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Failing eyesight

Geoff Owen

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Hi folks, particularly the ones over 50. I'm now in my mid 50s and like many of this age have been suffering the eye condition called Presbyopia ( needing reading glasses, lose of close up vision) my distance vision isn't that great anymore either these days. Oh to be young again. Younger ops may get some benefit from this too, even though now your eyesight is 20/20, in the years ahead many of us combat this problem.  

So I'm posting this to find out what other older ops have employed to combat this situation outside of giving up the rig altogether.

I have tried multi focal glasses but found that as our eyes are constantly darting left and right, up and down whilst navigating the terrain as well as watching the monitor the different powers of the lens can make one feel a bit disorientated.

I haven't tried bi-focal glasses for Steadicam work, I guess I'd need the similar magnification as the mid distance single vision lenses I use. but still the situation of eyes darting around and seeing through different powered parts of the lens can be off putting. I have a pair of these reading /distance and find them sometimes dangerous particularly going down stairs (not operating).  

Mostly up to this point I've been using single vision reading glasses, generally less magnification than what I need for reading, this gives me a pretty good focus on both the monitor and my immediate surrounds. They give you a similar visual result when looking through all area of the lenses. This is fine for "high mode" operating but not very good for "low mode' operating as the monitor is much closer to ones eyes. For low mode I need to go to stronger magnification but naturally this means that my surrounds are pretty fuzzy.

I haven't tried mounting a 2nd monitor below the stage as it would need to be fairly large to be completely useful.

I've read that the degeneration of our eyes slows after 60, so perhaps i'm getting to the point where it won't get much worse then I'm at already and I get along pretty well.

Some time ago I experimented with different power contact lenses, they seemed they would have been a great solution, I never got to try them with steadicam operating but the worked well driving and seeing the speedo on the way home from the optometrist . The failing came down to putting them in and out of my eyes, naturally needing reading glasses for close focus I couldn't see the contact lens on my finger, often just poking myself in the eye with a bare finger to find the lens on the bathroom vanity. This was a time when you had to remove them each day and re-insert them the next day. I believe that you can get them now and leave them in for weeks at a time. I have an appointment with the eye doctor in a couple of weeks so I might ask about them again. Perhaps I should have persevered and got the hang of it. 

Apparently this technique only works with contacts, I don't believe that you can do the same thing with regular glasses. But I believe this may be possible with lazer surgery. Has anyone done this? 

I've seen on Face Book ads for glasses that you can dial in or adjust the magnification strength , has anyone tried these?

Anyone come across eye drops to help this condition.

I ate lots of carrots when I was a kid, is there any real proof that carrots work?

Anyway, you get the gist of what I'm trying to find out. I look forward to read some of your comments.

Geoff Owen

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  • 2 weeks later...

I’m using Progressives, they actually do help with the reader on the bottom going up to distance. As I look down through the bottom I can keep my head up a brit so I can glance at the surroundings through the Mid and distance segments. It will take a bit to get used to but they work for me.


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Hi Guys thanks for the replies.

Addressing the comments.

Stephen, glad your bi-focals work for you, as I mentioned above, I found these good for every day use around the house etc. I did have some issues with stairs, going down in particular, we tend to use our peripheral vision I guess to gauge the stairs  and the junction of the two powers of the lens seems to be around the 45 degree down mark, that's about the angle stairs are set at. So if you simply look down as you approach the stair you look through the magnified section of the bi-focal and the image is totally blurred, very hard to be confident with that first step. once on the stairs then your muscle memory takes over for the most part. But for the judgement of that first stair you have to consciously look down with your head to see the stair clearly. Often our use of peripheral vision is seeing the stairs and our brain makes its judgement from the peripheral image but if your peripheral vision is seeing through the higher magnification (reading section) of the lens, which results in an blurred image to the brain, our brain can only have a poor judgement of where that stair is etc..

Hi Alex, as john has added below your post, these are called a progressive lens.

John, thanks for your comment. I have tried these progressive lens glasses too, I chose the cheaper option which has a narrower field of vision. I can't remember exactly how it worked, a bit like an hour glass shape in the way the different powers of magnification are transitioned. The more expensive lens gives you a wider transition. So again for me I found that looking around with just my eyes without moving my head gave the world a bit of a wobbly sensation. 

So up to now I have found that single vision glasses have been a good option. I don't have any real problems of astigmatism or more complicated eye dysfunctions so although not perfect I can use off the shelf reading glasses, and have several powers to suit particular situations. My distance vision requires about 0.7 diopter and my reading is about 2.5 , so mostly I tend to use a 1.5 magnification reader for  the Steadicam work. These give me pretty good vision/focus for my surroundings and pretty good focus for my monitor when in high mode, low mode not very good focus.

Another point regarding the bi- focal and progressive lens glasses, for regular camera operating, these days we're all blessed with field monitors on the camera, a great tool for operating in those physically difficult setups. But with the bi-focal and progressive lens with the reading (close-up ) section at the bottom of the lens if the monitor (generally mounted on top of the camera) is above your head you have to tilt your head back a lot  to view it through the reading area of the lens. Naturally this can be quite uncomfortable even after a short time. 

Anyway, I've recently have been to the optometrist for a checkup and have explored again contact lens. Since last trying these some dozen years ago, mentioned in my first post, technology has advanced and you can now get them as a "Progressive" lens and you can now leave them in your eyes for a month at a time, you don't have to take them out each day.  So I have now got what they call a "tester" pair. These have been set up as, both eyes have a distance prescription and one eye has a close up reading prescription and the other eye has a mid distance prescription. The Right eye is close up reading/ Low mode operating,  so 2- 3 feet focus plus distance and the Left eye is mid distance, 3-5 feet focus plus distance. These are not perfect as yet and may need a bit of refining, additionally they say it can take a few days to a couple of weeks for your brain to retrain itself to process the image and to workout which section of the retina is in focus.

That being said I'm blown away with the result. The liberation of not having to wear glasses is so good, as said not quite perfect just yet. Not having the frame of the glasses in your peripheral vision is great, not having to look through a specific section of the glasses is just fantastic. Life just seems to be in focus, the distance vision isn't quite right with these at this point but the close up world is really good could be a little better for reading a book with small print. I guess that I could get some additional glasses to wear if I really needed for reading small print. Even if this is as good as it gets I will stick with them as it's pros far out weigh the cons for me at this time.

One big pros that I was thankful for this weekend, digging a hole under a house, very hot and humid day, a lot of sweating, normally I'd have drops of sweat on my glasses and having to put up with it or cleaning them every couple of minutes, wow just fantastic, no cleaning required. Digging under a house and sweating as much as I was, I would have had to take the glasses off and dig blurred, it was like being in a rain storm. I can see this as a huge bonus when operating Steadicam on those hot days, nothing worse then drops of sweat on your glasses in the middle of a shot.   My eyes in general aren't so bad that I'd wear glasses all the time particularly during the day, night-time is quite different.

I've only done a half a dozen Steadicam shoots in full rain or rain effects, admittedly your cap can keep your glasses generally clear but not always. These contact lenses will be a huge benefit in those circumstances. 

I haven't used the rig since getting these lenses but the confidence I now have in seeing the world more naturally like when I was a young man gives me great hope. To be honest I had been thinking that I would soon have to give up operating as I simply didn't have the confidence in my balance due to not seeing the world in proper focus. For me these are a game changer.

Cons, the $400 prescription sunglasses I have are now useless unless I take out the contacts and I'll have to get used to putting the contacts in and out at some point. Not sure of the cost at this time, I don't think they are super expensive, I believe the ones that can stay in for a month are a bit more than the daily ones and it may work out a bit more then regular glasses. I hope that my health fund will cover most of the expense but I think they will be well worth the expense.

Another Pros,  they're hard to break, not easily lost ( I presume ), I'm not sure about swimming, maybe you have to keep your eyes closed a little bit so they don't wash out, but I don't swim a lot these days. I can always wear goggles. Plus I don't have to have several pairs of glasses around my neck. 

I've only had these for a few days now so I guess time will tell.

I did ask the dumb question at the time of getting them, "how do you know if they're the right way up ?" . The answer is that there isn't a right way up, the prescription is set up in concentric circles, like a bulls eye apparently, the distance in my case is in the center and the more powerful magnification for closer distances is on the outside. I believe that they can create these lenses with more than 2 bands so potentially you can have a few levels of magnification in each lens, so that may be the next tester. Again it will take some time for my brain to reorder itself to process the information.

I'm not sure if this technique can be created in laser surgery but I would doubt it.

As for people who have cataracts and get their natural lens replaced with a artificial lens I'm not sure if they can do the multi focal version for them, I don't see why not. My mother had her lenses replace a dozen years ago and she has one lens for reading and the other eye for distance single vision for each eye. She does very well for a 91 year old, reads the paper without glasses and drives the car. Yes we would all prefer she didn't, but like Charlton Heston, we couldn't pry those keys out of her dead cold hand. So perhaps they have the multi-focal option for that surgery now.   

An interesting fact that the optometrist told me about why we need to get glasses after the age of 40. Apparently the lens in our eyes is one of the few things in our body that continue to grow as we age. In turn as the lens grows it become much more difficult for the mussels that control the lens to adjust its shape to focus the image in our eyes. 

Anyway, I'll post another report in a few weeks time or reply to any questions.

Many thanks for your interest.

Seeing the world more clearly.

Geoff Owen

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  • 4 months later...
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Hi Geoff,


I loved reading thru this thread. I'll tell you my story.

 Years ago...I turned 41 , Great year. My 1st child was born and during that year I noticed I was spinning the diopter on the Broadcast Eyepieces closer and closer to one side, effectively needing to increase the magnification in the eyepiece. My Far vision was impeccable at 20/10 both eyes. My close vision went from being able to focus on my thumbnail at 6" to having to hold it at the furthest extent of my arm. then even further. For steadicam this was still fine. since the monitor ( Always a Transvideo) was always between 2ft-4ft away. Then I started noticing that not EVERYTHING between the 1.5ft to 4ft was in focus, and the diopter was now ALL the way to one side. When much younger directors or DP's would look in my Tripod or Dolly mounted camera their first reaction was  ("Oh shit,  dude is this how you see!?")... I went to the eye Dr. my wife went to for years ( she started using glasses at like 13 years old) They said Yep, You need glasses but just barely. So I was precribed a set that was +.75 on one eye and +1.0 .

        I was officially Farsighted and my Near sight was starting to go.. My wife was -7.5 !, she could see with no contacts or glasses things 2" from her eyes, but at 5ft. she wouldn't know it was me. I wore the glasses for 2 years, then my vision went to needing 1.0 in one eye and 1.25 in the other. Also using the glasses while driving weakened my eyes. The DR always said to Only use them when I'm not driving or when I need to see something close up, but I was lazy , new to glasses and I liked to see my gauges in focus at night....so I left them on all the time....fast forward to 3 years ago when I went to the Dr again for a prescription evaluation and he said my prescription had not changed and I was a candidate for laser correction....I had heard about Lasik many times and at this office they always advertised LASEK?.

My Dr. first explained that LASIK uses a technique where they cut and peel back the top clear layer of the eye, perform the laser adjustment and then the flap gets folded back over and it heals very quickly, I'm back to work the next day....BUT.... there were the semi common cases where the patient would experience a halo effect when in a room with many bulbs or light sources, even halos when looking at oncoming lights from a car in the night for instance... He further explained that it was like making a perfect cut in a round  clear glass globe, then replacing the cut glass in the same space. there would now be several surfaces adjacent to each other where the light would refract and bounce around instead of going right thru smoothly. He went on to say that this would go away over several months to several years when the body completely regenerated that clear tissue...( time depended on each individuals own body and how it regenerates damaged tissue)......I was Absolutely NOT doing that.  My luck I would be one of those seeing the Halo and get to a live award show and have 350 halos starring back at me from the lights in the grid and on stage...

He then tells me about LASEK, and that the laser goes thru the front of the eye without the peel back of the top layer.

He also tells me it has better results for near sighted folks than for far sighted ones and the recovery is quite a bit longer.

He says that for Far sighted candidates he would do one eye one month and the other eye the following month, that there would be discomfort for several days and he suggested not working for 2-3 days after the surgery. There is a strict regimen of drops in the eye several times a day and several office visits for the first couple of weeks so see the advancement of the drops, etc..


BUT for near sighted folks, it would be one eye per week......

So.....I offer up my wife!

He was very familiar with my wifes eyes and after some discussion and another eye test for her, he tells me she's a perfect candidate.

 She had the surgery on a Wednesday and her first eye was uncomfortable for a couple of days and she was seeing a bit blurry the first day and more and more clear each day after that, by the time the following week came around to do the other eye she could see perfectly Near and Far from the first eye. The second surgery was the same. and 2 weeks from the first surgery my wife for the first time since her early teens could see perfectly. I was excited..

He tells me that Far sighted folks would not achieve the perfect Near AND Far sight that Near sighted folks would. So we experimented. He gave me a single contact to wear on my left eye for 2 weeks and see how my brain did. It turns out it took about a day and a half for me to get really used to being able to see great closer up with my left and using my right to see distance.

After a couple of those 2 week trials with different contacts we settled on a number and did the surgery only on my left eye. It took me 2 weeks to really settle my left eye after surgery. It's been great ever since. going on my 2nd year. Even though I only did my left eye, I have not used glasses since.

I plan to get my right eye done this summer. The plan is to sharpen the distance while also getting a wee bit of closer focus capability in my right eye with that surgery.


The surgeries were quite painless themselves and affordable from the comparison I did for months before hand. All his surgeries are done at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.

My wifes eyes are still great, no issues at all.

My Dr tells me that at some point I will need some reading glasses only for very close up work like soldering, etc..

I kept my .75 glasses and those are perfect for working on small soldering jobs..


 That's my story.....



Osvaldo SIlvera s.o.c.





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Hi Osvaldo,

thanks for your input to this thread.

Great story.

I'm curious to the cost for the surgery, naturally it will be quite different over here in Oz. I imagine that it was a few thousand dollars.  With this Covid thing I might not be able to get to Miami for some time, plus the lack of work over the past few months, spare funds for a trip and surgery may be some time off as well.

I'm now into a few months of using the multi-focal contacts and they seem to be working really well. As you and your wife would have discovered, not having to put glasses on to see is really worth the Cons that come with contact lenses. 

As mentioned in the earlier posts, the contacts I have can stay in for a month at a time, So far at the end of the month I wear my old glasses for a day or two to give my eyes a break. 

The cons are my eyesight is not as good with the contacts as with glasses, depending what I'm looking at. Some times a lens will fall out during sleep, bad dream I guess. I was lucky that I found it in the basin when I washed my face in the morning. At times if I look up it will feel as if the lens gets caught in my eyelid and seems as if it will fall out. I might see if the make them slightly bigger for the next batch I buy. As mentioned eyesight is mainly pretty good, particularly during the day when my pupils are fully closed, night time vision is not great with a dilated pupil as the lenses are set up in concentric circles, hence multi focal, so the brain has to work hard to work out clear sharp vision. Wearing sunglasses can have a similar effect. Night driving with them isn't great but ok. Still a laborious job putting them in, as I only have to do it once a month I don't get practiced at the task. I'm so relieved when I get them in I'm not tempted to take them out and try again, plus my eye is sore enough at that time. 

I contemplated  just getting single vision contacts similar to you, however I would need to have lenses for both eyes as my distance vision isn't great anymore. I thought that with dependence on one eye or the other I would loose some of the inherent 3D effect that seeing with both eyes gives us may be an issue. 

But over all I'm glad I've gone down this road and perhaps in the future I'll explore the Lasek procedure that you had. Thanks again for your post, good to know there are other options.

best Regards

Geoff Owen 



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Hi. You touched on a few things I had not in my post. It took 30 minutes for me to put in the first contact and when it was time to take it out at night another 10-15 and each time my eye was sore and tired from the monumental effort. My wife helped several times, it was no fun. I explained it as having my eye have a mind of it's own and fighting tooth and nail the thought of something foreign touching it. I was told I could keep it on my eye a few days at a time but my body was making quite a bit of protein to ward off the contact and I would need to remove it each night to clean it. I did sleep with them a few times and it was great to see the phone clearly without having to grab the glasses.

At night it was definitely worse. Even now as one would expect nigh time is a wee bit more difficult. My right eye which is my far seeing eye will benefit greatly from the Lasek in sharpening the far vision at night and increasing my depth of field closer to me a bit.


The costs..... This Dr has his office in Miami Lakes, FL. The surgeries that this Doctor performs are only done at Bascom Palmer eye institute in the City of Miami. ( About 25 minutes away from his office) The Hospital charged me $750 when I got there for the Hospital fee, nothing else. The Dr himself charged me $950 per eye for the consultation and the surgery, ( only 1 eye for me so far) now when you think of the amount of times I saw him and the care he took to make sure everything was going smoothly it's a fantastic price. The prices on both the hospital and the procedure and care/consultation/office visits might have gone up slightly in the last year but probably not by much. the drops that I used and the restasys drops afterwards were all under $200.

First consult was a very in depth eye test, then testing of a contact, then a few days later a phone call to see how it's going, at the 2 week mark an evaluation visit, in my case I wanted to change to a slighter lighter augmentation, so another 2 weeks till the next consulation, we decided on that level of correction. and a week later did the surgery on a Friday 8am, I had a protective bandage contact placed on my eye . Had a headache, an eye ache. just hung out at home. the next day on Saturday at 9am I was to be at his office, he inspected how things were healing, said my bandage contact would stay in until Monday. I went back on Monday, he sais he loved what he saw, and removed the contact bandage.... now at this point I'm still seeing blurry, but no longer taking tylenol for the discomfort. Just felt like I bumped my eye on the eyepiece during a jerky dolly move. All this time I'm on a strict regimen of eye drops. one drop 3x per day, another 2x per day, and everytime I would go see him, there would be tests, measurements and the frequency of drops and amounts would change. within 2 weeks I was off the drops and the surgery was "set". by that I mean complete. You see the completion of the siurgery was done with the drops. Your eyes tend to want to revert back to how they were before the laser changed things up in an effort to heal themselves from that trauma, so the drops help control the eyes natural tendency to do that and let the work heal and then the eye will not be able to revert back. not sure if that makes any sense, but the drops help SLOOOOOOWWWWW the healing so it sets in... So all in all I must have seen him 5-6 times in a 2 week time span from the date of the surgery and 3 times before the surgery.. I paid the Dr $950 and the hospital $750, when I get my right eye done it will probably be the same or a bit more since I guess it's gone up a bit.

IF you have been wearing contacts for more than 2 weeks then you'd have to have them off for a solid 2 weeks before the first visit so that the curvature of your eye is back to normal for proper measurements.. It's really fascinating. The fact that we as operators understand lenses and curvature and light refraction, etc makes for a very interesting back and forth conversation with this Dr. and it also lets him know he can use the big words, hehehehe.

After this pandemic is finally slowed down and over, Miami is a fun place to come get it done and recover,



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