Master Guide to Rigging a Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera – Part 7

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A tripod must be heavy enough not to topple over or vibrate when touched (like when an assistant is using a follow focus system). The head used must be able to support the weight of the full rig easily, and must be super smooth for steady pans, tilts, etc. The tripod legs must be able to handle the weight of the rig, the head and any additional stuff like bags, equipment, etc.

I prefer heavy tripods, especially made of aluminium or steel. Light carbon fiber tripods are great when you’re sure nobody is going to touch them during a shot.

There are four classes of systems here:

  • One leg – Monopod
  • Three legs – Tripod/Hi-hat
  • Three legs and a stiff arm – Tripod with Slider
  • Three legs and a long free arm – Tripod with Jib

 

MONOPODS

If you’re a one-person crew in the trenches, you’ll be thankful for every gram you can shed. Just don’t kid yourself that a bamboo pole can hold the weight of a basic rig (well actually it can!) and give you professional functionality.

All said and done, I’d prefer at least a monopod over the ‘DSLR grip’ or the BMCC handle bar. A simple rig – camera, shade, holder and lens with a hood will come in under 4 kg (8.82 lbs).

Monopod – Run and Gun

There are a few things you could add to the basic leg to take it up a notch. I recommend Manfrotto:

Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 Fluid Video Monopod with Head

This has a load capacity of 4 kg (8.82 lbs), can reach a maximum height of 78.74 inches (6.5 feet) and a minimum height of 30.12 inches (2.5 feet). It weighs 1.9 kgs (4.21 lbs).

TRIPODS AND HEADS

Bare Setup

Tripods come in many materials and designs. This setup has similar load characteristics to a run and gun setup.

Considerations:

  • Good height
  • As heavy as possible
  • Great fluid head, bowl attachment
  • With spreader
  • 360 degree panning
  • Illuminated Level
  • Quick release

 
If you’re going to stick within this range, remember not to choose a tripod that barely meets the requirements. Your requirements will mostly increase, and most users who buy cheap gear almost immediately pine for the next bigger model. The tripod I recommend is:

Manfrotto 504HD+546BK Video Tripod Kit


This head can handle up to 7.5 kg (16.3 lbs), and the tripod can take up to 20 kg (44 lbs). It gives a maximum height of 59 inches (5 feet).

Full Rig

A full rig with a heavy zoom lens and all the bells and whistles will weigh in between 5 to 10 kg (11 to 22 lbs).

If you’re aiming for such a rig, you might as well aim for a tripod that can also handle a mini jib arm or slider. E.g., a Glidecam 200 is about 9kg (20 lbs) and can support a fully rigged BMCC setup. In this case, it might be a good idea to get a tripod that can take 18kgs (40 lbs) or more.

My favorite choice for that is:

Sachtler 18 S1 SL MCF, with Speed Lock CF HD Tripod


You’ll find cheaper solutions and more expensive ones. The important thing is to fully realize why a tripod needs to be what it is. A good tripod will last a lifetime.

Good tripods extend up to a man’s height. But they don’t go to ground-level. For that we have a hi-hat, coming up next.

Hi Hat or Low Base

A Hi Hat or Low Base is a mini-tripod that can almost go to ground level. A fully rigged system already has a height of about a foot (12 inches) including the head, so to really be at ground level you’ll have to dig.

I recommend:

Bogen Imaging Manfrotto 529B Hi Hat

Okay, so we can go to ground level. Can we go higher?

JIBS AND CRANES

A jib or crane extends the height and reach of a camera. A good one also gives you remote control and precise movements. There are all kinds of jibs and cranes. Most of the time you’re better off renting. I’ll list one example that might be a great all round tool, if your intention is to actually buy one.

Jib/Crane System

ProAm® DVC210 DSLR Camera Jib Crane

Pan/Tilt Head

What if you want to control the movements remotely? For that we have a motorized pan/tilt head:

Bescor MP-360 Full 360° Motorized Pan and Tilt Head


A cheap motorized head will also be noisy with jerky movements. Obviously, as cool as this jib setup is, it won’t cover all situations – so think thrice before investing.

SLIDER AND DOLLY

A Slider is a table-top dolly. A full cinema dolly rig can take a lot of weight and is better off rented. A good slider must be buttery smooth and durable. It must be able to take your tripod head without complaints, and must be long enough to be useful.

Slider

A full rig screams for a proper dolly on rails. If you’re on the basic rig without much weight, this is a great slider:

Glidetrack HD 39 inch (1m) Heavy Duty Slider


Be careful of cheap sliders. If not machined well, they’ll have tiny bumps that will show up such on your cherished footage. Cheap knock-offs also use poorly made alloys, and are usually thinner as well. They deform easily.

If you’re really that desperate use a wheelchair and sandbags.

That’s it for tripods, heads and supports. In part 8 I’ll cover handheld rigs.

Next: Part 8: Handheld, Shoulder and Steadycam Rigs
Previous: Part 6: Baseplates, Cages and Rods


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