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January 14, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 1

Freehand DSLR video

By Dayton from SLN More Blogs by This Author

Shooting DSLR video can be tricky. A DSLR camera usually has great video function in addition to its photographic prowess and is loved by independent filmmakers everywhere. One of the biggest challenges that I have faced with DSLR videography is trying to shoot "Run and Gun" style, or handheld. 

The Issue

Aside from rolling shutter, the biggest obstacle to overcome while handheld shooting is the sheer unwieldy nature of a DSLR. There is no real place that conforms to your hand that allows you to have a solid grip, making the footage shot look extra shaky. 

Don't fret, we can fix it!

Action Grip

In a budget sensitive production you may not have hundreds of dollars to throw at the problem, which can be another problem completely. What I have found to be cheap and effective is an action grip. Sunpak makes one that will get the job done and it only costs $30. It is designed for using "action cams" like GoPro's and Adixxion cameras but can handle a DSLR as well.

A major drawback in this design is that it becomes worthless when you want to bring the camera above your shoulders; because the handle is on the top, smoothly maneuvering a heavy DSLR is almost impossible.


A steadicam, also called a smoothcam or glidecam, is a viable options as well. They can be purchased from a variety of manufacturers and vary in price. The basic idea behind the steadicam is that absorbing shock using a counterweight system. For handheld video, these will probably give you your best result, the only problem is that they can get very difficult to control.

First, you need to balance your camera with the counterweights that are provided. It can get tedious repositioning the camera position and counterweights every time you change lenses. A steadicam won't perform well under intense circumstances because leaning too far too quickly in one direction will cause the camera to wobble. Some of the better steadicams steady the wobble quickly, while others wobble for what seems like forever when the movement completely ruins your shot. It gets annoying very quickly when you can't make any sudden movements.

Fig Rig

A Fig Rig is used for especially intense shooting environments, most likely a place you won't take a DSLR. If you do, however, make sure that you are using either a very deep depth of field or a lens with a fast autofocus. The reason being is that in order to operate a Fig Rig you need both hands, which can make focusing a PAIN! Aside from the that, a Fig Rig is easy to use and provides a super solid grip. 

The biggest strength of a Fig Rig is its angle versatility. I've seen these used on different extreme sports shows, and they get some really cool "point of view" shots. Because they are so easily operated and help protect the camera, you will most likely see someone with a Fig Rig capturing someone flying in the air.

Obviously, a handheld shot isn't always appropriate. In my next blog I will discuss a few good tripod options! :D

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