I was asked once to write a history of the Body Mount now called Body Cam. Here'tiz.

Body Cam

Show Biz is interesting. Credits are debated, memories lapse when ideas are credited for originality and the last promoter of an idea usually takes most of the credit. I am hesitant to write history as I know that my memory is fallible and I am biased too.

My crews, other camera-people, other industries and film history have been the seeds or sources of many of my ideas. There are few really new inventions out there in our business. There are many improvements of existing ideas and some tools end up over-improved to do everything, but nothing very well.

I believe that the best improvements are made by users in conjunction with mechanics/engineers. Engineers without enough knowledge of use in the field do their thing, they over-engineer. The worst is the engineer who ignores user input.

Our business is also one of show. Anodizing, crinkle paint, custom fitted cases, and mystery knobs and adjustments make a simple tool into an Academy Award winner. This sometimes detracts from a tool working very well, but impresses the bystanders. People fall for hi-tech appearance, impressive credits and a bit of showmanship. Company ads and brochures never tell you about disasters involving their equipment. Included with their credits sometimes are the shoots where their equipment was a disaster and had to be reshot with other equipment.

I made a career of shooting film images people liked, quickly and within budget. Although my equipment is now museum vintage, much was state of the art at one time. When a tool was too expensive to rent, I bought one or made one if practical. If a tool didn't work as well as I felt it could, I explored improving it. Denny Clairmont always gives me credit for my ideas he used, others forget. I built equipment to do my job better, not to rent for a living.

I made cranes, dollies, zoom motors, video taps, periscope lenses, camera motors, tilting/shifting front lenses, a 20 to 1 zoom, true macro zooms, modified still lenses, modified cameras to go in tight spaces and rigged cameras on land, sea and air vehicles.

When Steadi-Cam came along, I tried it and felt it was complicated and needed a very strong operator. I felt there was an easier way for us weaker types with less time to dedicate to learning one tool.

A "T" bar with a 16 Arri. and two counter weights shot our first tests. Caleb Deschenal was part of the "we". To support a 35-mm camera, more support than our own arms alone was needed. A Kelty backpack and arms with springs over the shoulder evolved. We tried fish poles bent 90 degrees but they weren't strong enough. We build heavy helmet video viewfinders.

I became acquainted with John Carol and Bob Nettman at Continental Camera, through Clay Lacy. At the time I had a near monopoly on airline air to air shooting with a modified camera for Clay's Lear 24 Jet lower door and a rig to shoot the 25 to 250 out the side window. Continental Camera's Astro-Vision broke my monopoly. I foolishly operated Astro Vision once myself but later stuck to directing with Dave Nowell operating. Dave rarely misses a shot. Not hiring the best operator and pilot is false economy. (Not using an experienced director for air to air is also false economy.)

Continental camera and I cooperated on the design of an Arri II-C video assist system, The Body Mount, (now called Body Cam) and The Pitching Lens. Pogo-Cam evolved at this time.

Who contributed what depends upon whom you talk to. Memories fade and the last contributor and promoter tend to take more credit, it's human nature. My name is on the patent for the Body Cam. My name is supposed to be on the Pitching Lens, but that agreement died with John Carol. I built a prototype without the pitch, but with interchangeable front lenses. I wanted a wider than 50 mm lens for air-to-air. I shot planes with a 9.8, 16, and 25-250 mm before Astrovision. Clay Lacy as the pilot made good air-to-air possible regardless of the equipment.

The Body Mount evolved from one version of a family of inertially stabilized camera rigs we made. I mention "we" because Bill Bennett, built Terra Flight for "Black Stallion II" with some design help from me. Terra Flight is a remote pan/tilt/focus inertial arm for very rough ground. I helped Gabby Kruks with the more primitive arm for Carroll Ballard's "Black Stallion". Bill Bennett and I built a 20 foot one for Jeep tires. Ray Tostado built a 20 foot one for boats. Pogo-Cam and Glide-Cam in the amateur market are the most basic versions. We all have to remember a 1930 patent for the basic idea using an Eymo, an ice pick and 3 counterweights under the camera.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.