Handheld shooting is an everyday thing in film and TV. Over the years, cameras have dropped in both size and weight, making the world a lot easier on operators and AC’s that have to lug the gear around. What I want to talk about in this article is one of my favorite support tools for this.
One of the major things that still hurts operators is needing to compete with what people “think” handheld looks like – which is actually more like a Steadicam. Handheld shows strides, it has jerks, it wavers on the horizon a bit – essentially, you are balancing 30+ pounds on your shoulder. It’s not perfect, but it has a a natural look with an energy thats hard to sell any other way (one I also kind of like). But that aside, anytime you use longer lenses (70mm+) or run for long periods of time, things get a lot more difficult to keep steady. I’ve tried a few different ways to help this over the years: bungee rigs, soccer balls, loose heads. But these methods never get the look right, or they’re just not that safe or easy to rig.
The AirHead saves the day, in my opinion. Basically, you get all the freedom of the 3 axes of movement that you would if it were on your shoulder, but you can let go of it at any time and it stays up. If you add in a combo with a slider, then you have 4 axes of movement. The AirHead helps a lot in creative ways as well. Normally, you wouldn’t be able to have a handheld 200mm close-up shot and not have it make you sick on screen without the help of some kind of stability. The AirHead by Newman gives you that stability.
Yes, there are a few different makes out there. My favorite of them is the AirFloater by Cartoni.
It has all the same features as the Newman head but with more stability options rod dampeners to add friction and even an eyepiece-leveling rod mount! In short, I think it’s a cool tool to have on a handheld shoot. If you’re interested, I’d call into a few of the bigger rental houses (start with my friends at Panavision) – there aren’t many of them out there so they can get snatched up quick.