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It’s all about balance:

If a load must be carried at all, it’s better for the body to center that load directly over the spine – I’m not a physicist so don’t hold me to that. Each individual is different – some of us slouch a bit, we have different muscle and bone structures and different shoulder-head-eye positions.

A good rig is like a good suit – you need to try out many sizes before you find one that fits perfectly. Even then it won’t be proper for all occasions. That’s how a rig is, too. You must first know what the occasion is – what conditions are you going to shoot in and how you’re going to shoot, etc.

I’ve already mentioned the BMCC is a front-heavy camera – most cameras are, and it is highly unlikely any camera manufacturer will just add extra weight to balance a system. They should, in my opinion – for the same reason they make pretty boxes and other unnecessary stylistic choices – but they won’t.

Anyway, there are three major forces you need to look out for:

F1 is the force that acts upwards and downwards due to the difference in moments from the shoulder point. Front-heavy rigs will push downwards in the front.

F2 is the force that acts seemingly in a ‘rotational’ manner due to loads being higher up and outwards from the center line of the rig. Imagine an external monitor sticking out like a sore thumb from an arm on the top right of a rig. This monitor will exert a force that twists the entire rig in that direction.

F3 is the force that causes the rig to tilt forwards or backwards depending on the angle in which it is held. The greater the angle, the more the force. Most cameramen shoot downwards for various reasons.

I’ll cover calculations in a later post but the takeaway from this is that there are infinite possibilities in how loads are distributed over the rig, and every adjustment or part will change the forces involved.

Each force is counteracted by your body. You’ll need arm, tricep and wrist strength to counteract an unbalanced F1 load. You’ll need wrist, finger and forearm strength to counteract F2. You’ll need your biceps, back and even leg muscles to struggle with F3. The idea is to be in the position of the woman above – when you attain perfect balance you can carry on for many hours and years without even noticing the burden. Before doing anything, please check with your physicist first.

Let’s look at the basics:

1. You’ll need something your camera can sit and screw on to.
2. You’ll need something to hold the matte box so that it doesn’t exert undue force on the lens mount.
3. You’ll need something to hold the follow focus mechanism in place, so it sits snugly but tightly against the lens.
4. You’ll need to hold the camera while carrying it around, etc.

For what I’ve seen of the BMCC so far, I don’t think it needs a cage. First of all, a cage would block the side ports and SSD slot. Secondly, it can’t offer any more support than the solid aluminium frame of the camera.

For a tripod-mounted setup, you don’t even need a baseplate – you can use the tripod head’s quick release plate. However, you would still need to support the matte box and follow focus system. Is there a system that is robust and can do all of the above for a tripod-mounted setup? Let’s look at some options:

Guerrilla Run and Gun Setup

In a guerrilla run and gun setup there’s only one operator and no matte box or follow focus. The idea is to make the camera as small as possible. In any case, you’ll need a top handle:

DSLR Cage Top Handle

If you’re recording sound you’ll also need a microphone holder. This option can also back up as a handle:

Adorama Heavy Duty L-bracket with 2 Standard Flash Shoe Mounts

Two of the above can take a microphone and an external monitor, and balance out the rig.

The BMCC needs additional battery power. I strongly suggest wearing a belt-system for such a rig:

Bescor MM-9, 12-Volt 9 Ah Shoulder Battery Pack with Cigarette Socket Output

Battery belts usually come with car cigarette or XLR connectors. You’ll need adapters to connect it to your camera. Here’s a very ‘visible’ option:

Anton Bauer Gold Mount Battery Holder with Integral Belt Loops and Power Cable

If you want to also mount the rig on a tripod, you’ll need a baseplate (or the quick release plate of your tripod head):

Camera Mounting Plate

The baseplate will take 15mm 18″ rods:

iKan Pair of 15mm Rods 18″

This goes on the back end:

Opteka CBW-2 Counterbalance Weight

If you have a sound recorder or heavy battery kit these could sit on a cheese plate like this one:

Cam Caddie Cheese Plate

Or even an L-bracket like this one:

Sunwayfoto Wide Base Universal L Plate

Of course you can also mount the camera sandwich style – camera over sound recorder over battery pack over tripod head. Not a pretty sight, but doable. If you have a little more cash, and don’t want the aggravation of designing your own rig, take a look at the next option.

Professional Run and Gun

A professional run and gun setup might use a matte box and follow focus system. I recommend this rig as being the best designed for this kind of work:

Zacuto Ultra lite BMC

To add additional gear at the bottom, go Zacuto as well:

Zacuto Z-DSLR-B DSLR Base Plate

A fully fitted tripod rig will look something like this:

Here’s a video by Zacuto on their rig:

I’m pretty sure there’ll be a lot more choices available. Now that you know what to look for, you’ll have a far easier time finding them.

In Part 7, I’ll look at tripods and other supports.

Next: Part 7: Tripods, Heads and Other Support
Previous: Part 5: External Monitors, Viewfinders and Power Supplies

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2 replies on “Master Guide to Rigging a Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera – Part 6”

  1. A QR plate straight onto the head in some cases may not clear a tripod heads release knob. This is the case with my BMCC on the Manfrotto 502. So some elevation is needed such as, the Zacuto base plate or others.
    Btw your guide is very helpful

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