Many of you might have read my Master Guide to Rigging a Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera and Master Guide to Rigging a Nikon D800 or D800E. I thought it might be a good idea to put together a bigger guide that covers more cameras and situations. This is it – one guide to rule them all.
This comprehensive guide outlines a road map on how to plan, assemble and build your own personal camera rig. If you don’t know what a rig is, fear not. All will be explained.
The camera systems covered in this guide:
- Panasonic GH2/GH3
- Nikon D4/D800E/D800/D600
- Canon 1DX/5D/6D/7D/60D/650D/600D/550D
- Sony A99
- Blackmagic Cinema Camera EF/MTF
- Sony FS100/FS700/F3
- Canon C100/C300
- Red Scarlet/Epic
- Arri Alexa
- Sony F65
By providing sufficient examples I hope I will have given you enough information to confidently build a custom rig for any type of camera or project.
Who is this guide for?
This guide is written for the absolute novice. Everyone has to start somewhere. I have assumed that you are new to rigging and videography.
Those with experience, including thorough professionals, are also welcome to read this guide. It could be used as a checklist of things to go through for your own setups. Maybe I’ve missed out on something, and I will be grateful for your valuable feedback.
Is there a need for such a guide?
Only you can decide what you need. I felt the need for a guide myself, so I sat down and wrote it.
There are just too many cameras, codecs, applications, systems and opinions floating around. It’s great that we live in a time when all these options are available. But how big is your net? How much time are you willing to spend on research and foraging for information?
What if there was a guide that explained the basics, and gave examples and recommendations? Would that empower you to confidently tackle challenges unique to your project?
I don’t know. But I sincerely hope it does.
This guide is only intended to be an overview of my experiences in a nutshell, and should not be seen as an encyclopedia of every possibility under the sun. I haven’t used every system out there, nor have I experience with every camera in this guide. My goal is to present guidelines that I use, which might throw light on your particular case.
Many of my recommendations and suggestions are from personal experience. However, just because I recommend one product does not mean another doesn’t exist that might fulfill the same function equally well, or even better. We all hope for things to improve, and it isn’t necessary that your thoughts will sync with mine. That’s not the point. The point is to learn from one another and improve together, not at the expense of one another. The last thing I want is for this guide to be seen as an item-by-item shopping list of what to purchase. That would be self-defeating, for you and for me.
This is my way. Read, understand, think for yourself, take advice from other professionals and peers for a more holistic view, and accept responsibility for your actions and choices.
Do I make mistakes? All the time. Luckily, I have readers who point out my errors, which allows me the opportunity to correct them. If you do find errors in this guide – and I’m absolutely certain there are plenty – please bring them to my notice. I’ll try to correct them as soon as I can, so the next person reading it will be that much better informed.
Knowledge is power. Be empowered, so that you are no longer dependent on marketing gimmicks, pseudo reviews, conflicting opinions and flawed tests.
What’s the best way to use this guide?
Every journey starts with a single step. Start with one thing – it doesn’t matter which, and then ask the question: “What next?”
The order in which I’ve laid out this guide is what works for me. I feel my simple methodology will get you to your goal the fastest. If you are new, start at the beginning and work your way in the order this guide is presented in.
What is a Rig?
Buying a camera is not really buying just a camera. What you’re really buying is a collection of tools.
Each tool is designed to fulfill a specific function. No matter how good the tool looks or performs on its own, it is useless unless it can work well with everything else.
This process of customization, the bringing together of tools to fulfill a common purpose, is called Rigging.
This synergy of tools is a Rig.
Why is it called a rig, like an oil rig, for example? Because it is meant to be temporary. It is understood that a rig might need to change its components, shape, orientation or function; and must be ready to do so when required.
That’s the fundamental difference between a tool and a rig – the concept of being able to change or be changed.
An improperly designed or assembled rig can make life hell for all those using it. The biggest mistake filmmakers make when designing a rig is giving too much importance to specific tools, while losing the big picture.
Imagine this scenario:
You walk into a car dealership to buy your favorite car chassis. Then you walk ten blocks to buy the engine. You go home and shop online for a set of tires, and so on. After you’ve bought all the parts from different manufacturers, each with their own two hundred page manual, you spend many lonely nights in your garage trying to put your car together, slowly going crazy. When you’ve finally gone loony, you still don’t have a car that will get you to the hospital in style.
You get the picture. Who needs the aggravation?
Unfortunately in today’s world, rigging has become the norm. A filmmaker is expected to know how to put a rig together, as if there weren’t enough headaches already.
So let’s not waste any more time, then. Let’s get rigging.