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Wednesday, 08 April 2009 16:42

Accessorize that Camera

Written by  Iain Blair
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Talk to any DP or grip, and you’ll get the same story: anything that’s lighter, faster, smaller and saves time and money on a shoot is highly desirable, whether it’s a sophisticated new lens package or...


            “Camera accessories are a key part of any camera package, and we’re always looking for things that are light, small and user-friendly,” says Emmy Award-winning DP Per Larsson. Talk to any DP or grip, and you’ll get the same story: anything that’s lighter, faster, smaller and saves time and money on a shoot is highly desirable, whether it’s a sophisticated new lens package from Zeiss, Cooke, Panavision, Fujinon, Angenieux or Canon; a vest-and-arm upgrade, such as the Sachtler Artemis; or the new camera bags from Petrol or Pelican.

               Larsson is a veteran of reality TV and documentary shoots, where time is of the essence. He recently finished shooting the 14th season of “The Amazing Race,” the reality series he has shot since the very beginning. “I like to use the IMX, which is another format of the DigiBeta camera, and we rent all the IMXs from Wexler Video,” says Larsson. “I’m also a big fan of the Sunbounce reflector, which is made in Germany. It’s lightweight and looks great, comes in different sizes and is easy to take on the road. I haven’t used it on ‘The Amazing Race’ yet, but it’s a great tool.”

            Larsson also relies heavily on his Enhancing filter made by Tiffen. “It’s a small, reddish filter that you put on your matte box, and it’s simply my favorite filter,” he reports. “It lifts up every single color in your picture, and I use it as often as I can, especially on single-camera shoots. And Tiffen’s new Digital HT filters are a very hot item too. I also like to use the Cinebag, this little pouch you can stick your camera on. Again, it’s very light and you can throw it in the back of the car and always have it with you. It’s great for low-angle shots and grabbing shots when you’re on the fly and don’t have time to set up a tripod.”

            Director and DP Jim Chressanthis, ASC shoots “Ghost Whisperer” for CBS and reports that one of his favorite accessories is the Sniper, made by Adam Ward and licensed and rented through Panavision. “It’s a laser-guided focusing device that Adam developed using military technology, and I was one of the first DPs to use it,” says Chressanthis. “It’s great for long-lens shots, you can put it on a Steadicam, and it’s just a very cool accessory.” The DP also likes to use the Century swing-and-tilt lens system “mainly for expressive purposes and to really extend the depth of field.”

            At Koerner Camera Systems in Portland, the biggest camera rental house in the Pacific Northwest (they also have a Seattle office), owner Michael Koerner reports that the RED camera is very popular, and support is pretty much all ARRI, minus the tripod head. “Monstercine also makes great accessories for the RED, and we like their products a lot,” he notes. “For tripods it’s nothing but the OConnor, and for follow focus and matte boxes it’s all Arri, because they’re so dependable and durable and are universal.” For adapters, Koerner says that demand is high for P+S Technik accessories. “They make a great cine lens for video, and Letus and Redrock also make great products.”

As Koerner and other rental houses note, the RED camera and accessories are very hot items in Hollywood these days. Director Steven Soderbergh, who also works as his own DP, digitally shot his four-hour, 30-minute epic Che with a RED camera. “It enabled us to move much more quickly and easily than if we’d been shooting film,” he says. “For instance, if we’d been trying to shoot the big gun battle in the ravine with film and hauling magazines up and down all the time, we’d have gone nuts. I was adamant that we use the RED.”

In February, Redrock Micro announced seven new indie-friendly products. Among the seven new products is the M2 Encore, a complete internal redesign of Redrock Micro’s M2 cinema lens adapter. The new adapter promises to deliver improved performance and has over 25 new features and enhancements. Highlights from the bevy of new features include a ½ stop of total light loss for better light performance; reengineered optics for outstanding edge sharpness, distortion and vignetting elimination, while preserving the look of film; rotating screen coupled with a speedy motor, speed control, and 3 point screen mount; collimating lens mount for easy and precise back focus adjustment; and dampened motor and rubber gaskets for operational silence.

Sim Video, which has offices in L.A., San Francisco, Canada and Beijing, offers customized accessories for its RED One inventory, while Steve Weiss at Chicago’s Zacuto reports that ’09 is “really going to be about expansion for us, both in products, with an estimated 30 new products coming this year, and in marketing.” Zacuto is going to NAB with at least 15 new products, or possibly as many as 20 with some in prototype form. “As usual, speed and ease are our main focus, and we’re unveiling our revolutionary new FF design, [as well as] new Z-grips [Beefy] for RED cameras and camera packages over 30 lbs.; new shoulder-pad adaptor mounts for 15mm and 19mm studio rods; Lens Lock to lock your lens on when using a DOF adapter; Z-handle, a new universal handle for balanced camera carry; Zaffer grip mount to mount Zamerican arms to any size pipe or board; Microforce mount to mount Microforce units to 15mm rods; UB3 triangle, which allows you to mount your Zacuto baseplate to Shan-type tripod camera plates; Mini baseplate, a new lightweight smaller baseplate perfect for DSLRs and the HVX200, EX1 class of cameras; Z-block for Zacuto Cine baseplate kits to balance without a counterbalance in the back of the camera package; EX3 foam, a new foam insert to hold the Sony EX3 and DOF adapter with all of the camera accessories assembled; DSLR foam, a new foam insert to hold any DSLR and all of the camera accessories assembled; and our Zred Zwivel, [which is] like our original Zred but it adds a third [horizontal] movement, as well.

 “We have added two people since January 1st and we are getting very aggressive in our marketing department worldwide,” Weiss adds. “We are committed to producing a new video every single week. These videos are going to be compelling, interesting discussions both about Zacuto products and other companies’ products, as well as the open dialogue we are having with the independent film community with our ‘webisodic’ series ‘FilmFellas.’ ‘FilmFellas’ has nothing to do with products or sales whatsoever. It is a program designed to educate and entertain independent filmmakers about what is going on in our industry. We have many exciting webisodes with great cast members, and with 15 new products all ready for NAB, we think ’09 is going to be another growth year for Zacuto.”

Florida-based Mako Products is a 37-year-old company that’s well known for their revolutionary Makohead 2.0 stabilization system. They recently unveiled their brand new underwater housing for the Red One camera, the Aqua Red. “We debuted it just before Christmas,” says CEO and DP Jordan Klein, Jr. “We’ll be both selling and renting it, and we’ll have a booth for it at NAB. We already have three jobs booked for it and just finished a Pinch-a-Penny pool commercial with it. We also used the Aqua Red with our popular Aquahead and Aquacrane systems on that shoot. We’ve also unveiled our new underwater housing for the Iconic HD camera, and a fully articulated arm to go with it.”

Overall, in terms of camera-accessory gear, Klein sees a continuing trend towards using more remote heads and stabilizing systems to get those unique shots. “And we see our Aqua Red really taking off this year. There’s already been a huge demand for it.”

At Chapman/Leonard in North Hollywood, Marketing Director and VP Christine Huenergardt reports that while the company isn’t going to NAB this year, they do have

new products, such as CL sliders, vertical vibration isolators, and a new and improved camera car.

Based in Hauppauge, N.Y. for over 70 years, Tiffen has been a leading U.S. manufacturer of glass filters and other products for digital and still photography, video, motion pictures and television. The company’s products are used in almost every major movie and TV production around the world. Their latest award-winning product line is their Digital HT filters, a state-of-the-art technological breakthrough in multi-coated photo and video filters, offering the strength of a titanium coating combined with the purest optical quality glass and Tiffen’s Academy Award-winning ColorCore technology. Each filter comes with its own soft storage pouch.

At J.L. Fisher, Inc., Marketing Director Frank Kay reports that the company has nothing really new in the way of accessories, and no plans to unveil products at this year’s NAB. “We’re just focusing on our most recent products, [like] our Fully Articulated Skateboard wheels, and new dolly accessory carts, which are doing pretty well for us,” he notes.

After three years of design, development and testing, Tyler Camera Systems is now introducing its newest camera mount, The Tyler MiniGyro, which will support and stabilize cameras weighing between one and forty pounds. Nelson Tyler reports that the MiniGyro is designed to fit in any size helicopter, and is the first Tyler mount to successfully work in cars, trucks, boats and airplanes. “And since it is handheld, zero installation time is required,” he adds. “Some features are its variable-position handles, camera quick-release mounting plate, adjustable tilt head for shooting up or down, and a specially developed shock tube to eliminate vibration and support the MiniGyro and camera. A typical camera battery, 24 to 28 VDC, is used to spin-up the four Brute Gyro wheels and electronics enclosed in the MiniGyro. The MiniGyro weighs 21 pounds and can be assembled or disassembled in less than one minute to fit in its 22-pound carrying case [19x23x12”].  Its compact size allows [it to] transport as baggage, which saves time and eliminates shipping costs and delays.” Tyler Camera Systems has 32 dealers worldwide.
Based in South Deerfield, Mass., Hardigg cases have long been the case of choice to protect cameras and expensive equipment for DPs and directors on location. The company designs, develops and manufactures plastic-molded cases, shipping containers, custom-molded products and SKID-MATE cushion products for government, industry and consumers. Hardigg provides the highest quality rotational- and injection-molded products to cushion and preserve delicate equipment from the effects of mechanical shock and vibration and thermal environments. The company now offers two new Storm Cases, the iM2620 and iM2450. Petrol also has a new product: the C-Stand Rolling Bag. This new padded, semi-hard carrier is designed to hold up to four C-stands comfortably and securely.
Now in its 17th year, Glidecam Industries, Inc. of Kingston, Mass. offers a wide range of camera stabilizers optimized for various camera weights and shooting conditions. An industry leader with its lightweight and state-of-the-art systems, the company’s latest system is the advanced and totally re-engineered Glidecam HD-Series: the Glidecam HD-1000, HD-2000 and HD-4000 Hand-Held Camera Stabilizers. Equally at home in rugged terrain or on smooth surfaces, each HD-Series Stabilizer’s offset, foam-cushioned Handle Grip is attached to a free-floating, three-axis gimbal. This design feature, coupled with the overall higher inertia of the HD-Series systems, produces superior stabilization. VariZoom is another well-known, innovative leader in the manufacture of video camera controls, professional stabilizers, shoulder supports, tripods and heads, motion control systems, batteries and monitors.
At top rental house Clairmont Camera, Executive VP Alan Albert reports that the hottest new camera right now is the new Sony F35 HD system. “The great thing is that you can use all the same lenses you normally use on a 35mm camera, and DPs also get the same depth-of-field control they get with 35mm,” says Albert. “The F35 is also incredibly user-friendly, and all our 35mm accessories work on it, which is a big plus.”





Clairmont Camera



Glidecam Industries


J.L. Fisher

Koerner Camera Systems

Mako Products







P+S Technik


Redrock Micro


Sim Video





Tyler Camera Systems


Wexler Video


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