Peter Schneider and I have been shooting concerts over the last couple of years and we have been trying to keep to the "less is more" philosophy of the great rock and roll Documentaries of the late 60's. So in keeping it simple we used a lot of hand held cameras. It was good, but it fell short of what we had hoped for. I keep thinking of that great shot of Otis Redding in Monterey Pop captured by D. A. Pennebaker. As Otis rocks back and forth the spot light emerges from behind his sweat soaked head and blows out the frame, the shot is at once fluid and fixed, it has to be a pretty long lens but Pennebaker holds it steady. Even though our DSLR's capture a wonderful image they suck when it comes to ergonomics and the handheld rigs that are out there do little to help. So back to Monterey Pop the Doc camera of the time was the Eclair NPR and the ACL, the first camera that an operator could incorporate a as physical extension of themselves - the foundation of this wonderful shot. In 1971 Jean-Pierre Beauviala, who had been an Eclair engineer, started Aaton with his "cat-on-the-shoulder" design philosophy. After several initial prototypes, the Aaton LTR 16 mm camera became available on the market in the late 1970s. In my opinion the Aaton LTR 7 is best handheld camera design to date, I floundered trying to reinvent the wheel and then I looked at my old Aaton sitting in a storage closet. It had been trashed in a flood in 2006 but the form was still right there, aha! So based on the LTR I made a rough design and showed to to Peter, he encouraged me to push it further, I finished the beta and Peter sent pictures off to Jean-Pierre at Aaton hoping for his blessing. He gave his whole hearted approval, his only condition being that we put "Honorary Aaton Shoulder Cat" on the rig - DONE and DONE. It is going to branded right in to the wood.
So here we are - these are pictures of the second version. It was built around the Lumix GH2 (I crammed the 7D in there but it was very tight) I am now building the third version which is a little bigger to fit the Canon 7D and 5D. For now I am making these up in Rochester where my father has a small boat building shop, with a ample supply of Black Cherry, a native North American hard wood, and the big cool tools.
Please spread the word. Thank you.
-David A. Ford - July 2011 Some images of the predecessor to the Lion - R. These are the images we sent to Jean-Pierre Beauviala.