Archive for ProAim

New Site, New Blog, New Home

Posted in Connect Recordings, DSLR Video, Technology, Upcoming Connects with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2010 by evanbutson

So, after much back and forthing I decided to move my blog and website to a new home. The fine folks at SquareSpace do a wonderful job of making this as easy as possible.

What this means is not much, this blog will not be receiving any more posts, there is a new link to the blog http://www.tdepost.com/blog/

There is a new RSS link http://www.tdepost.com/blog/atom.xml

All the exisiting blog posts/comments etc have been moved over so nothing has ‘gone away’

However with the new site I will be putting up a lot more of my own tutorial videos alongside the Adobe Connect Sessions I do.

Also, keep your eye on my blog as very soon there will be a BIG announcement that I think will be a GAME CHANGER!

So in the meantime, remember, update those RSS aggregators with the new address and keep reading πŸ™‚

Advertisements

The infamous Parts List

Posted in DSLR Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2010 by evanbutson

After a lot of emails I have finally relented and got off my butt and put together a detailed list of the components that make up my rails rig.

PROAIM FOLLOW FOCUS, RAILS, MATTE BOX KIT: Available from a variety of places, I got mine off eBay, just google it and you should find a few sources. I used this as the basis for my kit, figuring I could upgrade bits as I went along, which I did. And continue to do. I have written a more detailed post on the bits here, so wont re-invent the wheel.

microShoulderMount for 35mm Adapters Bundle (Patent Pending): Redrock gear is nice, very nice, the shoulder mount stuff is the best I have seen and not too expensive. Using this bundle with the ProAim kit means you get the best bits of RedRock with the cheaper ProAim rails and camera mount.

microMount 3 pack : These little microMounts are great, you can pop them anywhere on the Rails or the handle bar and mount lights, LCD monitors, audio recorders etc. They have a little spigot that drops in, so if you need to take something off the rails quickly you don’t need to remove the whole microMount.

Cinevate Universal Rails Block for 15mm Rods: I bought a couple of these, mainly to use to mount the DVtec springed Pole but also as another way of mounting things on the rig. Cinevate gear is pricey but awesome quality. I also use their Nikon to Canon lens adaptors, and after a friend got one from another company literally stuck on his lens, he borrowed my Cinevate one and now only uses them.

MicroLink 4 Riser & 4″ Carbon Fibre Rails: After mounting my camera and the viewfinder I discovered that for it to be completely comfortable I needed to offset the shoulderpad, I ordered two of these Risers and the carbon fibre rails thinking I would need the two rails to handle the weight of the rig, however as this was my first experience with carbon fibre rails I had no idea how strong and flex resistant they are, so I only needed one. Sometime in the future I hope to order a couple of longer carbon fibre rods to replace my metal ones, purely to save on weight.

LCDVF from Jag35: After buying the Hoodman Loupe which is not to fine a point on it, a total piece of crap. I decided to take a punt on the LCDVF for two reasons, one it was noticeably cheaper than the Zacuto ZFinder and it was a lot longer which matches the ergonomics of my rig more. I am happy to report that this unit is everything I could have hoped for, focusing is a breeze and it is supremely comfortable.

Springed Shock Absorbing Pole: DVtec actually sell whole support rigs and one of the camera ops I work with has one, however, as I had the vast majority of the gear already in terms of the camera mount I didn’t want the whole DVtec solution, so I just ordered the support pole from them. This inserts into the spring mounted on the Cinevate block, the other end goes into a small holder that I wear on an off the shelf Weightlifter belt. This not only supports almost all of the weight of the rig without the need for counterbalance, but it also absorbs a lot of the slight movement when walking etc. And finally means I can hold the camera with one hand and us the other to operate follow focus, adjust camera settings etc. Something I can’t do if I use the counter balance approach.

And that’s it. I am looking at probably replacing the follow focus soon, probably with the RedRock unit, the ProAim unit still works fine but I have a few big time gigs coming up and I would feel a fair bit safer with the RedRock unit and the ProAim as a backup in case I have problems. That and eventually replacing the rails with carbon fiber to save on weight and I am pretty much done. I am still on the lookout for a good handle system to add, there are a few different types available but so far none that I am 100% happy with.

Nikon D300s Rig – Video Runthrough

Posted in DSLR Video with tags , , , , , , , on October 28, 2009 by evanbutson

So here it is a little video showing my completed rig for my D300s. Please to enjoy.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

The D300s Support Rig is finished, finally

Posted in DSLR Video with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by evanbutson

So after many online orders, a few mistakes and one fraudulent use of my credit card by a ner-do-well later my support rig for my Nikon D300s is finished.

I’ve put together a short video running through the new gear and how it is configured. It is rendering as we speak (couldn’t help putting some Magic Bullet on it) I will add it here as soon as it is done but in the meantime.

PAS_3179

And now for the detailed breakdown, some of this will be a slight re-hash of earlier posts but with my perspective on some of the parts I have had for a while now.

The Base: ProAim RAILS system

So I took a punt on these, they were cheap, and by cheap I mean the entire bundle of Rails, quick release plate, Matte Box and Follow Focus, costs a little less than just a single Follow Focus from Redrock or a Matte Box set from Arri etc.

railsBut I have to say I am very happy with them, the rails work a treat, the mount is very stable, and comes with all the extra bits that sometimes you have to order separately, for example, after I got the Hoodman and the Shoulder Mount riser, I discovered that I really wanted to raise my camera a bit from the rails, luckily the ProAim kit comes with a set of shims, and it was a simple matter of undoing a couple of hex screws with the supplied allen keys and adding the desired amount of shims to raise the camera to exactly where I wanted it. The Mate box is pretty good, I’m not in love with the filter holders and will probably at some stage replace it with a Red Rock Mattebox that swings out (making lens changes MUCH easier. But they work and do the trick.

s-mat-13

The follow focus is pretty good, it is by no means perfect, there is no way of adjusting tension as you can with the better ones, although I did find that I could sort of fake tension adjustment by adjusting how tight the gears were mounted to the ring on the lens.

PAS_3185

Interestingly I think the main takeaway here is that normal still camera lenses are just not designed for smooth moving focus changes like film lenses, so no matter how great the follow focus unit you are still hampered by the still camera lenses. The quick release plate that comes with the kit is the same form factor as the Manfrotto 501 plate, of which I have several, so I can take the camera off the rails kit and move it to another tripod without having to change baseplates. All in all I am very happy with the kit, and the best part is as time goes by I can upgrade individual pieces as I desire.

Shoulder Mount:

I knew that this is where I was going to have to spend money, experience has taught me that where the camera meets the body you do not want to scrimp. As such I ordered the Redrock MicroΒ  – Micro Shoulder Mount 35mm upgrade kit which consists of the shoulder piece, the front handle bar with a long and a short bar and two handles.

microSM_v2_35mm_bundle_lg

To that I also added a Micromount which allows you to mount things like an LCD or a small light such as a lightpanel by way of a standard spigot.

microMountAnd finally I ordered a Hoodman Loupe kit for video DSLR’s. I looked long and hard at the Zacuto, but honestly my credit card was starting to fall apart from overuse and at the time they were back-ordered. So I figured I would give the Hoodman a go and then maybe in the future upgrade to the Zacuto. So how is the Hoodman? Well it is a BIG step up from having no eyepiece, it definitely makes focusing easier. The mount system they have come up with, which is effectively two large rubber bands is a bit laughable, I am in the process of hand making a hard mount system that will allow me to slide the Hoodman on and off the camera easily but not move when it is attached, once again Redrock make a after market mount, but honestly $55 for a small piece of pressed aluminum, I think I can handle that myself πŸ™‚

PAS_3182

It was at this stage that I realized a flaw in my plan, the Hoodman attached and the shoulder mount attached to the rails, I realized that funnily enough mu shoulder is not exactly in line with my eye and so I could either have a really comfortable should mount and have the Hoodman not near my eye, or I could pop my eye on the Hoodman and the should rig was no longer where it needed to be. So out came the scarred and frying credit card again and after a lot of staring at the rig I decided that to offset the shoulder mount I would need two microLink 4 risers with two 4 inch rails. I figured I would need two of these and I though that with effectively the entire weight of the whole rig on one riser, it would end up twisting. I ended up getting two 4 inch graphite rods from Redrock as the price difference with aluminum was marginal. When the parts came however, I first put the system together with both risers but the carbon fiber rods were so stiff I figured I would take a punt and see if a single riser would work. The takeaway story here is, you now where you here people say carbon fiber is REALLY strong, REALLY lightweight and REALLY stiff? They’re not kidding. With the entire rigs weight effectively resting on these two small rods, there is ZERO flexing or movement. I love these carbon fiber rods so much, as soon as I can I will probably upgrade the rails on my system to all carbon fiber, as I now feel VERY confident that they will work perfectly and save a bit of weight as well.

PAS_3190

So basically I now had a rig that I could rest comfortably on my shoulder, focus easily and see what I am shooting even in bright sunlight. The only problem is it was not the lightest kit in the world, and a month of shooting the Olympics with the Panasonic HVX 202 definitely showed me that even what you think is a light camera gets VERY heaving day after day. About the same time a friend who actually owns a 202 had popped in to work with his kit, a while back he had ordered a support kit for his camera from a company in Israel called DV Tec. Basically it is a spring mounted rod and shoulder mount system.

dvrigpro5100k

After playing with it for a while I decided that the whole rig was kind of pointless for me, seeing as the rails and the shoulder mount kit would be duplicated a fair amount. But the spring loaded pole would be a perfect addition, so I ordered just the pole and with the addition of a support belt (which as an added bonus helps when throwing all the Pelican cases around on shoots) and I have a nice little support system that takes the majority of the weight of the camera but doesn’t cut down any of the flexibility. All I had to do to add the pole into the system was I had a small rail mounting block I had ordered from Cinevate, I just mounted a small spring the same size as on my friends rig into the centre hole. this is then mounted on the rails after the Matte Box, the pole then slots into this, providing easier movement as well as being very quick to attach and de-attach if you suddenly don’t want the rig on.

PAS_3200

And that’s about it. My next plan is to mount a battery on a plate from the shoulder mount. This will not only power a small LCD that I have to mount on the microLink, but it will also add a counterbalance to the front heavy nature of the rig and also give me a place to mount a radio mic. That being said, there is always something to alter change or upgrade. But for the meantime I am happy, now for the track dolly I have been meaning to build……….

Nikon D300s – First Low Light Shoot

Posted in DSLR Video with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2009 by evanbutson

So I had my first shoot in low light levels with the D300s, I figured this would be a nice challenge, seeing as most of the sample footage I have seen from the D300s has been in nice brightly lit outdoor scenes. It was a concert in an old church, very low light levels, and constantly changing levels as well, as from song to song, the lighting went from almost all house lights up to some songs where there were a few small parcans with red gels and that was about it. As my main lens, my 18 – 70mm, is in the shop getting serviced I pretty much shot the entire thing with the 80 – 200mm, which while fast, is a brute of a lens to hold steady, and as my Redrock order hadn’t arrived (courier walked through the door with it literally the next morning) I found myself relying on a monopod to get some semblance of a stable shot. I’m still getting used to how the Nikon deals with exposure, but the settings change to allow the AE Lock button to stay locked when pressed and released at least allowed me to lock exposure easily. I still would love to know how I can adjust white balance as the normal white balance settings don’t seem to affect the colour temp when shooting video, also I did experience some really weird video aborations when shooting under the sodium vapor lights outside, I assume it has something to do with the shutter speed, but I didn’t have time to play as the concert was about to start.

Couple of things I noticed when shooting was, the (jelly effect) that all these cameras seem to experience due to the rolling shutter seems to be most apparent on high frequency motion, ie when you are holding the camera handheld and not stable, I think that this is probably the single biggest reason that people have to knock a DSLR as a video camera, pop it on some kind of stabilizer, be it a monopod or a shoulder rig such as that from Redrock and you almost completely lose the jello look. Also, and this is something I have not heard anyone else mention, the sound of the lens locking up into LiveView is bloody loud, so loud in fact that in a few portions of the concert that were extra quiet, I had to avoid shooting as turning on LiveView so I could record would have interrupted a particularly quiet section, it is worth noting, especially for those thinking of using the D300s on shoots where sound is important and the sound of the mirror locking in place will standout.Β  Anyway, here is a little compile of the footage, this is part of a three camera shoot that will be edited together at a later stage, but I figured some people would find the D300s footage interesting. Once again, it is totally ungraded so you can see the footage straight out of the camera.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
And so a day later (a day to late mind you) the courier arrived with my bits from Redrock Micro. And all I can say is wow, the build quality on these bits is insane, they are so well put together they are almost worth the price πŸ˜‰ Seriously though, I do think, that after ordering my first Redrock gear, they do know there stuff, not only do all the parts have an awesome build quality to them, but after sitting and watching every single instructional video on the Redrock site ( I highly recommend you do this BEFORE purchasing, as already I realized a few little bits that I need to finish out my kit) but they also give you an idea of the expandability and customization you get with their gear. As an example, the shoulder rig I got for my ProAim rails can be configured several ways, depending on your needs. When I pulled all the parts out of the box I immediately just put the mount together the way I thought it should go and slapped it on the rails. It worked and felt great, however I was a little concerned that putting the camera onto the quick release was going to be a little tricky as the shoulder rig blocked it, not a major problem, anyway, after watching all the videos and found out that the mounting bracket for the shoulder rest can go onto the rig several ways, as it is threaded top and bottom (this also explains the multitude of different sized bolts that came with the kit) so a few minutes later and I had reconfigured the shoulder rig so it wasn’t blocking the plate,

PAS_2862

then a few more videos along I discovered what is personally one of the best kept secrets on the Redrock site, the shoulder mounting block actually has what they call dove tails so you can slide it straight onto a Manfrotto quick release tripod plate and lock it in, no need to purchase an extra quick-release plate or take your camera off the rails to mount it onto a tripod, the whole kit just slots in, no extra bits needed!

PAS_2865

I am going to wait until my Hoodman eyepiece arrives (its on back order uggghhhh) but I will probably end up getting the offset kit from Redrock as well so properly line up the camera with my eye

microSM_offset_lg

, I also think the micromount to allow me to pop an LCD onto the front bars is also going to find its way to my house

microMount_lg

In the meantime though, I could not be happier, the ProAim kit with mattebox, follow focus and rails was an extraordinarily good buy for the money, and with the addition of the shoulder kit and front handles from Redrock, and eyepiece from Hoodman, for not a lot of money compared to buying a full kit from any one vendor, I have a fully configured should rig and tripod mounted rig.

Oh and also, have also uploaded the Hollywood Ending Trailers to Vimeo as well, if you want to see it in higher quality. Its funny, I only shot this 8 months ago, on the Canon HV30, but now that I have the D300s, looking back at it, I really wonder how much better I could have shot it with the Nikon.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Final Parts of the D300s Story

Posted in DSLR Video, Technology with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2009 by evanbutson

OK, so a quick post (weather in Melbourne has been horrendous so haven’t had a chance to get out and so any more shooting)

First things first, I have ordered the final parts of kit to make up my system, here’s a list and the reasons for my decision.

1. Ref Monitor: OK so the D300s uses the mini HDMI connector (which I didn’t have) so I ordered an adapter and sat and waited for it to arrive. And arrive it did. I patched in the camera to my 1080p Ref monitor in my edit suite, preparing for the picture to wonder and amaze me (keeping in mind the composite out of the camera wasn’t too great, it was like it was a 320 x 240 image blown up, not very useful for focusing) So I figured HDMI out must be razor sharp. Alas, not so much, the image is better but still not what i was hoping for. It kind of makes it hard to drop over a thousand dollars on a Marshall LCD with HDMI in, when the picture quality doesn’t justify it. So for the time being I have ordered one of these, it is mainly for shot framing whilst shooting, not for color or focus adjustment. And until I can get a Marshall to test with the HDMI I think it will have to do.

Red LCD

2. Eyepiece: My first little test shoot showed me that I simply must have an eyepice for the Liveview when shooting outdoors, cant justify the cost of a Zacuto just yet so I have ordered a Hoodman Loupe, not as elegant as the Zacuto but it is a fair bit cheaper.

Hoodman

3. Shoulder Kit: I love what Redrock do, and would love to drop a few thousand on all their kits, but in the meantime, I have ordered just these bits, I am hoping they will work well with the Proaim rails kit I already have, giving me a nice shoulder rig for not a lot of money.

microSM_v2_35mm_bundle_lg And finally, been doing a bit of research on the best way to deal with the exposure joy that is the D300s in video mode, and I stumbled across a YouTube clip where the user showed the results of setting exposure on a 50% grey card, versus the camera setting exposure on the content in the scene. The results were very interesting. I haven’t really ever used a grey card before, but I think that this may be a good technique for me to get into.

Also, at my ‘day job’ we have just finished acquiring gear for a new Podcast we are filming. We needed to record 3 independent mics at the same time with massively differing levels, and we wanted tot ability to individually edit each mic in post. So after a bit of research we ended up getting one of these. An Edirol R-44. It gives us four discreet inputs, records to SDHC cards up to 24 bit / 192kHz. We have only had it for a few days but so far I am mightily impressed. It only has unbalanced outputs but I am not too worried about that as the signal on the SDHC card is where the money is, but it does mean we can send the audio out of the mixer/solid state recorder back to the camera, be it a HDV camera or my D300s as a safety backup and an easy way of syncing the clips. Will let you know how it goes when we have done our first shoot in a week or so.

R-44__R44large

ProAim Rails, Follow Focus and Matte Box

Posted in DSLR Video with tags , , , , , on September 14, 2009 by evanbutson

OK so I am the first person to say ‘buy quality’ but there are some situations where even if you would like to buy the very best, you just cant. So it goes with my DSLR, I really cant stomach the cost of buying a nice set of Follow Focus Gears, Rails and Matte Box, I would easily be up for around the 3 to 5 grand mark. So with that in mind and the knowledge that I would NEED a set of rails for my new D300s, I went online and found a kit from DV Accessory’s called the PROAIM. They sell gear designed specifically for DV and DSLR cameras. I ordered the combo kit which consists of a set of rails, a quick release plate, follow focus with gears for different sized lenses and a matte box all for a little under $1000 Australian. Now I’m not an idiot, I can see that a device that is roughly 1 fifth the cost of the real deal is not going to be exactly the same in terms of quality, but I figured worst case scenario the parts will be a good place to start to customizing it to fit my needs with new gears etc. Additionally, things like rails are kinda hard to mess up, I mean they are two metal rods! So I pressed the go button on the order and what do you know, about a week and a half later they arrived.

ProAim Rig

Quite surprisingly the packing was excellent, they come in a custom molded set of foam, that you could probably pop straight into a Pelican case (and in fact I probably will) the instructions while sparse and peppered with awesome lines such as ‘The Matte box is mounted with foam so you dont have to worry about your lens during the bumps and grinds of capturing exciting footage’ , it does have plenty of pictures and I only had one piece that I looked at and thought, where does this go (I figured it out after a good ten minutes πŸ™‚ So I figured I would step you through the process.

Step 1: Rails – The rails come pre-installed with a quick release plate that has screw threads for all the normal sizes, interestingly they give you two of each so if you ever lose one your OK, also, I discovered the plate is identical in size as the Manfrotto quick release plate I already had on my Miller which was nice but as an added bonus the tension screw can be adjusted if it gets stuck near your camera (the Manfrotto cant do this). You get a series of shims to raise or lower the plate depending on the height of your camera. Attaching it to the tripod took seconds, and I only had to pull it off once when I figured out I had attached the quick release plate to my camera at the wrong spacing (unfortunately Nikon’s only have the one screw for tripod plates, they don’t have the whole for the guide pin that video cameras have, so you will need to be careful thatthe plate is exactly straight, I wasn’t and when I added the Matte Box I knew it). The build quality is very high, with most of it metal and only the locking mechanisms being made of plastic. They give you all the tools you need to adjust the level with shims, which is pretty much done with several hex screws.

Step 2: Mounting the lens with the follow focus gear – The first lens I tried was my 80 – 200mm, which has a tripod mount already on it, which meant not only did I have a bit of trouble getting it onto the camera (I had to rotate it to the top) but it also meant I couldn’t just slide the gear over the lens, I ended up undoing the gear completely and then after it was placed correctly, I re-threaded the tension screw and all was OK. I don’t think I will leave these on the lenses for day to day use as they look kinda naff, and when using the camera for still shooting, I can see things getting caught on them, they only take a second to add anyway.

Step 3: Follow Focus – Adding this to the rails only takes a second as well, line it up with the gear on the lens and lock it in place and your done. It has an area around the dial for marking focus points and you get a whip and bar depending on your preferred way of using the follow focus. So how does it work, well, lets just say I am not 100% happy, but I am not un-impressed either. The gears on the follow focus ( you get two replacement gears in the kit as well, which is nice) don’t exactly match up perfectly with the ring on the lens, and this seems to result in the movement not being as smooth as I perhaps would like, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely no play, and for focusing it is awesome, I just think that for doing pull focuses mid shot, it may be a little steppy, that being said it is still better than doing it without the unit, and it is way better than doing it on a video camera by hand as well. I will do some tests, but I may take the gears to a friend who is an industrial designer and get him to re-create them out of aluminum on the flo-jet, that will mean they perfectly match up and then I reckon I have a great follow focus. It is worth noting that even the more expensive follow focus systems from Indifocus and Redrock are still made of plastic, and in fact the ProAim one has far more metal parts.

Step 4: Matte Box – This is where I had to stop and think, I had an extra component that looked like it went on the rails but there was nothing that needed rail mounting other than the Matte Box and it already had a rail mount underneath, after looking at the photos some more I realized that you actually get two ways to mount the matte box, a variable height mount (the one I was holding n my hand) and a non variable plastic mount, so off came the plastic mount and using the supplied allen keys I attached the variable height mount, once again made of metal, it allows fine adjustment for the height of the Matte Box. The other elements that make up the matte box are the flags, that also made of metal just screw into the side and top, and finally the filter holders (there are two) and the rubber donuts that slip around the lens to provide a light tight fit but not enough to mark the lens (especially if there is some movement), once again you are provided with a series of donuts depending n the size of your lene as well as a blank one if you need to make a custom one. The Filter holders are probably the worst part of the kit, and even then they do their job, they just arent as perfect a fit as the rest of the build, they require a bit of force to slide in and out (there are two of them for adding gels, ND filters etc) I think that with a slight shave of the plastic they will fit nicely.

Completed Setup

And thats it. all in all I was quite surprised by the kit, it arrived promptly, it was packed exceptionally well, the vast majority of the components are metal, and the parts that arnt are of sufficient quality that they aren’t a problem, the two areas that I wouldn’t give an automatic A+ too are the filter holders which don’t effect operation they just are a little stiff, and the smoothness of the follow focus, which I think can be rectified so it performs equal if not better than a RedRock system.

The last thing I did was to add an external LCD display, this is only temporary as it is too big, and it doesn’t have HDMI input, but I had it in the cupboard so it cost me exactly nothing to add, and as a final added bonus it seems the pin-outs for the LCD and the Nikon AV jacks are identical, so I can use a mini-jack to mini-jack able from the camera to the LCD (I will make a custom length one this weekend)

LCD Ref

The final thing I plan to do is add some form of handle to this rig, so I can carry it easily, the base plate for the rails is VERY solid, and so attaching some for of handle to that will do nicely.

Finally, after chatting to a friend of mine who has the 5dMKII about eye pieces like the Zacuto, mentioned this HoodLoupe as a cheaper alternative, it attaches with elastic which is not as refined as the Zacuto but it is a fair bit cheaper, I think I may buy one and see how it goes, and if I have to order a Zacuto later.

So that’s about it for me now. Off to play Rock Band Beatles!