Ergorig Vest Field Review – Operator Friendly Camera Support

February 17th, 2020
Ergorig Vest Field Review - Operator Friendly Camera Support

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.

The Ergorig shoulder pad isn’t meant to connect with your shoulder. Instead, it floats the camera an inch or two above. Image Credit: Tiffany Murray

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.

Alexa LF + Ergorig. Image Credit: Tiffany Murray

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.

1st AC Tiffany Murray tries on the Ergorig. Image Credit: Graham Sheldon

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.

 

 

 

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Jesse FeldmanJesse FeldmanPeterC BAnonymous Recent comment authors
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 C B
C B
MemberFebruary 18th, 2020

My .02 as someone that owns a full set-up(Ergorig and Undersling) and has had it for a few weeks, now, but is still ‘shaking it down’. It’s well made and the idea is pretty solid, but it’s not for every camera and every situation. It’s mostly intended for ‘flat bottom’ cameras. As someone that shoots with mostly ENG cameras and cameras rigged up “ENG Style”(meaning VCT style shoulder mounts), the large flat top platform is not a good match with a shoulder mount designed to go on and fit the contours of a human shoulder(notice most pics you see are of flat bottom cameras). With a camera with a true shoulder pad, the camera wants to roll toward the operator and forward. It takes a normally neutral camera set-up and makes it behave front-heavy. So you’re kind of struggling against the camera two-ways, now. It is not as stable as sitting on a human shoulder, in that regard. I semi counteracted this by raising the front of the Ergorig higher than the back, but it’s still not great, once you move out of this “balanced point”. And speaking of that, even with it adjusted to JUST barely not touching your shoulder, it still raises the camera up pretty high, compared to traditional positioning ON your shoulder. At best, the VF is at forehead level, so you’re angling the VF down and tilting your head up. This is not an ideal operating position for extended periods(I don’t like doing it period). Raising the camera also means you may be raising your arms higher than normal, adding additional fatigue to your shoulders(could be counteracted by where/how you adjust your grips, if you use any). You’re also not getting the feedback of the camera actually resting on your shoulder like you normally would and you’re not able to make little ‘micro-adjustments’ with your shoulder for positioning/tweaking like is sometimes necessary. And one of the biggies that you see people sort of sidestep or just plain not answer when asked(and Graham mentioned this), it introduces a lot of sway when you walk, because it’s all now connected to your hips. Also, with the shoulder pad on the Ergorig itself, it makes tilting the camera down and repositioning it smoothly very hard. It’s definitely not an “on air move”. I even tried removing the Ergorig’s shoulder pad to see if it would help my situation and it does make it smoother, since there isn’t the resistance that is there with the textured pad, but I don’t think it’s a great idea, because now there is no resistance and no shock absorption period, up there. I think if they designed a shoulder pad to work with a true shoulder mounted camera(meaning it’s contoured like a real human shoulder), it could help a lot. Speaking of, again, if you look at the original design and video from last year, they actually had a roll adjustment built-in to the top platform, so you could roll it left or right(which would help), but they removed it from the current design. I’ve actually reached out to them about this, but haven’t gotten a satisfactory answer(basically: we’ll pass it along to Cinema Devices).

Moving on to the Undersling attachment, it’s another good idea, but it’s not as easy and quick to use as you think, mostly because the “tube” gets in the way and wraps around the camera the wrong way when you’re trying to put the camera back on your shoulder. I also wish they would re-design or replace the long tightening handle to a circular knob instead of an adjustable/”ratcheting” style. It just feels in the way and makes it even bigger than it is and less elegant than it could be. It eats up a lot of real estate on your camera handle, especially since you ideally want to mount it at the balance point, which is where you also naturally want to grab your camera…

I’m going to keep testing and playing around with it to see if I can make it work for me, but right now, I’d say it’s best uses are narrative “set” work with 1) a flat bottom camera(or large opening/removeable shoulder pad) and 2) if you’re largely just standing in one place while shooting(not walking and shooting at the same time). I can see it being popular on some reality shows, as well, where a lot of it is just standing around shooting people talking.

Right now, the SteadyGum works much better with my style of shooting. No, it doesn’t take all of the weight off of your shoulder, but it does help spread it around and you can make quick and easy camera placement adjustments(tilt up and down and make micro-adjustments with your actual shoulder) and walk with it while shooting. And you can also shoot at hip level with it while getting some decent support for the camera, as well.

sam broggs
sam broggs
MemberFebruary 18th, 2020

Thanks for this great additional review. I have asked reviewers and manufacturers multiple times for footage while walking months ago but didn’t get anything. Very strange that it isn’t even included in the article. Its obvious that the footage cannot be steady while walking when connected to your hips.

Jesse Feldman
Jesse Feldman
GuestMarch 11th, 2020

Hi Sam, very sorry for this being so delayed, but I’ve finally put together some demo footage to show handheld with an Ergorig vs. on the shoulder. You can view all of them together here: https://youtu.be/tkFiVYxGL-c (or see the playlist for individual tests). Thanks!

Jesse Feldman
Jesse Feldman
GuestMarch 28th, 2020

Sorry, here’s the working link: https://youtu.be/MI8ZxaIHi2A

Anonymous
Anonymous
GuestFebruary 20th, 2020

This review was WAY more helpful than the article LoL

 C B
C B
MemberFebruary 22nd, 2020

Update: The guys at Ergorig/Cinema Devices have reached out to me and are trying to help me find a solution for my main problem of the way an ENG camera wants to sit on the Ergorig..

Toufek Smithee
Toufek Smithee
MemberMarch 4th, 2020

Very interesting, great people… trying to adjust their design slightly to accommodate the curve of shoulder pad in order to adapt a little bit better to various cameras is definitely promising. I would love to hear more.

 Joe Spit
Joe Spit
MemberFebruary 17th, 2020

incredibly lame for the incredibly weak

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