Of all the types of camera support devices I've used, from jib arms to steadicams to bean bags, the dv MultiRig by DvTec has been one of the most enjoyable products to review. It is a very intelligently designed piece of support hardware. It can be used for handheld work (much like the Manfrotto Fig Rig), two-handed run-and-gun control, or as a stabilizer, shoulder mount, accessory mount, or a variety of other uses.
The dv MultiRig is very flexible and comes in three different packages: two dual-grip systems, the MultiStabilizer ($199) and the MultiStabilizerPlus ($299), and the MultiRigPro, a three-grip complete system that lists for $399. For the quality and functionality of the hardware you get, these prices are quite reasonable. The system that DvTec sent me is the dv MultiRigPro.
The heart and soul of the dv MultiRigPro system is the triple grip, or what I call "The Spider" (left). It has three arms that swing out to any position, and each has a nicely padded grip that folds out. These are attached with good-quality tension joints. Though the included Allen wrench lets you adjust the tension of these joints, I found that they work just fine at the factory settings.
Each grip as a standard 1/4" screw hole in each end to use for attaching accessories or extensions. One grip has telescoping extension ability, along with the ability to mount the extra grip to use shoulder-mounted.
The Support Pod
The MultiRigPro ships with a Support Pod, a three-section rod that sits in a very comfortable and durable belt-clip pouch, as shown in the opening image of this review. Each section is spring-loaded with its own lock-on.
You can adjust it to the height you desire and lock it in, or leave one or both sections unlocked to work more as a stabilizer so you can move up and down more. As with the triple-grip joints, the factory settings for the springs seemed to be the perfect tension for the Panasonic HVX200 I had mounted on the MultiRigPro system.
Flexi Tip Adapter
Once the spring tension settings are properly adjusted, the Support Pod then attaches to the bottom of the rig's main body. Using a very interesting and heavy-duty attachment called a Flexi Tip Adapter, the connection is very secure and, of course, quite flexible (left). It's a hard, rubber-like section that allows it to support quite a bit of weight while still being able to bend in any direction to a very useful degree.
In testing, I used this adapter to get some very good tilting shots, where I began tilted to the left, and slowly tilted the camera over to the right. The Flexi Tip made that super-smooth and easy.
In the Field
I went to a local powwow the weekend before I wrote this review to put the MultiRigPro through its paces. Using the MultiRig with the Support Pod for stabilizer use, and later with the back grip extended to go shoulder-mounted, I found it allowed me to carry my HVX200, along with an FS100 DTE unit mounted to the accessory plate in the back, (see figure, left) for most of the day with great comfort.
Following the directions in the MultiRigPro user manual (a free download from www.dvtec.tv) should give you all the information you need on how to balance the unit on your body. The system uses your body's center of gravity, rather than a counterweight, for support. Making sure you use it properly is important for avoiding unnecessary strain.
Taking the MultiRigPro off and setting it down just required unscrewing the Support Pod, then grabbing my camera by the top handle and setting the whole unit down. In a shoulder-support configuration, just setting it down on all three grips was all I had to do. Then it really looked like a spider—a big, mechanical, high-tech spider!
Both shoulder-mounted and stabilizer configurations give you greater control over the camera without straining your body. Each allows you to let go of either hand quickly and easily without losing any balance or control, so that you can get to your camera's controls on either side. While testing the MultiRigPro I found it surprisingly easy to kneel and get back up using the Support Pod, which rests in a durable pocket that hangs on your belt. I was expecting to feel that spot where that rod would be jamming into my kidney, but, to my delight, I remained very comfortable the whole time I wore it.
Going shoulder-mounted with this system I found both the LCD and EVF in the perfect spot for me. I could easily use both at the same time, which was a great help since I was constantly moving between sunny areas where I couldn't see the LCD and shady areas where the EVF helped me see my shot better. Getting to the camera controls was also very easy. I could remove either hand and the unit would remain stable and balanced while I adjusted camera settings.
MultiRigged vs. Handheld
Using the MultiRigPro in its simplest form, you can fold out only the front two arms with the grips pointing to the ground and then position each to the sides of the camera and a little forward for balance, and you've got some really nice control over the camera. Using two hands means your arms will last longer going handheld, which is why handle position for balance is so important. Place the handles too far towards the rear of the camera, and it can get to be more awkward than going handheld with a compact camera like the HVX200. It only takes a few moments of experimenting to find that sweet spot. In this configuration, I see it giving the same basic control as the famed Fig Rig.
Although your hands are away from the camera controls, you still have much more control over camera movement than working purely handheld, which places an inherent limit on your range of movement. Using the MultiRigPro in its two grip configuration, I found I had a very wide range of easy and controlled movement in all directions. Using both hands also relieves the strain on your right wrist that comes from holding the camera on your wrist for too long.
The ability to pan, tilt, walk, rise, and crouch, and the smooth motion that results are also very nice. I found smoother movement on-screen doing the same moving shot using the MultiRigPro than when I did it pure handheld. I also found that because I was holding parallel fists out in front of me when using the MultiRigPro, rather than having my wrists all bent up in very unnatural positions underneath the camera, I had a tendency to make different types of movement than I ever did going handheld.
Unlike the Fig Rig, the MultiRigPro will handle the mounting of a wide variety of accessories, including rail systems, in a wide variety of ways with great ease of use. It can also be configured to mount onto a standard tripod.
The MultiRigPro package also comes with an accessory plate, 3/8'' and Hot Shoe mounting adapters, a flat plate with two screw holes, and one 1/4'' and 3/4'' screw each. It has miniature bungee cords that wrap around from side to side several times. I mounted it on the end of the rear grip when working shoulder-mounted with my FS-100 strapped in. I used velcro strips to manage the FireWire cable (with a right-reversed angle on the 4-pin end) running from the FS-100 to the HVX200. The elastic securing straps on the accessory plate held my FS-100 in place very securely. I felt very comfortable with it and trusted it, and it didn't let me down.
Handling the MultiRigPro can be awkward at first, but once you get used to it, it's pretty easy to deal with. There are just so many folding arms and parts, make sure your fingers don't get pinched!
All in all, I was very impressed with the quality of manufacturing that went into the MultiRigPro, as well as the system's overall functionality and flexibility. It is a very usable, intelligently designed support system, built with top-quality materials. What's more, it folds down to take up very little space in a camera or accessory bag, and it's much lighter than it looks.
If you need to do a lot of handheld work or run-and-gun work, this is a product worth a serious look. For even more ideas of what you can do with the MultiRigPro, check out DvTec's website (www.dvtec.tv), where you'll find a full page of photos that illustrate the range of shooting options and configurations that this product has to offer the creative camera person.