Building a Custom Gel Shoulder Rest and Azden 400-UDR Mount for the JVC DV500 Camera

By Johnny Markert

Besides being a great value and a solid performer, the Sony DSR-300 is very comfortable to handhold because of its unique gel shoulder rest. The DV500 by JVC also represents great value, but lacks the comfort of the 300 because of a standard rubber shoulder rest. So in an effort to enhance the DV500's ergonomics, I decided to customize my DV500 with a freezer ice-pack and some real gaffer's tape.

The Gel Pack can be purchased at most drug stores. Click for larger image
The Gel pack is completely encased in the Gaffer's tape. Click for larger image.

I came across the idea by accident as I was searching for a snack in my fridge. I keep Cramer Flex-i-Cold packs handy in the freezer to treat sprains and to keep food in lunch boxes cold. Cold packs have a blue gel-like substance inside of a tough plastic package. The one I chose was about five inches long and four wide, and about a half an inch thick. These packs can be purchased at grocery and drug stores.

I let the cold pack sit overnight to bring the temperature up and to dry the plastic casing thoroughly. I then covered the plastic case with a layer of black gaffer's tape. I suppose duct tape would also work, but gaffer's tape is easier to pull off and adjust. I then removed the two screws holding the rubber pad from the 500 and put some washers around the screw towers to prevent them from puncturing the gel pack. I then used more gaffer's tape to secure the pad to the underside and sides of the 500. It even looks like leather.

After one job (about three hours of handholding the camera), I decided to put the rubber pad back on and add the gel pack. Now the camera feels just right and adds only about five ounces to the total weight. The gaffer's tape has just enough stiction to keep the camcorder from sliding around. I suppose in hard use, some of the tape will start to roll up and have to be replaced, but for now it sure beats having to buy a DSR-300 to get comfort. Besides, if I ever get a shoulder pain, I'll just throw the shoulder rest in the freezer for a few hours, then plant it on my shoulder.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image
Click for larger image

I also customized the battery holder in the rear of the 500 to keep my Azden 400-UDR wireless receiver in place. I use IDX NMH batteries that slide into the existing battery box. The Azden is a big dog with a big clip on one side and space for Velcro on the opposite side. However, the 500's battery holder has four mounting screws that negate the use of Velcro. I needed to make a plate to add to the back and counter-sink the screws to make a flat surface.

A piece of aluminum about six by three inches and about one-eight inch thick would have been ideal, but I didn't have any aluminum handy. So I found an old U-matic tape with a thick plastic case and cut the piece out of the case with a cut knife. I then drilled four holds for the existing screws, notched the tip of the plate for the Azden's clip, and added a piece of velcro at the bottom for security.

So far, so good. The Azden adds a bit of weight to make the 500 slightly rear-heavy and now the whole rig with battery and tape weighs about eleven pounds. It's comfortable and nicely balanced. Now if JVC could only find a way to shed about six of those pounds, I'd be much more comfortable.

Johnny Markert


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