Master Guide to Rigging a Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera – Part 8


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In Part 7 we looked at basic tripod rigs, and it might have given the impression that tripods don’t have to worry about load balancing. But they do.

In effect, every camera rig is essentially a lever:

The blue triangle is the Fulcrum – the point of contact. For a tripod setup it is the point where the tripod head is connected to the camera base plate. For a shoulder rig it is your shoulder. For a handheld DSLR grip it’s your lower palm.

M1 and M2 are the masses (you can substitute weight for it). The values M1xa and M2xb are called Moments. For an ideal rig, M1xa must be equal to M2xb. In such a setup, the full weight is distributed over the fulcrum and the rig is perfectly balanced.

There are essentially three classes of levers:

Most professional broadcast cameras are designed to operate like class-1 systems, like this one:

Notice how the body and battery parts are heavy enough to balance the weight of the lens. Even though hands are used to steady the lens, it usually doesn’t take any stress from the load of the camera.

A “front-heavy” system, like most modern video cameras with large aperture lenses, matte boxes, etc. puts a lot of stress on the hands and elbow joints (in the case of a shoulder rig), and on the rods (in case of a tripod mounted rig). This is the worst possible scenario. This system is a class-2 system. This is what it looks like:

As you can imagine, anyone desperate enough to use such a rig for long hours for days on end is in serious contention for early retirement with large medical bills.

Front-heavy systems can be supported somewhat by using body support (as in the case of Steadicam rigs) via belts or straps, etc. This obviously is preferable to front-heavy systems but since it involves more complex designs and more materials, it is expensive when well made. This system is a class-3 system. This is what it looks like:

A major portion of any kind of rig design can be explained by one of these systems. There are also other factors, like rotational forces, etc. For a working professional, it is only important to understand the ball-park that we’re aiming for, for each rig setup. Eventually, a lot of fine-tuning takes place due to variations in a person’s body structure, strength, etc. What works for one person might not work for another!

Long story short, look for a rig that can be tweaked – the more possibilities the better. Such a rig is your best bet for years of trouble-free use.

With this in mind let me give you some ideas for the most important rig setups for the BMCC.

Class-1 system design

This is the most preferred system for handheld videography. The idea is to aim for rigs that give you lots of choices to place your gear so as to balance loads. Here are my choices:

For a fully-loaded kit:

Zacuto Z-DDB Double Barrel

For a “lighter” version but just as good:

Zacuto Z-DSP Scorpion Rig

or this even:

Vocas DSLR Rig Pro Kit

Take note that both rigs come with counterweights at the back. You could also extend rods to add battery packs for additional support.

If you’ve smart enough you can buy bits and pieces and make your own rig. If you know what you’re doing, it might be fun. The cost benefit is definitely worth the effort, and you’ll be gifted with a one-off rig that fits perfectly with your body-type and shooting workflow.

Here’s a video that describes how to customize a rig:

Class-2 system design

This is my least preferred system for handheld videography. However, due to low budgets, this is the type that is most used! Better to go cheap here, since you’ll need the money later. Here are my choices:

Zacuto Z-DSR Striker

A cheaper version:

DVTEC Multi Rig Pro Stabilizing System

An even more cheap version:

ePhoto Premium DSLR Rig

Want even cheaper? You’re hard to please:

Class-3 system design

The “compromise” system. This is a complicated design that not many manufacturers get right. You obviously value your back, so I have only one choice here:

Glidecam X10/HD-4000 Kit

Steadicam rigs are complex beasts, and there’s no easy way to make them perfect. They’re definitely not fun in whatever form they come in, that’s for sure. Sometimes, the results are worth it.

Here’s a good video with some great information:

What you’ve probably noticed is that good rigs cost money. They use great materials, have reliable locks, are extremely configurable with a lot of accessories, and are utterly dependable. It’s a small price to pay, really, if you’re serious about your work.

In Part 9 I’ll cover additional rigs for those special occasions.

Next: Part 9: Other Specialized Rigs, LANC Controllers and Miscellaneous Tools
Previous: Part 7: Tripods, Heads, Hi-Hats, Sliders and Jibs

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