Wednesday, March 3, 2010

HDSLR Camera Rigs, so far...

We recently added a Canon 7d HDSLR to our arsenal of equipment and are really excited about what that is going to allow us to provide for our clients (as well as our original content).  The image quality is astounding and the size and weight of these cameras allows us to put them into places that traditional film/HD Video systems wouldn't dream of going.  Also, they record to Compact Flash Cards so the amount of footage that you can shoot is only limited to the capacity of a hard drive.  You transfer the footage, format the card, and keep shooting!  

This leads us to our new slogan/motto/way of life...whatever...

Big Ideas, Small Footprint - Tower 26 Films.

Lately we have been working on building some camera rigs. We wanted a modular system that would be infinitely re-configurable as well as expandable as our needs grew. 

Since we are working to cut down on waste (and costs) we also made it mandatory that we used as many of the pieces we already own (from our film/video kits as well as our still photography kits).  We also found many of our pieces from home improvement/hardware stores.

But, even though Baron Victor von Frankenstein got his monster's neck bolts from Home Depot, he still needed some specialized equipment:

    You don't think he had this stuff lying around do you?

To allow ourselves the adaptability that we wanted we also purchased some new pieces.

Some of the pieces that we are using (both new and repurposed) are:
  • 12" and 18" Rails,follow focus and Snap! lens gears from IndiSystem (there will be a separate post about them soon)
  • Extra "monitor blocks" from indiSystem (2 so far)
  • LCDVF viewfinder
  • The Pod
  • Stroboframe flash brackets (2), which each have a cold shoe that was re-purposed elsewhere on the rigs
  • Hand grip from an old shoulder rig that never worked right.
  • Simpson StrongTie L-brackets (2 bolted together)
  • 4 pound weight for nylon strap-type scuba diving weight belt
  • Mini ball-head connectors
  • Brass 1/4-20 spuds
  • Velcro strapping (the two-sided kind with the hooks on one side and fuzz on the other)
  • We still want to get a hot shoe extender but nobody has one in stock
All of this is to attach the following gear:

Canon 7d HDSLR camera
Marshall LCD70XP-HDMI monitor
Zoom H4N audio recorder
Sennheiser ew100G2 wireless microphone receiver

Someday we hope to be as cool as our hero and get to play with all of the cool toys.  Until then we are completely happy to Frankenstein our rigs together as best we can.

Here are a few of the configurations (some of them are still in-progress):
(as always, click on the pictures to make them bigger)

The Shoulder Mount:

This one has all of the bells-and-whistles.  We are using the two flash brackets bolted together for the monitor, wireless receiver and the audio recorder.  This also works as a right handle.  

We are using the Pod as a shoulder pad (with a section of plastic cup and a 1/4-12 nut to hold it in place) and the Simpson StrongTie bracket assembly to hold the scuba weight on (with a strap of velcro through the belt loop).

You can also see the follow focus with the indiSystem Snap Gears - they are lens gears that attach around the lens using magnets to hold them together. - So far it seems like an awesome way to do it.

The Zoom is held attached to a mini ball-head (We plan to move both the Zoom and wireless receiver to the top of the camera once we get the hot shoe extender).

This is also, incidentally, our tripod rig (with the exception of maybe moving the monitor above instead hanging from the bracket) on top of our Manfrotto 525 MVB sticks and 501 head.
Handheld with follow focus (Stradivarius mode):

This configuration uses the viewfinder instead of the monitor.  You can really get into some tight places with this setup but you still have the follow focus so you can stay in focus while moving around (or while your talent moves around).  We have stripped it down to use only one of the flash brackets.  With the flash bracket, the camera's hand grip, and the view finder, you get 3 points of contact for stability.  Plus, we put an extra rail block on the end and adjusted the rails so it gives you one more point of contact with your chin (this is why we named it Stradivarius mode):

We are working on a pad but it's pretty comfy as-is.

Stripped down handheld (Lean-and-Mean mode):

This is exactly what it says, lean and mean.  With a super-wide lens you can shoot anywhere with this one.   Small, light and maneuverable - sometimes a camera and viewfinder is all you need. You still get the point of contact with the viewfinder which can help stabilize the shot when you need to.  I left the indiSystem Snap gear on because it gives a big solid area to grab ahold of for focusing.  

Home-made stabilizer (not pictured mode):

This is a DIY version of the Glidecam
I still have a few things to work on with this one (and I forgot to shoot it fully rigged).  So I'll put a separate post up for this one but here's a teaser of our first test drive:

We are also working on a DIY slider.  Kind of like this one.  More about this later as things develop.

Well, that's it for now.  Stay tuned for the indiSystem post as well as more about the DIY stabilizer and slider.  We also have a post coming regarding a recent job that we finished so check back often!!

Daniel and Brigitte

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