no back problems.

>You're also three metres tall (nine foot-10 inches to my US bretheren) so a cradled camera is actually eye level for mere mortals...not all of us have that height advantage.

>Mark Weingartner
5'-8" and shrinking (at least in that direction)
LA based


>Crikey! I do seem to have touched a nerve with this topic - if you'll pardon the expression.

>Just to set things straight, I don't have a lower back problem. It's just the neck and shoulder. I got some x-ray results last week and it looks like with the damage I have to the cervical spine, and the associated muscle spasm, arthritis has started to develop around that area.

>From what you've all said, the pistol grip won't help much.

>A few years ago, the ABC hired an ergonomist when they were in the process of forcing one-man-band crewing on us. One of the things he found was that in addition to hand holding, the way we stand when looking through the viewfinder is also a big risk. Prolonged Static Posture, he called it. It applies whether you are shooting off sticks or off the shoulder. Doing it while standing on uneven ground is even worse. As for doing it in the back of a ute that is bouncing over a ploughed field...

>I don't think he evaluated that one.

>Mick Fanning
ABC TV Brisbane


>Hey Mick,

>Talk about Prolonged Static Posture, my worst war story occurred May 27, 1987, Mayport, Florida, the memorial service for the sailors who died on the USS Stark, after it was hit by Iraqi missiles. The news crews covering this event had to place their gear on two flanking flat-bed truck trailers. Once all the equipment and news people were situated, one could not move. There wasn't the width of a hand to spare. I stood in one spot, lifting my heels and swaying, for over five hours. My feet were reduced to absolute concrete. Couldn't feel a thing. Even those with the luxury of a seat complained.

>Regarding hand-held, which I have always considered the weakest part of my game, I was finally somewhat satisfied when I outfitted my rig with the Arri twin pistol grips, riding on the rods. The right grip is equipped with zoom control, though, mostly I try to establish a focal length and stick with it. And, of course, a wide angle lens significantly helps to smooth movement.

>Best Regard,

>Nick Mueller
Director of Photography
Washington, D.C.


>I shot Superbowl footage for a documentary on one of those DVX 100's, for over five hours-walking through crowds, doing the praying mantis until I almost couldn't drive home at the end of the night! On this particular situation, I couldn't stop shooting (of course it was stop and go, but I only stopped shooting for a few seconds to reframe, find other people, to grab other opportunities, etc)

>I don't get that tired with my Aaton on the shoulder!

>Even if it isn't something heavy, hold it like that for five hours non-stop and see what happens-a tripod is much needed in long shoots like that.

>I will experiment attaching my Eyemo's handgrip to the DVX next time-I wonder if it's any good for some situations. Come to think of it, you hold an Eyemo in the same fashion-but never continuously for long periods of time...

>John Babl
DP
Miami


>One of the best acts I've done for my neck is to always use an LCD screen off an Israeli Arm. I swing the viewfinder out of the way or remove it altogether and instead use the arm to position the screen in front of my face. This way I'm not forcing my neck into a specific position in order to keep my eye to the finder and I can also see what's going on in the outside world. Keeping my horizon is a bit easier and I even get to see in colour. A simple cable mod gets the viewfinder info on the LCD and it makes the camera that much lighter to boot.

>If you have neck and shoulder pain this system really worked wonders for me.

>When handheld I find I'm almost always living at the wider end of the zoom so critic focus is less of an issue, and I can see the markings on the lens now anyway. Now days I never go out without an LCD and Israeli Arm for any camera, film or video. It's that useful.

>Mitch Gross
NYC DP


>MHW writes :

class="style11">> not all of us have that height advantage

>Actually, operating in the way I decried gets the camera as high as it would be on your shoulder, or higher, or lower.

>It is hell on the arms tho'...

>Cheers

>Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based


>Mick Fanning reports :

class="style11">>>...Just to set things straight, I don't have a lower back problem. It's just >>the neck and shoulder...

>I'm thinking that's most of our problems.

>Generally lower back problems belong to the guys who used to tote the Bozo Box (any field recorder) or those of us who thought we could shoot an entire college football game hand holding a Norelco PCP-90!

>I think the "P" stood for "portable".

>Moveable was more the reality!

>Not meaning to plug folks but Peter Lisand (www.peterlisand.com ) has long been a problem solver for us old film guys with his widgets, etc. and he's still in business and makes some very dandy braces applicable to ENG style cameras...and his company will custom machine anything.

>Also 16x9,inc. ( www.16x9inc.com ) makes the EZ rig which comes over the shoulder like a mini Tyler.

>The real secret is getting the weight of the camera distributed so evenly that the camera needs no hands to keep it from falling.

>Then adjust the height of the camera so one is not craning the neck in order to shoot.

>Anyone who has ever had to shoot an Arri 16BL handheld can attest that while it was fine camera, it WAS NOT meant to be hand held.

>ENG style cameras have almost exactly the same problem with weight distribution...it's all up front!

>Allen S. Facemire-DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc. Atlanta/Norcross, GA


>I'm now thinking a double handgrip might be a good idea. The Cavision product looks ok in the photos on their web site. The Chroziel also but what a price!

>I'm using a Panasonic LCD these days but just with a little Manfrotto ball mount on top of the camera. That hurts my neck too! Lemac have some Israeli arms at their Brisbane showroom so I'll probably get one of those.

>Mick Fanning
ABC TV Brisbane


>John Babl writes :

class="style11">>>I shot Superbowl footage for a documentary on one of those DVX >100's, for over five hours-walking through crowds, doing the praying >mantis until I almost couldn't drive home at the end of the night!

>For this kind of shooting, a SteadyStick (or home-made equivalent) makes a huge difference. Takes all the weight off your arms, while keeping the camera flexible. Check it out.

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Greenbrae, CA


>Allen Facemire writes :

>>>Anyone who has ever had to shoot an Arri 16BL handheld can attest >that while it was fine camera, it WAS NOT meant to be hand held.]]

>Amen, bro'!!

>But if you put the 16BL on a shoulder-rig with two pack batteries on the back, you get a heavy-but-perfectly balanced unit that's rock-steady, even hands-off.

>See : http://members.aol.com/ddrasin/16bl-rig.jpg

>The same type of brace design could be applied to any handicam. Anton Bauer's "Stasis" brace is a move in the right direction, but doesn't go far enough. You really need to load enough brick batteries (or ballast -- lead weights, paving stones, gold bullion ingots, etc.) on the back to effectively counterweight the camera.

>Dan "where there's a will, there's a weight" Drasin
Producer/DP
Greenbrae, CA


class="style11">>Anyone who has ever had to shoot an Arri 16BL handheld can attest that >while it was fine camera, it WAS NOT meant to be hand held.

>I think that's probably where all my troubles started. But in spite of that I'm still very fond of the old BL's. The most reliable sound cameras I ever used.

>Alan is correct about the current crop of camcorders. We have SX and DigiBeta. Strangely, the DigiB's are more comfortable on the shoulder than the SXs, in spite of the almost one kilogram difference. The SXs are a dog ergonomically.

>Mick Fanning
ABC TV Brisbane


>Dan Drasin observes :

class="style11">>>But if you put the 16BL on a shoulder-rig with two pack batteries on the >back, you get a heavy-but-perfectly balanced unit that's rock-steady, >even hands-off.

>That’s my point. A good shoulder brace rig is actually a “Belly-Rig” in that the main part of the weight is distributed to the abdomen, which on some of us has become more akin to a shelf!

>Allen S. Facemire-DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc. Atlanta/Norcross, GA


>Replying to Dan Drasin’s link to a Arri 16BL brace...

>http://members.aol.com/ddrasin/16bl-rig.jpg

>My God, where did you find that picture of me!

>I’m sure I could dredge up a shot almost identical to that.

>And you may notice the enormous battery rig on the back.

>Actually it’s a combo battery/inverter because that particular version of the 16BL actually had an AC motor in it so you had to invert 12v to 110.

>Used the same type of rig with the old Auricon Pro600.

>When some genius decided DC motors would be more efficient it was like somebody invented sliced bread.

>What a boon to the back!

>Allen S. Facemire-DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc.
Atlanta/Norcross, GA


>Just had a look at Dan's pic.

>Good Grief! What a heavy looking load. It might be balanced, but now I'm worried about your hips, Dan. Still, you did save weight by not attaching the Mini-Lock. It also looks like you are using the standard viewfinder. All our BL’s had the viewfinder designed for hand-held use. It was much nicer to use on the tripod too.

>To get this message back on-topic, I've just come back from a trip where I had to shoot, among other things, a fashion parade and the reporter/producer wanted it shot funky style. Dutch angles, swish pans etc. I used the EasyRig for all of it. This was the first time I was happy with results from the Easyrig. It really does take a bit of getting used to and I think I'm finally getting the knack.

>Those of you in the UK might have seen the ABC's "Kath and Kim". Most of that show is shot with EasyRigs.

>Mick Fanning
ABC Brisbane


>Greetings,

>Anyone familiar with the documentary series on the Blues produced by Scorsese may have noticed in a couple of episodes a circular kind of rig holding in the center of it, if I remember correctly, a Panasonic DVX 100. (Episode 3 "Road to Memphis" and 6 "Red White and Blues" if again I remember correctly)

>It did not look that big maybe 45 cm or about 16 inches in diameter has anyone experience with this or an opinion on this type of rig. Also an indication to its name or a link to a website would be very helpful.

>I would like to have a closer look at that accessory.

>BTW This is a very interesting topic.

>Regards
Emmanuel, London

>Assistant Caméra - Camera Assistant - Kameraassistent
European based
+491608036889 - +447910034443
cml-listmum


class="style11">>Has anyone experience with this or an opinion on this type of rig. Also >an indication to its name or a link to a website would be very helpful.

>Emmanuel,

>I have no knowledge of the particular show you are referring to, but it sounds like a similar rig they used on Mike Figgis's “HOTEL”. Rent the DVD and you'll see the "Fig rig" in the featurettes. It's a custom set-up originally rigged from a car steering wheel which has the camera (a PD150 in this case) mounted in the center along with a LCD monitor, hand controls, and shotgun mic, wireless setup.

>Interesting rig which seems to work. someone joked that all that it's missing is a horn to get the extras out of the way...

>Cheers

>Dave Luxton
Cinematographer
Edmonton, Alberta CAN


style="margin-bottom: 0">