If you have been an avid reader and watcher of how I shoot, you know that I’m always finding ways to put cameras into tight spaces or use them in unique ways. Finding a small tool to rig a light into tight spaces is always a challenge. We’re going to be talking about the Matthews Infinity Arm in a little bit, but I want to talk about some traditional ways we use articulating arms in production, mostly on a camera.
Traditional Use of An Articulating Arm
It’s common to use an articulating arm to hold an onboard monitor or EVF (electronic viewfinder) on the camera. These are great to use with putting either device onto the camera and having the flexibility of moving it in multiple positions. Normally, if you are built in a “studio mode” (meaning on a tripod with a manual follow focus), your Focus Puller (1st AC) will be sitting or standing next to the camera on the Assistant side. This is where you would place an onboard monitor. On most of my projects when I’m shooting on a RED Weapon, the RED 7” LCD Touch Monitor is set to the Assistant side of the camera, so that my Focus Puller can pull focus from that monitor (if they choose to) so they can change settings on the camera. If I am operating the camera, I will use the EVF.
Arms that are Available
The biggest complaint for most articulating arms is their strength. The Noga Arm is one of the most common arms used on cameras. It has been around for years. It is simple and relatively affordable. A single arm will set you back $130. Only that is the problem, $130 is about the average for an arm, but does it last?
In my experience, no. These arms do not last. Over time, the arm begins to show its true “self.” The constant wear and tear against the arm begin to compromise its integrity.
The mounting points at the ¼ 20 become weaker over time. A big reason for this is the fact that the arm only supports 10 lbs. Even though your monitor may only weigh a few pounds, putting continued stress on the arm by forcing it down into position as it is locked will decrease the overall strength and life of the arm. You get what you pay for. The arm is just simply not designed to hold that much weight or force against it.
The Ultralight Arm is a similar competitor that sees some of the same problems as the Noga arm. It does perform better. It is lighter weight, but ultimately, it does not last.
The Matthews Infinity Arm
We had a chance to check these out during our October and November workshops this year and this device caught my attention right away. I say device because it has the ability to be a tool that has some serious versatility. My favorite feature of this arm is that it can hold up to 32lbs in an angled position (it can hold about 15 lbs when it is horizontal). It will cost you a bit more at $299, but this is the type of product you buy once. I can count on all of my Camera Assistants’ hands as to how many Noga arms I have replaced over the years.
The Infinity Arm has a radial rosette in the center that is built out of a combination of steel and aircraft-grade aluminum. You’re not going to break this baby, no way! It actually gives you a good grip to grab onto with that center knob. It’s rotatable in a 360-degree rotation and it has 9 different accessory tips. This arm can hold a monitor on the camera and if you really crank down on it, you won’t break the arm.
There are 9 Accessory Mounts to this Arm
- 1/4 “ – 20 Female
- ¼” – 20 Male
- ⅜” – 16 Female
- ⅜” – 16 Male
- GoPro Mount
- ⅝” Female
- ⅝” Male
- Mini Matthellini Clamp
- Shoe Mount
Essentially, this arm gives you every option possible to mount it on something more than just a camera. With the ability to hold up to 32lbs of weight, you can entertain the idea of using this arm to mount a camera somewhere.
I can remember when I was shooting Need for Speed back in 2013 and how often we mounted a camera in some of the craziest places. Anywhere we could find a spot inside or outside one of those sports cars, I wanted a camera on it. Having the versatility to move that camera, be it a GoPro or a RED WEAPON body, can give you a chance to get those shot or miss it.
For my next movie this summer, I’m going to be taking about a dozen of these arms to just have on set. We’ll use them in thousands of ways. I can mount cameras, lights, flags — anything that I need to get into a hard-to-reach place, I can put on a different attachment, and then bam, I’m ready to go.
In my mind, this arm is great for travel or smaller one-man-band productions. For all the times you’re in a small confined space or you have to work with a drop ceiling, this can give you a way to get into a drop ceiling and to start rigging lights or even a camera if you need to.