The Ultimate Sony NEX-FS100 Rig!

At least for me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sony Nex-FS100 camera is a wonderful camera that produces stunning images but the form factor can be a bit awkward for some users. I like the fact that it is so small and can be stripped down easily to be extremely lightweight and used in small places. But sometimes (most of the times for me) we need more weight and a better balance, especially handheld.

The small size of the Fs100 allow some clever mounting!

Magic Arm: the invention of the century!



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have worked for some time in a news gathering environment and became accustomed to shoulder-mounted cameras. They are usually perfectly balanced, so even if they are heavy, you can shoot with them for long hours without being too tired. This is something I have tried to replicate since I got the camera in June 2011.

At first, I looked at some kit designed by companies like Zacuto, Redrock, etc. One kit that appeared to be really interesting (based of price / features ratio and build quality) was the Genus G-VCSMK video shoulder mount.

While I was researching my options, Samuel Pinel-Roy, a friend of mine and fellow Fs100 shooter, told me that he just got the Genus kit for an upcoming shooting trek he was doing. So I got a great opportunity to play with the kit and see if it could fit my shooting style. And in fact… it was not.

The Genus kit is very well built and most of the parts features great design specifications, like quick release, great finish, etc. But as a kit, I found some design problems for my utilization. The most important were:

  • Rod length: The rods are 22 inches long. It’s too much and not enough. When I am run’n'gunning, ENG style, I waht to be compact. 22 inches is too much. And when you need to add accessories like matte box, follow focus, long lenses, 22 inches is a bit short.
  • Shoulder pad and counterweight: looked at independently, these two parts are great. The shoulder pad have a great finish, is good looking, and have a quick release mechanism and the counterweight is compact and the rods pass-through, which is great. The problem is that the counterweight seem to be designed for DSLR, it,s only 2.5 lbs, and it’s not enough to balance the camera correctly. I tried to add more weight to balance the camera correctly, but doing that, the rig is too heavy for the shoulder pad. The padding is slim and when you add too much weight, it become not comfortable at all.

So after this tryout, what became obvious to me is there seems to be no off the shelve perfect solution for my utilization. So I started to look at every single component available in the market from every company trying to put together the best rig, for me. I also had to build and modify some parts to suits my needs better.  It is definitely not going to work for everyone, but I’m sure my finding might help other building there own rig for there specifications.

What driven my choices was:

  • Cost vs feature: What was important for me first was to find something that meet my needs first. But cost is obviously also important. I wanted to buy parts that were useful, cost effective, while being well built.
  • Compactness: Sometimes I see rigs posted on forums that looks like war machine. I don’t want this. What’s the point of buying a small camcorder if it become impossible to pass through a doorway with it!
  • Comfort: I regularly have to shoot handheld for 5 to 8 hours straight, and I need to be able to go home at night with my back, shoulders and arms feeling good.

With that in mind, I put together this rig:


Run'n'Gun style, perfectly balanced!

Fully rigged!

Ready for narrative work, studio configuration












Consisting of:

Rods:
What I have found when I tried the Genus kit is that the perfect size to have space for handles and shoulder support without protrude too much in the back is 18 inches. But sometimes, 18 isn’t enough (when adding a long lens with a matte box, follow focus, etc).  the genus kit gives you 22 inches which I found to be a bit short.
So I ended up buying 2 twelves inches rods with 4 six inches extensions.  I now have the option to use 12, 18 or 24 inches rods.  12 is a bit short and I will most likely never use them alone.  I would have bought 18 inches rods, but 12 inches ones are easier to pack.
I have bought them over ebay from a company called TRUSMT. They sells affordable quality products. Their rods are as good as any other high end aluminum ones.
COST: 72$ + shipping

 

Handles:

Some companies sells handles that allow to adjust the distance between the two handles.  In theory, this is great.  And in fact it might be more comfortable to have them further away when you have your two hands on the handles.

But what’s happen when you need to put your left hand on the lens to focus? Your right hand need to be near the center to keep the whole thing from tilting. Having both handles close to the center allows you to switch supporting and focusing hand during long shoot.

The Cavision RHD1560 handles are perfect for that.  And you can adjust the angle of each handle separately.  And they are really solid and lightweight (made of strong plastic), a plus value for components to go in front of the rig.

COST: 82$ + shipping

 

BasePlate:

Nothing fancy here. I wanted something small to let me put the shoulder pad about half below the camera to achieve a better balance.  I already had a manfrotto 577 Quick Release adapter on hand and a few metal plates left over from some other parts I accumulated over the years.  So I just bought two « Rail blocks » clamps I found on eBay for 20$ each, drilled a few holes, and put this together. Voila. (in fact I bought 3 Rail blocks, the last one being used for the battery plate and counterweight.  More on that later).

But there is a lot of options available on the market and you can find anything, between 200$ to 1000$, depending of your needs.  Just look around.

COST: depends…

 

Shoulder Pad: 

Like I said above, from my tests with the Genus, I found that with the weight of the FS100, accessories, and the counterweight (more on that later) needded to balance everything on shoulder, the shoulder pad had to be well padded. The padding found on the Genus one wasn’t enough.

This is the Porta Brace Universal Shoulder Pad  SP-3G and it’s definitely the most underrated rigging accessory ever! The design is so effective, yet simple. The shoulder pad is thick, made of strong nylon with an anti-slip rubber surface.  It wraps over the rods and it is held in place with strong Velcro.

Even with a heavy rig, the padding is thick enough to be comfortable on the shoulder for long hours.  And it is so cheap! Definitely worth it!

COST: 50$ + shipping

 

Monitor / EVF:

When shooting with cameras with this particular form factor (or DSLR), you can’t access to the on-board monitor from a shoulder-mounted rig. So you need an external monitor, or an EVF.  While I love using larges monitors with big resolution, for on board monitoring, I needed something small.  I have tried 5.6″ and 7″ monitors, but I had to put them so much in the front to get a comfortable viewing distance. It was a bit of a problem to achieve a good overall balance of the rig, and the rig wasn’t compact at all.

The EVF are the alternative. And coming from ENG cameras, it was the logical choice for me. At the time of purshase (September 2011), there were only 2 options available for me: SmallHD DP4-EVF
 and Zacuto ZFinder EVF 
(I wasn’t able to find any retailer who could have sold the Cineroid unit to me).  Price wise, they are close. And they shared a lot of features too.  Two equally great choices in my opinion. I went with the SmallHD DP4-EVF because of the versatility.  At 4.3″, you can definitly use it as a field monitor when you detach the loupe.  The zacuto is smaller at 3.2″.

It’s a great unit, and while there is some people saying that the resolution is lacking at 800X480 (same as Zacuto), having used it A LOT, I can say that this is definitly enough, given it’s size and feature, to accurately achieve focus, even with fast prime lenses.

COST: 750$ shipped!

 

Power:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, why adding an external power device?  After all, the camera last for a day with one Sony big battery! Yes, but The DP4 need it’s power source too, and my wireless mic receiver too.  I don’t like to have multiple batteries, multiple chargers, and having batteries drained at different speed.

So I took the Gold mount batteries route.  I bought the Anton Bauer FGM-S battery plate  . This adapter is made specifically for Sony cameras and provide a dummy battery to go in the camera and step down the power to 7.4v.  This specific adapter is made to be installed on the Anton bauer STASIS system.  So I had to build a custom plate made of aluminium to install the battery mount to my rail system, while protecting the internal components (the battery plate have it’s circuit boards non protected on the rear face). I also covered the other side of the custom plate with Velcro to attach accessories (like my wireless receiver).

I then mounted it on another Rail block (the same type I used on my base plate).

For the batteries, I choosed to go with the GlobalMediaPro 95W.  They are cheap, reliable, and used by many pros all over the world.  GlobalMediaPro also have a nice little single-battery charger .

This way, with the help of D-Tap cables, I can power the camera, EVF and receiver from the same source. One 95W battery can power this whole kit in record mode for 8 hours.  and since one battery take about 5 hours to charge, with two of them, I can shoot indefinitely!

COST:   Anton Bauer mount - 175$ , the 2 batteries and charger – about 350$, custom aluminum plate and some bolts – about 10$.

 

Counterweight:

Of course, using a big battery like the one above help a bit in balancing the rig.  And in fact I could have placed the battery further away and horizontally to offset more weight.  But since I wanted something compact, something in the line of ENG cameras, I wanted to avoid that.

I was inspired by this article from Cheesycam.com.  This blog post show how to use diving weights on camera rig.  So I figured I needed 5 lbs of additional weight in the back, ordered this Aqua Black Vinyl Coated Lead Weights – 5 Lbs
 from Amazon.com.  I then drilled a hole in it and tapped a hole in the same Rail block used to support the battery.  I used a 1/4-20 bolt with a finger-friendly head to mount it so I can easily unscrew the weight when I have to go on tripod.

COST: 20$ + shipping

 

Cables management:

When you add EVF, power from a single source, XLR cables, etc, cables can become messy.  Of course, Velcro stripes can help in that depratement. But Redrock Micro released recently this little device, the Microtie.  Sold in pack of 3, the microties are faster and easier to install than Velcro, and are quite slick looking.

COST: 25$ + shipping

 

 

So this is it! I very functional rig, extremely versatile, not too expensive but strong and solid. I hope my research and testing might be helpfull for other trying an ergonomic rig for many situations.  And of course, about everything here can be used with other cameras with small or no modifications.

 

Here are some other photos of the rig:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Test: 16mm f2.8 SEL1628 e-mount and wide angle Sony VCL-ECU1 on FS100

Version française ici: http://www.jparchibald.com/?p=354

This is my first attempt at blogging in english.  Since the french version of this article generated some interest, I decided to translate it and my future technically related posts.  I am working right now on a lenghty review of the FS100 as a tool for independent (and low budget) filmaking.  Recently I did the cinematography on a short movie with the FS100 and I will share with you my experience.  

Some time ago, I bought a Super-35  Sony NEX-FS100 camera. This camera is equipped with the new e-mount system from SONY and allows, via the right adapter, to mount virtually any existing lens. I bought adapters for Nikon and CanonEF to use my collection of lenses that I used with the Canon 7D.

The Nex-3 mirrorless camera with 16mm lens

Moreover, since the Sony FS100 replaces the Canon 7D completely  for my video productions, I sold my 7D body. I could not justify keeping a pro body for my  photo needs. The logical choice to replace the photographic functions of the 7D for me turned out to be the SONY NEX-3. It shares the e-mount with the FS100, so I can swap all my lenses between the two devices with different adapters I have. It is a kind of hybrid between digital SLR and compact digital cameras. it’s still a big sensor (APS-C) and interchangeable lenses while being less bulky and easier to use (the manual controls and raw files are still present).

The 16mm "pancake" lens

Wide angle converter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nex-3 is sold with either a 18-55 lens, or in a kit with a 16mm fixed lens (24mm equivalent to 35mm FF) f2.8. As I have a stabilized 18-200 superzoom that cames with the FS100, I opted for this little 16mm. I also purchased the wide angle adapter specifically designed to be installed on the 16 mm, making it equivalent to a 12mm (18mm in 35mm FF). To take pictures, no complaints, especially since I am an advanced amateur at best … I do not sell any photos. What interested me most was the performance of this lens (and its adapter) coupled with the FS100 for the video.

 

Here is the test:

My finding are in the video, but overall:

  • Sharpeness is good except in the corner
  • Corners are soft wide open, improves when stopping down. at f5.6 they are pretty good.
  • The adapter is great, no light loss, but it makes the soft corners more apparent.
  • We can use it with a matte box.

Overall, the pair work well on the FS100, and can be used wide open depending of the subject (my subject with details all over the frame render the corner softness more apparent.)

Test du Glidetrack Shooter

Je viens de recevoir une nouvelle pièce d’équipement: un Glidetrack Shooter . J’ai voulu tout de suite le tester en tournant un court vidéo.  Heureusement, j’avais une jeune actrice sous la main et elle a généreusement accepté de me donner de son temps!

Glidetrack ShooterglideTrack

Le résultat est assez probant.  Même sans pratique, j’ai pu réaliser des traveling hyper fluides très rapidement.

Tourné avec un Canon 7D en 720 60p ramené à 24p pour l’effet slowmotion.  Couleurs ajustées avec Magic Bullet

Sauf moi sort des frontières du Québec!

Sur le plateau de Sauf moi

Sur le plateau de Sauf moi

Après avoir été projeté sur les écrans du festival Fantasia le 19 juillet dernier ainsi qu’au Festival des Films du Monde (FFM) le 21 août dernier, le film Sauf moi, de Jean-Philippe Archibald et Nicolas Tremblay, s’en va à Saint John au Nouveau Brunswick!  En effet, il sera présenté sur les écrans du Continental Drift International Short Film Festival samedi le 27 septembre à 21h00.  Consultez la programmation au http://www.cdrift.ca/.

 
Sauf moi est un thriller psychologique mettant en vedette Isabelle Boivin, Éric Chalifour et Marie Villeneuve.  Il nous entraîne dans un chassé-croisé de personnages dans lequel on assiste à une journée dans la vie d’Émilie.  Un accident change le court des événements et la pousse dans une quête identitaire.
 
La distribution compte également Pierre-Olivier Tremblay, Alice Tremblay-Bergeron, Pierre Tremblay et Dany Tremblay.
 
Pour plus d’information sur le film, le kit de presse est disponible au www.jparchibald.com/sauf.html

Un article dans le Quotidien

Christiane Laforge publie cette semaine un article sur la participation de Sauf moi au FFM

Article

Sauf moi au FFM!

 

Marie Villeneuve

Marie Villeneuve

Après avoir été projeté sur les écrans du festival Fantasia le 19 juillet dernier, le film Sauf moi, de Jean-Philippe Archibald et Nicolas Tremblay, fera partie de la programmation du prestigieux Festival des Films du Monde (FFM) dans la sélection des films étudiants canadiens.  Le FFM se tient du 21 août au 1er septembre 2008.  Surveillez la programmation à paraître bientôt sur le site du festival http://www.ffm-montreal.org/fr_index.html pour connaître les dates et lieux de projection.
 
Sauf moi est un thriller psychologique mettant en vedette Isabelle Boivin, Éric Chalifour et Marie Villeneuve.  Il nous entraîne dans un chassé-croisé de personnages dans lequel on assiste à une journée dans la vie d’Émilie.  Un accident change le court des événements et la pousse dans une quête identitaire.
 
La distribution compte également Pierre-Olivier Tremblay, Alice Tremblay-Bergeron, Pierre Tremblay et Dany Tremblay.
 
Pour plus d’information sur le film, le kit de presse est disponible au www.jparchibald.com/sauf.html

On parle de nous dans les journaux!

Isabelle Labrie signe deux articles sur Nicolas Tremblay et moi en rapport avec la carrière de notre film, Sauf moi

Article 1

Article 2

Sauf moi s’en va à Fantasia!

Isabelle boivin dans le rôle d'Émilie
Nous sommes très fiers de vous annoncer que le film Sauf moi, réalisé par Jean-Philippe Archibald et Nicolas Tremblay, sera présenté cet été à Montréal au festival Fantasia!  La projection aura lieu dans le cadre du « fantastique weekend du court métrage québécois », du 18 au 20 juillet.  Surveillez la programmation à paraître bientôt sur le site du festival http://www.fantasiafest.com pour connaître les dates et lieux de projection.
 
Cette sélection confirme la qualité du film, après qu’il ait gagné le prix du « meilleur film de fiction » au Festival du film étudiant de Québec en avril dernier.

 
Sauf moi est un thriller psychologique mettant en vedette Isabelle Boivin, Éric Chalifour et Marie Villeneuve.  Il nous entraîne dans un chassé-croisé de personnages dans lequel on assiste à une journée dans la vie d’Émilie.  Un accident change le court des événements et la pousse dans une quête identitaire.
 
La distribution compte également Pierre-Olivier Tremblay, Alice Tremblay-Bergeron, Pierre Tremblay et Dany Tremblay.

 

Si vous êtes à Montréal durant cette période, passez faire un tour!