By Brady Betzel
Lately with the explosion of content across all mediums, such as YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, Amazon, Netflix and even social networks like Instagram and Twitter, it seems everyone is running out to create their own programming.
Current equipment is so good and priced so low that a kid in 7th grade can become a YouTube kingpin with the GoPro they got for their birthday. I started making videos in junior high and high school with a rented VHS camera from the local camera shop, hooking up two VHS players along with my boom box and trying to time the video with the music just right. But today kids (and adults) can create their own 4K videos for under $500. The best part is that since the equipment is so cheap you can save up for accessories like steadicams, jibs, lighting systems and sliders that can add immense production value to your scene.
ProAm USA has been around since 2003 when they released the world’s first camera crane that didn’t require any tools for set up and could be set up and taken down by one person. In addition to the cool product, ProAm USA supports young filmmakers and is environmentally aware. So much so they run their business facilities by solar power!
So enough of the back story; let’s move on to my review of the ProAm USA Orion DVC210 8-foot DSLR camera crane/jib. When I first opened the box I immediately noticed that there were only a few pieces that I had to assemble and I knew I would be filming within minutes. It took four minutes to read the manual and two minutes to assemble the crane. I was off filming pans and tilts in less than 10 minutes.
The crane comes packed with everything you need to get started, except for counterweights and a tripod/stand. I suggest that you either buy their stand or make sure that your tripod/stand is pretty sturdy. While the crane is lightweight, it is a 12-pound lever where the tripod is the fulcrum and some of the angles would topple any lightweight tripod that doesn’t have a wide stance.
The crane is built using aircraft aluminum and coated in a black powder coat that feels solid. I’m not typically too worried about scratching a jib, but this jib is very scratch resistant — I may have lightly brushed it on the cement and it came out unscathed (whoops). ProAm USA sent me the 8-foot crane along with the optional 3/8” bearing mount. The crane comes standard with the ability to connect directly to tripod heads using ¼” x 20 or 3/8” x 16 threads. However, with the optional 3/8” bearing mount I was able to attach the crane to my stand with a high level of stability.
In addition, the bearing mount allows for smooth 360-degree pans with just the right amount of friction. Sometimes the bearings I’ve used are a little too smooth or have a little too much drag, but ProAm USA seems to have done its homework and produced a bearing with just the right amount of friction… for me at least. The 3/8” bearing mount is definitely a smart purchase when ordering the DVC210.
Once assembled, I needed some help on getting this thing balanced and working properly, so I read some tips in the manual on how to properly balance the jib with counterweights. In the end, putting the jib together took only took 15 minutes. I first tested this with my Canon DSLR camera since this crane is technically made to handle cameras about the size of your DSLR. I then tested it with my GoPro and got some amazing results. You really need to see video of what the crane can do: Search YouTube for Orion DVC210 and you will see what I’m talking about.
The jib itself costs only $299, so if you have your own stand and fluid head you can just buy the crane. Keep in mind the weights don’t come shipped with the crane so you will have to run out to your favorite sporting goods store to grab a few weights. You have two ways to mount your counter weights: a single vertical stack or distributed horizontally. I would suggest a couple of rubberized weights with handles to make it a little safer and easier on you. If you’re looking for a heavy duty stand and the 3/8” bearing base in addition to the Orion DVC210 crane/jib you can purchase all three for under $500 from www.proamusa.com.
ProAm USA has a few accessories you can purchase with your DVC210 like a 4-foot extension to make your jib/crane a full 12 feet, great for those long sweeping shots over a house or through some beautiful trees. That will cost around $120. Remember, you aren’t just limited to the 12’ with the extension, when you mount to a large tripod you are actually gaining the distance from the ground plus the length of your jib minus about 3’. So feasibly you could have a breathtaking crane shot at over 15’ for under $500. You can also buy the ProAm USA Crane Stand that I mentioned before for about $55, the 3/8” bearing mount for $59, and even an LCD monitor bracket and swivel for $16. There are a few more accessories on the site you can check out as well.
I imagine this is best suited for small business filmmakers or even a boutique production house, but it’s so cheap that any wedding videographer or real estate shooter should take a look. The production value this adds will pay for itself in one job. Even the skaters who make their own reels will want to check this out.
Since I just have the built-in nerd-instinct, I like to practice making large sweeps, tilts and pans. Using the Orion DVC210 8-foot crane/jib by ProAm USA gave me the bug to go film some things. The jib/crane is not only a great value but it also inspired me to start creating my own content. Who thought a well-crafted piece of aluminum could be my inspiration?
Brady Betzel is an editor at Bunim Murray Productions, a reality television production company. He is one of the editors on Bad Girls Club. His typical tools at work are Avid Symphony, Adobe After Effects CC and Adobe Photoshop CC. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.