Camera Support Part I — The Newman Airhead
I recently had the opportunity to use three different camera support heads in a row. The first one I’m going to talk about in this post is the “Newman Airhead” masterminded and developed by Key Grip, Peter Newman. The concept is simple. Provide a support head that enables the operator to simulate a loose hand-held look for larger, heavier cameras. Essentially, the key component to the head is an oversized industrial air bladder ripped from a bus, train, truck, which one, I’m not sure. It has a mitchell base attached to the bottom and a european plate at the top to mount the camera.Before the Newman Airhead there was a couple of other ways to create a handheld feel with heavy cinema cameras. The first is obvious and that is to actually hand hold the camera with handles and a shoulder pad but that can be awkward and tiring in many cases. The second way is to create a bungee-cord system that suspends the camera’s weight while the operator simply cradles the camera. The bungees stretch and bounce creating the loose feel. This method works remarkably well but the main disadvantage being that it is seriously time consuming and occupies the time of one skilled grip for 30 minutes or more! I could have that grip doing something more productive than making bungee rigs! With the Newman Airhead I can put it together myself in seconds. It takes no time to set-up.
So how does it perform? Well, let me first explain that I have worked an continue to work on ENG productions with ENG cameras doing hand-held work all day long, day after day so I know a thing or two about how hand held should look and feel when it’s being imitated by a gizmo like the Airhead. Often times I cringe when I see some commercials or dramas with over exaggerated hand-held operation, most likely the fault of the operator and not the device they are using to mimic it.
The Newman Airhead has the capability to adjust the pressure of the air bladder. Higher pressure makes for a firmer more kinetic look. Less pressure makes for a smoother more rolling, softer feel. I like the pressure it comes with which is somewhere in between. The verdict is a resounding yes; the Newman Airhead works as advertised. You can have a really heavy camera and still make the shot look like natural hand held operating without spending tons of time setting it up or breaking your back trying to actually shoulder it. Highly recommended.