Because the Ergorig made such an impression during Cinegear 2019, I was itching for any opportunity to put the camera support system to the test. Luckily, during a recent Alexa LF shoot, I was able to get my hands on the new support rig to check out the impact when operating the 30 lb. camera. Details below:
Anyone who has spent hours working a large camera or even a medium-sized one knows the toll it can take on hands and shoulders. You may love the job and adrenaline might buy you time, but after a while, you’ll start to feel discomfort, maybe even pain. There are several devices on the market to help with this. They range from simple shoulder pads to the Ready-Rig, Iron Man, and Easyrig. All are designed to lessen discomfort, but each excels in a different area. Anyone who uses an Easyrig for long duration knows that when you move the rig, it tends to inject a bounce into the camera move. If you’ve used the Ready-Rig, you know you’re all set with a gimbal like the Ronin 2, but that’s where its usefulness ends.
Ergorig has a “why didn’t we think of this before” feel to it. To some degree it resembles a Steadicam vest, but where a Steadicam vest moves weight to the waist from a Steadicam arm and sled, the Ergorig moves shouldered or underslung weight to the waist. A simple idea on paper, but as with any device it’s all about performance in the end. In my trial with the Alexa LF Ergorig delivered. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you know I’m not prone to hyperbole so trust me when I say that the effectiveness of the Ergorig has to be felt to be believed.
During filming, your process might be something like this: a heavy camera like the Alexa LF has to be taken out of the case. Your arms take the whole weight of the camera and then, most likely with the help of an AC, you slowly transfer the weight of the now balanced camera to the shoulder pad of the Ergorig. It is at this point you will notice a big difference.
The type of operating the Ergorig works best for is shouldered and basic underslung using the additional accessory. For very low handheld you might find the Easyrig more useful, however if you are over 6 ft. tall, door frames may turn out to be a problem as they are for me with the Easyrig. Door frames are never an issue with the Ergorig as your physical profile isn’t expanded much by wearing it — which is not the case with nearly all the other camera support devices on the market.
The cost of the Ergorig ($1,850) and the undersling accessory ($750) mean you are going to obviously need to use the equipment enough to warrant the purchase. Not all shows have a shouldered feel to the cinematography, and if most of your work is with 5 lbs. DSLR or mirrorless camera bodies and not with camera systems over 15 lbs., you may want to rethink the expenditure. If production isn’t willing to rent the Ergorig for you (see rental options below) then consider making the purchase as an investment in your long-term health. This was my justification as I’d like to be operating camera for at least a few more decades.
The Ergorig ships with a soft bag for storage and though I wouldn’t recommend checking it on an airline it’s easy to reduce the overall size of the rig for daily transport. You simply loosen the front and rear wheels and slide the ends of the Ergorig together to make it smaller. An added bonus is that the front, back, and lower shoulder pads are all detachable and can be machine washed — very helpful if you’re carrying the Ergorig in your rental house.
The rig itself feels durable enough to last for years. Sizing is easy and the “standard” size seems to work with most body types although a version is available if you have a torso under 21 inches in length as measured from front hip to top middle shoulder. For additional sizing information, go to the FAQ section of their website HERE.
Panavision, AbleCine, ARC, HD Optics, Lightstone, Antagonist Camera, DC Camera, The Camera Dept., and Keslow all carry Ergorigs for rent and a quick search on Sharegrid and Kitsplit also reveals many Ergorigs available for rent.
Unions and other industry groups spend tons of time disseminating safety and health information in various seminars, but it is rare that I see information specifically meant for operators. I’m not a doctor, but if you spend hours per day with a +15 lb. or heavier camera on your shoulder, then it follows that the Ergorig may be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
What do you think? Is the Ergorig the camera support device you’ve been looking for? Let us know in the comments below.