Homemade Practice Gear Head

I feel that a gear head responds to camera framing like a steering wheel does to driving a car. It happens without even thinking once we learn the right reflexes. To learn a gear head an aspiring operator needs one available for practice. When I started shooting sound the cameras were so big they demanded gear heads. I bought a used Worrall to learn. Today gear heads are much more expensive. Here is one design that a mechanic can build for less than a $100 in parts. Ones can be also built with belts and pulleys and also with small high ratio gearboxes. I felt the one below was easier, but look into your resources before trying it. A camcorder makes a convenient viewfinder.

These milling head attachments are cheap from the third world. Look carefully at my design, as you might not find a head the same with the rotating top (which became my bottom.). This design turns the head up-side-down and uses the rotating top feature as the pan bearing. I replaced the original rotating top, as it was almost as heavy as the rest of the head.

Make sure the 4 tilt arms are the exact same lengths and holes in the brackets on the head and camera plate are symmetrical. I made these out of clear plastic to make it easier to see. I would suggest metal or stronger plastic.

This head is only for practice and would elicit howls of laughter on the set. Remember that line, "They all laughed when I sat down to play the piano". You can learn in the privacy of your home or yard. This rig has only one speed and a limited range, but you can effectively change the ratio by changing the zoom size and distance to the objects that you are framing. You can also follow subjects on your TV. You can trace circles, squares and figure 8's. The hardest move is people getting out of a chair. Once you feel you have the right reflexes you might ask someone to walk around and get up and sit down for you. Also practice with both eyes open.

If you have other designs I would be happy to include them here and credit you.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.