It’s very simple. The key to camera support is all in the name. Any piece of equipment that supports your camera during a shoot belongs in this category. That can be anything from a monopod to a $150k technocrane — and really, anything that facilitates camera movement. To really unpack this topic though, we should start with the basics and go from there. How about our good buddy the tripod for starters?
Tripods and beyond
Tripods are the absolute must have of filmmaking. Through the years, they’ve become more commonplace and less and less expensive. The basic tripod will do the trick for simple pans and tilts and the occasional dutch angle. More advanced tripods will have a rotating z-axis too so you can rotate the camera for some really gut-churning shots.
In this same vein is the hi hat, essentially an adorable miniature version of the tripod. Hi hats mount the camera very low to the ground while still offering the same camera movements available on a tripod.
Lots of handheld rigs are also considered camera support. Like the classic shoulder rig for example, where the camera mounts onto an arm that rests on the camera operators shoulder for weight distribution. The classic wheel rig is another that can be held like a steering wheel or from the top or bottom. These handhelds obviously won’t have the stability of some other camera supports, but they are great when you’re looking for less produced, more realistic content.
Nothing like a smooth dolly
Dollies are a type of camera support where the camera movement is achieved using either wheels or, in the case of a Dana dolly, a track. A tiny tripod head on a few casters and the massive contraption above are both considered dollies since they move on wheels. The main movements you can achieve is the classic dolly in and out and then the truck left and truck right. Depending on the type and size, a dolly may require up to three crew — the camera operator, a follow focus and a dolly rig. To be sure, dollies aren’t the easiest rig to throw into a set. They require an experienced crew and some set up time and forethought. But, when done right, nothing’s better than a smooth as heck dolly in.
A gimbal what?
A relatively new technology in the world of camera support, gimbals are a camera support rig that keeps the camera on its own axis so the movements of the camera operator don’t disturb it. It allows for hand held shooting without the traditional camera shake that comes with it. The versatility of this rig is quickly making it one of the most popular camera supports, especially for run-and-gun or smaller scale shoots.
Jibs vs. Cranes
To be honest, there’s really not that much difference between a jib and a crane. Cranes are generally bigger though and can lift more weight. These are both going to be the big boys in camera support and they’ll cost more money to buy or rent. But the shots you can get with these are truly incomparable. They allow the camera to go much higher than possible with other methods and the continuous shots can be super cinematic.
Our commercial for Moisture Shield is a great example of beautiful shots achieved with a jib. The arm of the jib allowed our camera op to achieve that smooth swoop over the deck flooring. It was the perfect way to show off the handiwork of the deck while keeping the camera movement interesting.
Camera support technology is evolving all the time. Nowadays it’s possible to mechanize and preset camera movements to run again and again. This tech can be applied to everything from tripods to sliders to jibs and cranes. Just imagine the amazing effects you can achieve when you know the camera is getting the same shot from the same angle for as many times as you need! This is also super helpful in instances when you have only a few chances to capture something and need to take out the human error factor if you can.
Respect to the steadicam
Last but not least, we need to mention the famed steadicam. The steadicam is an incredible piece of technology. And, when paired with an experienced operator, the shots that you can achieve with it are really unparalleled. It’s a particular favorite around here, especially with our head Director of Photography, Trey Gregory. “If you’ve got a good steadicam operator,” Trey said, “he or she can elevate your shots in a way that I think no other camera support can really do because it is so versatile.”
And it’s so true. Even though lots of filmmakers are choosing the sleek gimbals to get shots akin to the steadicam, for the truly cinematic stuff, nothing beats putting an amazing camera build (that, keep in mind, wouldn’t necessarily fit on a smaller gimbal rig) onto a steadicam and handing it off to a true pro.
Camera support at ECG
At ECG, we’ve been around every type of camera support. We know the best build for whatever shot you’d like to get. Our camera department has the experience to bring your production to life and our state of the art facility in North Atlanta is fully equipped to make it happen! Let ECG handle your production while providing the unparalleled production experience we pride ourselves on. Contact us today!