Camcorders like the HVX200
provide benefits and present challenges. Their smaller size and
weight facilitate a less obtrusive presence while shooting, but
it's a challenge to stabilize handheld shots particularly when
compared to shoulder mounted cams. Dozens of products purport
to address this issue, but none do it completely. The Camhandle
represents an innovative approach to stabilizing small cams.
Its baseplate and handle creates an effective tripod to improve
handheld shots while keeping your right hand on the cam to control
record/zoom. And a tripod adapter allows you to quickly move
between tripod and handheld shots. This novel design is versatile
What's In the Box. The package consists of an aluminum base mount
to which a handle is attached, and a tripod adapter to connect
the Camhandle to your tripod. You can use the Camhandle with
or without the tripod adapter. A four page illustrated color
instruction sheet is included, but assembly is straightforward.
I attached the tripod adapter to the Camhandle, my Sachtler quick
release plate to the tripod adapter and the assembled device
to my HVX200. All toll, it took a couple of minutes.
Everything is nicely machined and designed.
The device weighs 14 ounces. The tripod adapter adds 1.5 ounces
to the overall weight, which brings total weight to under one
pound. The Camhandle is machined from 6061 3/16" thick aluminum
and is solid and rigid but lightweight. Connecting screws have
large plastic screw heads, which makes easier to attach the device
to cam, tripod adapter and other accessories.
The Camhandle Theory. You hold the cam in your right hand, the handle
in your left and place the viewfinder snugly against your eye.
This design leverages the cam using three points of support,
all of which more or less are in alignment -- right hand, left
hand holding the support handle, and viewfinder pressed against
your head. It effectively replicates a tripod.
It's Game Time.
I recently used the Camhandle while shooting a NCAA DIII basketball
playoff game. I had to move quickly between tripod and handheld
during the two hour event, so I attached the tripod adapter to
the Camhandle and my quick release plate to it. I also had to
shoot pre- and post game interviews with coach and college president,
which necessitated attaching a wireless receiver and using a
The tripod adapter proved to be a versatile
feature. Moving between tripod and handheld and back was quick
and easy. Having immediate access to the tripod facilitated a
wide range of shots that wouldn't have been available without
the adapter. And it didn't inhibit quickly moving to handheld
shots. In this respect, the Camhandle is more versatile than
other stabilizing systems that don't have this functionality.
The second design benefit was having
my right hand at the controls of the cam. I didn't need any record/zoom
remote controls and having the viewfinder pressed against my
eye while supporting it with an extended left hand provided steadier
shots than pure handheld.
A FireStore HDD can be attached to the
Camhandle by reversing the rear thumbscrew mounting bolt and
attaching the FireStore holder to it. The FireStore is rotated
90 degrees with the LCD screen facing up. You have ready access
to all the FireStore controls. The company provides videos and
instructions on this and other capabilities at its web site.
I experienced some arm fatigue as the
evening progressed. This was particularly noticeable when I attached
the wireless mic receiver to the the HVX200 for the two interviews.
There is one tradeoff in the Camhandle's design because your
hands and arms support most of its weight. But I felt it didn't
outweigh benefits and versatility. Of course, different shooting
environments will dictate different approaches and tools.
Tripod shots also improved with the Camhandle
attached. It provide a second, well placed handle to control
X and Y movements and a smoother pan. Nice.
Using FCP's "Smooth Cam filter"
with Camhandle footage produced some surprising results with
handheld walking shots. While not the equivalent of a true steadicam
shot, movement was minimized particularly in the absence of any
severe jerks. But remember that the filter is computational intense
and is no panacea for poorly shot footage.
As I stated, the Camhandle is not the functional equivalent of
a steadicam device, nor is it nearly as expensive. A hand held
walking shot with still produce some shaking and movement. But
the device minimizes this shaking as well or better than other
devices that do not have its ease of use and functionality. Static
shots are noticeably better than equivalent hand held. The company
provides good support at its web site. Look for additional product
announcements around NAB 2008.
Copyright ©2008 David
A. Saraceno is a motion graphics
artist located in Spokane, Washington. He has written for DV
Magazine, AV Video, MacHome Journal, and several state and national
legal technology magazines. David also moderates several forums