How to Shoot Great Video With a DSLR

The Next Level: Camera Rigs and Stabilization

Filming video on a DSLR: camera rigs
Very quickly, you will realize that the main issues with DSLR videography are holding and operating the camera comfortably. Video requires a steady hand, and the ergonomic design of a DSLR doesn't help the cause. DSLRs aren't designed to rest on the shoulder as large cameras are, and very few DSLRs have in-camera image stabilization (although many more-expensive lenses on the market are optically stabilized).

Many third-party camera rigs promise to counteract this awkwardness. Rigs can be useful in many ways: They can brace the camera on your shoulder, allow you to grip it comfortably with two hands, let you attach it to a Steadicam-style vest, and, in the most basic setups, use a cord that you stretch out from your neck to add extra support.

The selection of rigs is vast, and so is the range of prices. Costs vary from $20 for a simple rig to beyond $10,000, and prices depend largely on the quality and complexity of the rig. You may not need a rig unless you do a lot of handheld shots; in many cases a tripod will be sufficient for bracing your camera. I use a monopod with a fluid head for just about every shoot I work on.

When deciding which rig or stabilizer to buy (or not to purchase), think about the following key points.

1. What is your budget? (Remember that price isn't everything.)

The most-expensive rig isn't always the best for what you need. If a cheaper rig is comfortable for long-term use and easy to manage in a range of environments, it may be the perfect fit for your needs.

2. What environment will you be filming in?

If you're working in a small, enclosed space, an over-the-shoulder rig might not be suitable, whereas a monopod may be ideal. Rigs are big things, and you have to account for their size when you're planning a shoot. A rig detracts greatly from the convenience of using a small, portable camera, as you'll have this huge piece of kit that you need to lug around as well.

3. What extra attachments do you want to add to the rig?

Different rigs allow different adaptable options: mounts for microphones and other audio devices, LCD monitors, extended battery packs, and the like. But there's no point in buying a $10,000 rig with all the trimmings if you're going to use it only for shooting the occasional family video.

4. Try a rig before you buy it.

Each rig has its pluses and minuses. Go to a place that sells a variety of rigs and try your selections out with your system. I've used many rigs, and models by the same company can have a very different feel from one another. Bear in mind that you will be using the rig a lot, so it needs to be comfortable for extended periods.

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