As video cameras become smaller in size yet produce incredible footage, now is a good time to get that new cam. Many of the newer camcorders have image stabilization, which is good news for small cameras, because the smaller they are, the harder they are to hold steady. However, even with a stabling boost, the cameras can still be awkward to hold steady for any length of time due to ergonomics. We video producers are always looking for ways to get better footage than our gear is often designed to deliver, pushing the limits of video creativity. We’ve recently found a couple of camera support devices engineered to help that creativity along, so we just had to take a closer look.
In this issue, we have a full feature on tripods and other devices made to carry your camera and allow you to be more creative in your shooting, while also delivering a more polished professional look to your video. This review breaks out two different types of camera support for a closer look.
Fat Gecko Camera Mount
Like the lizard made famous in auto insurance commercials, the Fat Gecko camera mount from Delkin attaches to any smooth surface and holds a camera at nearly any angle imaginable. It uses two strong suction-cup locks attached to a 6-inch articulating arm that has two ball-and-socket joints to level the mount and camera at many possible angles. Atop the arm is an ordinary inch-wide standard 1/4-inch screw to attach your camera.
We tested the Fat Gecko using two different cameras in two different vehicles following two different subjects. We first followed a local cycling pro who was interested in having us capture him on a trial run so he could check his form. We attached a 4.5-pound Sony VX2100 to the Fat Gecko and attached that to the back of a top-down Alfa Romeo Spider, which acted as a pace car, then we raced off into the country on a nice spring afternoon. The roads we traveled ran the gamut from being quite bumpy to quite smooth, with a variety of railroad tracks, dips and road-kill hazards to make the drive interesting.
A Bumpy Road
When we first took off, we had some doubts about the Fat Gecko’s reliability, as the brief disclaimer-instructions say the support device is for cameras weighing six pounds or less. The weight of the camera wasn’t so much an issue as was the size. This is a long-nosed camcorder, and the mounting stud has only one hole for the common -inch diameter thread. It would have been nice to have an extra locking-pin hole, too, as the camera tended to drift off-target following some heavy vibrations on the road (the 25-year-old Alfa Romeo wasn’t the best choice of vehicle for a smooth ride, as it has little shock absorption). But… the one thing we feared – the suction cups coming off – didn’t happen, even with all the bumping around.
After our test with the pro cyclist, we took our own bike for a trek around the neighborhood. This time we attached the Fat Gecko to the side of the car door of a Honda Accord, and the footage came out very smooth, even when we zoomed in. The camera still wanted to wander at this angle, even when we tightened it, and we hope that the extra tightening doesn’t strip the threads over time. We also tested the Fat Gecko using a small lightweight camcorder, and it held up fine and didn’t budge.
We really enjoyed shooting with this device. It gave our footage a different POV that we weren’t able to attain otherwise. We followed a child on her first no-training wheels ride and it was awesome. If using the Fat Gecko for a drive-along shot, we’d suggest testing vehicles types for smoothness and making sure you lock the mount arms well, and you should have no problem.
Cam Caddie Scorpion
Here at Videomaker, we jokingly lump most video cameras in two categories of handheld form: Beer Can and Football. (Hold your hand out pretending to grasp either and you’ll see what we mean.) Holding either type for any length of time can give the user carpal-tunnel problems, and the designs don’t offer the creative side of low-angle shooting at all. Try following a reluctant dog through some bushes, all hunched over for 20 minutes, and you’ll find you’re aching from wrist and back pain in a few minutes.
Cam Caddie’s Scorpion universal stabilizing camera handle is a simple device that was well-planned for today’s smaller cameras. Due to their size and shape, most of these smaller video cameras don’t have handles on top. We tested the Cam Caddie Scorpion using a Canon Vixia “football” camcorder. We wanted to capture a POV shot of the family dog wandering through the tall tick-infested grass and weeds at a nearby field. We first followed the dog with the camera cupped loosely in the palm of our hands and had to give that up within a few minutes. Enter the Cam Caddie, looking sort of like a scorpion, with its strong, long handle looping over the body of the support device. The base has eight slots, easily enough to attach any small- to mid-sized camera for balance and support. Test the different slots to find the level and weight-comfortable position perfect for your camera and hand. The clearance between camera top and handle is enough for most cameras, and, depending on how you balance it, you can point it up or down with no wrist strain. The only downside to this device that we found was the screw-stud that you use to attach the camera to the Cam Caddie. The screw is an inch and a half long, and the slots are only a quarter of an inch shorter, so you don’t have much thread to work with, lowering your camera-safety comfort-zone. Luckily, this is a very common screw and you can replace it easily from most hardware stores. Our images of the dog roaming through the tall grass looked much nicer than the bare-handed shots, and we were able to hold the camera longer to work with a dog that clearly wanted to just go lie in the sun.
Eat em’ Up!
Neither of these camera supports will break the bank, and they both give added value to your video project. Both companies have How-To videos on their websites. Whether it’s following a subject using handheld techniques or wishing to show your audience footage from a car, motorcycle or skateboard, specialized support devices are ready at hand to help you with your vision and unlock the creativity inside.
Delkin Fat Gecko TECH SPECS
Warranty: 2 years
Weight: 1.4 pounds
Dimensions: 2.719 x 7.773 x 9 inches
Max Weight Load: 8 pounds
Delkin Fat Gecko Strengths
- Suction cups nice and tight
- Enables you to get some awesome shots
- Easy to set up and tear down
Delkin Fat Gecko Weaknesses
- Doesn’t have a spirit level
- Tight-screws feel like they will loosen over time
Delkin Devices, Inc.
13350 Kirkham Way
Poway, CA 92064
Cam Caddie Scorpion TECH SPECS
Warranty: 30-day return; limited lifetime guarantee against manufacturer defects
Material: Durable ABS plastic, with a soft polymer grip
Support Plate; Multi-angle positioning
Quick Release: Attaches using standard tripod
Weight: 0.25 pound
Height: 8.5 inches
Space: 6 inches between base and handle for camera
Cam Caddie Scorpion Strengths
- Great for handheld shots with small cameras
- Multiple slots for various-sized cameras
- Good as small ground-level tripod
Cam Caddie Scorpion Weaknesses
- Threading on tripod screw a bit short
P.O. Box 3163
Glendale, CA 91221
We love seeing our great images look ever better due to the many useful devices on the market. We think that, used properly and with care, both of these devices can certainly enhance ones shooting pleasure, and add that extra POV shot one might not otherwise be able to capture.
Jennifer O’Rourke is Videomaker‘s managing editor.