Jem Schofield
Jem Schofield

Jem Schofield is the founder of theC47, an online and offline resource focused on the craft of video production and filmmaking. He is a producer, author and educator & the director of The Filmmaker's Intensive, an annual two week program that focuses on narrative filmmaking.

Camera Support Rigs for EOS HD Production

March 31, 2011

Camera Support Rigs for EOS HD Production
One of the most common questions regarding HD-SLR production is what types of third-party camera support rigs should people buy. It’s a great question.

HD-SLR cameras such as the Canon EOS 60D, EOS 7D, EOS 5D Mark II and EOS-1D Mark IV are being used for everything from event videography to video journalism to television and feature film production. Their ability to create images that rival traditional 35mm cinema film cameras has created large scale adoption in many production pipelines.

One of the most common questions regarding HD-SLR production is what types of third-party camera support rigs should people buy. It’s a great question.

Canon EOS HD Video Production has its challenges. While the small form factor of HD-SLRs are creating new opportunities for the way productions can be shot, they also function much differently when shooting video than when used to shoot still photographs. While a good quality tripod with a fluid head should be the first support system any shooter should purchase for their camera, one of the most common ways to shoot with HD-SLRs is handheld or with some sort of shoulder-mounted support system. Without some sort of support rig, it can be very difficult to get steady shots for your productions.


Different Rigs Based On Shooting Style and Application

As a result of the need for additional support, companies such as Cinevate, iDC Photo Video, Redrock Micro, The Vitec Group (Anton/Bauer, Manfrotto & Genus), and Zacuto are creating a variety of support rigs for HD-SLR shooters. No matter which EOS HD-SLR is used, their solutions can be used in a variety of production situations.

Three companies, Cinevate, Redrock Micro and Zacuto subscribe to the modular approach to building support rigs. They design and manufacture components that can be put together in many different ways to create rigs for many applications. They also create their own pre-made rig configurations, using their components, for different shooting styles.

The following overview will discuss some of the more popular support rig solutions being used with Canon HD-SLR cameras today. Many of the companies profiled also offer additional pre-made rigs that are not covered here.

This article will discuss both handheld and shoulder-mount support rigs from the above mentioned companies. It is not meant to be a “best of” list or a review article to determine which support system is the best, which is subjective and has a lot to do with the shooter and their shooting style. It is merely meant to introduce you to the many support rig solutions that are out there.

Click HERE to go directly to the Handheld Rigs

Click HERE to go directly to the Shoulder Mount Rigs

Whether you come from a stills, broadcast, documentary, narrative, event videography or photojournalism background, there is probably a rig that fits the way you shoot. If there isn’t, you can usually build something using one of the modular component systems that these companies offer.

Handheld Digital Cinema Rigs

Handheld rigs are compact and offer a great way to give any shooter more stability when shooting run and gun style. Whether shooting a wedding or an independent film, they allow the user to have multiple points of contact and get the camera away from one’s hands so that shots can be steadier and more creative. Handheld rigs are usually very comfortable for people who come from a small format video camera background and still photographers transitioning into shooting video with HD-SLRs.

Anton/Bauer EgripZ

At well under $100, the EgripZ is a low cost, lightweight handheld support system that can be used with any Canon HD-SLR camera. It has a 1/4”-20 camera mount which attaches directly to the bottom of the camera and also has a 1/4”-20 socket that can be attached to a tripod system. It is extremely portable and its “memory” handles can be positioned in any direction.

The advantages of the EgripZ are that it takes the user’s hands away from the camera body which reduces vibration and it also allows for more flexibility in where the camera is positioned in relationship to the shooter’s body. For example, by bending the handles upwards the user can perform low angle shots much more comfortably than handholding the camera body directly.

For more information, visit Anton/Bauer’s EgripZ product page at: www.antonbauer.com/Products/EgripZ

Cinevate Uno DSLR Rig - Heavy Support

At just under $900, Cinevate’s Uno DSLR Rig - Heavy Support is a small run-and-gun system that is designed to be used with a variety of HD-SLRs and can support heavier EOS camera bodies such as the EOS 7D, 5D Mark II and the 1D Mark IV. The rig is based on a one handle, one shoulder brace design which can be adjusted to fit any body size and type.

When using the Uno DSLR Rig - Heavy Support, the shooter will usually have one hand on the handle, one hand on the camera and the shoulder brace planted in a rifle-mount position. This gives multiple points of contact and creates more stability than when hand holding the camera.

Additionally, unlike most follow focus systems that are based on a dual rod mounting solution, Cinevate’s Durus Follow Focus can be added to the Uno DSLR Rig - Heavy Support as it is based on a single rod mounting solution.

There are many variations of this rig available from Cinevate such as the DSLR Ultimate Uno Package which is profiled in the Shoulder-Mount section of this article.

For more information, visit Cinevate’s Uno DSLR Rig - Heavy Support product page at: http://www.cinevate.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=206

iDC Run & Gun

iDC produces some unique products for the HD-SLR market. Priced at under $550, the iDC Run & Gun takes a decidedly different approach to HD-SLR rigs.

The Run & Gun is not technically a camera support system as it does not take either of the operator’s hands away from the camera’s body. It does, however, have an extra point of contact with its LCD eye loupe (a modified Hoodman HoodLoupe), and also includes a rodless follow focus system that is designed primarily for single operator use (standard whips can be used if a focus puller is needed).

Advantages of the iDC Run & Gun system are that it takes the user’s hand away from the lens barrel when focusing the camera, which reduces vibration, and also that it creates a point of contact when using the eye loupe to help stabilize the camera and get critical focus.

The iDC Run & Gun may be a good solution for shooters who are using Canon EF lenses for a lot of their video production and don’t want to invest in a follow focus system that requires a rod support system and lens gears.

For more information, visit the iDC web site at: http://www.idcphotovideo.com/support/assembly-guides

 

iDC U-Boat Video Cage

At under $500, iDC’s tripod mountable U-Boat Video Cage can be used with any of Canon’s EOS HD-SLR cameras. The U-Boat includes a quick-release baseplate solution and allows the shooter to either operate the camera holding the two side handles, the top handle, or a combination of both.

The U-Boat can also be used with the iDC Run & Gun system (as pictured above). This combination allows for their rodless follow focus system & loupe to be used with the modular U-Boat which can easily be expanded using iDC components and accessories.

For more information, visit the iDC web site at: http://www.idcphotovideo.com/support/assembly-guides

 

Manfrotto Fig Rig

The Manfrotto Fig Rig System has been used as a camera support rig for a number of years. At around $300, it allows the shooter to get a variety of shots due to its simple steering wheel design. One-handed low shots are easily obtainable by holding the rig from the top. Additional accessories and kit can be mounted to the crossbar using its machined 1/4”, 3/8” and 5/8” holes. It also comes with a quick-release plate so that the camera can be removed from the rig easily.

Additional clamps (optional) can be added so that it can be mounted to light stands and tripods and even placed on a level surface. Clamps can also be added to mount lights, monitors and microphones to the rig.

For more information, visit Manfrotto’s Fig Rig product page at: http://services.manfrotto.com/figrig/

Redrock Micro nanoStealth Grip

At under $425, the Redrock Micro nanoStealth Grip is a light and compact handheld rig system. It keeps one hand on the camera and one hand on the rig while using their microBrace body pad for stability. The rig can be expanded using many of Redrock Micro’s DSLR components and it will probably feel comfortable to many still photographers transitioning to video.

For more information, visit the Redrock Micro web site at: http://store.redrockmicro.com/Catalog/DSLR

 

Redrock Micro theEvent Rig

At around $850, theEvent from Redrock Micro is a two handed based HD-SLR rig that has an industry standard 15mm rod support system that is used to support the camera using their DSLR Baseplate. It also includes their microBrace body pad for stability and the microFinder loupe eyepiece to support a 3” loupe such as the Hoodman HoodLoupe (purchased separately).

The rod support system on theEvent can also be used to add their microFollowFocus system and also add their microMounts to attach audio recorders, monitors, lights and microphones to the rig.

This rig is very versatile and can be used in a number of shooting situations.

For more information, visit Redrock Micro’s theEvent product page at: http://store.redrockmicro.com/Catalog/DSLR-Handheld-Rigs/theEvent-DSLR-2-0-hybrid-rig

 

Zacuto Target Shooter

At just under $500, the Zacuto Target Shooter is a basic handheld support rig that has a gunstock style body brace and allows the shooter to stabilize small HD-SLR cameras when shooting. Both hands will still be on the camera, but used along with a viewfinder it creates a simple system that can greatly increase the stability of shots and can be taken anywhere due to its small size.

The Target Shooter also includes Zacuto’s Gorilla plate that allows for an easy tripod mounting solution. The rig will probably be most comfortable for still photographers transitioning to video.

For more information, visit Zacuto’s Target Shooter product page at: http://store.zacuto.com/Target-Shooter.html

 

Zacuto Cross Fire

At around $2,600, the Cross Fire is a full featured handheld HD-SLR rig that comes with a standard 15mm rod support system. It also includes the Zacuto Z-Focus Follow Focus system with one Zipgear to gear one lens, a Gunstock body brace and an adjustable Zgrip Z-Mount Zwivel hand grip. The camera is offset from the body brace to make camera position comfortable to the shooter.

The Cross Fire can be used with all Canon EOS DSLRs and the included Zacuto DSLR Base Plate is highly configurable and can be mounted to any standard 1/4”-20 or 3/8”-16 screw. Its quick-release mechanism also makes going from the Cross Fire to true handheld operation quick and easy.

For more information, visit Zacuto’s Cross Fire product page at: http://store.zacuto.com/Cross-Fire.html

Shoulder-Mount Digital Cinema Rigs

Shoulder-mount rigs are designed for stability, long shoots and for mounting additional kit such as lights, monitors and microphones (both wired and wireless).

Shoulder-Mount rigs are sometimes favored by people who come from a broadcast or traditional 35mm filmmaking background. Because of their design – resting on the shoulder - they are also well suited for shooting long events such as weddings, news, television and features.

Cinevate DSLR Ultimate Uno Package

At around $2,400, the DSLR Ultimate Uno Package from Cinevate is an expanded version of their Uno DSLR - Heavy Support Rig. It includes a standard 15mm rod support system, their Durus Follow Focus system and their Uno Shoulder Mount. The Uno Shoulder Mount is offset so that the HD-SLR camera can be positioned comfortably in front of the shooter.

As with all shoulder-mount support rigs, the DSLR Ultimate Uno Package is designed for prolonged shooting. It includes one Uno grip, but a second can be added to the system if a two-handed system is desired.

For more information, visit Cinevate’s DSLR Ultimate Uno Package product page at: http://www.cinevate.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=224

 

Redrock Micro eyeSpy Deluxe Rig

The eyeSpy Deluxe from Redrock Micro is priced at just under $1,600 and is a full featured shoulder-mount support rig. It includes two standard 15mm rod support systems. One is used for the padded shoulder pad and microBalance counter balance kit. The other is offset for centering the camera to the shooter’s eye and is used to mount the HD-SLR camera with the included DLSR baseplate.

The system also comes with the microFollow Focus system, the microHandGrip and the microFinder loupe eyepiece to support a 3” loupe such as the HoodLoupe 3.0 (purchased separately).


For more information, visit Redrock Micro’s eyeSpy Deluxe product page at: http://store.redrockmicro.com/Catalog/DSLRShoulderMountedRigs/eyeSpy-Deluxe-Bundle-DSLR-rig

Zacuto Double Barrel

At just under $4,000 the Double Barrel from Zacuto is a complete shoulder-mount support rig system for HD-SLR cameras. It is designed for a number of shooting situations and can be used in its base configuration or built out in different ways depending on the shooting assignment.

In its base configuration, the rig is a dual handheld system and uses Zacuto’s DSLR Base Plate to allow for any HD-SLR camera to be mounted to the support rig. It includes an offset shoulder pad with a 7 lb. counterbalance weight and the Z-Focus Follow Focus System with four Zipgears to gear your lenses. The rig also includes the Z-Finder Pro viewfinder (not pictured above).

Additionally, the Double Barrel includes the DSLR Handle which can be used for low mode shooting and as another stability option when holding the rig without using the shoulder pad.

For more information, visit visit Zacuto’s Double Barrel product page at: http://store.zacuto.com/Double-Barrel.html

Notes: 1) The pricing of each product in this article was accurate at the time of original publication. Product pricing is set by each manufacturer and/or reseller and may change at any time. 2) Links to external web sites in this article were accurate at the time of publication but may change due to the manufacturer’s web site structure.

About the author: Jem Schofield consults on and teaches production and post throughout the world. His company, Buttons Productions, produces commercial projects for clients such as Apple, Inc., Verizon, The New York Times, Canon U.S.A., Inc. and Bluenote Records.

For more information about Jem & his whereabouts visit: http://theC47.com

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

All images are copyright Jem Schofield

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