Flash Furniture HERCULES
The best overall chairs and stools for most camera operators.Get Price at Amazon
Flash Furniture's commercial-grade chairs and stools are comfortable, ergonomic, and durable. They also come in two different seat heights that work best for a vast majority of camera ops and situations.
These check all my boxes for the ideal seating solution:
- Welded steel frame construction
- Padded vinyl seats provide enough comfort for most people
- Ergonomic seated positions
- No wheels
- No armrests
- No bolts or moving parts
- Maximum load capacities of 500 pounds / 226 kilograms
Available in barstool height and chair height.
Stealth Chairs are engineered to provide ultimate comfort and dependability for demanding AV applications.
While this chair is designed more for studios and FOH booths, it is also a viable option for camera operators.
The Stealth Standard Chair has a maximum load capacity of 200 pounds / 90 kilograms and comes with 2 adjustable cylinders that offer seat height adjustments from 19 inches to 28 inches. An extra tall cylinder is also available separately that offers seat height adjustments from 27 inches to 37 inches.
The Stealth Pro Chair accommodates users over 200 pounds / 90 kilograms and comes with 2 adjustable cylinders that offer seat height adjustments from 22 inches to 32 inches.
Optional accessories like chair glides (to replace casters), foot rings, extra tall cylinders, and even drink holders are available for full customization.
These chairs are 👌!
The Vari Active Seat standing desk chair is the perfect solution for operators that alternate between sitting and standing.
It offers a weighted non-slip base, a tilting air-lift cylinder with an adjustable height between 23 inches and 32 inches, and has a maximum static load capacity of 250 pounds / 113 kilograms.
For best results, the operator needs to be able to keep at least one foot planted on the floor or a footstool at all times.
Filmcraft Director's Chairs
The best portable chairs and stools for camera operators.Get Price at Amazon
While these break a few of my rules, it's hard to argue with the portability and ubiquitousness of a canvas director's chair.
They come in 3 different heights, have a maximum load capacity of 300 pounds / 136 kilograms, and fold in one piece with no disassembly required.
If you setup and strike often, these will keep things light and mobile while still giving your operators some comfort and ergonomics.
Available in barstool height, counter height, and chair height.
Why You Can Trust Me
I started my career over 23 years ago as a freelance camera operator for corporate events and broadcast television networks including ABC, FOX Sports, and Speed Channel. Since then I have spent thousands of hours running all kinds of cameras during live events and broadcasts. Simply put, my butt has sat on a lot of stools, chairs, and other surfaces while operating cameras. Additionally, I have spent the last decade running this website and consulting with organizations to help them find the right gear and maximize their results. Learn more about Joel
Camera Operator Seating Buyer's Guide
Choosing the proper seating for live camera operators can have a drastic impact on operator comfort and, in turn, your final product.
Here are things to look for and consider to ensure camera operators are comfortable and have the best seating to do their jobs well.
Sitting vs. Standing
This is obviously the first decision that needs to be made. It is dependent upon each situation and every camera operator's individual preferences.
But before we get any further, I must preface with this...
I recommend that camera operators stand as much as possible.
Live production can be fast-paced and require quick actions. Simply put, acting quickly can be difficult to do while seated. I see considerably more mistakes and sloppy camerawork from operators that sit compared to operators that stand.
Sitting can obviously make sense for slower-paced environments and camera positions that require limited movement, especially during longer events. For example, tight and loose follow cameras for corporate, house of worship, and concert events.
It is also a good idea to have a seating option available even if the operator chooses not to use it during production.
No matter what, though, if seating is an option then a proper solution should be provided.
This is, by far, the aspect I see most ignored in production environments. It is common to find situations where operators are asked to operate cameras with viewfinders and controls way too high, causing uncomfortable neck, shoulder, and arm ergonomics.
Do your operators, and yourself, a favor and take the time to get this right. An ergonomic and comfortable position, whether standing or seated, is important and benefits everyone involved.
Operating a camera is similar to standing or sitting at a computer and has many of the same ergonomic requirements:
- The top of the viewfinder monitor should be at eye level
- Arms and shoulders should be relaxed
- Elbows should bend as close to 90º as possible
- Forearms should be parallel to the floor
- Wrists should be relaxed, but remain straight
- Back should be straight and reclined between 5º and 15º
Additionally, when sitting:
- Hips should be as far back in the chair as possible
- Lower back should have support
- Thighs should be parallel to the floor
- Knees should bend as close to 90º as possible
- Feet should be supported either by the floor or a footrest
Materials & Construction
All metal construction with welded joints is recommended, at least for the frame.
Any bolts, screws, and/or joints between two pieces of metal or wood can (and often will) come loose, potentially making noise and/or affecting durability and safety.
Swivel should be avoided or, at a minimum, have the ability to be locked. This, in my opinion, is non-negotiable. Throughout my career this has been the top complaint from myself and fellow camera ops.
As an operator, nothing is more frustrating than having your chair or stool turn the opposite direction as you pan the camera.
It can especially be an issue for tight follow camera operators that are constantly panning back and forth, and can become more of an issue for shorter and lighter people.
In most cases wheels and casters should be avoided, too. Not only for the same reasons as swivel, but also for safety.
You never want a chair to move on you accidentally or while you're moving the camera, especially on a platform where a wheel could roll off the edge and cause injuries.
Try to keep seat heights between 18 inches and 30 inches. Shorter chairs can get uncomfortable quickly and taller stools can become potentially unstable and unsafe.
While adjustable height seating is generally acceptable and necessary when different people operate the same camera, be aware that many adjustable height columns also swivel. If you need adjustable height then I recommend trying to find options that can adjust height without swiveling, or at least offer a locking swivel. There are also extra moving parts in adjustable cylinders that can wear out over time, so durability and reliability can be a concern as well.
This is a bit of personal preference, at least for armrests that cannot be moved out of the way or removed completely. But it is still a hard pass, in my opinion
Even if armrests are in the perfect ergonomic position for operating the camera, it's rare for your arms to stay in that same position all the time. Think about how your arms will move when panning and, especially, tilting the camera. Operating a camera is not the same as typing on a static keyboard.