Only the other day I was reading Philip Blooms blog “This weekend I was invited by Teodor Stoyanov to do two workshops for an elite group of film makers in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. I went with my friend Dennis Lennie, who was an immense help not just in working out what needed to be taught but as I prolapsed a disc in my back on Thursday and was unable to move for most of the day! It was so bad that I was going to cancel, but I felt I was getting some mobility back and this engagement had been booked for some time and these people had travelled from all over Bulgaria to come hear me talk and to learn things from me. So I had to go!”
A sore back is the number one health and safety issue with cameramen, it affects 95% of operators by the time they are in their late thirties. I don’t know any cameraman to date who has not suffered or is suffering from a sore back myself included.
The rot sets in the early days when we are keen to please our employees and carry far too much video kit, broadcasters are notorious for sending you out with kit that is far too heavy for one man to carry… Tripod, DVCPRO Camcorder, spare batteries, lighting kit… if you are lucky the reporter will help you but the norm is to carry two tons of video gear on each shoulder and two hands climbing two sets of stairs… you get the picture and everything is done in a great rush increasing your chances of getting back problems.
When carrying gear you are under the same illusion… carry more saves trips out to the car… so what, why should you feel pressurized to get set up in jig time when a third trip to the car could save you a louping sore back 10 years down the line. Unfortunately sore backs tend to be accumulative in other words you will feel fine for years then the biggie will strike when you least expect it.
When you are young nothing phases you… “I’ll worry about that sore back if it comes in the future” Wrong attitude, once you suffer a sore back you can be out the game for months on end. My friend Alison a BBC reporter has a dickie back and she wishes she had not been so cavalier in her early days in video production. She has been off work for months at a time with a collapsed disc and it also affects her foot causing numbness.
So take a wise older owls advice… Your future is a consequence of everything you carry in the present.
Take more trips to the vehicle
Ask others to help you with the video gear
Don’t overload yourself with equipment
Decide before you get to your destination if you may need a second pair of hands
Think of yourself … not the pittance you are being payed to damage youself
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