Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Fleximount: Hand-Held without Tears

Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Fleximount: Hand-Held without Tears

Article excerpt

An experienced cameraman, dissatisfied with mounts available for hand-holding cinema cameras, designs a unique flexible harness that takes the strain off the operator and allows the camera to "float"

I was assisting an experienced camera operator one day on a very complicated shot, at the end of which he said to me: "Always make yourself comfortable before you start to shoot."

I think he said that to me because he half-sensed that I was quite impressed with the way he'd executed the shot. Well, I was impressed, but I had an immediate mental picture of a camera operator lounging in a plush armchair, one hand on the pan bar, the other on a big cigar-comfortable being the operative word.

Anyway, those words stuck in my memory, so that when my chance came to operate, I understood exactly what he was getting at.

Some of the tricks an operator uses to make himself comfortable include paying attention to such details as: the way a track is laid, the angle of the Moviola dolly, the balance of the camera on the geared or fluid head, the unwanted reflections in the Mitchell viewfinder (in pre-reflex days), someone to lock off the pan and tilt at the end of a tricky shot and the correctly selected gear on the Worral or Moy head. All these details and many more contribute to the operator's being comfortable during the shot, and being able to concentrate fully on getting a nicely composed scene.

Having proved his advice to be sound, there was still one aspect of filming which I found to be very short on comfort-namely, hand-held shooting.

1967 was about the time that cinema vérité and the ever-moving camera came into vogue. I found, as did other camera operators, that I was frequently asked to make hand-held shots (both for TV commercials and for features). What was lacking was not only muscle-power to carry and point the camera, but some form of harness that would support the camera and allow the operator freedom of camera movement.

Up to that time, existing camera supports allowed for no camera movements, other than a form of panning. They all had one thing in common: a rigid plate for the camera. One's breathing was transmitted through the equipment to the camera, and the result showed on the screen. No tilting was possible, other than that achieved by bending one's body backward or forward-which was uncomfortable, since the mount dug into the poor old stomach.

And so was born the Fleximount Camera Sling and Harness.

The first prototype was, naturally, rather crude, but it fulfilled its intended function. Now, instead of the camera being rigidly fixed, it was "floating".

The next step was to introduce it to a few cameramen and operators in order to find out their impressions of it. Most of them approached it warily and were very suspicious of it- although, once it was on their shoulders with the camera in position, they were pleasantly surprised to find that the camera was free to pan, tilt and even roll, with the weight evenly distributed on the shoulders.

By this time, I realized that the Fleximount would have to be universal and adaptable enough to support several types of cameras of differing configurations. This posed some design problems, which were eventually overcome, so that now the Fleximount accepts most cameras, other than those that rest mainly on the right shoulder (Eclair NPR, ACL, Arriflex 35BL). …

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