Modification to Habbycam Shoulder Brace

John Beale, July 7 2001


One of the (few) things that a pro betacam and a consumer VHS camcorder have in common is a stable, shoulder-mounted position.
The smaller MiniDV cameras are harder to hold steady. A shoulder brace, such as the Habbycam model improves things, but the stability is still not optimal because there is very little weight on the shoulder rest, and the camera does not balance on your shoulder like a full-sized rig; rather, it is just resting against your chest.

I set out to improve matters by adding more weight to the back of the Habbycam brace. I got a small bag that would hang down like a backpack and add stability and balance (not an original idea with me; I first saw this kind of added-weight brace on another web page). I drilled two holes at the back of the shoulder rest to accept two 8-32 bolts with wing nuts. The point of a pencil made holes for these bolts in the nylon webbing handle which is part of the bag.

The bag is a Tenba "P-26 everyday walkabout pak" intended for a camera and binoculars. It is a heavy nylon, padded, and nice-looking, but I believe overpriced ($50 at a camera store).  The weights are two 12V, 6.5 Ah lead-acid gell-cells (11 pounds in total) which I happened to have. Your weight preference may vary- my shoulder isn't used to this much weight, yet. I added a length of webbing from the bag's two lower D-rings to run around my midsection and up to the bottom front edge of the shoulder rest, to make the whole thing more secure.

My initial observation is that I can hold the VX2000 both more steady, and more easily with the new back weight on the brace. I can actually take both hands off the camera and it stays put. I put this assembly together in a few hours, for a brief shoot the next day.

In operation, I found the added weight makes the brace feel much more secure and solid, though I noticed only a modest improvement in smoothness of the resulting video. I believe this and other braces need a fair amount of practice to achieve the best result. If you need a truly steady and consistent shot, it's hard to beat a tripod.

Another idea, from Terry Simpson 7/9/01

One alternative suggestion--if you don't want to add that much weight, you might try an old trick handheld guys sometimes use: Add a piece of nylon webbing (6 feet/2 meters long or so, depending on your height) to the back of your shoulder brace. For a standing shot, just step on the webbing and pull taut. For a squatting or knee shot, pull it around and lay a foot/knee on it. Not useful at the moment?-- wrap it up into your pocket . First saw this in Dick Reiser's Tips to Clip, although he suggested a length of chain as I remember. I've used it a couple times with pro cameras, with a quick link, so I can ditch it if I'm getting tangled in it. For those longer RockNRoll handheld shots. Uses your own weight (which you already have to carry).

Terry Simpson

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