Easyrig logotype

Blaire Johnson

The Minimax is great! I had an amazing experience with the Minimax this week! I picked up a gig to film President Obama endorsing Hillary Clinton in NC, and because I was wearing the Minimax and because I chose to film among the people instead of in the press section, and because I looked like some strange deep sea anglerfish in my gear, Obama just knew I was working on a really special project, so he kept looking straight at my lens. It was a beautiful, historic day. For First Look Media's new political docuseries #NomiNation with Vanity Fair.

There are so many things that I love about the new Easyrig Minimax. As a 5’5” 116 lb. female cinematographer, it’s lightweight and I’m easily able to adjust the vest for a perfect fit that allows me to shoot comfortably on long days. The style of the vest reminds me of the original Easyrig, but I was never able to tighten it enough to properly fit me, so I am thrilled with this new version of the vest. From their vests, gear bags, jackets & hats to their t-shirts, our production team has been so impressed with the superior quality and craftsmanship of all of the Easyrig products. I loved wearing the Minimax, as it felt like an extension of me, and I had no back or neck issues after 5 intense days of filming with NASCAR.

I was also fortunate enough to demo the new Cineflex Rig. Although I liked the addition of the gear pouch and smaller pocket on the vest, I have decided that I prefer the smaller size and weight, and the lighter fit of the new Minimax.

The Cineflex ended up bothering my lower back a bit, as I heard a few crunching sounds on my lower spine. Perhaps I didn’t have it properly adjusted for the best fit?

One thing I loved about the Cineflex, was the addition of a strap that looped around the camera’s handle and attached to a loop on the vest via a carabiner. I think this is a great feature that should come with all the vests. I’ve seen one of our camera’s almost fall off the original Easyrig on numerous occasions, so this seems like a good safety
feature.

Both the Cineflex and the Minimax share one feature that has gotten in the way – the new rotating arm. We’ve been working on a shoot with NASCAR, and on numerous occasions while trying to follow a racecar around a turn, using a wide stance and a 170 degree turn, the swing of the arm has kicked in and ruined the shot, by adding its own motion to my pan. I have not found a situation where this new range of motion of the arm has been a benefit. It seems as though adding a removable pin would be the easiest way to resolve this, as I’m guessing some people like this new feature. It has also made me more likely to almost hit someone in the head as it can swing back and forth, especially when the camera is not on it. For me, it’s the one deal breaker on the Minimax. I love the Minimax vest, but I prefer the original arm.

Another feature I love about the Minimax and the Cineflex is the loops on the left and right of the waist, which are perfect for hooking lens cases with a carabiner. I would love to see a few more of these loops added to the rig, which would keep me from having to wear a utility belt to hold lenses and batteries, etc. I did find it a bit uncomfortable wearing both the Minimax and my utility belt, as they are both most comfortable when riding on my hips.

Our last shoot was filming in 106-degree weather at the NASCAR Indy race. I was grateful to be wearing the Minimax rather than the Cineflex. The Cineflex fabric overlaps with Velcro across the chest, making for a warmer fit on a hot day, while the Minimax connects with straps and clips that allowed for more breathability.

I had one issue with the Minimax while using it. I woke up one morning to find that the steel rod that connects the curved piece of the arm to the straight piece had mysteriously retreated into the upper, curved part of the black frame. We removed a few screws in hopes of being able to remove the wider lip that it had retreated into. It did not solve our problem but created a new problem, as we had huge difficulties putting the screws back in, as the nut they had to attach to was moving freely around inside the arm, making it next to impossible to line it up just right. Unresolved, the tension of the cable was compromised, rendering the Minimax unusable for the shoot. We were able to get 4 of the 6 removed screws connected back to the interior nuts after a couple of hours. I was able to get enough of the tension to return to the rig in order to use it, while the final 2 screws still have not been reconnected to the nuts in the rig. Were I to find myself in this situation again, I would love it if there was an easier solution to reconnect the screws to the nuts. We were able to retrieve the steel rod from the upper piece by putting the upper arm of the Minimax into a vice, and pounding it out using a mallet. We then epoxied the steel rod back into the lower portion of the Minimax.

Our production crew got so many comments from other cameramen and the general public while at the NASCAR races, about how much they admired our gear. People were fascinated by the design of our 2 Easyrigs and our Minimax, and their ability to distribute the weight of our cameras and lenses.

I love the versatility of the Easyrigs in general. It took a little getting used to at first, as I wasn’t able to crawl through every nook and cranny for every shot, so at first, I felt as though it limited my movements a bit. There’s a time and a place for handheld shooting, but for 95% of my shots, the Minimax is my new favorite way to shoot. Gone is the fatigue on my arms, neck and back from a long day of shooting handheld with my camera and lenses. I’ve become really impressed with my ability to still get extremely low shots, to ride on the floor of a golf cart to get low motion shots, and to run around while wearing the rig. I climbed a ladder to the top of the Indy racetrack for the spotter’s shot, and coming back down, I double checked that the camera was securely gripped to the clamp on the Minimax. I was able to let my camera swing out in front of me, while using 2 hands on the ladder to safely climb down.

One other thing I love about the Easyrigs in general, is the ability to be hands free, so as to easily reach for a lens or battery from my side and swap it out while on the go. The Easyrig acts as a 3rd pair of hands, without my having to find a location to set down my camera. The Easyrigs are a game-changing way of filming, especially for documentary camera crews who are always on the go. I always recommend them!

Blaire Johnson
Camera-operator
USA