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Zacuto Recoil V2

With the influx of Canon C100 Ownership, the topic of handheld systems oftentimes comes up.  Clients are either used to shooting with an ENG style shoulder mount camera or DSLR’s and want to transfer the handheld shooting skills with either to a camera like the C100. Now the C100 is a great camera, but ergonomically normal a camera it is not.  Luckily, companies like Zacuto bring along great products to help make that transition much simpler and more cost-effective. The most recent rig to cross my path was the Zacuto Recoil V2, a product I had seen and specced for awhile but never got hands on with.  Set-up with the Recoil goes quickly and is pretty intuitive.  Where this rig gets it right is the grip relocator, which is worth the price of admission all on it’s own.  This may be the most cost-effective single piece to be used with rods that retains the same functionality of the camera on the market.  No longer are you using a dumb handle for the sake of handheld; you’ll get all the functionality of the hand grip just in a more logical place. You simply connect the 1/8” plug from your grip into the receiver and then run the 20”+ cable back up to the port on the camera and voila. Now for some bad. Well sort of bad. On Zacuto’s product page, they specifically address needing an EVF for this rig. Sad to say, there really isn’t a way around this…for a C100.  For a C300, however, the ability to articulate and move the EVF that comes with the camera makes a lot more sense and works well for this rig.  The same rule would apply with a C500. For the C100 ultimately, using an EVF with an articulating arm serves the trick as you can now create a more flexible and positional eyepiece. Secondly, I would recommend some longer rods to allow for more flexible adjustment of distance for the camera.  Ideally you want the weight to be on your shoulder for the best hand held support, and longer rods allow you to move the grip locator to a more comfortable position. The shoulder pad QRP system is handy as well and is pretty flexible in terms of placement.  It’s easily positioned and removable. One huge note to make with this rig: Be sure to use the Tripod TB-1 Adapter Plate that comes with the camera to work with the rig.  The only two points of contact on the rig are 3/8” and ¼ 20”; no safety pin.  So be sure that’s on the bottom before you start rigging. Another suggestion is the use of a Quick Release Plate System to create a fluid workflow from tripod work to shoulder supported, handheld work. I found the Kessler Kwik Release plate to pair well with the Zacuto set up. All in all, this is a great, cost-effective rig to get you started with some handheld work, with some limitations.  No one rig will solve every problem, but I see the Recoil V2 as being a really smart and sharp start to solving some workflow hurdles with Canon’s Cinema EOS Camera line. -Nick Giannino, Inside Sales, giannino@rule.com

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And then the camera moves left…

How often when storyboarding your next project, do you plot in a camera move? I mean a major one, not just a tilt up or pan left. I know that in my own projects, it’s been a long time since I planned for a large move. Without an entire G&E department to support my projects or the budget for a Steadicam operator, I just want to keep everything as easy for myself as possible.  But I also know that by skipping this, I’m wasting a big part of the beauty of motion pictures. Now that I’m interning at Rule, I’ve had the chance to see a few options for camera moves that might be within reach for my own projects. In less than a month, I’ve seen jibs and a Steadicam rig, as well as two options that I think could really work for my next project… the Easy Jib by Grip Control and a Doorway Dolly. The first, the Easy Jib (as you may know if you’ve ever seen it before) is basically a large slider. This is the perfect tool for getting roughly a five foot move into your project. It’s long, but not very heavy, and doesn’t have a ton of add-ons, so you can easily get it into a third floor walk-up. You can put it on a table or a counter or on two stands or even on the floor for a nice low angle. It’s also easy to operate with only one person. Just a gentle hand to guide the glider and the other can pan or rack focus. The only real cons are the limited size and the fact that you really need an external monitor. It’s not easy to follow an eyepiece with this dolly. The other dolly, the Doorway Dolly, is another great option, albeit a much bigger, less easily transported one. But there’s no need to wrangle a bunch of track with this dolly. It has four reasonably quiet rubber tires and can hold a standard size tripod. As you can guess, though, you need at least two people to pull off any camera moves with this dolly. One person to drive and one person along for the ride to operate the camera. Additionally, I found that the steering, while relatively easy, is not an exact science. Without tracks to guarantee an exact mark, you could end up just to left or right of where you wanted to be. This could make for a focusing nightmare if you’re working in low-light, wide-open aperture situations. Overall, I like both of these options. Both get the camera moving around the room without a cumbersome track system and without much added to your gear list. They might seem slightly unromantic compared to other options that are out there, but sometimes all you need is a little utility to get the job done well! Happy filming! – Rachel Wiederhoeft, Fall 2013 Intern

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General Audio Kits

When working on a films, I’ve noticed that sound is typically the thing I’m least worried about. This isn’t because it is an easy, insignificant part of filmmaking, because it’s the exact opposite. Sound is a very important part of a film, and does just as hard of a job of telling a story and evoking feeling as story, acting, and cinematography. That is why I’ve come to acclimate myself with the various equipment used for recording sound. The first, and most important instrument in sound production is the Sound Device 702 recorder. This piece of equipment has two sound channels, XLR and BNC outputs, records to compact flash cards, and has easily navigable menus. On top of all this, it is made of a sturdy (albeit heavy) material that will prevent simple destruction or damages. The 702 recorder works well with the Sound Devices 302 mixer. Along with the recorder, the mixer is an extremely compact, portable, and ergonomic device. Its three channels are easily monitored and adjusted, requiring little time to learn. As for devices for gathering sound, I have found that there are numerous options. Obviously there is the array of dynamic and condenser microphones (cardioids, hyper-cardioids, omni-directional microphones, and so on). The latter are the typical “shotgun” microphones that are mounted on top of cameras, or found at the end of boom poles. They are the go-to microphones for filmmaking. For scenarios in which condenser microphones aren’t practical – such as for wide shots when boom poles risk being seen and camera microphones are too far for authentic sound – then there is a wireless alternative: lavalier microphones. Rather than looking for a ficus to hide a condenser microphone in, a lavalier microphone is wireless, and can be mounted and hidden on the actors and acquire usable sound. When I say usable sound, I mean sound that doesn’t quite come to par with condensers, but considering the situation, they get the job done. Many times filmmakers will gawk at the idea of using lavalier microphones because of a lav’s potentially inferior quality (especially when you have cats in the scene – they’ll play with the little bobbing microphone like a ball of yarn). However, the day will come when your boom pole will catch fire, and all you’ll have left are these bad boys. On the subject of wireless sound devices, there is an astoundingly useful tool for filmmakers to use behind the camera: the HME 800 or HME PRO 850. These are kits with 5 headsets with built-in microphones that are used like walkie-talkies (however, with many more batteries required). This intercom kit is so practical that its uses are near limitless. On set crew can communicate swiftly without running around; assistant directors can let a set know what the afternoon schedule looks like; and in a case where a shot requires multiple cameras with operators, a director of photography can give each one of them commands without any issues. The HME 800, and the HME PRO 850, are both quite intuitive devices and require very little time to learn and grow accustomed with. Even though they aren’t used for the creative part of filmmaking, “in front of the camera,” they are priceless assets for effective and efficient management on a set. This amalgamation of sound devices each has their own strengths and weaknesses. The benefit with having each of these items on your film set provides you with options, and options create flexibility, and flexibility leads to efficiency. -Kyle Huemme, Fall 2013 Intern, Curry College

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Falloff Rates and Dimmer Accuracy

Built-in Dimmers are oh-so-convenient. If a cloud screws up the relation of an artificial fill or you just want less heat on the side of her face, bliss is just a twist away. But how useful are these built-in dimmers in creating dramatic changes in exposure? Are the dimmers really calibrated to be useful to a precise cinematographer? I tested three popular lights to compare which lights had the most useful dimmer system: the 1×1 Lightpanel (LED), the Kinoflo Diva (daylight fluorescent), and the Bron Kobold 400 Watt All-Weather System (HMI). The criterion for a “useful dimmer” included a consistent fall-off rate in exposure (f-stop) as the light is dimmed (proportionally) and accurate visual measurement markings around the knob corresponding to the change in brightness measured. If I’ve turned the knob halfway but the light hasn’t cut down at all, I’m not happy.

And just so that this blog post isn’t too technical or stuffy, we won’t do any math or go over the scientific proceedings. Just know it involved me, a light meter, some blocking tape, and a garage with no outside light. And we’ll refer to my crudely drawn and scanned-in graph (below) to draw some lofty conclusions.

If you glance briefly at the graphs (but don’t scrutinize them too much) you’ll see the LED easily wins for best dimmer system. Its results form the closest semblance of a linear graph. Even more surprisingly, I found that the incremental knob markings accurately cut the light between a ½ or full stop all the way to the 25 mark. Second place goes to the Kinoflo Diva. It got off to a rocky start, but eventually started dimming noticeably. However, I quickly realized that the dimmer markings were more of a nice yellow design and not meant to be accurate in the least. The arbitrariness of the Kinoflo Diva, regardless of marked change near the end, make it useful for quick, sizable adjustments, but it is not nearly as precise and nuanced as the LED. Furthermore, it can turn from 4 bulbs to 2 bulbs, which probably mirrors its dimmer in its restrictedness. So what’s the point of the dimmer? The HMI finished last—and who could blame him? HMIs already rock and have nothing to prove (this one is even waterproof) but if it’s not going to dim in any noticeable way, don’t waste our time with a dimmer system. Perhaps this is due to a poorly executed experiment (I’m a film major, take it easy), or maybe the HMI takes longer to warm up to its dimmer settings. But those last minute touches can’t freeze a shoot for five minutes as the HMI gets its act together. Clearly, then, the HMI has arbitrary markings on its ballast and isn’t too concerned with dimming itself. But it is still the brightest. We’ll give it a point for that. Here’s the data if you really really really like dimming/mood lighting/being picky about exposure/like turning knobs. KINOFLO Diva (fluorescent) Full = f/8 2 clicks dimmed= f/8 4 clicks dimmed = f/8 6 clicks dimmed= f/8 7 clicks dimmed= f/5.6 8 clicks dimmed= f /2.8-4 split 9 clicks dimmed = f/2 all the way down (but not off)= f/1.4 Bron Kobold 400 Watt All-Weather System (HMI) Full= f/8-11 split 1 click= f/8 and ¼ 2 clicks= f/8 3 clicks= f/8 4 clicks= ¼ under f/8 5 clicks = f/5.6-8 split 6 clicks = f/5.6-8 split off= underexposed. 1×1 Lightpanel (LED) 100%= f/8 90%= f/ 5.6-8 split 80%= ¼ under f/5.6 75%= f/4 65%= f/2.8-4 split 50%= f/2-2.8 split 35% = f/2 25%= underexposed 15%= underexposed off= underexposed -Bryan Sih, Fall 2013 Intern, Boston University