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A Cinematography Buyers Guide for HDSLR Users - Shoulder Supports (Part 3)

A Cinematography Buyers Guide for HDSLR Users - Shoulder Supports (Part 3)

A Cinematography Buyers Guide for HDSLR Users - Shoulder Supports (Part 3)

Part 3:  Shoulder Rigs & Supports

October 6, 2009 -- While the hybrid / video Digital SLR is creating quite a stir in the world of filmmaking due to the larger image sensors and ability to accept 35mm lenses without adapters, the photographer also becomes another beneficiary of this new technology. Since these cameras also shoot incredible stills, you may already have the right equipment in your bag to take your product offerings or even just slideshows to the next level.

Yes, the HDSLR (Hybrid-DSLR) has incredible video capabilities,  but they really not designed to replace a camcorder for casual, everyday use. Due to inherent limitations with auto focus and zooming you probably would not want to record Johnny's soccer game with it - at least without knowing how to get around some of the limitations. While many people, including myself at times, have promoted this new ability as the new dawn of video, there are also many out there that knock the video abilities of these cameras, touting the poor or nonexistent AF capabilities, editing skills and tools needed to put the footage together, and the issues with the "rolling-shutter" effect that is caused by the CMOS sensor not being to redraw each frame as quickly as we can move the camera (results in vertical lines leaning right or left during a pan). Truthfully, both are true. These camera's are no more a replacement for the camcorder as a race car would be a replacement for an everyday sedan. However, these 'race cars' of video have incredible capabilities that far exceed even professional camcorders when it comes to controlling depth-of-field, shooting in low light, and resolution.

They key to successfully using an HDSLR to capture video is to understand its limitations and to learn how to get around them and the tools that are available to help you.  In part 3 of this Cinematographers Buyer's Guide I cover the different stabilizers available to help you get professional quality results while staying mobile with your HDSLR.   This page does not cover tripods, instead it covers shoulder rigs and steadicams.

Shoulder Rigs / Supports

Hand holding any type of video camera without proper support is almost always a recipe for disaster.  If you thought watching shaky video on a 20" TV was bad, wait until you watch it in HD on a 50" screen.  When using an HDSLR, a steady camera is even more important due to the 'rolling-shutter' effect mentioned  earlier on this page.   Vibrations and fast pan movements will cause vertical lines in your video to look like they're swaying back and forth or leaning in the opposite direction of your pan. Add that to the shakiness of the video in general and the results are terrible.

In this buyer's guide I have put together the most popular products to help stabilize your camera.  Many of these are lightweight handheld mounts that allow you to better brace the camera, either against your body or with a shoulder mount.    Solutions start at about $170 and rise in price to well over $2,000 depending on fucntions and included add-ons such as follow focus, matte boxes, and more.

Part 3:  Shoulder Rigs & Supports

Continue reading Part 1 and Part 2 of our guide: 

Part 2:  Follow Focus Units
Part 1:  LCD Viewfinder Loupes


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