Necessity, who is the mother of invention. - Plato
Recently I purchased a Canon HV30 Camcorder and I love it! But I do have one issue with it. It's small. No, I mean tiny. I'm used to a shoulder camera like the big ENG camcorders newsmen carry. I like the stability it gives me. Just plop it on my shoulder, point and shoot! My Panasonic AG-DVC20 is such a camera. Lightweight and comfortable, plus very stable.
The HV30 is a tiny but powerful camcorder with all the quality I want, however it is a major pain to keep steady. So while working on my recent documentary I was also exploring a means to turn the HV30 into something I can man handle a bit better.
I looked at several shoulder supports for camcorders, many of them very good but also very expensive. I began to think I could build a shoulder support that is ergonomic and comfortable and would not break the bank. I believe I have such a design now.
I went through many versions and modifications to design the shoulder shooter. There was a great deal of research and redesigns before I got it right. In the process, I accumulated the knowledge to make a great shoulder support system. I had to buy tools and search for parts all over to bring it together and now I have a working prototype. I ended up spending more for all the parts and designs than some supports cost just to buy. But the end result is fantastic!
Through all of the tests and modifications I now have it down to a science. My goal was comfort, light weight, steady, and stable. I believe I hit the mark on each one. The shouldershooter was born!
I had friends test it to see if it worked for them too. They all loved it, in fact one friend wanted to buy it then and there! Seeing this excitement over something I made and hearing how others found the same stability and ease I had found I decided to make several and sell them. After all, I had all the parts and tools now.
One of my close friends was so stoked over it he volunteered to help make them! We began discussing the manufacture of more. Since I work from home I can devote the time and effort to make these now that I know all the steps necessary to do it right. I know not everyone has the tools, time, a place to work, will to make a good support or much less time finding all the right parts.
The Shoulder shooter is designed to be comfortable to handle and keep a steady hold on the camera. As a videographer you know the most stable position is to pull your elbows in and anchor them against your body to steady your shots. The shoulder shooter has a front and side handle so you can do just that. Your hands are not stretched out in front of you, holding the shooter keeps you stable so your body can rotate at the waist. You become a tripod. The shoulder shooter becomes an extension of you.
The shoulder shooter has thick padding both on the shoulder and the hand grips reducing fatigue shooting long shots. The shoulder arch is large enough for a big built operator (like me) as well as a small person. It is close enough to look through a viewfinder on large camcorders yet far enough away to see the flip out screen on your camera without strain. You hold it like a rifle and aim. No more carpel tunnel or wrist fatigue. And between shots it's easy to relax and carry. For the HV30 I prefer the flip out screen.
The shoulder shooter rests on three points, your shoulder and both hands. This gives you three points of stability. You can easily remove a hand to control the camera and still maintain a steady shot. This is a perfect system for run - and - gun shooting or sports. You can follow the action with ease plus hold a steady shot at a wedding or long event. Your elbows are not tense but provide support and it does not add much additional weight to the camera. The shouldershooter weighs about 1 pound.
Holding the camera in this way is more comfortable and natural. You can aim and shoot like holding a gun.
The Shoulder Shooter is made of durable PVC and nylon. It has foam grips and rubber padding. The bolt is rubber covered for comfort and there is a nylon nub for the second hole in your camera platform (in front of the tripod screw hole) that prevents the camera from twisting on the base. The base is foam covered to grip the camcorder and hold it tightly. The unit is sealed and screwed to hold it together. Each unit is painted gloss black. (The prototype is pictured here)
The shooter picked up a nickname during the design phase, we call it the "Gunny" because of it's gun look & feel. I'm building up a small stock of them despite everyone wanting to "take one and play with it." I can't blame them, it is fun to use and better than hand-held!
We have tried several cameras on it from my HV30 to smaller JVC's and older Hi8 camcorders. It works with all of them. I'm sure most camcorders will fit on it. There is plenty of room for larger camcorders too, though we don't have one to try it. My DVC20 fits but it has it's own shoulder pad. This will be perfect for non shoulder type camcorders and palm cameras. (Like the HV30) It is very difficult to hold a camcorder steady, this unit makes it much easier.
I like the fact that I can control the zoom and record button with either hand and still keep one on the support to steady the camera. Two hands are better than one. Attaching the camcorder is easy too. Just sit the camera in place on the base, lift the screw up and turn the screw key under the base to lock it in place. Much like you attach a tripod plate.
I see the shouldershooter as a perfect accessory for soccer moms who want to get steady shots of their kids playing. Sports and action shooters and event videography where you need to move fast then hold a steady shot for a long time. Even news crews could use it! Anytime you want to hold your camcorder steady and get the shots you need! It can be your primary support system or an addition to your video arsenal that helps you shoot the way you want to.
Each unit is hand crafted and built sturdy, then tested to hold a camera tight. Only the best materials are used. It is painted and sealed then left to dry for 24 hours before final assembly & packing. It will be shipped assembled and ready to use.
I have the web site up now, no video yet. I'll be shooting a video demo later this week. The introductory price is $49.95, you can get one here (www.shouldershooter.com.)
In the meantime, go shoot something! ;-)