Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mulieris Futura: Behind-the-Scenes Part II

With several shots of Melanie's melancholic ambling along the lakeshore now in the bag as well as some random 60fps slo-mo swing-set action we still didn't really have any clue what the story of Mulieris Futura was going to be...

So we packed up the Glidecam HD 2000 and headed over to the small dock jutting out across the water. A truly beautiful location but unfortunately it was so bright and sunny I could barely see the LCD viewfinder of the camera. Winging it and hoping for the best (thank goodness for those great focus marks on the Takumar lenses!), Melanie sat down on the edge of the dock and gazed wistfully out across the water while I fiddled around in the background like a good ole camera geek.

This was the first time I was able to really put my new DSLR rig through it's paces. This goes back to what I was talking about in the last post about the need for stability when shooting and how one needs to expand the camera into something closer to the form factor of a traditional video/film camera.

I used to have one of these Cowboy Rigs available on Amazon for practically nothing...

This is what I used to shoot Twinkle, Twinkle with and it was okay but just wasn't adjustable enough and didn't feel strong enough (those creaking plastic sounds are terrifying when you have $1,500 worth of camera relying on it's grip!). Also, being a former IATSE camera assistant I've been spoiled with the high-end gear and the idea of running around with a cheap plastic rig named after a cowhand just wasn't appealing to me...

Time for an upgrade!

This is my new filmmaking toy and it comes from a company called Lanparte.

So why is this so much better than the poor old Cowboy who's been forced to hang up his creaky, plastic boots? Well, for one thing it's very strong and made completely out of machined metal parts so no more unsettling flexes or rattled nerves when bolting the camera to it. Secondly, it is highly adjustable into many different configurations depending on the needs of the shot whether it's mounted on a tripod or being used hand-held. Finally, it's based off of a standardized 15mm rod system meaning there are many, many other accessories that I can expand the rig with such as a follow focus, matte box, onboard monitor, microphone, etc.

I've attached a second Giottos quick release plate to the rig so switching the camera from the Glidecam to the Lanparte rig can be done quicker than you can say, "Time is money". The baseplate assembly is height adjustable and built like a tank.

The shoulder pad assembly is surprisingly comfortable, is also adjustable and can be expanded to take a  battery accessory pack should you require power for additional accessories. A big problem with DSLRs when shooting video with rigs like this is they tend to be a little front heavy so I may eventually pick up a counterweight that I can attach to the back of the shoulder pad. This is probably the cheapest option available.

The top-handle is a must in my opinion. It makes carrying the camera around so much easier and is strong enough and comfortable enough to make for some very cool low-angle running shots. The top handle connects to a C-bracket that unscrews and can hinge open giving the user easier access to the camera to adjust settings etc., has numerous 1/4" screw holes for additional accessories as well as a hotshoe mount for attaching a microphone, video light or digital sound recorder.

Completing the rig is this great set of handgrips that, like the rest of the rig, is also highly configurable, sturdy and very well made. It's also super comfortable to hold and unlike the cheap handgrips that are available, doesn't leave your hands stained or covered in little flecks of rubber.

I did a lot of research before ordering this rig - there are a staggering amount of choices out there in price ranges from a couple of hundred dollars to literally thousands. Manufacturing quality varies as does expandability, compatibility and general usefulness (such as allowing the user to still access camera menu buttons, switch out batteries and SD cards etc.). Overall I am extremely happy with the Lanparte rig and it made a huge difference in the shots I was able to achieve for Mulieris Futura which we shot in only 4 hours. Hopefully it will last me a very long time.

Photography and filmmaking can be expensive hobbies never mind if you actually intend to make a living at it so do your research and don't go crazy buying gear you don't need. Now that I have the rig I'm much happier and creatively inspired to try new things but that's already tempered with thoughts of "Hmm... I really need a better tripod..." Given the problems I had trying to see what I was shooting on the Canon's tiny, blown-out-by-the-sun LCD screen I think what I really need is an onboard monitor. Time to start saving the pennies...!

Until next time, thanks for reading. I'll wrap up these behind-the-scenes posts in the next few days with some details on the Post-Production side of Mulieris Futura.