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Front vs. Back mounted

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#1 Erwin Landau

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 08:59 AM

Let's start a disscusion about Front versus Back mounted vests.

Experiences, good or bad.
Stories, funny or not so funny.
Short comings versus advantages.

How many people actually own back mounted harnesses and how many of them still own there Front mounted ones?

Just trying to jump start some disscisions here...

Come on, don't dissappoint me guys.

I'll start... I own a DSD vest #075. And I'm happy with it but would like to also have access to a PRO Front mounted Vest for certain situations on set... like tight spaces and flat out running shots...

Erwin"backwards"Landau, SOC
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#2 joe mcnally

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 09:48 AM

Hi Erwin
I have an early mod 111 vest and a Master vest.
The mod 111 is what I would describe as useable but you would not choose it over a Master vest.
If you where to read the original manual it seems that the vest as the rest of the kit is to always be used by two people. References to " have your assistant tighten the straps for you ". This is not always possible.
Slightly off subject though is the fact that the Mod 111 rig can be put down on the ground in between takes with no fear of damaging anything. I am finding this a rare thing with rigs nowadays.
The Master vest I have no real complaints about.
The front plate has a tendency to work loose this was improved on the newer Ultras by using bigger screws and a serrated dovetail piece.
The new snowboard type buckles are a big improvement at little cost. I believe it is simple to put in back straps too although I have not done this yet.
Master rig can be carefully put on the ground too.
I have tried on a DS vest only for 20 minutes and was not sold on it. However the forces on the body are totally different and I could see a big justification for having both types of vest and using them both so as to avoid over stressing particular back areas over time. I may buy one soon.
Cheers for now
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#3 RobVanGelder


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Posted 05 January 2004 - 12:58 PM

I have a DSD-vest 079 and I am VERY happy with it. I find myself in much more control of the rig, also on higher speeds. I have done some flat out running with it and find it as ugly as with a normal harnass, but more because of the constant feeling of doom, as I know and have one time experienced that on high speed you only need one pebble or an angled street brick to launch the whole lot.
Don´t say that you need a spotter for that, a spotter will not be able to help you anyway on highspeed.

As for the DSD, I think it is a real improvement to the "old" style. But for sure, not everybody will get used to it. I did, in a few minutes already.
My shots have been improved, more stable when needed, less rolling and swaying and breathing in shot, Easier moves, even if it means you have to stick out the arm more than you would do or could do with a frontmounted vest.
Low mode is definately much healthier with BM and at the end of the day I can say I feel tired, but not sore, as I used to feel before.
And it is much more comfortable as I don´t sweat as much anymore.

Bad things: I´m still scraping some paint sometimes with the knob on the backside.
It´s heavier, but that´s mainly a transport problem, I don´t feel it while wearing it.
It´s expensive, but the craftmanship is worth it and if you can extend your working life another 6 to 10 years, it is relativily a low investment.

Oh, I found another good thing, it easily transforms into a great Hard Mount.
Now I have a hard mount that can accomodate a normal Mk3 frontplate (still got the vest, for jungle places) and on the other side a DSD arm. I will post pictures later.

Rob van Gelder, Amsterdam, Holland
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#4 JamieSilverstein


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Posted 05 January 2004 - 01:06 PM

Regarding Front Mounted Vests:
I bought Steve Campanelli's old Sauve vest last year. I decided to buy it, after I had found myself in bed for several days not able to move as a result of a rather long day of low mode in well below freezing temperatures. The low mode torque along with my extra clothing added enough shifting of my old Masters vest to put me in terrible imobilized pain the next day............
Since I bought Steve's vest (which fits me very very well) I have had no back strain whatsoever, and that has been under a variety of conditions with a variety of cameras from Arricams, BL4 (believe it or not), Millenium XL and a number of HD cameras with and without cables etc.. Back support is superb and energy use is lower than it is with a front mounted vest. Stability of the camera and balance of my body are better with the back mounted vest and control of the arm is easier. Low mode shots and those shots when you end up locking off at a place that was not too comfortable with the front mounted vest are generally a breeze with the back mounted vest.
Recently I had to send the vest in to get repaired, and was forced to borrow a pals front mounted vest. The vest was a brand new Ultra Vest, which is a very nicely engineered vest. Comfortable, easily adjustable, rigid enough and light; very well modified since the original Masters vests. The shot was a crane walk off and then a slow walk for about 150 feet, following Dennis Leary around a bunch of Fire Cadets. By the end of the 3 or 4 rehersals ( they had problems deciding what they truly wanted from the shot), I felt that familiar ache in my lower back that I had gotten from my old front mounted vest, and I was getting tired. Tired of holding my body upright, working against the sleds weight. Don't misunderstand, the shot was fine and I did the job without a hitch, BUT, there was a definite difference the energy exerted, and the comfort felt over the course of the shot. With the back mounted vest, the job would have been easier, plain and simple.
Do I miss my old front mounted vest? Not really. I just wish I had enough cash to buy another back mounted vest and use one as a back up and another a my primary, so that in the event that I had an accident I wouldn't have to borrow anyones front mounted vest again.
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#5 Anthony Hardwick

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 01:55 PM


"Do I miss my old front mounted vest? Not really. I just wish I had enough cash to buy another back mounted vest and use one as a back up and another a my primary, so that in the event that I had an accident I wouldn't have to borrow anyones front mounted vest again."

That would be a luxury - specially when you consider that you can drive a very respectable new automobile for the price of 2 DSD vests!

Erwin, I have one (I forget what #... I think it's #94 - I'm too lazy to go check). I've had it for almost a year now, and I like it a lot. It is the only vest I've owned, though I've tried a number of different front mounted vests dating back to the first workshop I did in '87 or so. I found it pretty easy to get used to. It's very comfortable, and seems to distribute the weight in a manner that makes it easier to bear for longer periods.
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#6 RonBaldwin


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Posted 05 January 2004 - 01:58 PM

I'd love a new carbon arm more closely contoured to the vest and one without the tilting feature.

I have a back mounted harnes as well, #45 (one of the early "Euro Vests"). I don't notice a difference in my shots, but I do have more stamina and less back stiffness than I had with my model 3 vest (that alone is well worth the cost!).

I have been using it nearly everyday on a series for 2 years now, no problems. I did have Tom Gleason make a smaller adjustment knob (the one that tilts the socket block up and down) because that is a place where you'll catch on a doorjam instead of bouncing off. As a matter of fact, this tilting mechanism seems to be obsolete with the sliding plate on the back (it was really designed for use on the models previous to the Euro) combined with the aircraft screws on the arm's socket block. In my opinion, it just adds weight and limits the carbon arm from contouring your back. Which brings me to the only negative I've found (besides the obvious price tag, but you do get what you pay for) -- the width. I have to pay alot more attention going through doorways and have to rely more on a spotter that I did before. The foam they use is also very nice at body temp...but putting that thing on after sitting on your cart in the cold for hours is a chore!

But the many positive aspects far out weigh the few negatives. Does anybody know what's going on at DSD/Klassen? Have they worked things out or did one or the other get reamed?

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#7 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 05:53 PM

Well, I have vest #73 and like everyone else here, I like it quite a bit.
However, as Erwin stated, and we've had this conversation on more than one occasion, I truly feel the need to get a front mounted vest again. (I should not have sold mine after I bought the DSD).

There's been a couple of occasions where I wish my "footprint" was a bit skinnier.

I could basically repeat all the benefits the other operator's have already stated, but I won't. Those benefits with the backmounted vest DO exist.

But there's one thing (and I haven't figured out yet whether this is serious yet or not) that I've found that I highly DISLIKE about the backmounted vest.

This has been brought up before, and other's with a DSD seem to have experienced it as well. I call it the DSD Leg Tingle!

When wearing the vest for any length of time, especially doing a lock off, I've found to have gotten a bit of a leg tingle in my left leg. It's always a very brief (a couple seconds or less) numbing or tingling feeling.

I therefore have found myself less appt to stand around with the rig on, for any longer than 30 seconds. Even if it means docking for 10-15 seconds and then picking it back up again, that's what I'll do.

The tingling is never major (though have heard of one guy who fell down because his leg went totally numb) and it goes away pretty quickly if I move around a bit, and goes away immediately after docking and relieving the weight off of the body.

I've NEVER felt this at any other time other than when I'm wearing the DSD rig and carrying the rig for more than a couple minutes. I never felt it with my front mounted rig.

I talked to a physical therapts about it, and he said, it's most likely being caused by the pressure of the vest and the weight of the rig, "pinching" the femoral nerve.

So, what long term effects will the pinching of this nerve be on those of us with DSD vests (at least those of us with DSD vest who've experienced this leg tingle), who knows?

But, I'd love to have the option of switching back to my front mounted vest from time to time as well.

That's it, sorry so long, but I'd love to hear, again, those other operators who've felt the "DSD Leg Tingle" and if you feel it's a concern with the back mounted vest too.

Other than that :) I am greatful for the DSD vest and what it has done to relieve pressure off the lower back and increase stamina and decrease fatique in my operating.

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#8 Ruben Sluijter

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 06:36 PM

Actually (and this tingling was indeed covered in last year's forum) I've experienced the same feeling with my front mounted vest, along with many other operators I believe.
I'd certainly describe this as a universal problem for both styles of vest and it will become most noticable when you're just standing still (be it in a lock off or just standing around)
It can result in your leg going numb if left alone for too long and might even result in destroying some nerve endings in your leg (after very long abuse)
I believe the medical term is Paresthesia and it has to do with the tightness of the vest.
A temporary solution can be to just walk around if possible, atleast keep your legs moving.

Anyway, this is not a DSD vest specific problem (I think)...just something else to deal with.
Your front mounted vest was probably set up lower or didn't pinch in the same place
Do you wear jeans? could be that those 'rings'(don't know the official name) that your belt goes through are pinching into your legs due to the pressure from the vest.
Try lowering the vest or raising your jeans, that really worked for me (though I have to be careful not to give myself a wedgie...can be really painful if you do it in a hurry!)
Maybe it'll help, if not atleast it will keep you and the crew entertained for a while as you try to pull your pants out of your buttcrack...

Peace, Ruben "High school finally tought me something useful...the SteadiWedgie!" Sluijter
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#9 paul magee

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 08:49 PM

I have # 74 and I think it's the best investment I've made in Steadicam gear to date but keep in mind I bought a new Seitz in 96. I do find getting in and out of it is not as smooth as the front mounted vest (especially after the Holidays) and the weight of it can sneak up on you after a very long day but my back has never felt better.
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#10 Lawrence Karman

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 11:06 PM

I've got #68 and I just love it. I can carry more weight than before with my PROvest. Lock-offs are better. Generally less fatigue. The best thing about it is being able to push the arm away from you without the exponential increase in demand on your lower back muscles and being able to hold that position for long periods. That was something i could only hold for a ashort while on the front mounted vest. It nice to be able to tighten the shot at will after you have settled into a stoped position.But I do have that tingly feeling. More of a numbness on the outside of my left leg which I find comes more with a heavy camera package. I have discussed this at length with Walter who was kind enough to make some adjustments to my vest. This has not helped. Last week I brought the vest over to my chirpractor who feels that it is not pressing onto a nerve as it is riding fairly high. He seemed positive that when I lock my leg in a lock-off position there are muscles that work to stabilize the leg left and right and they are being over worked in this position. The muscles' reaction is to shut down feeling in this area. This kind of makes sense in that I am more likely to feel it only with a heavy package. Who knows. I am also trying to stand wuth the weight distributed between both legs more and this seems to help as well.
I will say that I did put on my old vest once to compare the 2 after using the DSD for several months and my back muscles had atrophied somewhat and I felt alot of soreness in that area. I don't think it too practical to jump back and forth between the 2.
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#11 Alan Mehlbrech

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 11:25 PM

Hi ,
Just a thought , did anyone spend the money on the DSD Vest and find it not the thing for them??
Thanks ,
Alan Mehlbrech
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#12 George Grammatikos

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 09:43 AM

i owned no #93 dsd and i love it too
but i am in search for an old fm vest just for running shoots
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#13 david


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Posted 06 January 2004 - 11:39 AM

I'm using a actionproducts back mounted vest. I found the dsd to heavy and bulky. I personaly would never go back to using a fm vest ever again. All in all I feel less tired at the end of a hard days work and also some how I have the impresion that I can operate more freely than with a fm vest. Ok, running is somewhat harder, but on the other hand i found running with a fully loaded rig murderous anyhow and try to do everything off a hard mount when realy fast moves are required.

David "back mounted forever"
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#14 David Allen Grove

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 12:51 PM

I've had my master film steadicam since 95'. For years, the upper back portion of my leather vest would creep up on me while shooting. This would cause uncomfortable back aches, not to mention the constant re-adjustment of my vest.

This year I FINALLY decided to add back straps to my vest. This has made a HUGE difference. I now have no back pain and very little, if any, soreness. (why did CP get rid of the back straps anyway?)

One thing that I did notice while working on the Rose Bowl Pre-Parade show last week, was that the front part of my hips became a little numb. (I was in the rig for more than an hour without rest). I was wearing a belt too which I shouldn't have had on and I may have had the vest on a little too tight this time. :rolleyes: It's interesting how the location of the stress points on my vest have changed. All for the better!!!!

Last year I threw around the idea of getting a DSD. I've tried it on several times and like the DSD but since I've added the back straps I've decided my vest is good enough.

I've decided since the rose bowl shoot..... that I won't be selling my Triax Connector Cable. (I used it last week for the first time in 6 years and will more than likely need it again... I'm not sure what I would have done with out it!)
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#15 chrisgosch


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Posted 06 January 2004 - 10:59 PM

I never had the tingly feeling until I tried out the Action products FM vest. After using it for a shoot last March 2003 for 3 days using a BLIV and a SRII, I started to have the slight numbness and tingly feelings others are talking about during extended shots. This has continued to occur with my front mounted vest on my right leg (I work with the rig mounted off my left side and the camera on my right.) This numbness has continued even when I am not working or just working as a operator and stand on my feet for extended periods of time. Recently I was examined by an orthopedic surgeon and he said the nerve had been pinced and possibly damaged by the constant high pressure from the weight of the system. I described what the steadicam did and he was suprised that anyone would continously subject themselves to the stress it places on our bodies (please!) He suggested time off and a redistribution of the weight load if I wanted to continue doing the job. I did have a month without work and I added several pads to the lower straps. This has helped. On the last several jobs I switched to flying the rig on the left and that has eliminated the pain on the right leg though I have had a little trouble adapting to flying the rig on my left. On a music video this past weekend I flew the rig on my right for 30 takes (3.5 minutes each) and had no trouble with my leg going numb (Moviecam Compact with steadimags and 100% video) so I think giving it a month to heal and readjusting my front mounted vest with additional padding has made the difference. The fact that this problem developed immeditately after using the Action Products vest has scared me away from the FM vests. I know the DSD vest is much more expensive and custom fit but seeing these posts with the same problems leads me to believe this needs to be researched and a real solution created. On a similar subject I have wanted to add a ski buckle fastner to the vest and would appreciate any help in sourcing a good one. Thanks and any replies are greatly appreciated.
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