Video monitors are useful things but it can be a pain to mount them. An Israeli arm allows for limited fixing, movement and flexibility, and this combination makes it riskier for you to accidentally drop the monitor. A company that originally only developed and manufactured underwater mounting systems, has now come up with a complete range of mounts for daily use, and their system is quite unique.
Ultralight Control Systems was specialised in buoyant monitor/camera mounting arms in aluminium. To mount an underwater camera or monitor, you use an arm and the appropriate clamps and ball joints to make the combination into an articulate system. Since a couple of years, the company has developed a whole new range of cinematographic monitor mounts for “dry” movie production. They use lightweight aluminium arms, and a ball-and-clamp based flexible mounting system that is both inexpensive and strong.
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Price (approx.): €200.00
The Ultralight Control Systems aluminium arms are not solid nor tubular; they are flat skeleton frames with an incorporated ball on each side. The skeleton build ensures low weight, while the zigzag pattern of the skeleton ensures strength — it works a bit like a steel railway bridge. Because of this skeleton approach, the arms look fragile and weak, but they aren’t.
I tested two arms with a Ninja equipped with two Sony NP-F970 (the Hähnel HL-XL982 equivalents) batteries for a total weight of 1180 grams. The arms didn’t budge. The arms are attached to a monitor mount or a camera mount using a clamp that on one side holds the arm’s ball, on the other the ball incorporated into the camera or monitor mount. The clamp serves as a “knee”, working more or less like the human knee does. The balls are the joints, the rubber o-rings the cartilage, and the clamp the structure with muscles and tendons to hold the entire thing together.
If there were to be a weak point in the system, it would have to be this part of the system. With the heavy Ninja mounted on a camera using one arm and two clamps, and everything tightly fastened, the system couldn’t be more rock-solid. It’s only when you turn a clamp lose, there’s a risk of the monitor moving down — not even falling or breaking lose; for that to happen, the clamp must be loosened well below the point of deflection.
An advantage to the Ultralight Control System is that the ball-clamp combination allows for adjustment of the position of the monitor and camera up to the last minute, and even beyond. When you “open” the clamp a bit you can rotate the balls inside with a nice degree of freedom, allowing for very granular positioning. For example, when the monitor has been mounted but on location some scene lighting is making it hard to view the monitor screen, it’s a breeze to quickly adjust the monitor slightly, by turning the clamp just a bit lose, reposition the monitor, and tighten again.
Although you can do the same with an Israeli arm, the degree of freedom is much less and there’s a real danger that loosening up the connections will set the monitor free, with nasty consequences.
The freedom you get with the Ultralight Control System does require a bit getting used to. It requires some handiness to keep the clamp positioned the way you want while repositioning only the arm or only the mounted device.
So, it’s strong, it’s extremely flexible and positionable, and it’s lightweight. I don’t think you can improve on that, except perhaps the “looks” of the system, but who bothers? I tried the system as I explained earlier, with a Ninja that I expressly made as heavy as I could. During my trials I even found I could use the arm as a handle to keep everything more or less stable as I walked about with the camera and Ninja system.
To me, the Ultralight Control Systems cinematographic product range is more cost-effective, more flexible and equally strong as any of the more expensive mounting systems. It has all the components a video shooter will need, no matter whether a dSLR or an ARRI Alexa (for which the company has specific attachment gear) is used.