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EASY RIG 2 AND TORTLERIG

by Christina Fox

Tired aching limbs, tennis elbow, stiff neck and lower back pain. The diagnosis is simple - you're a camera operator. One answer to all your aches, which doesn't involves pain killers, has been developed by a fellow cameraman. It's the Easyrig 2 and its new, smaller incarnation, the Tortlerig.

At first glance the two systems look like a poor man's Steadicam. I walked and ran up and down a flight of stairs with and without the rig and wouldn't say the shots I produced were a great deal steadier because of the rig. But that is to loose the point of why you need to use one. According to the Swedish cameraman, Johan Hellsten, who invented both systems: "This is first and foremost an aid for cameramen; something you use to save your body from strain, and not for improving the quality of filming." It certainly takes the camera's weight off your right shoulder and arms and transfers it to more muscular hips.

tortlerig in actionThe Tortlerig

The new Tortlerig is designed for cameras up to 4kg and so is directly aimed at the prosumer camera owner. However, the best cameras to use with it would have a flip-out LCD screen rather than just a viewfinder. Your camera must also have a carry handle on top of the camera onto which the Tortlerig clips. PD150 owners will be OK, but XL1 owners should probably give it a test drive first.

The Tortlerig came without a set of instructions, but it is so simple to use it is hardly worth wasting ink and paper. The interconnecting frame takes a few seconds to set up, attaching the camera and making sure the backpack is a snug fit, five minutes at the most (and a lot less time once you've got the initial fit right). The whole rig folds up inside a good quality Petrol backpack (which is included). Once rigged, the backpack is empty (but still attached to the rig) and big enough to hold all your microphones, cables and tapes. Although you may need a friend to get them out for you while shooting.

The Tortlerig is a great piece of kit for the lone Video Journalist. When it is not in use you can have both hands free and know exactly where the camera is at all times. Vox pops will definitely be quicker and easier to set up than if you were using a tripod. Anyone who has had to hand hold a small camera (with no shoulder mount) knows that camera shake increases as arm muscles start to tire. The rig really does take the strain off your upper arms and in this way ensures steadier shots. Indeed, both systems are very useful if you want to do hand-held moves, as the weight of the camera is no longer a factor.

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Easy rig 2 The Easyrig

The Easyrig is solid enough to cope with larger, professional film and video cameras (we're talking Betacam weight), although the rig itself is light, at around 3.5kg (just over 7lbs).

It takes a little longer to set up than the Tortlerig, but that is because there are more refined adjustments you can make. The hip belt can be adjusted depending upon the length of your back and the back pad which cushions your spine from the rig can also be adjusted for maximum comfort. Once set up, getting in and out of the Easyrig is as simple as putting on a backpack.

What I didn't like was that there was (unlike the Tortlerig) only one shoulder strap which fits across the chest. Now how can I put this. This may be a snug fit for more flat-chested cameramen but anyone with more than a B cup would probably find it a little uncomfortable. There is also a two shoulder strap Easyrig, which is designed for people with heavier cameras, especially for film use.

It does take a while to get used to both rigs. It can feel as if you're working with a rod up your back (which in a way you are). The more uncoordinated amongst you will need to keep one hand on the camera until you're more adept or you could end up with the hardware, which dangles in front of you, swinging backwards to give you a smack in the teeth.

If the director want shots like the ones in the Shining then hire in a Steadicam operator with rig. But if you want to reduce strain on your back and shoulders then this may just be the piece of kit you've been looking for.

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MORE...
Several companies now offer camera stabilising systems as Steadicam alternatives.
For an alternative rig take a look at the MARzPAK
Buying a camera kit  - the essential guide to everything you'll need.
DV Camera review - a look at six of the most popluar DV cameras
Ikegami's Editcam - a camera that records on a hard drive - not on tape.
Camseat - go on, put your feet up - camera support saves space and lets more spectators to see the big game.

    Camera workbooks - online manuals for a range of cameras
    Review of new camera tripods and mounts from all the manufacturers at IBC 2001.
    Arri has built its new modular motion control system, Arri Motion, around its camera and lens control system.
    P+S Technik and Motion Systems Technology have introduced a new, miniaturised on-camera motion control system, which uses a special lens from P+S, called the T-Rex.
    CamSling - a low-cost alternative to the SteadiCam.

From: Jacmer Date: 29 November 2001 22:15 Subject: Tortlerig? Have you checked out the MARzPAK?

Hi Christina, I did a couple of searches for "Tortlerig" and found your website. If you get a chance, you should check out the MARzPAK handheld camera support system. The MARzPAK can take any camera from 2-35 pounds and the expensive model is about a third the price of the tortlerig and has about twice the quality. Go to: http://www.marztech.com Thanks, Jacques Mersereau, Marztech.com

USER'S FEEDBACK...

From: A Scott Date: 06 August 2001. Subject: Fw: Easy Rig II

Hi Christina, regarding your request on the GTC list for feedback on the Easy Rig support system.. we've had several people road-test it thanks to Lemac Australia. Sydney Cameraman Marinko Kero, who does most of the hand-held work on the Rugby League, and is highly regarded as one of our best hand-held sports Cameramen, used the Easy Rig during an entire match yesterday. I got him to write his thoughts and experience with the Easy Rig, which I have forwarded.

Cheers, Ashley Scott, Sydney - Australia.

From: Marinko Kero. To: A Scott. Sent: 6 August 2001 Subject: Easy Rig II

TEST WITH EASY RIG II ON THE NRL FROM MARINKO KERO - FREELANCE CAMERAMAN

From a hand held television production cameramans point of view I believe that the Easy Rig II (referred as ERII) system may have a potential to be applied in a lot of different film and television productions. I have recently been given the opportunity to trial the ERII with work associates on the sideline of a multi camera production at one of the National Rugby League games covered by Fox Sports in Australia,also to give them my opinions about the use of the ERII as a regular tool in the production of league union or any other productions.

Remarkably enough the ERII harness was extrmely comfortable to wear and distributed the weight with camera quite evenly on your back which is a great plus as opposed to carrying a camera for long period of time on one side of your shoulder.

Most of the faults experienced could be remodified and are as follows:

1) We attached a sony BVP 90 camera which is a little more weightier than your newer digital hand held cameras but discovered that the tension was too tight - or in other words our camera was too light for this specific rig.I would have liked to have operated with an ER that had a lighter tension to see how much more ease it would have been to operate.

2) I understand that the harness is adjustable obviously for taller or shorter operators but with the harness attached around the waist - when the operator is moving at a very slow pace it works well(might be more suited to drama or even commercial production that requires subtle camera moves) but if operator is forced to walk at a faster pace or even run with it lacks stability.We tried to attach the harness as high in the body as possible with the ERII and discovered a vast improvement in stability - maybe a harness that locks around the chest and ribs section might be the way to go.

3) Working with fast moving sports where handheld operators are forced to whip pan with the ball or even players at times,I did come across the problem that you are forced to move you body at the waist and not with the arm as the camera does come in contact with the spine of the ERII - again there may be a way to remodifying the spine.

4) Also with the previosly mentioned problem that we encountered with the tension being too tight this disenabled us to rise the spine of the ERII it probably wouldn't be too bad an idea to make the spine retractable so if it is being operated at a low level there would be less chance of it coming in contact with anything. Despite how negative this article might sound I am confident that with certain modifications the ERII could be applied to a vast number of film and television productions.

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