by George Leon
Today, most friction heads-tripod combos are manufactured for low cost consumer still and video photography with the exception of Gitzo, that makes consumer and hi-end tripods and friction and fluid heads for the still photography market. Fluid heads are the most popular and are marketed for the consumer, pro-sumer, and professional market and mostly are offered as an option to a tripod according to your needs, type and weight of camera. Friction heads were in use for all types of still photographic and consumer motion picture cameras around world, until Chadwell O'Connor invented the fluid damped camera head in 1952.
George Worral created the Worral Geared Head in 1952. "The first stable, smooth and balanced triple-mode geared head." "It took very little force to move it." Worrall said. Epics such as "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Dr. Zhivago" were filmed using the Worrall Geared Head.
Among the remote and motion controlled heads I would like to mention , the Scorpio Head, the Hot Shot, Super Shot and Star Cam by Egripment, the Technovision Super Crane with 3 xis Z Head, the Louma 2 Camera System, the Talon by Ravens Claw and the Mark Roberts MOCO Milo . Check The Talon and Mark Robert's MOCO Milo at Camera Control in Santa Monica, USA in the video window above- click ON DEMAND- search for Talon or Milo on playlist.
All these choices of camera movement lead us to the next question: Which set-up is better, a fluid head or a geared head for your next project as camera operator? To answer this question, I would like to refer to the commentaries made by Roger Deakins, BSC/ASC in his oddly interrupted internet forum. (I spoke with Roger about the subject and about other camera and lighting setups he did during the production of the Big Lebowsky and Revolution Road while vising the ASC Open House in 2009).
So, I say that the choice and the use of a fluid head versus a geared head is one of the decisions a director of photography or camera operator have to resolve early in pre-production. Any of the two choices are O.K. Both choices represent only another tool in the cinematographer's bag.
Here is a list of geared heads. Some are new models in active use by many cinematographers and other are older models but still found at different rentals houses or found for sale at different used motion picture equipment companies.
• Arrihead 2
• Arri/Mitchell Geared Head
• Ceco Blimp Type 2-Speed Geared Head (TH-7)
• Ceco Pro-Jr. Geared Head
• GearNex Gearhead
• Houston Fearless Cradle Head
• MGM Geared Head
• Mitchell Geared Head
• Mitchell Mini (Lightweight) Geared Head
• Mitchell Vitesse Geared Head
• Mitchell Vista-Vision Geared Head
• Moy 16” Classic
• Moy 16” Standard
• Samcine Moy Geared Head
• Samcine Moy MkIII Geared Head
• Moy 16” Neptune Underwater Head
• Moy 22” Legend
• Moy 12” Mini
• NCE Geared Head
• NCE Cradle Geared Head & Model CGH
• NCE Jr. Geared Head
• NCE/Ultrascope MkI
• NCE/Ultrascope MkII
• NCE/Ultrascope MkIII
• Panahead, Super
• Panahead, Compact
• Sea Head
• Technovision Technohead MkI
• Technovision Technohead MkII (H)
• Technovision Technohead MkIII
• Worrall Mini
(List compiled by Ryan Patrick O'Hara)
Roger Deakins photo © George Leon 2009