Easyrig – all you need to know


Easyrig systems are body harnesses which spread the weight of the camera system onto the operator’s body making shoulder mount, freehand and gimble-mount operation less arduous for the operator.

Since being developed in the 1990s by a Swedish camera operator with a bad back (Johan Hellsten, pictured right), both shooting styles, camera equipment and most importantly equipment form factors have changed enormously, causing the original Easyrig 2.5 to evolve into a multitude of models for lightweight cameras, regular cameras, gimbal cameras with fixed and variable support etc.

This is a short article to explain the principles behind the Easyrig concept and to introduce the product range of models with advice to their suitability for various camera configurations.

The Easyrig Concept

The Easyrig system was developed by Johan Hellsten who was a Swedish cameraman and developed this system whilst working for Swedish television which often involved spending long periods of time doing handheld. He designed an overhead arm that contained a load bearing cable and the arm was attached to a padded vest similar to that of a Steadicam rig. However, the Easyrig is not a replacement for Steadicam devices, it is designed to allow you to shoot handheld steadily for long periods of time with heavy cameras or cameras with longer zoom lenses by supporting some or all of the weight burden. It achieves this by spreading the weight of the camera off your back, neck and shoulders and re-distributes it over your hips which can support more weight (this is the same principle as a Steadicam vest). Easyrig systems vary in their capabilities in both the weight and length of the arm or the build and the comfort of the harness so it is important to understand which version would be suitable for your own project,

The arm section has changed little from the original design and until recently was restricted by a fairly rigid load bearing ‘sweet spot’, often making the system either too strong or too weak for the camera system being used. This could render the rig pretty useless unless the camera system was within the spec of the Newton (N) force of the cable in the arm and therefore limited its effectiveness in some cases. The emergence of gimbal based systems over the past few years has also driven a need to find suitable and flexible support over protracted shooting periods.

Development of the Vario 5 module

It took Johan and his team over 5 years to develop the new revolutionary Vario 5 system. It saves operators carrying several arms of different N ratings around and with the simple twist of an Allen key at the back of the base section, the rig can be tuned in to the correct level of support for the operator whilst the camera or gimbal rig is in position.

This rig has proved to be so popular that recently Easyrig have developed the Vario Strong system for heavier camera systems like the Alexa with an anamorphic lens and even the Alexa 65.

Gimbal use and support and Extension Arm Solution

The process of using a gimbal presents another operational issue in that there is also a need for vertical stabilisation which a standard Easyrig cannot provide and the consequence of this is a ‘sympathetic’ bounce on the rig as it feels the support of the Easyrig cable moving up and down as the operator is walking. This issue has been addressed with a joint collaboration with Easyrig and a company called Flowcine with various forms of additional vertical stabilisation on the arm of which the Serene system is the most popular www.flowcine.com This stabilises this vertical movement and has also been proven to be popular not only for the gimbal market but some handheld operators also enjoy the benefits the Flowcine can bring.  The weight of the rig can therefore be controlled by the Serene system which has a turning knob to adjust or a much heavier load spring can be used to support bigger cameras or gimbal rigs.

Easyrig also supply an adjustable extension arm option for clients which has a twofold benefit. Firstly for handheld operators using smaller cameras that have screens instead of viewfinders it pushes the camera further away from the operator, allowing them to focus on the viewing screen. And secondly, when using gimbals rigs that can be quite ‘deep’, the extension arm will support the rig away from the operator’s body.

In fact there are 3 x tube section lengths as follows:

Standard length: (if you shoot from your shoulders, or very close to the body)

+130mm Arm:     (if you shoot from your shoulders, but want to have the versatility to shoot further out from your body as well. This is the most popular, it allows you to have the best of both worlds without going to the ”extreme”)

+230mm Arm:     (if you want the camera far away from your body, this is mainly used for Gimbal purposes, such as a Ronin or a MöVI etc. You can not mount a Serene arm on a +230mm arm)

This longer arm is manufactured from steel to cope with the added stress compared with regular arm systems.  This is especially important when using a +230mm arm or a +130mm arm in combination with a Serene arm.

The longer arm permits you to shoot at eye level with a Gimbal system, which is very hard to do with regular arm version.

Supplied in Bags with great names

Just in case you are interested, Easyrigs come in different sizes, so of course they have different bags and Easyrig have a naming convention for these:

  •  The ”Standard” bag (for Easyrig 2.5 and Cinema 3 with standard and +130mm upper arm)
  •  The ”Plus” bag (for rigs with a Serene arm and rigs using a +230mm upper arm)
  •  The ”King” bag (for Easyrig Vario 5 in combination with a Gimbalrig Vest and +230mm arm)
  •  The ”Queen” bag (for Easyrig Vario 5 in combination with a Gimbalrig Vest and standard and +130mm arm)
  •  The ”Big Bag” bag (fits all the models and extensions and Serene arms, can also be used as a backpack)
  •  The ”MiniMax” bag (for the MiniMax system)

Types of Harness

The Easyrig arms are comparible with several versions of harness of which the Cine 3 is the most popular and although they all are made in 3 sizes of small, standard or large, Easyrig claims the standard size fits 95% of all users, so as a result VMI stocks the standard size for hire.

Easyrig has now developed a Gimbal Vest specifically designed for using with Gimbals and provides superior lower back support which is helpful when the weight of a gimbal rig is further away from the user’s body then in a handheld situation.

The original 2.5 harness has a single strap, the Cinema 3, 2 straps and the recently released Cinemaflex is anatomically designed to suit the female form.

The most enduring positive facet of the Easyrig philosophy is it is very quick and easy to put on and take off and transfer the camera from shoulder mounto to tripod configuration.

A salutary word of caution has to be made here to ensure all cameras used on an Easyrig have a reliable and robust handle system where the Easyrig clamp cannot slip off and the handle is strong enough to support the weight of the camera beneath.

Easyrig Systems available at VMI

Easyrig Vario 5 (standard length arm)

The Easyrig Vario 5 rig has optimum performance with cameras/gimbals weighing from 5-17kg and is our most popular model.

Good for most cameras with a short arm for shoulder or hip mount but preferred with viewfinder system as the camera is in close proximity of the operator’s body.

VMI supplies the Vario 5 system with an Easyrig Cinema 3 harness as standard.

Easyrig Vario 5 Women’s (Cinemaflex) with standard length arm

Women are just made differently to men and we have so many female camera operators that we thought that it would be appropriate to buy the first Easyrig system anatomically designed for the female form.  Identical to the conventional Vario 5 (above) and able to support cameras/gimbals weighing from 5-17kg, the Easyrig Vario 5 Womens (Cinemaflex) system has a modified vest with a reinforced upper chest which our model Katie found very comfortable to wear.

Good for most cameras with a short arm for shoulder or hip mount but preferred with viewfinder system as the camera is in close proximity of the operator’s body.

This version of the Vario 5 system is supplied with a cinemaflex vest anatomically designed for the female form.

Easyrig Vario 5 Strong (standard length arm)

The Easyrig Vario 5 Strong rig has optimum performance at systems weighing from 14-25kg (30-55lb).  It looks identical to the regular Vario 5, only the variable tension support works in the next weight category range.

Good for heavy cameras like Alexa or cameras with heavy zoom lenses or anamorphic size prime lenses with a short arm for shoulder or hip mount but preferred with viewfinder system as again the camera is in close proximity of the operator’s body.

VMI supplies the Vario 5 Strong system with an Easyrig Cinema 3 harness.

Easyrig Vario 5 Long Arm (+230mm length arm)

The Easyrig Vario 5 Long Arm rig has optimum performance at systems weighing from 5-17kg and incorporates the longest 230mm tube length.

(Note that the 230mm long arm length is too long to fit the Flowcine Serene system).

Good for cameras and gimbals with a long arm for camera system that is not in close proximity of the operator’s body. Popular with handheld operators who like to use a monitor or using a Gimbal set up, however it is worth noting that with this option, you cannot shoot in shoulder-mounted operation.

The system includes a normal Easyrig Cinema 3 harness, though care has to be taken when using gimbals when walking, since the vertical oscillation can have a pronounced effect on the shot compared with the shorter arm systems.  If being used for walking shots, it may be more suitable to use the Easyrig Vario 5 with the Serene system, though this is a lighter more versatile system, though it can still cope with a 5-17kg payload (30-55lb).

Easyrig Vario 5 long arm/Flowcine Serene (+130mm length arm)

The Easyrig Vario 5 Long arm/Flowcine Serene rig has optimum performance at systems weighing from 5-17kg, but the bigger weight can also be accommodated due to the extended Serene system.  This system incorporates the mid-range 130mm arm length to fit gimbal applications.  

Good for cameras and gimbals with a long arm for a camera system that is not in close proximity of the operator’s body. Popular with operators who prefer operating off a monitor or using a gimbal set up and the tube section is specially designed to hold the upper and lower arm/power pack together for greater stability in this configuration..

The system incorporates a fixed Serene spring/shock absorber system to cancel up and down jittery movements associated with cameras not in close proximity of the operator’s body.

The system is supplied with a specialised Easyrig Gimbal Vest with a thicker padded belt than the other vests for comfort with using heavy set ups for long periods .

The ‘King’ with this system refers to the large bag this rig comes in and not any monarchist propensities!

Easyrig MiniMax (2-7kg)

The Easyrig MiniMax rig has optimum performance for camera systems weighing 2-7kg which is a popular range for today’s lightweight video and DSLR cameras.

A total redesign from the Easyrig Mini Strong version, this is the lightest Easyrig in the range which now includes a new lighter weight power pack capable of supporting cameras in the 2-7kg range.  

The new model has more of a fluid feel than the previous model and incorporates a novel design feature providing built-in overload protection thus increasing its robustness in the field and making it much more reliable.  This causes a trip mechanism to engage when overloaded preventing the unit from damage.

The MiniMax also now incorporates the same pivoting arm as the larger Easyrigs to allow long periods of fatigue-free shoulder-mount operation for small cameras that are not in close proximity of the operator’s body, a mode which is physically demanding for anyone, even when using lightweight cameras and the lightweight harness is also easy to rig and transport.

All models and costings are on the VMI website and please contact the Rental Dept for availability and any further advice.

Gerard Botha & Ian Jackson 16-08-17

Images VMI and courtesy of Easyrig and VMI

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