There seems to be a never ending progression of change when it comes to my camera rig, but given the flexibility with the way that the rig is assembled, it’s not too difficult to move things around. It’s a bit like moving into a new home and working out how the furniture best fits for daily use, and what looked OK at the beginning, a few days or weeks later proves to be a poor choice and changes follow. That’s pretty much what’s been happening with my camera rig, especially as I get more hours of use under the belt. Video is so far removed from stills photography, where the camera setup really doesn’t change at all over its life unless you consider swapping lenses a change. So once again I’ll go over a few additions/changes that I’ve made to the camera rig which may or may not be subject to further change.
One thing that I added to the rig was a remote shutter release. For some time I’ve been lamenting the fact that there’s no simple Bluetooth trigger available that does just one job and that’s to start/stop video recording. There are mobile phone apps available and they are anything but useful (for me at least). When you have one hand on the follow focus wheel, the other on the fluid-head panning-handle and you’re watching the field monitor, the last thing that you need is to manage a mobile phone to start/stop recording. So to address this situation, I took a leaf out of a 150 year old idea (it’s at least that old), which is a mechanical shutter release cable. These are still readily available, cheap and not so difficult to set up, even for a camera not designed for this. I just used a cable clamp to hold the end of the shutter release above the front record button and then some zip ties to hold the release on the fluid head handle to make a very functional remote control and it works a treat. The photos aren’t overly illustrative, but I hope you get the idea.
And then I realised my mistake. I went to take the rig off the fluid head and discovered that my camera rig was attached to the fluid head via the shutter release cable. As it’s not a simple thing to remove the release end from the rig, a new solution was required. That proved to be easier than I thought, as all I did was insert a rubber tube into the rig’s 15mm rod that holds the V-Lock battery and then pushed the shutter release cable into that and through the other end. The release part of the shutter release is now firmly inserted in the rod and needed no other support and then it was just a matter of routing the shutter release cable back to the record button. Now the rig lifts on and off without issue and the shutter release is still easily accessible, though not quite as convenient as before and now I could have done with a shorter release cable. And I can attest that the shutter release works perfectly, as I put it to plenty of use at a recent festival. Though the position has changed again as I’ll show.
Another change that I made was to the configuration of the camera rig. I found that the battery sitting on the right side of the rig created a fairly significant imbalance, which was most noticeable when I covered the Mirboo North Italian Festa where I had to carry the rig around while attached to my tripod. The imbalance, as well as the weight, made it extremely uncomfortable and awkward to carry around for the four or so hours I was at the Festa and, by the end of the day, I was starting to feel that in my shoulder, neck and back. So I removed the V-Lock battery assembly and the shoulder pad and positioned the shoulder pad in its intended configuration and then placed the battery on top of the shoulder pad. This made for a much more balanced camera rig and also gave me a bit more access to the camera controls. Now if I could find a small and affordable EVF for the rig, I could then even hold the rig comfortably on my shoulder. I might need a small extra weight at the end of the shoulder pad for longer use, but it’s not bad even as it is in this configuration. I’ll explain the extra handle in a forthcoming video.
The Mirboo North Italian Festa experience also convinced me to look into what’s called an Easyrig, which I’ve seen in use in a number of videos and video camera reviews and which is an alternative to a tripod if you have to move about a lot. The Easyrig suspends the camera on a boom attached to a harness and is intended to put the weight of a camera rig over your hips, allowing you to work long hours and not require a tripod. Intrigued, I investigated further. It seems the trademark name of Easyrig was created over 20 years ago by a Swedish cameraman and has been developed over the years into a range of styles and weight capacities. With the patent now expired, a number of Easyrig clones have started to appear out of China, at considerably less cost, which led me look into these in more detail. And it appears that the original designer never trademarked the Easyrig name.
There were a number of videos about that derided the Chinese clones, pointing out flaws and whatnot, as well as unverified claims that these units typically fail. However, I found one review where the writer decided to buy one of these clones and see for himself and it turned out to be quite the opposite. So I decided to take a punt and ordered one myself. There are many different weight-rated Easyrig clones about and I chose the 3-18 kg one, as my camera rig at 8 kg +/- would sit nicely in the middle of that weight range. My thought was that a rig just capable of handling the weight of my camera rig (1-8 kg) would be too risky, so I opted for the 3-18 kg range. I received my Chinese Easyrig in a few days (AU$315 for the clone vs AU$5000+/- for the original, or ~AU$350/day to rent) and I have to say that I’m impressed.
The construction, fit, finish and overall quality of the materials used is far better than I anticipated. The balance control assembly is made from very solid feeling alloy and the tension adjustment is smooth and firm. Contrary to some ‘watch out for fake Easyrig’ videos, there are no sharp edges to fray the rope and nothing that looks poorly made. There’s hardly any plastic in the rig frame at all, just the quick release harness clips (which everyone uses) and four knobs for securing the support pole. Even the hangar for attaching to the camera is all alloy. Also, the halter feels very comfortable but the padding is a bit ordinary, though you can add to it or replace it with alternative padding. The only thing that I had to overcome, which is not a fault of the Easyrig, was the connection to my camera rig. With the camera rig reconfigured, the balance point is further back so I can’t use the handle as the attachment point as you normally would; however, this was easily fixed with a couple of 1/4″ x 100mm eye bolts and some extra bits and bobs positioned at the rear of the handle, and things work a treat.
So modifications continue with my rig as it slowly becomes a far more functional unit. I have thought about trying to use it in a more lightweight configuration, but each time I consider what I want to video, I find that the solution isn’t ideal. I have an Olympus E-M1 MkII that I can use to produce hand held video when the camera with Easyrig or tripod is impractical (that means too awkward and heavy to lug somewhere) and the Olympus Tough TG5 to use on my gimbal when I want something really lightweight, say for walking up or down steep bush tracks. Both of the latter cameras take 4K video and so even though I’m not shooting in the same format, at least it’s all 4K. I’m still waiting for my editing laptop to come back from a warranty repair, so I’m unable to process any video at the moment. Very frustrating.
Update 1. I finally got my laptop back and can produce video once again, so here is a video explaining my current rig in a more visual manner. And if you think an Easyrig makes you look dorky, just consider how you’d look walking around with a GimbalGun.