As a Camera Operator, and with TV crew in general, our job involves a lot of loading and unloading heavy boxes from vans. It also involves operating heavy Camera Equipment without always having the luxury of a Tripod to hand. This can be a struggle as I’ve always promised myself I don’t want to be another cameraman, in my 40s, with a crippled back from poorly lifting and carrying heavy cameras on my shoulder all day.
I recently worked at the Brighton Marathon and had a hefty Sony PMW500 on my shoulder for the most of the day. Whilst it was heavy I made sure I took plenty of breaks, and placed the camera on a tripod where possible. I noticed during the day that I was holding up much better than other camera operators in terms of back issues so I thought I’d jot down some tips for lifting and maintaining a healthy back for work. (I’m not a physio or medical professional in any way)
1. Observe correct lifting technique at all times. It may look a bit ‘wanky’ sometimes but always lift with your legs, even with a seemingly small object as it’ll be good practice for larger objects.
2. When holding a piece of equipment for an extended period of time, such as a camera, try and maintain posture as long as possible. Slouching will only increase back fatigue and potential long term damage.
3. Workout – It’s great for personal and professional reasons. I don’t go crazy and let the gym take over my life, I do however lift weights a couple of times a week, alternating muscle groups. Because of my job I focus a lot on back exercises – especially deadlifts.
4. Wear a back brace if it helps. I was recently operating a DJI Ronin and Sony FS7. The rig was approx 10kg and with extended arms, and it felt like 50kg after a full day of operating! Under my T-shirt I wore a subtle back brace which helped support my lower back, and distribute some of the weight.
Back braces are often used in sports and to relieve back stress after injuries, and you know what they say; “prevention is better than cure.”
Thankfully cameras are getting smaller, and lighter, in general. The days of the massive shoulder mounted news cameras (whilst still prevalent) seem to be diminishing and this is only a good thing for all our backs.
All the best with keeping healthy and continuing a successful career in Film/ TV injury free.