I was pretty proud of myself. I thought I’d done good. There was room for improvement of course, but all in all, I thought I was a bad ass for broadening Scott Eggelston’s Frugal Stabilizer Rig for my purposes. I wanted to kill as many birds with one stone as I could.
Go to the DIY RIGS page.
My main gripe with DIY rigs is they don’t consider the ability of the operator to maintain critical focus, a challenge I’ve encountered in the field with my little Canon HV40. Focus is an issue with HV cameras in the first place with a poorly designed focus system. Sure it was probably designed with the amateur home movie market in mind, but it’s reputation for excellent color capture in 1080 HD got the attention of prosumers around the world, and the HV20/30/40 has been the poor man’s HDSLR for years.
But you can’t focus the dang thing! Enter Irv Design Focus Wheel and later the HV Follow Focus (HVFF). Things began to change as more folks embraced the HVX cameras. For me they weren’t what I was looking for. I wanted a real follow focus to shoot cine-style. Finally, I decided to try two different systems together, the Dfocus Follow Focus and the Irv Design Focus Wheel. Turns out it works! But back to my first problem:
DIY builds don’t consider follow focus applications. If a camera operator removes his left hand to adjust focus, there’s a chance the rig will tip and you’ll lose your shot composition. So here’s what I came up with last week:
You can’t really see it clearly in the photo, but there is a center rail the camera’s mounted on. What happens is, the operator removes the grip from the right (photo left), inserts into the center rail, below the matte box, and voila! The operator supports most of the weight with his right arm, now located under the camera. Worn over the shoulder, it functions like an ENG style system.
Fricken, genius, right! No, not really.
Maintaining focus is still an issue, here. The Dfocus knob is on the same axis as the upright framing. You open the side LCD monitor and things get real cramped real quick. The Dfocus/Irv Wheel solves the problem of applying focus, but it doesn’t address acquiring focus. You need a proper viewfinder system for that. Then I found this:
(Can’t you just hear the choir cue?)
This was built by RedRock Micro circa 2007 for the Cinegear Expo. Here’s an ancient blog about the HV20 RedRock rig.
I hung my head in shame. This rig solves all the problems I face in the field. Unfortunately, this was a prototype and never went into production. For me, it’s set the standard. I still want a shoulder rig that can convert to a Fig Rig. The shoulder rig will have an LCD viewfinder attached to the flip out monitor for fine focus. There must be attachment points for sound (shotgun mic XLR adapter and or recorder) and a TFT monitor for flying the camera with the Fig Rig.
So it’s back to the drawing board. This is where I’m going:
I moved the mic attachment to the right side, shrunk the overall width, and repositioned the forward uprights under the center of balance, which moved the follow focus forward of the cage, facilitating access. Still needed are quick release plates for the rod system and for the camera. Having a quick release for the camera facilitates ease of battery change and working with the lens gear. I plan on a larger, external battery and most importantly an LCD viewfinder. Once I get that, I’ll be able to determine overall length for the shoulder rest.
What’s really cool is, when I eventually upgrade to an HDSLR, it’ll fit right in there!
I’ll keep you posted!
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