In spring 2007, Von Wedding Films made the transition from DV to HDV and began shooting weddings with two Sony Z1s and an FX1. Previously, my primary camera had been a Sony DSR-250. I really liked the stability it offered, so my biggest concern was capturing rock-solid footage of the special dances and toasts with the smaller handheld camera zoomed in at 12X.
Using a tripod for those events was not an option. I used a monopod for the first two wedding receptions I shot with my Z1. While the monopod gave me some stability, I also felt restricted, and I found that it limited my creativity while shooting, especially when shooting dance sequences. We shoot the first dance and parents’ dances with two cameras. My wife, Trisha, shoots wide shots and creative shots from various angles and locations. I usually stay in one location and shoot only close-up and medium shots. I’m watching for emotion and details, which is why I am usually zoomed in as much as 12X. I also love the look of a shallow depth of field that 12X delivers. I will use a dutch angle in order to frame both the bride and groom tight and then slowly zoom out and release the dutch—a move commonly known as a "dutch roll." Attempting a dutch roll with a monopod was very unnatural for me. I needed a device that would give me the camera stabilization I needed without impeding the freedom of movement I needed to get the shot. My solution: the DvTec Multi Rig Pro.
The Multi Rig Pro is my answer to attaining the stability of a shoulder camera from a handheld camera. I use a Bogen 625 quick release plate on my Multi Rig. It matches the quick release systems on my tripods, monopods, and Glidecam. The quick release is a must for getting on and off the Multi Rig quickly.
The Multi Rig Pro has three arms which are independently adjustable, allowing them to support a variety of shooting needs. One arm rests on my shoulder, and the other two are handgrips. With just these three arms configured this way I could obtain steady shots, but only for a limited amount of time. What makes it possible to shoot for hours without feeling fatigued is the support pod. The support pod screws into the base of the Multi Rig and the other end rests in a holster which I mount to a belt.
The support pod is spring-loaded, which is a great feature for several reasons. One, I can very easily and quickly adjust the height of my camera. When I find the desired height, I lock the pod in that position. Two, I can gently walk around with the spring released. It is not Glidecam smooth, but it is better than typical walking shots. Three, I can shoot chest-high and then, just a few seconds later, shoot from above my head and the support pod does all of the heavy lifting. All I have to do is focus and frame the shot. Four, it allows the Multi Rig to fit videographers ranging in height from 5'3" to 6'6".
I have demo’d the Multi Rig at trade shows and have seen the smallest of women and the tallest of men attempt to use it, and it seems to cover the majority of body sizes.
Another benefit with the support pod is the flexi tip. I can angle the camera, left or right, up or down without adjusting my body. The flexi tip does all of the work. This allows me to shoot the previously-mentioned dutch rolls. I can also have the camera above my head and angle it down toward the dance floor.
The two front arms are also very versatile. The Multi Rig feels very comfortable and natural when holding the two front arms. Using this technique does not allow me to adjust my focus and iris, so I will bring the left arm back and rest my hand on it while I adjust the focus and iris. With my right hand on the front arm I cannot use the zoom or start and stop the camera. For this problem I have two solutions. First, I slide my hand into the camera’s hand brace, as I would for traditional shooting. Then I can zoom as well as start and stop the camera. The second solution is to buy a small LANC controller and mount it to the right arm. For this I have the Varizoom VZ-Rock.
If I need a low angle, I can quickly pull the rig off my shoulder and sit it on the floor. With the back arm I can adjust the angle to be positioned up, down, or level. There is no need to remove the support pod. The flexi tip allows the pod to rest on the floor without having to remove it.
I have also used the Multi Rig for a wide variety of events, from capturing the toasts at rehearsal dinners to shooting football games. I can shoot anything with my Z1 without missing the stability of my DSR-250. I do not use the Multi Rig for Pre Ceremony or Ceremony, but I have found it to be irreplaceable for reception coverage.
Shameless Plug Warning: The Multi Rig Pro sells for $485 and that includes everything but a belt. The optional belt is $44. I believe in the product so much, that I sell the Multi Rig Pro. You can order one through my online store at VonTraining.com.
Mark Von Lanken (info at vonweddingfilms.com) runs Tulsa, Okla.-based wedding video studio Von Wedding Films with his wife, Trisha. Three-time EventDV 25 honorees and WEVA Hall of Famers, the Von Lankens are regular speakers at WEVA Expo and 4EVER Group conventions, and winners of numerous WEVA CEAs and 4EVER Group AAAs. Several times each year, the Von Lankens host intensive 2-day workshops at their Tulsa studio.