Crash Housings - What Matters?

Michael Sippel

I’m not sure which list this fits onto so I’m putting it in general – if Geoff or the listmums think it’s better on AC or Grip just say so and I’ll move it.


I’m in the planning stages for designing a general purpose camera crash housing.  Most of the ones I’ve seen are fairly simple welded steel boxes with a window at one end (to be covered with acrylic, lexan, etc.), a few cable grommets to pass power in / video out, and maybe some threaded holes for attaching rigging hardware to secure it.


This design protects the camera from being crushed by something falling on it, but does little to protect the camera if the housing is hit from the side or dropped as typically the camera is mounted to an internal dovetail hard-mounted to the housing itself with no shock absorption.  If the housing gets hit by a moving vehicle, for example, the camera and lens effectively become a point mass held to the housing only by the (typically) one or two3/8-16 tripod screws securing it to the bridge plate – which may shear under the stress and turn the camera/lens into a missile that impacts the inside of the housing to likely catastrophic effect.  I have seen the entire front face get ripped out of a 35-3 by the mass of an old 20-100 Cooke zoom when a truck swerved into the crash box housing them during a driving stunt, resulting in a total write-off of both.  Yes, there’s insurance for such things, but I think everyone involved would have preferred the camera and lens to have survived.


So my question to the group is:  How important is it to protect from lateral impact?  Or to put a finer point on it: how much additional size/weight for the housing would you be willing to tolerate in exchange for better protection of the camera from impact?  Are lateral impact scenarios rare enough that this is a non-concern, in which case keeping the housing as small and light as possible are the primary design constraints?


I’m weighing the option of improving on the basic metal box design by adding some motion dampening / shock absorption features but know those will add size/weight/complexity.  Before embarking down that path I’m trying to get a sense of whether those tradeoffs would be acceptable to users in exchange for better protection for the camera/lens or if I’d do better to stick with a basic box design.


So:  small & simple, or safer?


Mike Sippel

Arri Rental

Atlanta, GA USA

All opinions my own &c.