In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at how to rig a shoulder mount for your camera. Shoulder mounts are a great run and gun style mount, or equally comfortable when operating on a dolly for a smooth but handheld feel.
The best handheld sound camera I ever used was the Panavision Platinum camera. With a lens, lightweight 400’ mag, Preston MDR, focus motors, Mattebox and on-board monitor, the camera weighed in at about 45 lbs. The best handheld camera for action that I have ever used was the Arri 235. With a lens, 400’ dolphin mag, Preston MDR, focus motors, Mattebox and on-board monitor, it weighs in at 26 lbs. So why would you want your RED, Blackmagic, Sony A7S XT Plus Earth Destroyer 5000, etc. to weigh any less? This weight is where your “stabilization” comes from.
When you’re walking on set you want to feel ready for whatever chaos the world or director want to throw at you and in my experience this is the best all around set up for going from a Studio Build to Shoulder Mount.
SHOULDER MOUNT MODE
Directors sometimes love to pick up the camera and show me exactly what they want. Gabriele Muccino will ask for the camera and move around, using it like a viewfinder. You have to embrace how your directors like to work. On the shot list you might be on a locked off shot in studio mode, and then the next minute you might be asked to go handheld. Well, here you go., this build shows you how you can seamlessly switch from studio mode to shoulder mount!
You can seamlessly pop your camera off your Cartoni and slide on your LETUS35 MCS Shoulder Pad. Or, what I call it — the Wedge. This baby velcros right to the base of this system. Since your shoulder isn’t leveled, this will help you get your handheld on! Haha!
It’s important to match the subject’s steps. When you walk, you bob up and down. So, if you match that, it gives you a nice, seamless natural feel. However, if you want more intensity, then that would be when you go off step. The effect will be more jarring and dramatic, Matty Libatique used this trick in Black Swan.
SHOULDER MOUNT TO STUDIO MODE
I can’t stress enough the advantage of going from handheld to studio mode in seconds time. They call, “Let’s lock it off!” Boom! You rip off the Wedge, and throw the camera back on the tripod. No problem! “No, I don’t like that. Let’s go back to handheld!” Again, no problem!
If you want to go down low, or rest the camera on the ground, it’s as simple as putting it down. The 19mm rods will hold your camera up without if falling over. This camera rig is built like a brickhouse, and that’s a good thing. It might go against popular belief of smaller = BETTER. On the contrary, it’s about GIRTH! That’s what’s great about the European system. Bigger is better! I’ve been talking about this since the birth of DSLR filmmaking, so if you want to know how I rig my DSLRs check out: Why a Shoulder Cam Should be Heavy
Back in the film days, Spider Grips were king. This is how I rolled out. You’re able to configure these things in almost any setup. And they have all different rod configurations as well. So, you can go with the mini rods or you can go with the wider depth. They spin and rotate. There’s not a configuration you cannot get in and that’s why I really love them. When I was in New Orleans working on Into the Badlands, there was times when it was 130 degrees. My hands would just be dripping sweat, but I was able to grip these really well because they just wick the sweat off.
Now, there’s also the Movcam grips. What I like about the Movcam grips is not only do they have the sweat-wicking ability, but it has a nice gripping area that lines up with your palm. So, what I do is loosen the grips and I rotate them ever-so-slightly in because when I’m in this configuration I like to keep my grips in tight. A lot of times on movies you like that handheld feel, but it’s not like you want it all over the place either. It’s that kind of thing where you just want that feel of your breathing and the frame is just barely moving. Now, that’s a locked set up where you can just stand there giving it a more natural feel. Or, if you’re going in for coverage, I’ll put an apple box down and just sit on that as I’m operating.
When you’re prepping for your next production, remember mobility and quickness can and will save you. Building big doesn’t always mean you lose those qualities. If you have the right tools at your fingertips, you’ll be that much better off.