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Using the new Fawcett Exo Vest from Tiffen


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#1 PeterAbraham

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 10:44 PM

Good evening,

I've been one of the beta test operators using the new Exo™ Vest. Since the summer, it has been the only vest I have flown with.

Before detailing the experience of using the Exo vest, my back story. ( pardon the pun )

26 years as a Steadicam Operator. In 2000, I fell at home and broke my L-3 vertebra. 20 months later after no real healing I shot my last large rig shoot on the Rosie O'Donnell show in the spring of 2002. 5 years of work with a custom-built lighweight rig followed, then 5 years as the Director of Technical Services for the Steadicam division of Tiffen.

I resigned that position this past July to return to full-time Operating. The reason I was able to do so is because of this vest.

The break point in my lower back has slowly healed up.

All traditional front-mounted vests ( regardless of branding ) make use of the same fundamental design. Using proper posture, any of the myriad front-mounted vests ( all of which are based on the original patents as far as the major elements ) provide proper distribution of the masses worn. Most if not all of you reading this post have tried or owned a front-mounted vest at some point.

It is clear in using the new Exo Vest that the radical new elements of the design allow for a different feel.

Because the weight is now resting on the pelvic saddle front and back, the lumbar area- my area of concern- is left unburdened. Some of the key features add to the high level of comfort and complete control that I've been experiencing since starting with this vest ( in no particular order ):

1. Open architecture is what I call it. Chris' design of rods and pivoting plates coupled with slender waist panels and only four pad contact points allows for a tremendous amount of heat shedding. A great thing ! No large areas of foam rubber pressed against me. I look forward to using this in extreme heat and feeling cooler.

2. The vest is quite light in weight.

3. The weight rests on the pelvic bones. The utter lack of compression of my ribs and my internal organs is quite comfortable.

4. The upper and lower pivot points front and rear allow for a new feeling. As I walk, and especially as I run, the pivot points shift and allow the vest components to move with me. At the same time, the socket block/ arm bridge plate is remarkably "quiet" in movement. This pivoting motion lowers the amount of work my torso has to to do keep the vest rigid as I move. A more relaxed and natural stride is the result for me. ( Within 10 minutes of first trying the Exo vest at the 2012 NAB show, I ran down the carpeting for 20-30 feet just so I could check out the pivoting action ).

5. My shoulders do not bear much of the weight. The ease of adjustment in the shoulders allows me to set the rods front and rear so they do not touch my body.

6. The waist straps are something I still experiment with. It's a real personal feel thing- sometimes I want the over-centers clamp that locks the waist strap to be very tight. Other times, I try it so it's firm but not very tight. Either way, the vest does not shift on me. This is a fundamental change from other vests I've owned where a very loose waist strap assembly meant a side shift of the lower area of the vest and loss of good arm/socket settings. I've noted no shift as I've explored different amounts of tightness.

7. The pads are easy to adjust on the way to the perfect placement on my pelvic bones. The first few jobs were an exploratory process- as is the case with any new gear- but the placement became apparent and I've not shifted the pads around in a few months.

8. I get it on and off a bit faster than my old vest. Two closing points accounts for this. ( So-called standard front mounted vests use Shoulder, Chest, Waist and back-straps. 4 closing points ). Not a huge deal since we all simply do what we must to lock our vests on, but another distinct difference.

9. The contact point between the shoulder blades is quite comfortable- the result of many months of testing different foam combinations ( type, density and thickness ) until the right blend was arrived upon.

My socket block settings are identical to those I use on a traditional front-mounted vest.

The travel vertically afforded me now is huge. Since there are no chest straps, I can raise the socket block higher before it hits the clamp for the front rods. A nifty feature for when a longer arm post isn't quite enough.

The prototype I've been using is not fitted with an emergency quick-release. I do feel they are a good idea. My understanding is that there is one in the works for the production units.

I don't know what the vest is selling for or when it will go on sale. I encourage anyone interested in trying the Exo Vest to contact Dan Ikeda at: dikeda@tiffen.com . I'm not an employee of The Tiffen Company and I do not stand to profit in any way through sales of the Exo Vest.

I encourage other beta testers to chime in here. For my part, this is the last Steadicam vest I am ever going to own. Any questions, by all means post them here and I'll be glad to answer them.

Best to all,

Peter Abraham, S.O.C.

peter@steadicamproductionservices.com
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#2 James Davis

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 04:56 AM

Hello Peter, I was just wondering, have you ever tried a back mount vest for any length of time.
If so how does the exovest compare in terms of comfort and load distribution.
Also does the vest stay put during running shots?
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#3 David M. Aronson

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 05:01 AM

Two big questions and a little one
How much will it cost?
When will it be available?
and Is ther a prototype anywhere near DC for me to try? :)

I'm really glad you can get back into opperating Peter!
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#4 Kyle Wullschleger

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 11:01 AM

I'm sure we've all skipped over a line before but it's always that most crucial tidbit, ha.

"I don't know what the vest is selling for or when it will go on sale. I encourage anyone interested in trying the Exo Vest to contact Dan Ikeda at: dikeda@tiffen.com"
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#5 Alan G Kelly

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 01:25 PM

Same here, I'd love to know if there is any vertical bounce of the vest during running, say, with a lighter camera.
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#6 PeterAbraham

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 03:04 PM

Hi,

Any sales/pricing/demo availability issues should go to Dan Ikeda.

James, The only time I wore a back-mounted vest was in 2002. It compressed all abdominal organs and was uncomfortable, and is not an option I would consider. ( Anyone else's mileage may vary and please let's not start a flame war over any one vest. I'm answering a direct question regarding what I have tried on... ) In my experience, the Exo vest is lighter, does not compress any internal organs and does not feel the same on the upper back as the back mounted vests do.

The vest did not shift up and down while running with a big rig. I have not tried running with a lighter camera- a good question you asked, Alan. I can try a running shot on Thursday. On that day, I'll have an aluminum cage, Canon 5D and 22mm wide angle lens.

As I stated above, a core feature of the vest design is that it shifts several degrees at the four pivot points. Instead of interfering with good operating, it enhances it. The elements pivot slightly with every step. When I run, I'm more aware of the pivoting because it occurs more rapidly.
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#7 Alan G Kelly

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 10:08 PM

Thanks for the concise analysis Peter. Much appreciated and I look forward to your results once you op with your lighter rig setup.
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#8 Michael Hauer

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 12:48 PM

Hi Peter

I'd be really interested to hear how you think the vest performs with extremely slow moves? My last two years I feel have been all about training myself to keep my hips as level as possible and my movements angular. All of us in our journey learn the hard way when we loose focus of this technique especially when the camera needs to move slowly and precisely, or "like a dolly." How does having pivots effect you're level of precision? I guess as a thought experiment (never having tried this vest) it could go either way. On the one hand since no matter how hard one tries not to swivel the hips when walking, its necessary on some level, i could see the pivots making for a more level socket block than is even possible with a rigid structure. On the other hand I could see circumstances when a pivot action could create unwanted movement in the socket block. Have you been in a situation when you want less pivot? Can you adjust the pivot?
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#9 Victor Lazaro

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 01:25 PM

I am guessing the pivot allows your hips to move but you can still control the angle with your chest. Allowing you to walk slowly while still controlling with you upper body.
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#10 Jerry Holway

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 01:35 PM

The pivots reduce the amount of movement of the socket block, and allow you to walk more normally. The vest is incredibly useful on uneven terrain and completely different and wonderful on stairs. Slow walking is easier, running is more controlled.

BTW, it's the Fawcett Exovest™, and it's currently being tested at all weights. (I've had it at 70lbs with no worries other than me and 70 pounds).
Jerry
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#11 PeterAbraham

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 10:16 PM

Hi Peter

I'd be really interested to hear how you think the vest performs with extremely slow moves? My last two years I feel have been all about training myself to keep my hips as level as possible and my movements angular. All of us in our journey learn the hard way when we loose focus of this technique especially when the camera needs to move slowly and precisely, or "like a dolly." How does having pivots effect you're level of precision? I guess as a thought experiment (never having tried this vest) it could go either way. On the one hand since no matter how hard one tries not to swivel the hips when walking, its necessary on some level, i could see the pivots making for a more level socket block than is even possible with a rigid structure. On the other hand I could see circumstances when a pivot action could create unwanted movement in the socket block. Have you been in a situation when you want less pivot? Can you adjust the pivot?


First of all, we will get together so you can try it out !!

Second of all, I am aware that the vest segments pivoting allows me to not force my body to hold to the same rigidity. I can walk in a more natural manner in terms of torso rigidity. No question about it. What's taken a lot of getting used to is just that- I overcompensate for the pivoting and for the first few jobs, was quite sore as a result. My brain knew the vest was shifting as it should have on its pivot points. My body was trying to hold the vest as though I were wearing my old MS vest.

I got over that. :)

Cannot imagine wanting to reduce the degree of pivot. I've run, walked stairs live during the Election broadcast, switched, sat down on a shot. The degree of pivot seems a great choice. Chris- what is the degree of pivot now?
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#12 PeterAbraham

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 10:21 PM

I am guessing the pivot allows your hips to move but you can still control the angle with your chest. Allowing you to walk slowly while still controlling with you upper body.


The fore/aft angle is identical to the other vests I've worn. The pivoting is outside of both axis of adjustment on the socket block. In fact, as pointed out, the arm bridge/ socket block remain "quieter" because of the pivoting.
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#13 Victor Lazaro

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 10:32 AM

Any news on the pricing and availability of the exovest?
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#14 James Davis

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 11:16 AM

I would recommend calling or emailing Robin at Tiffen, he mentioned a price to me a little while back, but honestly I can't remember it exactly.
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#15 MarkKaravite

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 06:30 PM

Peter,

First of all, big congrats on being back in the game. It's been way too long. I guess the love never dies!

I'm curious if you've tried the back mounted option? I've been flying a Klassen for the last 8 years, so having all that weight out in front of me will feel very odd. I love having the weight centered over a comfortable stance. I read where the Exo can back mount, but does it do it well? Since you haven't had years in a Klassen, is there a Klassen die hard beta testing the Exo?

I love the idea of not compressing my organs. I love my Klassen, but I find that if my bladder is not empty, it's not as comfortable.

Also, the second arm option off the back (to allow huge boom ranges & a very low "low high mode" is very interesting. Do you have any practical experience with either of these options?

Welcome back brother,
Mark
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