No sooner had I thought that Part 5 was the finale, I made a few more adjustments and modifications that I thought would be beneficial to describe and record. It’s possible that this could go on for some time as things change and as I get used to using the camera rig and finding better ways to do things. I guess that’s the benefit of a camera rig that can be modified to suit one’s needs, but it’s also a double edged sward as you get tempted to modify things perhaps too much at times. Though I must admit, the changes that I’ve made have been for the better, especially as far as handling goes, and that’s the important thing over anything else. Mind you, I haven’t made that many changes to the overall structure of the rig, so it’s not like I’m moving the furniture around hoping for a better arrangement to arise.
The first thing I’d like to highlight is the addition of an extra SSD to the rig. Several times now I’ve come fairly close to filling up a single 1TB SSD and even though I do have a 4TB HDD, I realised that in some circumstances I would have no opportunity to transfer the files while in the field. So when the Samsung T5 1TB SSDs went on sale before Christmas at unbelievable prices, I picked up a second one and added it to the rig with the same setup used for the first SSD. I now have just under six hours of recording time available and with the V-Lock battery, the Sony battery V-Lock adapter and the two internal Canon batteries, I have around eight hours of battery life to keep the rig powered up. That’s not a bad combination and means that I shouldn’t be caught short at any time. A number of users are buying CFast cards which baffles me, as a 128GB CFast card costs as much as a 1TB SSD and offers no speed benefits. The only benefit is that you can shoot 4K DCI uncompressed RAW at 60fps with such a CFast card, for a few minutes anyway.
The second thing that I’ve done is modify the follow focus ring gears that I use with my lenses. I’ve been using very cheap rubber and ABS rings gears that attach to the focus ring on my lenses through rather clumsy mechanisms. The ABS ring gear is very robust and better designed than the rubber ones, which leave a tail hanging out (which can be cut) and are generally not very secure. So I did a bit of searching and found that you could buy continuous ring gears that people were 3D printing and selling to suit certain lenses. I didn’t really want to pay in the order of $40 plus shipping for something so basic. There was nothing of the sort selling on eBay, so I thought I’d try making my own. As I had some spare rubber gears, I decided to cut one to suit the size of one of my lenses and then used some rubber glue (basically superglue that comes with a tube of primer) to join the ends. This worked incredibly well and the rubber ends effectively dissolved together. I tried breaking a test piece and the rubber tore off the ends rather than the glue breaking. These rubber gears are available on eBay for under $2 delivered, so I ordered a few more for my other lenses. How long these will last only time can tell, but they seem pretty robust.
The other change I was hoping for was the VideoMicro power source, which I discussed in Part 5. The Aputure A.lav finally arrived and allowed me to see if things would work, but sadly no matter what combination of cables and cable arrangement I tried, I couldn’t get a signal to go to the BMPCC4K. I tested everything initially by recording to my Android phone and it worked fine. I then tried the Rode VideoMicro connected through the A.lav to my Android phone and that worked fine. The A.lav microphone and the VideoMicro require power to function, so the power module is doing what it’s supposed to do and providing power to the microphones. However, even with or without the Cayin 5C connected, the camera would record no sound with either of the microphones with the power module connected. But it works through the LS-14, so I know it’s not defective. So I now have no choice but to keep using the LS-14 and put up with its foibles. If nothing else, I now have two, or a spare, Lav mic should I need one. Also, the Rode VideoMicro microphone housed in the rig handle works very well and I’m trying out a foam cover to see how that performs in less windy conditions.
An extra addition to my kit, which is a fundamental part of any cinematography or photography is lighting. I was in our local Aldi store doing the weekly shopping and noticed they had some LED work lights on sale for $40, which came as a pair of lights. I originally bought these to allow me to work on my vehicle, while camping and for other such lighting situations, but then wondered how they would work as cine lights. After fully charging them, I decided to give them a go and was more than pleasantly surprised to find that they worked far better than expected. They have a full and half-power setting, have a magnetic base that also allows them to stand unassisted in a vertical position and they can be joined together to form one long light. They are charged via a micro-USB port (1A requirement) and so can be charged just about anywhere, though a full charge takes about four hours (so something to do overnight or while using them). While I have LED panels lights, these are just so handy as they have a great form-factor, self-contained batteries and are very bright.
And another thing that I bought, to make some aspects of recording and post-processing easier, is a grey card. Well, it’s not exactly a card, given that it’s actually some soft material with a grey coating, but it does what it’s supposed to do. A neutral grey surface can be used as a reference to assist colour correction when post processing, or can be used to reset the colour balance in-camera before recording. The BMPCC4K allows you to take a white balance reading and adjust the camera setting accordingly. Though whether it’s an accurate mid-grey is another thing, but at least it’ll be consistent and it seems to work quite well. I also have a Munsell colour checker card, but it’s a pocket version so doesn’t provide a very large surface for colour correction, so I’ve attached it to the grey card as an extra reference point for what it’s worth.
I can’t say that this is going to be the last of any changes, but that’s the nature of the beast in any case, as the rig is so easy to modify according to one’s tastes. I bought the BMPCC4K to use on a rig and put together a rig that would hopefully suit my needs and, to that end, I think I’ve succeeded. I will still use my Olympus E-M1 MkII for hand held video and my Olympus Tough TG-5 as an action cam and quite possibly on my gimbal as, after some testing, it works quite well on the gimbal compared to the E-M1. But that remains to be seen and on to Part 7.