A Day in San Diego with the Easyrig Inventor
The inventor of the Easyrig, Johan Hellsten, came to San Diego from Sweden and made a special point to visit with Mark and me. Mark has been using the Easyrig since 2001.
The Easyrig story is quite an interesting one. Here it is in the words of Johan himself:
The Easyrig story
“The company started as a hobby. I was glad that other cameramen where interested in my invention and wanted to work with Easyrig.
“The Easyrig story began when I was shooting the World Championship of Handball in 1994. Because I was the youngest at the network I always did the hand held work. By the end of the day my shoulders would hurt badly. I told myself I had to do something about it if I wanted to do camera work when I get older. I thought of a rope from the ceiling down to the camera but then you would not be flexible. Then I built an iron tripod on my backpack and there I had my first prototype of the Easyrig. From then I have made different prototypes of Easyrigs. I went to Amsterdam in 1997 on a show called IBC. There was a lot of interest and I got many agents around the world from that point.
“Sometimes people think you look foolish with the Easyrig on, but when they understand what it does they think it’s smart and they get very interested. Often I say to people to try the Easyrig on and you will see a smile on their face.
“The company is a family business. When my children have holidays they are always welcome to work in the company. It is important for me that the end user, “The Cameraman”, has to be satisfied with our equipment and that nothing breaks.
“I still work one week on a cameraman at Swedish Television, the next week at the Easyrig Company. We are located in the north of Sweden where we have snow half of the year and it’s never dark in the summer.
“To be a cameraman for me is the best work in the world!”
Although we’ve been in business here at Crystal Pyramid Productions for over 34 years, we carefully consider each new equipment purchase. “You want to stay on the cutting edge so your work looks good and your clients are happy, but you don’t want to work 12-hour days just to pay the company store,” said our CEO and Top 100 producer Mark Schulze. “Each piece of equipment has to be essential.”
For Schulze, one of those pieces is the EasyRig2 portable camera-support system he added to his cache back in 2001. The first time he took the seven-pound instrument on a shoot, he realized it had been a smart purchase. “I’d never go out shooting handheld more than half an hour without it,” he says.
Compatible with film and video cameras, the EasyRig2″ reduces the static load on the neck and shoulder muscles, and transfers it down to the hips, the part of your body best designed to deal with it,” according to the manufacturer. The support lets a camera operator shoot from various positions: the shoulder, the hip, or even at floor level.
After shooting an interview of Olympian and San Diego Spirit team captain, Julie Foudy, back in 2002, Schulze donned the Easyrig 2 to shoot B-roll of the women’s team practicing soccer. He was able to generate sweeping vertical moves like those from a Jimmy Jib, as well as up-and-down slanting Steadicam-like moves. Unfortunately the San Diego Spirit are no more. Hopefully Americans will take more interest in Women’s Soccer and bring them back.
Schulze brought the EasyRig2 to a shoot at the Comic-Con convention where he shot interviews of Lucy Liu, Elijah Wood and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was also able to capture a rare appearance by the original Batmobile with Victor Lucas (Electric Playground) at the wheel. Schulze said the EasyRig2″ took the weight off the right shoulder and placed it where it should be, on the hips. It also got a lot of stares and questions from other cameramen at the convention.” Not to mention some of the costumed conventioneers. Some took him for a costumed sci-fi character.
Schulze said the Easyrig2 had curbed the chronic back and shoulder pain he’d had from carrying his Sony camera especially on shoots that called for hours of hand-held shots.
Schulze has been using his EasyRig2 for over 13 years now and still loves it. Thus, it was wonderful to meet and spend time with Johan Hellsten and his lady friend, Christina.
We love taking new friends on tours of the city we love, San Diego. So we brought them to many of our favorite spots, including Hillcrest, Balboa Park, Mission Trails, and Ocean Beach, where we ended the day with some fine San Diego craft beers for the men and me, a glass of white wine for Christina, and a toast: “To friendship!”