Becoming a professional and efficient freelancer or cinematographer means optimizing your equipment workflow and investing in just the right tools to suit your skill set and needs. But choosing those tools becomes a tad overwhelming when you see all your options laid out in front of you, especially in the world of handheld shooting. When you’re out in the field, you need a reliable rig that’s going to hold your camera of choice and accessories intuitively. The Tilta Lightweight Shoulder Rig endeavors to do just that.
What’s it All About?
Capable of supporting compact cinema, mirrorless, and DSLR cameras, this rig is designed for the freelancer gambit. Multiple points of articulation, 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 threads, NATO rails, and ARRI rosettes offer endless customization options in the positioning of each component and your preexisting gear. Tilta even provides you with a nifty dual Arca /Manfrotto quick-release plate and baseplate combo. You’ll find no shortage of mounting options on this rig.
All of these components come tucked away in a nice, padded carrying case with multiple mesh compartments and straps to hold everything in place. I found this extremely satisfying upon first opening the case, and this attention to detail is continued in other aspects of the rig’s construction. Almost every thumbscrew is spring-loaded for easy adjustment, even when accessories are attached. The dual shoulder pads positioned at the top of your shoulder and back of your shoulder blade offer a hook-like shape for extra security. The main pad is even lined with hook-and-loop fasteners for easy removal.
Giving it a Whirl
The most difficult part of starting your shoulder rig configuration is, well, starting your shoulder rig configuration. I took some time out of my day to just sit down and assemble the modular pieces and make minute adjustments, get a feeling for what screw tightens what. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I would loosen the wrong screw and my whole balance was off. Truly knowing your rig takes time and lots of practice, so I can’t fault Tilta for my unfamiliarity. However, while I was assembling the rig, some of the screws holding the baseplate to the main dovetail got caught on the sliding portion and I had to recruit help from a coworker to fix it.
Regardless, I was excited to take the rig for a proper test with some equipment. After considering the target market, and what we had available in the office, I decided I wanted a mirrorless camera, external monitor, and a shotgun microphone to get a sense for configuring a basic run-and-gun workflow.
You are spoiled for choice with this rig and its plethora of mounting options. The sliding design allows you to adjust the center of gravity with the loosening of a knob and press of a button. I really appreciated the choices Tilta made with some of these mount placements. The back of the rig has dual 15mm LWS rod clamps for you to incorporate a battery plate that can double as a counterweight, and the front extending arms can rotate and lengthen as needed. There’s one 1/4"-20 thread right at the end of each extension arm, which is the perfect place for your external monitor—just attach an articulating arm and it’s right in front of your face for viewing.
Once I had my gear on the rig and adjusted to my liking, I persuaded my coworker to join me on a brief adventure outside to test my cinematography skills. Although I’m not brushed up on my handheld-filming form, I did my best to tread on the balls of my feet and test some panning motions before coming back in to peek at the footage.
Tilta wasn’t lying when it called the rig lightweight; the frame itself is practically weightless. Once on my shoulder, I will admit I enjoyed the additional back shoulder pad, since it allowed me to rest the rig comfortably and hold it with one handgrip when not shooting. The unfortunate thing is the pads themselves didn’t offer as much give as I would like.
The footage you get from shooting on a shoulder rig is always going to beat out handheld because you’re maintaining those three points of contact. I could see how the rig was helping my footsteps appear more even and less chaotic. I was very pleased with the tracking shots I was able to get of cars zooming through intersections in Hudson Yards. If anything, having all your equipment mounted on one, stable rig gives you a greater sense of security when performing pans and dynamic movements. The shoulder rig felt like a natural extension of my body, and even making active adjustments on the go felt straightforward. I can only imagine what the rig would be like if it was a constant part of my day-to-day workflow.
With all this in mind, if you are a freelance cinematographer with a compact cine or mirrorless camera looking to have a trustworthy, decently priced rig in your gear loadout, the Tilta Lightweight Shoulder Rig is a solid choice. If your preexisting gear includes additional mounts like magic arms or rod-mounted battery plates, you’ll find this Tilta rig will make the most of what you already have on hand. If these things don’t already have a home in your kit, be prepared to invest to truly make the most of the rig.
What are your favorite uses for your shoulder rig? Let us know in the Comments section, below.
I have an older Tilta shoulder rig with VCT-14 baseplate. It is very solid, but also quite heavy. I ordered this new lightweight model to loose some weight and less bulk for easier transporting. I was initially disappointed that there isn't a way to use it with a VCT-14 receiver, but the lighter weight should be worth it.
This appears to be designed for smaller cameras and shoulder rig setups. The lack of two 15mm rods in front may be an issue for anyone using a large matte box, or additional lens motors. I will add a baseplate between the camera and the shoulder rig, so I can keep rail mounted accessories (follow focus, wireless transmitter, V-mount battery) attached to the camera when moving between shoulder rig and tripod.
I am a fan of Tilta products, as their products are better built than the entry level gear, and more affordable than the high end gear. The Tiltaling series products are especially affordable. I look forward to upcoming Nucleus Nano 2 system, which I will add to this shoulder rig. Bring in on, Tilta!
I really appreciate your sentiments here, and largely agree! The shoulder rig is marketed by Tilta to serve larger cine setups but I really feel it is optimized for these smaller rig configurations. It definitely takes some customization to find that sweet spot but has the thread and rod capacity to get you there. Glad you've found a way to make it work for you!