Shoulder rig evolution

redrock2A year or two ago I picked up used V1 Redrock field cinema bundle off eBay for a veritable song.  It was stock with a couple add ons.  Follow focus, offset bars…

I didn’t use it much, run and gun hasn’t been my primary ‘topside’ focus (although you could say it is the majority of what  I do underwater).  Most of my topside work has been tripod based, with a bit of slider thrown in.  The shoulder rig would periodically get to roam the wild, and it worked, but as with many things, it was most likely 10623379_10154683008310438_5977597229944123841_odesigned by a 5’11” male.  (meaning its dimensions were always a bit of a stretch)  No matter quite how I positioned the shoulder pad, forward/backward it just never quite fit comfortably.   It was an earlier model so the weight plate is horizontal as opposed to the snazzy new “quick release” vertical system they have (I see the pros and cons of both).  Long story short, when I needed to do walkie shots, more often than not I’d break out the Glidecam 4000 + smooth shooter vest.  This does the job well,  is very comfortable and after years of shooting underwater, I LOVE the floaty look of the footage although, with the Movi and Ronin out and about, perhaps overused.  (the handheld gimbal devices giving a higher price tag for entry but lower skill set and practice required – once its set up and balance of course)

This year I have been lucky enough to add a Canon EOS C100 to the stable as my primary topside camera.   What this means, in reality, is I’ve had to up my game a bit and hustle for topside work 🙂  For the most part these continue to be gigs where I bring two cameras, lock one down for a wide shot and then roam around with a monopod or tripod for cutaways.

When people say “build it and they will come” I believe there is a bit of truth to it, even with camera kit. Although I could do the job with my EX1 and Canon 5DMK2, opportunities for work became more prevalent after I picked up the C100.  Chicken or egg you may ask, maybe I got more aggressive marketing myself or maybe there is just a better market for a “newer” camera that can be easily cut with the higher end modern cameras.   This is a fine line though, and I recommend learning how to shoot what you have well before stepping up and trying to be a big dog with a big fancy camera.  Because I’ve been on a very tight (read: used camera) budget, I have always done my best to squeeze ever last drop out of the kit I have and not add to the fleet until I’m really bumping against some wall, or really need something specific that none of my current kit can do.   I research, I obsess, I read every forum six ways to Sunday about how to shoot better dynamic range with the 5DMK2’s so I can reduce the dreaded crushing of the blacks, or gain reduction, custom knee and bigger lights to reduce the noise to tolerable levels with the EX1.  (ok, perhaps a bit too much obsess and should just get out and shoot more)

All this backstory.  Sorry… apparently I like to write as much as I like to shoot 😉 JK

So, C100 + more topside jobs inevitably lead to more run and gun.

One thing leading to another, time to dust off the shoulder rig, cause basically I totally suck at 100% handheld run and gun.

IMG_9187C100 is an interesting bird.  Its taller than a DSLR, but short front to back rather unlike a like a standard video camera of yesteryear.  I used to be able to essentially run and gun the EX1 just by plopping it on my shoulder to give my arm/hand a break, but keep shooting.  This was due in part to its balance, length and servo zoom.  Totally different camera.   The non-newsy world has moved on from that video look though and calls for a more artsy shallow DOF if possible.  This means different lenses, bigger sensors, etc…   It also means that although I could jam the C100 onto my existing shoulder rig kit, it was never ideal.  I had to jury rig the follow focus and as stated in the beginning, the darn thing never fit me well anyway to start.

Enter the Redrock lowBase.  No we are not talking a Dev song, either.  Redrock makes an uber fancy cage line for the C100/300/500 series, which pretty much allows you to add on a ridiculous (for me) bunch of accessories.  All I needed was a way to mount it on my current rail system.

Lets address the issues I have been experiencing and solutions.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.28.05 PM1) current baseplate too high and generally ungainly and way too big and heavy even for DSLR.  Answer – Invest in kit specific base.  DSLR base for …DSLR, and lowBase for the C100.    You might already be thinking “but the lowBase doesn’t list C100 in it’s bevy of cameras”  but here is what i sussed out:  with a low profile quick release plate, the lowBase works perfectly with the C100 from a height point of view.  YAY!

redrock_micro_3_125_0001_lowbase_tall_camera_baseplate_8968442) LowBase added in its own conundrum.  Why you ask?  Because I’m a moron at times and didn’t read the fine print.  You need two sets of rod to make it work as a shoulder rig, short front rails and another set off the back for shoulder/counterweights.  The rods don’t extend through the plate.  Solution – get some varying rod lengths, 4″, 6″ and 9″ which allows me extensive creativity and time wasted tinkering.

IMG_91863) Shoulder mount just never quite sits right on my shoulder.  Two answers I guess, but keeping in mind my budget conscious nature, will try whats behind door number two first.  Answer 1:  pony up and buy the fancy squishy memory gel shoulder pad system.  Answer 2: ditch it altogether.  This camera isn’t heavy and even with a 5lb counterweight so far it doesn’t bother my shoulder where it sits.  This also pares down the rig a TON and makes it ‘feel’ more manageable.

4) Solid counterweights are obnoxious.  Either they are sticking out behind my back or they are locked in behind my back, neither of which feels like particularly efficient use of space.   Answer:  I took one of my adjustable inner weight pouches from my Halcyon dive kit weighing system, and found that it fits perfectly on the rails.  I can flip it on top of the original weight mounting plate when not in use, and then flip it down so it hangs comfortably behind my shoulder when working.  It lays flat and solid and so far doesn’t seem to cause sway or odd movement.  The beauty of this is I can vary the weight with incredible ease.  Add a big lens?  No Problem!  Slip in another pound in the pouch and its dialed! IMG_9197

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