Back in June 2011, I DP’d a short film called Luzia. It was an amazing experience. Kodak was gracious enough to sponsor our film by donating a good amount of their 250D Vision3 5207. Thanks to Gene Fojtik, an independent filmmaker in Chicago, for helping us get our hands on Arri’s classic BL4. Our support gear and glass, the Cooke S4s, were supplied by MPS – Chicago (Motion Picture Services).
- Luzia – Frame grab
The main issue we encountered on set was the weight of the camera. We mostly flew handheld and since we had only one 400ft mag and two 1000ft mags, we found ourselves using the 1000ft mags pretty consistently. Whether we had a 400ft or 1000ft strapped to the camera, plus the support gear, and a Cooke prime, the camera was a good 45 – 60 pounds.
The weight was exhausting, so we had to think of a quick solution. Dillon Schneider, my First AC and Josh Cubas, my Key Grip, devised a rig that not only allowed me to operate handheld comfortably on the BL4, but also practically saved the production. Big thanks to them!
- Rig: 2 Combo stands, 1 8×8 square stock, 1 ratchet strap.
Every camera is different, but the way the BL4 is designed worked great for the rig. The picture above was our first “prototype” of the rig. With the square stock gripped into the lollypops on the combos, we were able to hook the ratchet strap and feed it through and around the top handle of the BL4. This basic setup allowed us to raise and lower camera to achieve desired height. It particularly came in handy for any shots above water and when extremely low angle shots were required.
- Once combo was stemmed down all the way, loosening the ratchets allowed for lower camera angles
What good is creating a rig if one doesn’t master it? Throughout the shoot we constantly added something new to the rig. More ratchets to support the camera, wedges between the square stock and the lollypops, and Junior offset arms. On any project, offset arms always seem to add that extra element that makes your rig that much better and that much more secure. For us, they were great for rigging monitor and hanging batteries, BNC cable, and pouches for our iPhones.
- Our rig at it’s prime.
My only problem with the rig, was the inability to walk with the camera, or create any forward movement. The rig saved my neck and my film. It may not have been the most ideal, but due to budget restrictions we definitely made it work to our advantage and got the shots needed to tell the story. This was a perfect example of finding yourself in a tough spot on set and how your crew can rise up and save the day. In the end,You’re only as good as your crew.
If you have any questions regarding the rig, Luzia, or any of my processes, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to share what I have learned.