I love gadgets and tools of the trade as much as the next guy. I do try to evaluate and research reviews and specs on new tools before I purchase them. Because of the way we shoot our wedding movies here at Frogman Productions, I am shooting handheld almost the entire day while my wife operates from a tripod. At a ceremony, we have a third camera on a tripod as a dump-to cam. My responsibility is to get all those
b-roll shots that make the movie more interesting.
This means I am on the move a fair amount. A shoulder adapter works well when I'm standing still, but I can't get a flying shot with a shouldermount. If you have a flying-type stabilizer, you'll find that all they're good for is short moments of silky smooth flying footage. Then they get heavy. Vest-mounted systems are an option for some, but not all studios have the shooting style or the funds to justify an investment that size. I'm always looking for a better stabilizer that will allow me to do as many of the different types of stable shots as possible using a single device.
When I first saw the Sivan HV-05 Mini DV Camera Stabilizer, it intrigued me, as it seemed to have the stability for shouldermount-style shooting while offering some options for doing flying shots pretty well. When the opportunity arose to try one out, I was pretty happy. The inventor of the stabilizer, Aneesh Sivan, happened to be doing a shoot a few hours from me and thus was able to deliver the unit and give me a lesson on how to use it. The HV-05 website (www.sivanstabilizer.com) stresses that the main customer for the unit thus far has been wildlife and military media shooters, but wedding videographers are starting to realize it works well for events as well.
Construction and Setup
When I saw the Sivan Stabilizer for the first time it appeared well-made. Then I picked it up. It wasn't just heavy-duty; it was heavy. This worried me, as weight tends to exhaust a shooter pretty quickly. I was immediately not as enamored with the unit as I was when watching the demo on the HV-05 website. That said, the quality of build was top-notch, and the attention to detail was evident in every way. It folds into a very small form factor for transport, but when it's time to shoot, you can have your camera on and ready to go in less than 5 minutes.
The HV-05 has an adjustable shoulder support with a foam pad for comfort. One problem I noticed was that I could feel the weight of the device on my shoulder immediately, even with the pad. I mentioned to Aneesh that I felt the pad was not sufficient. I received an email a few days later that all future shipments will include the pad I received as well as a new, thicker pad, leaving users to pick the one they prefer. Military customers love it just as it is, Aneesh says, since they are already wearing lots of layers for cushion. But event shooters will most likely want the thicker cushion.
The weekend after I received the HV-05 we had a wedding, so I put it through its paces. Remember that concern I had about the weight? I discovered over the course of the day that the weight bothered me less and less. The weight actually helps stabilize and buffer the camera movements. In the shoulder mode, my shots at full zoom or at near full zoom were as good or better than they were with the DvMultiRig stabilizer I'd been using.
The next big test for me was the "flying" test. The shoulder bar seemed to be placed in a location where you could rest the joint on top of your hand and let the shoulder bar rest on your forearm. I was anxious to give it a try. When I had a few moments to try it out, I was pleased with how stable it was while walking around. The real test came after arriving back at the studio when I checked the footage. The flying footage was a huge improvement over what I was getting with my previous stabilizer. The reason the HV-05 was able to create improved flying footage is because the foldout balance wings create a ballast to absorb bumps.
The HV-05 has a standard 1/4" 20-thread mount that is not adjustable, which means your camera may cause it to be top-heavy or tail-heavy. I shared this concern with Aneesh, and he told me he is working on creating a bigger mount head with a sliding screw that will provide the ability to balance the camera. You can also add a tripod head mount on top to get flexibility to adjust your camera fore and aft for better balance.
This also makes it easy to go from the HV-05 to a tripod. I didn't have a tripod mount in my arsenal, so I was fighting the balance a little with my Canon XH A1 camera. It passed the flying test pretty well in spite of the slight balance issue.
Am I Stable?
All in all, the HV-05 handled my handheld shooting very well and provided very good flying footage. My biggest complaints upon first seeing the HV-05 were the weight and the thin pad on the shoulder support. The shoulder support issue was resolved by press time, and the weight ended up being an asset to the unit rather than a problem. As of mid-August the Sivan has become my go-to stabilizer for all my wedding shoots.
The other factor that I felt would be a drawback for many was the price. At $599, the HV-05 is priced higher than most other stabilizers it would compete with. However, if you needed to purchase both a shoulder mount and a flying stabilizer, you would probably spend more for both of those units and spend a bunch of time swapping them out on a shoot. The HV-05 can handle both tasks without swapping, which is a huge advantage.
Camera stabilizers come in all shapes and sizes. They're not for everyone. Not every stabilizer will be a good fit for every shooter, but the Sivan HV-05 will be a good fit for many of us in the wedding and event world. The quality of the build is exceptional, and its functionality has proven a good fit for my style. Will it be for yours? Aneesh will be at WEVA Expo later this month, so if you're there, be sure to stop by his booth and check it out for yourself. You can learn more about it by viewing the video demo on the HV-05 website.
At some point, all of us in this business probably ask ourselves, "Am I stable?" I can say that at least my shooting will be more stable now with the HV-05. As for me personally, ask me after wedding season
Philip Hinkle (philip at frogmanproductions.com) runs Madison, Wisconsin-area video production company Frogman Productions. A 2008 EventDV 25 honoree, he won a 2008 WEVA CEA Gold in the Social Event category and a 2006 4EVER Group AAA Diamond. He is a featured speaker at WEVA Expo 2009. He is also co-founder and vice president of the Wisconsin Digital Media Group.