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When I started getting into video, especially video on a DSLR, I had no idea what I was buying into. Shooting video on any device brings about the challenge of stabilizing the camera. And it’s NOT just as simple as throwing it on a tripod. Wish that it were.

In order to really get into the whole Vince LaForet thing, you need a grip. From Wikipedia – grips are lighting and rigging technicians in the film and video industries. They constitute their own department on a film set and are directed by a key grip. Grips have two main functions. The first is to work closely with the camera department to provide camera support, especially if the camera is mounted to a dolly, crane, or in an unusual position, such as the top of a ladder. Some grips may specialize in operating camera dollies or camera cranes.

When you look at all the stuff you can buy from places like Red Rock Micro, Zacuto and Cinevate (to name a few) you start to realize that running the camera is easy. Mounting it to these monstrosities called cages, sliders and ENG rigs is the hard part. On a professional job, you usually have a grip or two or three. These lovely, hard-working, talented people put all this stuff together. Then you magically walk up behind the camera and say “action.”

The problem is, most people can’t find or afford a good grip. That means you have to do it yourself. And here comes the bad news. It ain’t easy – by a long shot. Now the companies that make the gear will tell you it’s easy. That’s because they really believe it is. But that’s like Bobby Fischer saying chess is easy – because it is – to him.

It appears I have little influence over these companies. I’ve explained to them all that photographers aren’t by nature – good at being grips. When you buy an ENG unit or a slider and you get a box full of nuts and bolts and a picture of what it’s supposed to look like when it’s built – for most of us, that’s not good enough.

The companies making this gear need to ship it assembled, provide much better installation instructions, and rethink their designs so that they are easier to implement. In their defense, one of the problems they battle is that they are trying to keep the gear flexible so it can be configured and reconfigured for different jobs. While that is an important goal for pure video shooters – it’s less important for photographers. We’re used to buying purpose-built products. Simply put that ENG unit together for me, ship it ready to go, and make it simple.

If you want to get serious about shooting video you are eventually going to need some of this gear so my advice? Get to know some starving film students. Let them play with it in return for their help when you want to set it up and shoot with it.

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