I’ve tried very hard to film with my Canon 5DMKII, the footage is awesome, the color is great and the depth of field and that “prime lens look” are really amazing, but what kills it for me? trying to keep that darn camera still! Introducing, PAG Orbitor
I don’t know if you’ve used one of the HDsLR cameras that are avaliable today, but most all of them are manual focus whilst in video mode. This in itself isn’t a big deal, I mean anyone can manual focus right? You twist the focus ring, sorted! Sure.. But combine that with a handheld dSLR camera with a (potentially) heavy’ish lens and the requirement to see the screen on the back to make sure you’re in focus and you’ve got yourself a big pile of video jelly – unless you’re cool hand luke – sure, some of you will be amazing pictures of stability, but a lot of you are not (I’m in this group) just do a search on YouTube for 5DMKII and when you get down to it, a lot of the footage has that “Blair Witch” feel and screams “not very professional” but still fun…
I was asked recently, prior to getting hold of the PAG Orbitor, to film an event for a friend of mine – I shot it all in HD (1080p at 25fps) and mostly all handheld aside of the 400mm bits (can you spot them?) and I had a really hard time keeping it even half still, as you’ll see (check out the bit near the piano keyboard!) but I love the result with the focus shifts and the dips in and out of subjects – I just wish I’d have been able to keep it still.
Now, there are a few devices on the market that are built to add on to your HdSlr camera to make it into more of a “video camera” there are products from the people at Zacuto, who make some brilliant gear, but at a brilliantly eye watering price! And, there are a few other smaller niche companies around that also get into making kit that can help, but as I work in television (during the day) I was looking recently at some products in our kit room at work, A name kept popping up “PAG” they had bits and pieces that attached this to that to the other and braces and brackets and so on. A mate asked “have you checked out their website?” So, I did… and I found the PAG Orbitor.
The Orbitor was originally made for smaller video cameras but is equally at home with a dSLR sitting on its platform. The device is basically a belt that you wear around your waist with a mount for a spring loaded bar that plugs into the platform for your camera which is attached to the control bars (handle bars) – you can move it around any which way, it’s engineered just right and over the month I’ve used the Orbitor it has not skipped a beat – the main point of using something like the PAG Orbitor is that you have a steady platform to shoot from – nothing is as steady as a solid tripod, but try walking through a crowded room with a tripod attached to your camera, infact, try shooting and walking with a tripod full stop!
I found when using the PAG Orbitor, that I had a lot more flexibility and was able to focus on (boom boom) focussing, and I could spend more time on my composition rather than having to concentrate 110% of my energy on standing still, like a dear in headlights (why do that do that!?)
Now, when shooting video on my own and on the move, I wouldn’t even consider leaving home with the PAG Orbitor kit which packs down nice and small and will fit in an extra bag and sling off your camera bag quite easily.
PAG are a UK based company and I have, on two occassions (though cheeky as it is) called up and asked about support and spares and was really happy with the answers and knowledge of the person on the other end.
All in all, the PAG Orbitor, I’ve found, is a great solution to a common problem – shaky hands whilst filming video with a dSLR camera.
Pros? Lots! Quality, Price, Service, Usability and Functionality. Cons? Just one – It can be quite tricky to set-up and use if you’re in a real hurry, but this is my fault, not leaving enough time!
**UPDATE** I (yes, after stupidly deleting the footage I’d shot with the PAG) snapped a quick bit of footage. It doesn’t look that special, but it’s handheld at 400mm whilst (trying) maintaining focus on the guys walking…