4 Steps to Effective DSLR Filming with Shoulder Rigs

Videographers utilizing shoulder rigs for their DSLRs

A handful of filmmaking professionals uses digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras for their filming. Shoulder rigs help not only to stabilize the gear, but help with weight distribution. With this change, the community has been able to learn to make adjustments in order to get the scenes they want in highly effective ways. One of these methods includes the use of accessories, with shoulder rigs being among the most used.

There are those who have their doubts about shoulder rigs on set. One reason for this doubt is due to DSLR cameras being lighter than traditional cameras. Without shoulder rigs, there can be significant camera shakiness. Shakiness seriously affects what one is trying to film and distracts from the director’s vision. But there are a few steps that filmmakers do go through to ensure that they get premium footage without any issues while using DSLRs and shoulder rigs to shoot.

Step #1 Picking the Right Rig

For anyone who wants to use a DSLR, it is important to find the right shoulder rigs. There are a couple of factors that a filmmaker considers while making this decision. First, the filmmaker needs to look at the rigs and mounts for their camera model. This can help the filmmaker to get a better idea of the options available.

Rig and Mount Systems

Another thing a filmmaker considers is the how the rig or mount is constructed. There are two body types – the rail system and the shoulder plate. The rail system consists of one fixed core, where the camera locks with two aluminum rods serving as the rails.

With the shoulder plate, it’s composed of a metal plate that the camera is locked into with the mount straps leading over the shoulder. The rail system is mostly chosen because filmmakers can add dynamic accessories like LCD viewfinders and lights which won’t affect the sightline of the camera person.

Step #2 Add Accessories Accordingly

Once a filmmaker picks the right rig, the next step is to determine what else they will need for filming. Many camera people opt to use an LCD monitor attachment. This allows them to see whatever they’re filming in their line of vision.

Another key piece to add to the rig is the follow focus, which a videographer uses for more precise focus. Other accessories include microphones, handle grips and a battery pack for the camera.

Step #3 Don’t Overdo It.

Filming requires long hours, and no matter the fitness level of the camera operator it can take a toll. This is amplified by how heavy shoulder rigs or mounts can be with all of the accessories that are added to it. With the previous step taken into account, it’s important to find the right amount of accessories to add to the rig that will get the job done without being too much of a strain on the camera person’s shoulders and neck.


Some mounts and rigs have stabilizing supports that can be strapped on and secured while recording. A camera person can also add stabilizing weights if needed to keep the camera and rig from being too front-heavy. Doing so also helps out when using the follow focus on the rig, eliminating shakiness.

Step #4 Get A Final Feel

Once all of the accessories are added, it’s time to get a final feel for everything. This is accomplished by doing a walk-through before filming with shoulder rigs or mounts in place. It also helps to do this after every scene, especially if there are scenes that take place in challenging locations where there isn’t even footing or other obstacles that might be in the way of getting clean shots with no movements.

Want to Learn More?

Utilizing shoulder rigs with a DSLR camera can help to create a great shot, but it’s important to have an education in the composition and production of digital media. If you want to learn more, IPR’s Digital Video Production Program may be right for you!

Contact us today to learn more about the digital video and media production program and starting a rewarding career in the film and TV industry.