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Brian Dzyak

Medical Issues with being a Cameraman

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I began my illustrious professional career nearly twenty years ago carrying around an Ikegami HL79 camera.

 

In the early 1990s, I moved to LA and struggled my way into the exciting world of Motion Picture Camera Assisting, pushing carts around and carrying cameras and cases.

 

A few years ago, I left the exciting world of 14 hour days and have been shooting video full time doing a variety of entertainment and corporate work.

 

The result of all of that, medically speaking, is a slight case of scoliosis. My upper spine is turning to the right and my right shoulder is noticeably lower than the left. My lower spine is turning to the left as my body attempts to compensate. I have a fairly consistent pain near my right shoulder blade where the bones are being pushed together as they pinch a nerve there. I've now also developed an intermittent pain in the left side of my neck where the bones appear to be locking up, due to the same curvature of the spine.

 

My family doctor didn't do much and merely prescribed Nuprin for the inflammation and the pain. Massage therapists over the years have commented on how tight my muscles are. One even knew that I was a cameraman without me even telling her as she said that she had several more exactly like me. I've recently begun seeing a Chiropractor on a regular basis to help correct the curvature and ease the growing pain. He was the first one who had specific Xrays taken to see what the hell is going on in there. I may still be up for an MRI in the future.

 

Chalk this up on the list of "things they don't teach you in film school."

 

Has anyone else out there experienced similar issues?

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Has anyone else out there experienced similar issues?

 

 

Uh..all of it. I just got off a 10 week shoot and every shot has handheld. It has wrecked my back over the years, and being tall anyways, the added weight of a camera exacerbates any potential issues one might have had anyways. What I have found to really help is working out with weights to counter the one-sided pressure of the camera always being on my right shoulder and to try to focus on the left side to keep the muscles symetrical. It really helps with endurance as well, but mostly it really helps minimize the potential for major back problems. I am only 32, and I am kinda scared to see what 50 will feel like frankly.

 

Really the only other thing is stretching and taking breaks, but over the years, it seems there's really no way around it unless they develop a camera that sits on your chest dead-center with the weight equally on both shoulders. I am considering yoga but havent found the right leotard yet. But seriously, yoga could be the key..

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After weeks of working in smoked sets on "Northfork" I developed a tendency towards nose bleeds for about six months.

 

The day after I wrapped on "Manure", guess what? I woke up to a heavy nosebleed... too much irritation.

 

One of my AC's developed high blood pressure problems after a recent show (not mine).

 

Luckily, I don't seem to have any blood pressure problems, it always measures normal. I guess my stress level isn't reflected in my blood pressure levels...

 

My feet are usually a wreck after a feature show and take a week to recover.

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Many years ago I had back pain so bad that I was in bed for over a week, and the motion of my heartbeat made it hurt.

 

I tried Yoga, and don't recommend it. You need to strengthen your muscles, not just hyperextend your joints. A chiropractor can push things back towards the right place, but only your own muscles can keep them there. The trouble is you have to strengthen the right muscles. The best thing is to get a personal trainer who really knows his/her stuff. Look for the alphabet soup: CPFI, NASM, ISSA.

 

Brian, I can recommend James Lanza, his gym is near Reseda and Nordhoff:

 

http://www.lanzafitness.com/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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My feet are usually a wreck after a feature show and take a week to recover.

 

 

Oh man, I forgot about the old dogs. I once had to resort to a footspa basin I bought from a Walmart in the Texas Valley during a show. I couldnt walk in the mornings because they hurt so bad. Making movies, especially the low budget ones I am on, really takes a toll physically. Usually takes about a week for me to recover personally.

 

And those gell inserts are a joke. In a Texas summer, they just get sweaty and slide around your boots. They are nice if your doing laps around the mall, but not slaving on a brutal show...

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Many years ago I had back pain so bad that I was in bed for over a week, and the motion of my heartbeat made it hurt.

 

I tried Yoga, and don't recommend it. You need to strengthen your muscles, not just hyperextend your joints. A chiropractor can push things back towards the right place, but only your own muscles can keep them there. The trouble is you have to strengthen the right muscles. The best thing is to get a personal trainer who really knows his/her stuff. Look for the alphabet soup: CPFI, NASM, ISSA.

 

Brian, I can recommend James Lanza, his gym is near Reseda and Nordhoff:

 

http://www.lanzafitness.com/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

 

Thank you, John. I'll look into it. :)

 

At home, I own one of those rolling back rubbing things, a neck massager (not the annoying vibrating one), and one of those electrical muscle stimulus things.

 

I started writing for a few reasons, but I know that I can't run around with a camera on my shoulder for another twenty years.

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A trick I heard once (I don't remember from who though) is to alternate carrying the camera on your other shoulder in-between shots. I work mostly in reality tv, and can see how there can often be more times of waiting or walking around with the camera while not shooting, as opposed to scripted shoots.

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I have arthritis in the right side of my spine. Probably mostly from my syndicated daytime work for nine years in the early nineties carrying 40 pounds of camera and tripod for up to 6 miles a day.

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Here is something different. I have had pretty poor vision throughout my life, especially in my right eye. The eye I use to operate. Luckily for DPs there is more to having a 'good eye' than 20/20 vision. Anyway, I have always had to hire the (best) Focus Pullers I could find to ensure sharp images. They knew going in if they asked me if a take was sharp I could not really give them an opinion either way... so generally we would run one more for safety. Thankfully, I had very understanding Focus Pullers who worked (with) me on this through numerous shows including four Features for HBO and a Series for USA Network. I had a special Lens Adapter made for Panavision Viewing Systems and that was a real pain as anytime anyone needed to look through the lens it was a complete rebuild on my adapter unit to get it back in place so I could see. I began using ARRI exclusively because their Viewing System Diopter seemed to have more correction in it than Panavision but even when fully dialed to the left, the image was still not completely sharp. Operating while wearing my glasses did not work for me either as mashing my glasses against the chamois just dirtied them and was extremely uncomfortable... and did not really 'look' good on Set.

 

A couple years ago I went to to see if I was a Lasik candidate as Lasik had come a long way and I felt much more confident in the procedure. Unfortunately, my poor vision was far beyond what Lasik could cure. I was really bummed! I was all set to throw my glasses on the ground and stomp on them and be done with them. Oh ya, Contacts were not possible as I could in no way man-handle my own eyeball to get them in or out without some sort of anesthesia :blink:. My Opthamologist said there was one last resort and really my only hope. A complete Lens Exchange! Yes, rip out my old misshapen Lenses and install new Synthetic ones. Whoa, I thought. Crap, that is really invasive and SCARY! I did my research and found that this procedure is performed something like 20 million times a year throughout the World on people who have Cataracts. My doc (Sam Poppell) told me that anyone who lives long enough will undergo this procedure as our bodies outlive our Lenses. So, he said, you can wait until you are much older and your Lenses begin to turn opaque, and your insurance will cover it, or we can get this done now but it will be out of your pocket ($10k US). Well, I penciled out how much this would cost over the remainder of my life as I was then 43 years old and I thought you know $10K spread out over the next 40 years (God willing) is WELL worth it to have perfect vision! So I did it. It was completely painless and I was awake for the entire Procedure. Well sedated but awake and aware of everything. I saw his little pipette enter my eye and crush my old Lens! At that point it turned into an amazing Pink Floyd Light Show as the eye he was seeing just saw raw color... it was the purist most amazing Color I could ever imagine seeing. The removal of the old Lens took about one minute. He then inserted a new Synthetic Lens through the little tiny hole he made to extract the old Lens. The new one inserted and popped open in place.. BAM.. DONE! It took him as long to exchange my human Lens for a Synthetic Lens as it does to swap from a 50mm prime to a Zoom! Some of my Crew have suggested that he just install PL Mounts that way I could use my own Lenses and save so money. Anyway, badda bing I am done and out of there with a patch over my eye. I went home and enjoyed the remaining effects of the intravenous cocktail they gave me. They next morning was the moment of truth and I was hesitant to pull off that patch. They will onyy work on one eye at a time so at this point they had only done my right eye. I pulled the patch.... and could see details in the World I could never see even with glasses! I almost cried!

 

I was AMAZING!!!! The next week he did my other (left) eye.. BAM.. Painless.. got to see the Pink Floyd Light Show again and enjoy another intravenous cocktail! The Lens swap was done and I was SOOOOO glad I did it! A couple weeks later he tested me and my right eye was just a tad off from 20 so he did a quick Lasik on that eye (included in my price) completing my Visual transformation. Now I have 20/20.. can read the smallest print on the smallest medicine bottle.. see the details in every texture.. when reading a book I can see the grain in the page perfectly! Placing an item 18 inches from my eye is now like placing it under a microscope! I can not express how much of a change this has made in my life and ability to Light and Operate. I am so thankful I live during a time when this technology is available. Another bonus is that these new Lenses have built in UV Protection! What more can you ask for?! No longer am I reaching for my glasses the first thing in the morning and taking them off the last thing at night. I get up and GO! Also, I can now wear cool wrap around sunglasses as, with my old glasses prescription, that was not possible.

 

I know many of you struggle with this same issue. If you can.. I there is any way.. do a Lens swap if you do not qualify for Lasik. It will dramatically change you life. I am posting my Docs website just as a reference if you have any questions about this EmeraldEye.com. I also shot (produced) a Spot for him and it is posted on my website Demo Reel.

 

I am so thankful for having this procedure done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Life is to short to stumble through it blindly... or with less than perfect Vision in our chosen trade.

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On the other hand you could be a post guy and spend all day every day inside a small, dark room surrounded by glowing monitors. I have to wear sunglasses more or less all the time, even on a bright overcast day. Without sunglasses, if it's genuinely bright and sunny, I simply can't operate out of doors.

 

P

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On the other hand you could be a post guy and spend all day every day inside a small, dark room surrounded by glowing monitors. I have to wear sunglasses more or less all the time, even on a bright overcast day. Without sunglasses, if it's genuinely bright and sunny, I simply can't operate out of doors.

 

P

 

 

Wear your Sunglasses Phil.. I wear mine whenever going outside (esp. here in Florida B)). What I was discussing was 'seeing clearly' ... 'perfectly'... at all times... through your natural eyes, with sunglasses... and especially through a Camera. This has changed my life no doubt. It is amazing how much thought and effort you have to make to 'protect' your Vision for the kind of work environment you are in all day. You a dedicated person Phil!

Edited by David Rakoczy

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David Rakoczy made a good point, as I have reduced eyesight in the right eye as well, by 1.5dps.

I developed that within one year after starting to shoot with EVFs in the early 1990s. Coming from optical viewfinders, looking into these B&W miniature LCDs I guess put a lot of stress on my eye. Since then, I have to wear glasses, and as is law in Europe, I am forced to wear them for a variey of things - if I don't and an accident occurs, I am legally prosecutable. This starts from driving a car ('spectacle-wearing required' is written in my EU and international driver's licence - I actually don't know if this gets also noted in the US-licences?) to Health & Safety Regulations.

 

My oculist never concluded any relation between electronic viewfinders and my operator's eye reduced eyesight despite my contextualisation. He said this occurs naturally by age; never mind I was just around 20. He also cheered me up by saying that because of the focal changes through later years, my eyesight will actually get better again. Very encouraging. :)

I am still unsure about the cause, as I found it odd that I developed this with such timing when starting to work with video cameras.

 

At first, getting the glasses on and of when shooting angered me terribly, but eventually, I developed my personal workflow. I still get muscular pain around the right eye and sourness of it when having to change between looking into the distant and then immediately into the viewfinder over a day.

 

I was also always quite skinny and in hinsight, had I not gone to do my military service which prop'd me up, I guess wearing those Super 16 shoulder cameras for documentaries nearly all day would have had effects on my spine as well. Especially my beloved Bolex 16 Pro is a killing monster, and with the external ECU brick plus batterybelt, the set-up comes in easily comparable to a Arriflex 35BL or shoulder-config'd Panaflex. I have no idea how camerapeople in the 1960s/70s lifed through that to see their pension - but it makes me appreciate everything Aaton throws into the market alot. Sometimes, a bright and generous viewfinder and reduced weight is all that makes a camera good for me - never mind the resolution ;) , I am just too simple-minded, I guess.

 

Phil, I know what you mean: when I did my studies, I lived in a dark cellar flat and typed in front of my computer all day - sometimes not leaving for 3-4 days in a row. When leaving to get into the sunlight, this was often like a a light shock. So I really wouldn't like to change places with you right now.

 

Ah, those healthy lifestyles...

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I am so thankful for having this procedure done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Life is to short to stumble through it blindly... or with less than perfect Vision in our chosen trade.

 

 

Great story..the fact the synthetic lenses are UV protected is pretty cool too.

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A couple years ago I went to to see if I was a Lasik candidate as Lasik had come a long way and I felt much more confident in the procedure. Unfortunately, my poor vision was far beyond what Lasik could cure.

 

How bad were your eyes then? Mine are -10.5 and -11 (don't know what the equates to on the 20/20 scale.) right now, don't know how much worse they'll get (i'm only 19).

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(don't know what the equates to on the 20/20 scale.) right now, don't know how much worse they'll get (i'm only 19).

 

Andrew,

 

I am not sure either but will endeavor to find out... I can tell you I could not make it past line three of an Eye Chart... also had Astigmatism in each eye. It really is a life changing Procedure. I used glasses all my life and at 44* was given (well, paid for) perfect vision and blown away by the results. I think about it every day. You have a long life ahead of you (God willing) and if at all possible get your eyes done. Seek out the BEST 'Opthamologist' in your area. Get Examined. They usually charge $200 for an All Out Thorough Exam.. if you choose to continue that $200 is applied the the Procedure. Find the BEST and don't be afraid. Maybe all you need is Lasik.. but if he says a Lens Exchange is recommended, don't worry.. it is absolutely Painless and the Light Show is Sensational. Get examined by the best Opthamologist you can find... find out who the 'Cataract Cowboy' is in your area.. the one who does a 'ton' of Cataract Procedures.. he is your guy/woman.

Edited by David Rakoczy

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After weeks of working in smoked sets on "Northfork" I developed a tendency towards nose bleeds for about six months.

 

The day after I wrapped on "Manure", guess what? I woke up to a heavy nosebleed... too much irritation.

 

I'm no expert, but that could be a reaction to formaldehyde used in the plastics of the sets. Nose and throat pain, eye irritation are classic symptoms.

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Well, I'm an AC and now a budding camera technician as well, so I thought I'd chime in. A few years ago when I was still in school, I worked in the equipment room and was grabbing a 1000' Moviecam mag case from a high shelf with my left hand. And crunch, there went my shoulder. I basically strained whatever muscle is under your shoulder blade, which occasionally gave me tingling in the fingertips of my right hand, which as you can imagine, scared the crap out of me. Worker's comp covered a visit to an orthopedist who did x-rays and said I was fine, plus some awesome pain meds. Well, 3 years later, it's still not the same...my range of motion on that side is not the same as my right (although being that I'm right-handed, should I expect it to be?). And yeah. It kinda sucks to rotate my shoulders and hear things crunching that haven't always been that way. :(

 

Nearly a year of pushing around extremely heavy gear at CSC, combined with the fact that a Panaflex GII is probably about 70% of my body weight, I get some good cracking sounds out of my lower back too. Tack on the AC tool belt and it's the same deal.

 

As for the camera tech gig, I sometimes get eye strain and a sore wrist, my shoulders cramp up from being hunched over small parts at a workbench, and the worst of it is the basement in which I am working, which has resulted in asthma that doesn't seem to want to go away even though I've now moved out.

 

And as for the job I am on now, so far I have experienced a c-stand on my toe, a battery block on my other toe, chigger and mosquito bites on my legs, a bee sting above my left eye, a sore right wrist from carrying the camera, and a bruised right shoulder from the [unpadded] tripod digging into me. Oh, and a bruised knee from tripping over a root while carrying the camera body case and falling, banging my knee into the case, and then banging it on the ground.

 

I'm not saying any of this to illicit pity, lectures, or to scare anyone who hasn't even started in the industry yet, I'm just throwing it out there as information...and god knows when I can get health insurance again, I'll do everything I can to patch myself up. For the time being, I like a combination of hard liquor after a long day, stretching and yoga at the gym with some light weights thrown in, the old albuterol inhaler routine, and a massage when I can get it.

 

It sucks to be 26 and wake up some days feeling like I'm 75, but I'm sure it would suck more to be sitting at a desk squinting at a computer or something. Wearing nice clothes and all that. Gah.... :P

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On the other hand you could be a post guy and spend all day every day inside a small, dark room surrounded by glowing monitors. I have to wear sunglasses more or less all the time, even on a bright overcast day. Without sunglasses, if it's genuinely bright and sunny, I simply can't operate out of doors.

 

P

 

There where a number of editors that developed brain tumors when I worked at a TV station in Toronto. Of course word spread that this was caused by sitting in front of TV monitors for 10-12 hours a day for 20 years. Excessive exposure to radiation.

 

Of course the company fearing a barrage of lawsuits quickly dismissed the idea. This same company then built a wall of 50 TV monitors for the set of its new 24 hour sports channel and had the entire staff sit in front of this wall of TVs. Hey it looked "cool," and after all the CEO and his family didn't have to work in there.

 

Nothing was proven of course, but what are the long term effects of sitting in front of TV monitors for 10-12 hours a day for 20 years?

 

The other major health issue post people may face is heart disease due to lack of exercise. Don't laugh, it's a real issue for people that sit in one spot all day.

 

This heart disease can be exacerbated by the typical poor diets of post people. Way too many late night orders of pizza and chicken wings.

 

Then of course there is carpal tunnel in the wrist, this afflicts CG artists quite a lot.

 

We don't run the risk of falling off a skyscraper or being shot storming the den of a drug lord, but this industry poses its own unique health risks.

 

Then of course there is the very high divorce rate amongst film industry types. This takes its toll as well on ones health as does the constant stress of not knowing when the next job or pay check is coming in.

 

R,

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I tried Yoga, and don't recommend it.

-- J.S.

 

I know an AC in his 60's, and he swears by yoga. Recommended it to all of us who work in the industry.

 

Regular massages and a chiropractic adjustment have helped me in the past. Can't say what they've done in any long term though.

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I'm not saying any of this to illicit pity, lectures, or to scare anyone who hasn't even started in the industry yet, I'm just throwing it out there as information...

 

That's exactly the point of this discussion. :) Thank you for sharing.

 

 

In addition to my long term ailments I spoke about above, I also had an accident on set which sent me to physical therapy for a time. Our camera truck driver accidentally hit the "ramp" button instead of "down" for the liftgate so me and the ?lbs fully loaded Industrial Supplies cart fell five + feet to the ground. I landed on my feet with this monstrosity over me... me pushing back to keep it from crushing me to death. Thankfully a security guard and someone else rushed over to help push while the aging Driver fumbled with the controls.

 

The most disappointing thing was that none of the people at physical therapy seemed to believe me. :blink: Honestly, the entire time I was there I felt like I was getting this <_< attitude as if I was faking something.

 

There was another time when I slipped on the back of a truck ramp and came crashing down on my right knee. Damn near broke it.

 

 

Film sets can be dangerous places and working in the industry can have long-lasting effects that filmschool professors never talk about. Film theory and CMOS chips and how to light X are all important pieces of information to have. But not enough newbies know what real life has in store for them before they jump in.

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An older stunt coordinator once told me that he believed stunt men/women choose to become stunt coordinators only after they've broken everything there is to break in the body - he and his stunt crew also told me countless stories about the painkiller cocktails they each had everyday just to get out of bed.

 

I'm only 29, but I already feel back pain because I'm also 6'4" and since I'm often hired for handheld work, it's rough on the back trying to squat down and make myself shorter (why can't all actors be around 6'4"- it would certainly make my life easier).

 

I have a pair of shoes from Cole Haan and they were like little miracles for my feet when I discovered them - they're the only pair of shoes I've ever found that after 12+ hours on set still feel like I have nothing on my feet. They cost about $170.00, but after 2 1/2 years are still one of the best investments I ever made. As a bonus, for about $50 I can mail them back in to the company and they fix them up for me, no matter how badly I've beaten them up!

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After getting messed up in the Army and out on a Med (shoulder issues) I decided to DP. . and now I throughly understand why Avid/Painkillers are listed in the necessities of a Ditty Bag. From doing a lot of shoulder mount my lower back is giving me tinges here and again. And from those damned Prosumer HVXs and the like, and hours of holding them, my right wrist makes a lovely popping sound. Thankfully I'm left handed.

My dad spent a good 30 yrs doing lighting/dp work here in Philadelphia (though never camera operating that I know of) and eventually got glaucoma. Swore it was from the lights, and even though he was legally blind (not totally) he still drove and worked. Thankfully I have no illusions that this industry will probably make me sore, blind, and psychotic. But hey; better than any alternative I can think of.

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Guest Glen Alexander
I am so thankful for having this procedure done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Life is to short to stumble through it blindly... or with less than perfect Vision in our chosen trade.

 

Cool. But why didn't ask the Steve Austin Bionic special? Wide-angle, telephoto zoom, all built in. ha ha.

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