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Monday, 04 June 2012 11:57

Innovative Camera Support

Written by  David Hurd
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Some of the new smaller cameras available this year are wonderful, as they have large chips, balanced inputs and a wide variety of lenses. But the fact that they are small in size makes them difficult to hold, leaving little room to mount the necessary accessories. Additionally, these cameras don’t have servo zooms — so trying to zoom in/out or focus is usually a shaky process.


When I’m shooting on the Sony FS100 camera, the tripod is solid. I can frame my shot in an external monitor; check focus and IRE in an EVF; adjust focus and zoom; add light, if necessary; and record 1920x1080p HD video from 26Mb/sec up to 1240Mb/sec. The key difference is having a good camera support system. A good starting point is a rod system. I’ve been testing the Berkey System components on the Sony FS100 with good results. I use a set of the Berkey System 12-inch and 6-inch rods. The rods screw together to create the 18-inch length that I need for bigger jobs. Even the 12-inch rods have enough room to mount a Petroff Mini Follow Focus and a JBK Cinequipt Follow Focus unit for focus and zoom control. I start with the 12-inch rods and add the 6-inch rods, depending upon how much extra gear I’m using with the camera.

The Berkey System baseplate designed specifically for the Sony FS100 (to connect the rods to the camera) is rock solid, even with all of my accessories attached. I also use the company’s FS100 cheese plate mounted to the top of my camera to mount some of my other accessories.

The Berkey System lens support is also a handy tool. A common problem with smaller cameras is their inability to shoot a presentation from the back of the room. I solved this problem by adding a Tamron 200–500mm lens to the front of my FS100 camera via a Dot Line Corp. Nikon lens adapter. This allows for a head-and-shoulders shot from 50 feet away and a head-to-toe (or tighter) shot from up to 150 feet away. The lens is great but heavy — if it were not properly supported, it would tear the camera mount from the front of my camera. The Berkey System lens support locks on to the front of my rod system and screws into the mount on the bottom of the lens. In addition to offering lens support, it also stabilizes the lens to keep everything solid during camera movement.camerasupport

When I first received my Sony FS100 camera, I found myself desperately in need of a camera support system. On a 10-hour shoot, the batteries in my external viewfinder died after two hours of use. Luckily, I wasn’t using an external recorder so my recording came out fine. As I added accessories, I also found that I needed a power system that could support my camera and all of the extra gear. Having five batteries of three different types — all needing charging several times a day — just wasn’t working for me in the real world. I decided to find a power system that could power my whole rig in a professional manner while using just a single battery.

First, I mounted the Berkey System VersaPlate on the rods behind the camera. On the VersaPlate I mounted an Anton/Bauer Gold Mount battery to power some of my accessories. This changed, however, when I opted for the whole Anton/Bauer power system, which included the company’s MATRIX cheese plate. The advantage of this plate is that it’s already predrilled for its Gold Mounts. The first thing that gets mounted to the cheese plate is the QR PD HDV adapter, which is a Gold Mount with a cable that plugs into the FS100, replacing the Sony battery.

Since I have so many accessories, I needed more outlets to plug them into, so a QR QUAD PT got mounted on top of the QR PD HDV adapter. This gave me four more places to plug in a PowerTap connector. And since there’s also an outlet on the QR PD HDV adapter, I ended up with a place to plug in five accessories. I now find that there’s more to a power system than just having enough outlets for everything. Having the proper type of battery is important when running a lot of accessories, because drawing more watts than a battery can deliver can damage the battery. (There have been stories of fires and battery explosions, but I will spare you the details.) I used the Anton/Bauer Dionic HCX battery. Offering 124 watt hours, it can power up to a 25-watt light and another 75 watts for the camera, recorder, viewfinder or external monitor. Since I have 10- and 25-watt lights, that leaves about 100 watts for the other accessories.

Here’s a list of the accessories that I tested and how they were connected. First, the Sony FS100 camera is connected via the cable from the QR PD HDV adapter. Next, the DP4 Electronic Viewfinder from SmallHD is connected by the Gold Mount cable (sold for $20 on the company’s Website). The ULHM-LED package from Anton/Bauer is a dimmable on-camera LED light. This kit consists of a base that can be mounted in a hot shoe or onto a cheese plate. Depending upon your situation, you can pop on the ULMH-LED 10-watt LED light, the 25-watt Ultralight 2 for tungsten, or the UltraDAYlight for HMI. The LED light also comes with a diffuser and two orange color-correction gels to color-correct the light for indoor use. This light rocks, drawing its power from the Dionic HCX via the PowerTap cable. I also use a Plura Broadcast PBM-070 7-inch monitor, which needs an XLR type of power connection. Anton/Bauer offers the PowerTap 28 XLR cable. This 28-inch power cable plugs into the Gold Mount with an XLR power connector that plugs into the back of the monitor on the other end.

The HyperDeck Shuttle recorder from Blackmagic Design is a great way to record 10-bit uncompressed full-raster, high-definition video, but it comes with a built-in battery that needs to be charged every hour or so. My solution was to cut the cable on an old power supply that fit into the recorder, and attach a male PowerTap connector to plug into the Gold Mount. There’s also a need for solid camera support. I use a Miller 20 tripod because I like the fact that the legs can be locked in one of two positions: a narrow stance (like most tripods) or a wide stance that’s great for stability (with a teleprompter or a camera with a long lens and a lot of accessories).

Bottom line, buying a new camera is just the beginning of the journey. Your camera support and power system will ultimately determine the effectiveness of your rig and the quality of the images that you produce.

MSRP: Sony FS100 Camera $6,550

MSRP: Berkey System (prices vary with parts used for rig)

MSRP: Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Shuttle $349

MSRP: SmallHD DP4-EVF $749

MSRP: Plura Broadcast PBM-070X Monitor $2,500

MSRP: Dot Line Corp. Lens Adaptor Nikon to E-mount $63

MSRP: Petroff Mini Follow Focus $1,230

MSRP: JBK Cinequipt FF209HD Follow Focus $425

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