Here’s a quick field test of the Varavon Birdycam Lite using inverted mode. Inverted mode is a great way to get a higher angle without having to over extend your arms. It’s also useful for getting a clear view of your camera’s LCD screen without the need for an external field monitor. With an already light weight form factor, the Birdycam Lite is quickly becoming my favorite run and gun gimbal. Hit me up in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to visit the Varavon website for more details on the Birdycam Lite.
High quality video tripods have proven time and again the importance of stability, composition, and movement and will bring more to your productions than any other type of camera support system. However, a professional tripod system can typically cost a thousand dollars or more which is a lot to ask for budget conscious shooters.
I discovered that I could build a heavy duty video tripod for under $385 that consists of a fluid head, sticks (with dual rubber/spiked feet and spreader) and a bowl leveler for precise balance. Here’s how I did it…
The Manfrotto MVH500AH Fluid Head is designed with a wide platform, a weight load of 11lb and professional quality fluid cartridges on both its pan and tilt axes. The fluid head is the brains of a decent tripod and having a heavy duty Manfrotto as my main point of contact is always reassuring.
The 8.5lb ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs are typically built for jib cranes but work great with the Manfrotto fluid head and even a slider as they can hold up to 80 lbs. The legs extend up to 72″ tall and it has a mid level spreader for added stability. The adjustable rubber or spiked feet are perfect for all kinds of terrain and with the included carrying bag, this makes the ProAm an exceptional deal for the quality.
A 100mm Riser is typically used as an intermediary for sliders and hi hats. I’ve discovered that they work perfectly with the ProAm tripod legs, effectively creating a wider platform for the Manfrotto fluid head as well as providing a more convenient way of leveling your shot without having to adjust the legs. The riser also features several 1/4-20 threaded holes for accessories.
The Desmond 100mm Half Ball Bowl Adapter is small enough to fit inside of the riser and facilitates the quick leveling of the Manfrotto fluid head which connects to the top 3/8-16 threaded screw.
So there you have it. For a grand total of $385 you can build a high quality tripod that rivals brands that cost almost three or four times as much! If you have any questions or suggestions, hit me up in the comments below.
Recently, I explained how to build a Shape style shoulder mount rig for under $300 and one essential part of the kit was the Kayo Maxtar V-Mount Li-Ion Battery. The Kayo Maxtar is the best, pound for pound V-Mount battery out right now. With a whopping 177Wh 12000mAh, the Kayo provides all day power for your camera and accessories like field monitors, audio recorders, lights, etc. There’s also an independent 5V/2.1A USB output perfect for charging your smart phone. Another cool feature is the included D-Tap battery charger which is a bargain considering most brands require you to buy a seperate charger. The Kayo Maxtar V-Mount battery is currently $228.99 which is less than what you would pay for most 98Wh Li-Ion batteries. And with our custom coupon code: RSH8BJNK, you will receive a 5% discount. This promotion is for a limited time only so don’t wait too long.
As camera gimbals have grown in popularity, many folks take for granted how much strength it requires to hold a gimbal, even a lightweight mirrorless one, for an extended period of time. I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t fly my Varavon Birdycam at chest level for more than 1 minute without straining my arms and shoulders. Once I start shaking, my focus shifts away from the composition of the shot to my body endurance which is never an ideal situation. I bought a camera gimbal to create interesting, unique scenes, not to work out my upper body.
So I searched the internet for some gimbal stabilizing options and the cheapest one I found is the Came TV GS01 for $400. On the other side of the spectrum is the slick Ready Rig for $2,000. Both of these options are beyond my budget so I decided to make my own. While there are a few DIY tutorials on Gimbal Backpack Stabilizers, I thought Cheesycam’s DIY Gimbal Support Backpack and Modest Reaction’s riff were the best options out there. With a few key items from your local Home Depot and eBay, I’ll provide a step by step guide on how to make your very own DIY Gimbal Support Stabilizer for less than $100. You may already own a lot of these items so you may spend even less but the ingredients I’ll list are the best balance of cost, assembly time and performance.
The first item you will need is the backpack frame. A rigid frame, combined with heavy duty shoulder straps and waist support is the most important element to distributing the weight of the camera gimbal from your arms and shoulders to your entire torso. The best option I found is a U.S. Military MOLLE II system. MOLLE is a modular attachment system that’s been adopted by the US Army. Basically it’s built for troops to carry 100lbs of supplies for up to 25 miles so you know these things are built for serious situations. The frame is constructed from ABS plastic which are known for impact resistance and toughness and the shoulder straps and waistbelt are constructed of 1000 Denier Cordura and nylon threading which is mold and mildew resistant, water-repellant and the same material as the Ready Rig. Since it’s a modular system, you can also add a rucksack to the frame for additional supplies or you can paint it to add a touch of customization.
PRICE: $40 (shipped)
Next you will need 4 fiberglass tent poles that are 27″ long and 9.5mm in diameter with metal ferrules. The rods are used to soften the Y axis movements during walking shots to provide a more stable and less jittery image. I found these super affordable Coleman Fiberglass Tent Poles on eBay but they can easily be found at your local sporting goods or camping store. To secure the poles to the frame you’ll need a package of standard 8″ zip ties.
PRICE (4 Fiberglass Tent Poles): $15
PRICE (20 Zip Ties): $2.18
To connect the rods together you will need 100lb rated metal braided wire used for hanging heavy picture frames and mirrors. The wires are pulled through the rods and together they act like a crane to hoist the gimbal over your chest.
Next you will need 2 small washers and 2 150lb aluminum carabiners. These will be attached to each end of the metal braided wire.
PRICE (Washers): $3.14
PRICE (2 Carabiners): $1.96
To protect the exposed metal braided wire I bought these cable covers that are used for organizing computer cables. You’ll need 3/8″ for the metal wire and 1/2″ for the fiberglass rods. These are purely a cosmetic feature but I think they add a more polished look.
PRICE (3/8″ Tubing): $2.48
PRICE (1/2″ Tubing): $2.48
The adjustable straps are used to customize the height of the gimbal for framing a scene. I went with these heavy duty Husky Hang-Alls which are commonly used to hold tools, bikes and other heavy equipment. Since Husky has a great reputation for quality and are very common in almost every Home Depot store, this is a much more convenient solution than buying lashing straps and carabiners separately.
PRICE (2 Hang-Alls): $9.94
To attach the rig to the gimbal, I used standard 1-1/2″ key rings on the gimbal’s horizontal support secured by velcro straps.
PRICE (2 Key Rings): $1.94
PRICE (Velcro Straps): $3.74
STEP 1: ASSEMBLE THE BACKPACK
First you’ll need to assemble the Molle II frame to the shoulder straps and waist support. Since it isn’t very intuitive and there are no instructions that come with the package, it can be a little tricky to assemble. Fortunately I found this awesome tutorial that can walk you through the process. Be sure to follow the directions carefully as the rig’s structural integrity is centered on the location and firmness of the straps.
STEP 2: ASSEMBLE THE RODS
Next, assemble the rods by inserting one pole into another using the metal ferrules. You should now have 2 pairs, each one 54″ total length.
STEP 3: INSERT METAL WIRE & MEASURE
Then, take the metal braided wire and carefully push it through the first pair of poles using a needle nose plier. Be sure to do this slowly so you don’t bend the wire which will make it much harder to push through the pole. Once you get it through the end, let about 12″ of wire hang out of it.
STEP 4: SECURE CARABINERS & MEASURE
Next, using a pair of needle nose pliers, take the metal braided wire and wrap 2 tight loops around the small end of the aluminum carabiner then wrap it back around itself several times to secure the loop. Snip off any extra wire with a wire cutter and bend the end of the wire with the pliers to avoid any sharp points sticking out. Measure 12″, edge to edge, from the top of the pole to the end of the carabiner. This distance should be exact so if you accidentally tug on the wire, just re-measure and adjust.
STEP 5: SECURE WASHERS & MEASURE
You’ll want to secure the other end of the wire using the metal washer. Measure 6″ from edge of the pole and cut the wire. Next, measure 1″ from the edge of the pole and bend the wire at that point. Place the washer at that bend and wrap one tight loop around it using the needle nose pliers. Again, wrap it back around itself several times to secure the loop around the 1″ length of wire. Snip off any extra wire with a wire cutter and bend the end of the wire with the pliers to avoid any sharp points sticking out. Repeat Steps 3-5 for the second pair of poles.
STEP 6: SECURE RODS TO FRAME
Next, take an assembled pole and secure it to the left side of the Molle II frame by inserting it into the bottom two straps of the waist support. You may want to loosen these straps to get the pole in and tighten them to secure it. The edge of the pole should rest against the bottom plastic ridge with the metal braided wire and washer hanging off to the side. Then, secure the pole to the frame with the zip ties. I chose to secure the pole on every other strap opening all the way to the top. Be sure to have the zip tie ends facing inwards and tighten all of them evenly once the pole is fully attached. Make sure each zip tie is tight then snip off the ends using a wire cutter. Repeat this process for the right side of the Molle II frame.
STEP 7: ADD HUSKY HANG-ALLS
Add the Husky Hang-Alls to the poles by connecting it from the strap to the aluminum carabiner. The Husky carabiner should hang from the bottom and will be used to connect to the gimbal.
STEP 8: ADD FLEX TUBING
Next you’ll add the flex tubing. Uncoil the 3/8″ flex tubing and stretch it across the exposed metal braided wire to measure the distance. Cut the 3/8″ tubing and wrap it around the wire by using the slit in the middle. Repeat this for the other side. Next, take the 1/2″ tubing and stretch it across the top fiberglass pole. Again, measure the distance from the top of the Molle II frame to the end of the pole, cut it, and wrap it around. Repeat for the other side. In my opinion, this looks more aesthetically pleasing than exposed tent poles and picture wire.
STEP 9: ASSEMBLE KEY RINGS TO GIMBAL
Add the key ring to the end of the gimbal upper support plate near the handle and secure it using the velcro strap. Loop this a couple of times through the key ring as tight as possible to keep it secure. Repeat this with the other side.
STEP 10: TEST THE RIG WITH GIMBAL
Finally, put the Gimbal Support Stabilizer on and adjust the shoulder and waist support straps to a comfortable level. Everything should be tight but not uncomfortable or constricting. To attach the Gimbal Support Stabilizer to the camera gimbal, carefully bend down and maneuver yourself to a proper angle that makes it easy to attach the Husky carabiners to the key rings. Grip the handles on the gimbal, stand up and everything should feel stable and secure. You will have to adjust the Husky Hang-All straps to get the proper height but otherwise, everything should be good to go. With all of the weight now distributed across your torso there should be an immediate feeling of lightness with the gimbal. You’ll still have to move like a ballet dancer but with the ability to properly frame a shot and rehearse a move without getting tired, there will be a much deeper creative connection with the camera gimbal.
This is by far one of my favorite DIY projects ever. Although you’ll get a lot of funny looks and comments in public, it makes using a camera gimbal a breeze. I can literally hold it for over 20 minutes straight without fatigue. This gives me more time to block a shot and really think about the creative composition of the scene. I would totally encourage anyone who owns a gimbal to give this DIY project a shot. Hit me up in the comments if you have any questions and please share any ideas to make this DIY Gimbal Support Stabilizer even better. Thanks!
After a few years of having a bunch of DLSR parts cobbled together as my main run and gun shoulder rig, I decided to upgrade it with a few new bits that will be compatible for future compact camera systems. One rig that I’m especially fond of is the Shape Canon C100 Shoulder Mount. The quality of Shape products is awesome but at $600 it’s a little out of reach for some filmmakers. I discovered that with a little bit of perusing through eBay, you can put together a rig that’s more than half the price.
While there is a lot of crappy rig parts out there, the parts I list have been battle tested and hit that sweet spot of quality, affordability and performance. One thing to keep in mind is that I prefer to keep my rig as lightweight as possible in order to maximize my endurance on a shoot.
The backbone of any good rig are the rods. Aluminum rods offer maximum durability and grip but I find that carbon fiber rods shave off so much unnecessary weight that it’s tough to go back to aluminum. There’s some debate as to wether or not these are actually carbon fiber or a mixture of fiber glass and carbon fiber but either way, I’ve had these for years and they still hold up in all conditions.
Although I have the OEM Manfrotto 577 baseplate, the P200 Manfrotto Compatible Quick Release Plate + Adapter is a great alternative I found on Cheesycam. It’s more than half the price of the OEM Manfrotto 577 plate and even has a bubble level on the side. This plate attaches to the dual cheese plate mounting baseplate with 15mm rod clamps. With the cheese plate the same size as the Manfrotto baseplate, you save a lot of weight and real estate on the rig for other accessories.
PRICE (Manfrotto Compatible Baseplate): $19
PRICE (Cheese Plate): $48
Nothing beats Shape’s innovative push button design when it comes to their hand grips but I found something close. These 6 degree interval stop handle grips are compatible with the ARRI Rosette system which means you could upgrade the handles to something fancier albeit more expensive. With the included one piece 15mm rail block, these hand grips are an incredible deal and almost 1/4th the price of anything you’ll find at B&H.
For critical focus moments, I like to keep my right hand directly under the lens which is why I chose to include a front handle grip mounted right behind the main handles. Having a third handle is always useful when picking up the rig from the ground as the weight is evenly distributed when placing it over your shoulder.
I use this adjustable shoulder pad with my V-Mount Power Distributor which acts as a counterweight. It has numerous 1/4-20 mounting options and an adjustable structure which makes it great for getting the perfect angle for your shoulder. The velcro cover also makes it very easy to add foam cushioning if you prefer a softer pad.
So there you have it. For a grand total of $294 you get a pretty robust rig that can hold it’s own with the Shape Canon C100 Shoulder Mount for a savings of about $300. Hit me up in the comments and let me know what you are looking for in a camera rig.
Last week Arbor Day Pictures aka Nancy Mitchell, Hannah Mitchell and myself participated in YPSI24, a 24 hour shootout competition where we won second place amongst 40+ entries. It was an awesome experience to witness so many filmmakers of all levels express themselves using a variety of video techniques within experimental and narrative storytelling.
However, with a 24 hour time limit and a 3 person crew including myself (2 of whom were acting on camera), it was vital that I assemble an equipment package that worked for our story. Too much gear and I’d risk a lot of unncessary setup and breakdown time. Too little gear and I’d lose the visual storytelling that was essential for characterization. We were super honored to win an award and it may not have happened without our 24 Hour Shootout Survival Kit. So here’s how we did it.
A few weeks before the shoot, we bounced around some preliminary ideas, some that either proved too difficult or too time consuming. Finally, the night before YPSI24, Nancy assembled all of our initial ideas into a creepy story about supernatural revenge. Next, I fleshed out the summary into a rough, 5 page script which would be our blueprint for the day. We all agreed that the concept would remain loose in order to incorporate the YPSI24 “ingredients” that we would be given. Creating a script as a guide for our shotlist/schedule was definitely a critical part of our planning.
For Camera A support I went with the heavy duty yet light and portable 8.5lb ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs which are typically built for jib cranes but work great with a Manfrotto fluid head and Konova K3 slider as they can hold up to 80 lbs. It even has a super convenient mid level spreader for added stability and adjustable rubber or spiked feet for all kinds of terrain. At $120 shipped, the ProAm Heavy Duty Tripod Legs are an exceptional deal for the quality.
Lighting was very minimal as we were mostly daylight dependent. For the ending interior shots we used a pair of budget friendly ePhoto 600 CN600HS LED Lights with Kayo Maxtar V-Mount Li-Ion Batteries. The Kayo Maxtar is a new addition to my kit and one of the best V-Mount battery options out right now. Fully charged, the Kayo can power these lights for up to 6 hours straight. Very impressive!
To keep our sound kit as light and simple as possible, I went with the Zoom H1, Rode Micro Boompole, Rode VideoMic Pro, Aspen HQ-S Lav Mic, P&C Handgrip and an audio extension cable. Our rule was that whoever wasn’t on camera would be the Sound Recordist. With some easy to remember sound recording basics and having a kit this simple ensured that no one would have to be a pro to capture quality sound.
THE CAMERA A KIT
Having some early success with the latest Panasonic V-Log color profile, I decided to use my workhorse GH4 mounted with a Metabones Canon FD Speedbooster and classic Canon FD glass – 20mm, 28mm, 50mm and 35-105mm. This combination would create a vintage, lived-in look that I thought would be perfect for a horror film.
I kitted out my GH4 shoulder rig with a Varavon Armor Cage, Aputure V-Screen field monitor, Fotga follow focus, Ikan Tilta V-Mount Plate and a Kayo Maxtar BP-GL175 Li-Ion Battery. With the Kayo, I was able to power the Aputure monitor and use it as a counterweight for the GH4. There’s also a convenient USB port located on the side which kept my iPhone charged at every location.
THE CAMERA B KIT
Our story included many scenes of walking through the woods so I wanted to incorporate gimbal tracking shots without having to spend any time balancing or breaking down the Camera A Kit. For this situation I went with the Ikan Fly-X3 Gimbal paired with the Xiaomi Yi Action Camera aka the $80 Chinese GoPro. Since these walking shots would include both Hannah and Nancy in the shot, it would leave me as the Sound Recordist. The Ikan Fly-X3 doesn’t have a 1/4-20 thread so I rigged a Joby GorillaPod to the handle and fitted it with a Rode VideoMic, Zoom H1, an audio extension cable and a pair of lightweight Auvio Headphones. With the shotgun mic I was then able to capture realtime location sound while also performing stable gimbal shots while walking backwards through the woods. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Another interesting rig we built was an Indy Mogul style DIY 3rd person POV action camera backpack. Designed with cheap PVC pipe from Home Depot, we mounted an Oben Mini Ballhead and the Xiaomi Yi on the rig to create the over the shoulder look during the “search” scenes in the woods. With the Xiamoi’s Wi-Fi app, I would be able to monitor the shots while giving direction to Nancy. We wanted to present an unusual sense of vertigo during these scenes since her character would become more desperate as day turned to night.
THE CAMERA C KIT
For a 24 Hour Shootout, it would be tempting to use the DJI Phantom 3 Professional as a shortcut for production value but we didn’t want to go that route. Our initial thought was that an aerial would take up valuable time that we could put towards characterization. Also, because of the hazardous weather conditions on the shoot day, flying a drone would prove too risky. However, nature was on our side when we had a small 10 minute window of clear weather. It was a tricky manuever as I had to fly through a 10 foot clearing in the trees towards a height that revealed just enough of the forest without showing any residential homes or highways. I fitted the Phantom 3 with a Polar Pro Polarizer Filter to prevent glare off the water and was able to get the shot in just two takes. However, flying the drone back to home point was nerve racking as I clipped a few small branches due to the wind and unstable GPS lock. Luckily I had Nancy and Hannah as my spotters on each side of the clearing to prevent the Phantom from going down into the water. The shot was definitely worth it as it created a vast sense of exploration for the Alice character, establishing the forest as a kind of supernatural playground.
THE POST PRODUCTION
We finished our last shot at about 11:30pm and after ingesting all the footage in Adobe Premiere, post production began at 12 midnight. By this time, I was exhausted but not completely tapped out. I knew that once I got past the hump of assembly I would go into creative mode, driven by pure adrenaline. With the help of a large iced coffee I finished assembly by 2:00am and edited straight until 9:00am. The GH4 V-Log setting was especially helpful in color correction for each clip. After dropping in the Panasonic Varicam 35 LUT, I simply adjusted exposure within Lumetri Color and did my best to match the Xiaomi Yi and Phantom 3 footage.
As the sun started to rise and the 10:00am delivery deadline looming, I did a few last touches and exported the file onto a flash drive. Since the YSPI24 rendevouz was a half hour away, I wasn’t able to do a final preview. At this point, I was completely delirious and just grateful that we completed our film.
YPSI24 was an insanely inspiring good time. From the cordial and energizing meetup with our fellow filmmakers to the hack-a-thon like shooting experience to the final screening at the 500 seat venue, YPSI24 reminded me of why I got into video in the first place. It wasn’t to win awards or make commercials. It was to tell a story using a language that didn’t require an army of people pontificating about the laws of Cinema. It’s a relief to know that the DIY spirit that’s shaped both my personal and professional life has never left me. Hashtag #setlife is not enough. Old traditions and new technologies are not enough. It’s the communal experience of being vulnerable with people that I care about which matters most. Check out our 2015 YPSI24 short “Always Alice” below and remember to always stay inspired!
Always Alice (2015 YPSI24)
DJI continues the dominate the consumer-friendly quadcopter market with the release of it’s latest Intelligent Flight Mode firmware update for the Phantom 3 Professional & Advanced and the Inspire 1. The new flight features that impressed me are Point of Interest (360 degree flight around a set object), Follow Me (the quad auto follows a subject holding the controller) and Waypoints (map out a predetermined path and the quad will follow). The upgrade also bumps the Phantom 3 Advance camera recording resolution from 1080p to 2.7k or 20704×1520. These features are a welcome addition to my reliable aerial shoots with the Phantom 3 and I definitely look forward to using them in the field. Stay tuned!
Here’s an interesting crowdfunding product called the SteadXP which is a device that brings virtual three-axis video stabilization to any camera. What it does is implement motion tracking, similar to Warp Stabilization in Adobe Premiere but in hardware form. Apparently it does not work great with zooms, takes some time to compute the final results and probably does a bunch of cropping on the edges. I’m not quite sure how something like this could replace good old fashioned physical stabilization but I’d be willing to try it. What do you guys think, hot or nah?
We recently got our hands on the new Varavon Armor II A7S Cage, A7S Battery Package and the Atomos Shogun Cage. I’ve been anticipating the new A7S Armor II cage for quite some time and it was definitely worth the wait. As with all of Varavon’s cages, it features a unique, form-fitting design with plenty of clearance for accessibility and accessories. Other features include a leather hand strap, built-in Allen wrench, and rod adapter
The Varavon A7S Battery Package is a must have accessory since the A7S is notorious for having very weak battery life. The package features an A7S dummy battery coupler, a DC 7.5V external battery, and battery check indicator.
Finally, the Varavon Atomos Shogun Cage is another essential item for providing maximum protection for the Shogun’s plastic body which is often vulnerable to dings and scratches. The Shogun Cage features a variety of 3/8″ and 1/4″ mounting holes, L-Bracket for protecting the SSD drive and battery, cable clamps, and rubber dampers for shock resistance. For more information visit the Varavon website here.
Having the right amount of battery power is a constant essential for video shoots but with various camera, monitor and lighting systems it’s sometimes best to bring a power solution that can work across multiple devices. The Kayo Maxtar 12V is a portable and powerful battery that’s a great addition for your shooting kit.
The Kayo Maxtar 12V comes in a compact, hardshell zipper carrying case and has a rectangular design with a red and black colorway and glossy plastic finish. It’s lightweight with a minimalist feel. Although the Maxtar is meant to be stationary, it would have been great to have a 1/4-20 thread to mount it on to a small tripod or shoulder rig.
On the top is a high powered LED light which has 3 modes (flash, strobe and SOS) which lasts over 120 hours. While it’s not a crucial feature, it’s nice to have a flashlight handy during a night shoot.
A closer look at the accessories reveal a power charger, car charger, jumper cables, and various power connectors. One caveat is that the power cord for the connectors is short which means any device that you are powering must be stationed very close to the Maxtar.
Nothing can ruin a good shoot than backup battery power that can’t keep up with your usage. Thankfully, the Kayo Maxtar 12V is capable of multiple charges. It’s high capacity cells can fully charge an iPhone 6 at least 4 times, a Samsung S5 about 3 times, an HTC One about 3 times and a Mini iPad about 2 times.
The dual 20V 3.5A and 12V 2.5A is also a nice touch which is ideal for powering up small devices like an LED light or external monitor. Again, it would have been nice if there was a mounting solution for the Maxtar but some industrial velcro straps or zip ties should do the trick.
Another interesting feature are the included 12V jumper cables to jump start your vehicle. While I didn’t have an opportunity to test this out, it’s a nice addition and much more convenient way to jump start your car instead using another vehicle.
Overall, the Kayo Maxtar 12V is a highly affordable power bank that runs much cheaper than some other Li-Ion solutions on the market. Having this in my kit assures that I’ll have power available if anything goes wrong – like an uncharged battery – which happens sometimes. Sure it’s not immediately adaptable for video rigs but with some DIY techniques, it’s a much cheaper alternative than standard V-Mount style batteries. The Kayo Maxtar 12V is definitely worth considering if you’re looking to have an all in one battery backup solution for any situation.
At this years 2015 NAB Show I had a chance to try out the Konova K3 Slider with Master Pan, a unique slider system that has a bar which allows the tripod head to automatically pan as the base moves down the slider track for super smooth parallax shots. Additionally, I had a chance to try the Konova Tripod Stability Arms which allows increased stability when using the slider on a single tripod. This effectively eliminates the need for a second tripod for support.
Konova sliders have a great reputation for quality and the K3 definitely lives up to that description. Each part is made from polished machined aluminum with roller bearings for smooth and precise camera moves. One of my first DIY builds was a friction-based slider made from sourced parts. I eventually sold it because it was impossible to get consistent speed during a slide. The K3 is a REAL slider, a versatile piece of gear that is great for both homemade and professional shoots.
Another great feature of the Konova K3 are the add on options such as the Master Pan. This is what really makes the K3 an essential part of my kit. The Master Pan’s design is simple – two side mounts, a guide bar and panning mount, all of which fit seamlessly with the K3. This combination allows the K3 to create a parallax effect which keeps the subject centered as the background appears to “wrap” around them. It’s a subtle move that can be used in a variety of ways for interviews, interior shots, and landscapes. Since I do a lot of product reviews, the Master Pan, can turn a boring, static product shot into something that’s way more exciting to look at.
With the K3 Slider, Master Pan and the weight of the camera, lenses and accessories, the Konova Tripod Stability Arms are another cool add on which effectively eliminates the need for a second tripod or stands to support the slider. The stability arms are lightweight extension poles that mount underneath the K3 via 1/4-20 threads and attach to the tripod legs with adjustable clamps. I’ve used the stability arms on both heavy duty and lightweight tripods and in both situations they performed as expected. They also provide a nice level of comfort that your expensive camera won’t easily topple to the ground by an accidental bump.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the Konova K3 Slider, Master Pan and Stability Arms as a complete package. The setup time was incredibly fast since each piece is integrated seamlessly. The carrying case is great for traveling since it can hold the K3, Master Pan guide bar and Stability Arms all at once. While the camera gimbal crazy is still going strong, having a solid slider system for precise camera moves that you can nail each time is key. For more information visit the Konova website at konovaphoto.com
The Sony FS7 was a popular camera on the floor at this year’s NAB Show, however, the design and weight definitely requires some kind of modular support system. Luckily, Cool-Lux has created the Cool-Lux SHIFT Baseplate which features a quick-shift release button that allows shooters to quickly and easily transition between tripod and shoulder mount modes while also providing extra chest support for stability. Also, from now until June 30th 2015, Cool-Lux is offering a 30% discount on the SHIFT Baseplate as well as all of their camera rig and accessories via their online store. Judging from the quality of their parts at NAB, this is an incredible value. For more information visit their company website at Cool-Lux.com
JK Imaging was kind enough to send us a Kodak Pixpro SP360 Action Camera. The SP360 uses a dome shaped fixed lens to capture an image that reads 360 degrees by 180 degrees. While not full 360, it’s still able to capture some pretty interesting shots in a very small package. You’ll need a smartphone or tablet that runs iOS or Android in order to view the image which also operates as a remote access to other options. This is extremely helpful when mounting the camera on a vehicle exterior or any other hard to reach areas where a monitor is a must to frame your shot properly. The built in Wi-Fi works well without any issues other than a slight lag.
The Pixpro SP360 was sent with the Extreme bundle, which comes with a standard case, a waterproof case, and 8 mounts that allow you to place the camera wherever you want. We used used the waterproof case with the suction cup mount and went for a little drive into Manhattan. An 8GB Micro SD card is good for about an hour of footage. The SP360 saves the footage as H.264 1440 x 1440 @30fps, 32000 Hz, Stereo. If you pull it directly from the card or camera, it plays back in what they call “global format” which is a spherical image that you can creatively alter in post production.
In order to edit and reformat the look of the footage, you can use the Pixpro 360 software available on kodakpixpro.com. You must connect the camera for the first time using the software, but after that you can download directly from the SD card. The software seems very buggy and while we had success in reformatting for the different views, it was more of a trial and error process. For example a “download failed” prompt would pop up but it would still save and playback without errors. Viewing and playback via smartphone is a great way to enjoy this camera but once you bring it into a desktop, the image quality is not very mind blowing. Overall, the Kodak Pixpro SP360 is a fun way to capture your action and outdoor shoots and since it’s one of the first 360 action cameras on the market, it will be interesting to see how future iterations will evolve with the 360 and virtual reality scene.
As a big fan of wireless headphones, it can often be draining on your device especially when running multiple applications. For example, I like to keep my Bluetooth connection off on my first generation Pebble smartwatch because tracking my daily steps is more important to me than reminders which are battery killers. When I heard about the SMS Biosport Earbuds, which could monitor your heartbeart without the need for another battery to charge, I was intrigued. I’m happy to say that it met my expectations but with minor limitations.
The Biosport has an angular design with a black and yellow colorway that resembles athletic wear. Although the earbuds are made to fit snug into your inner ear, it takes a little time for the ear gels to break in. Make sure that you choose the right size gel as your ears can get sore if they are the wrong size.
A closer look at the wires reveal the heart monitor switch which activates the optical sensor that sits inside of the right ear bud. Unlike other heart monitors, this one doesn’t require any additional charging as the power is fed from your smartphone jack. While the heart symbol on the Biosport wire signifies that’s it on, what’s missing is a microphone symbol on the other side when it’s in the off position. I figured that out when I made a phone call to a friend and he couldn’t hear me until I turned the heart monitor switch off. A minor inconvenience that could have been solved with a simple image of a microphone. Another caveat is that it’s missing a volume rocker and track buttons which is simply a must have feature when exercising. The less distractions the better, and having to look at my phone to change the volume is a bummer.
Nothing can ruin a good workout more than a pair of sport earbuds that can’t keep up with your daily activity. Thankfully, the Biosport can hold it’s own wether it’s on the treadmill or on the track. These things stay put inside of your ear and are both water and sweat resistant. The cord has a flat design making them tangle resistant and the length is just enough to stay put on a treadmill tray without getting pulled out of it’s jack from a sudden move.
The heart rate monitor is a nice feature that’s a nice companion to the step counter on my smartwatch. I typically like to put in about 5,000 steps before I go about my day and being able to measure my heart rate gives me a better idea on how to modulate my workouts during those days when I can’t commit more than 35 minutes. As of now, the Biosport only works with the RunKeeper app so the heart rate monitor is pretty much non-existent without it.
Overall, the heart rate monitor performed very accurately. While I don’t have other monitors to compare it to, the Biosport gave me consistent stats that matched up with my treadmill inputs. For example, my fast walking rate would measure around 100bpm, jogging about 130bpm and running about 140-150bpm. Curiously, the heart monitor would occasionally drop out for a few seconds and restart. I assumed that it’s from the vibrations during a run but it’s happened during a slow walk as well. Also, the RunKeeper app does voiceover updates which create a minor pause in your music. If your music helps you keep pace, this feature can be jarring.
The SMS Biosport are not bass heavy earbuds, nor were they meant to be. The sound is full but not particularly detailed when compared to other models in the SMS product line. Music is fine but don’t expect to be blown away if you’re using them to watch a movie or to enjoy your favorite albums. However, because of their design, I’m able to enjoy music more while working out because they block out every other noise in the vicinity.
Once you go wireless, it’s hard to back, yet the SMS Biosport Earbuds gave me a reason to enjoy wired earbuds again. Sure the sound quality isn’t rich but it’s the self powered optical heart monitor that’s the big draw. While the Biosport has room for improvement (simultaneous microphone and heart rate monitor ability, more compatible apps, and more dynamic sound), it’s definitely worth considering if you’re looking to improve your daily activity.
With cameras getting lighter and more powerful each year, there has been a need for more portable, travel friendly tripods that can perform a variety of functions in any situation. The new Benro Aero 4 is a super compact video tripod that uses reverse folding legs which make it small enough to fit inside of a backpack, rolling case or carry on. Another cool feature is that it can easily be converted to a monopod by combining the removable leg and center column. The Benro BV series tripods are twin leg video tripod kits built out of aluminum alloy and great for bare or fully rigged cameras. At this year’s NAB Show we spoke with Brian at Benro for more details. And for more information about these Benro products and accessories, visit their company website at benro.com
This year’s 2015 NAB Show proved that camera technology continues to innovate exponentially every year so it’s important to have power solutions that can provide seamless integration and reliability. One of the major players in video production power is Switronix whose XP-L90S battery pack is a mainstay of most pro rigs. At their NAB booth we had a chance to preview their latest items on the floor like the VoltBridge, a battery level monitor platform that utilizes a Bluetooth transmitter and mobile app; the Hypercore Prime, a 2-part designed, TSA travel friendly battery pack and the Hypercine, a block battery that can be used to power multiple battery packs while providing 392wh as one unit.
For more information about these Switronix products and accessories, visit their company website at switronix.com
Our 2015 NAB Show coverage continues with a look at LanParte’s HHG-01 3-axis handheld gimbal for a smartphone or GoPro camera. With a simple touch of a button it takes about 2 seconds to calibrate. The camera has a default follow mode and you simply use your wrist to control the pan and tilt. The LanParte HHG-01 3-axis gimbal is very lightweight and incredibly stable. For more further details about the features of this gimbal check out Cheesycam’s NAB coverage below.
At NAB 2015, we stopped by the Ikan booth where we tested the Ikan Fly-X3 Plus 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer. Several manufacturers have been creating smartphone gimbals including Shape and Lanparte. Retailing for about $350, the Ikan Fly-X3 seems to hit the right price point for a small 3-axis gimbal.
As smartphones continue to advance their video recording capabilities, they will eventually begin to crop up in more and more professional shoots. Take for example the recent Sundance hit “Tangerine” which was shot on a few iPhone 5’s with stabilizers.
The Ikan Fly-X3 Plus comes in a durable hardcase bag with nylon straps, a charger, one battery, and counterweight for large phones. For a few more dollars you can get the GoPro mount attachment for flying the Hero 3/4. The grip has a comfortable rubberized coating and the gimbal itself has a sturdy, metal construction that feels like just the right amount of weight for flying a smartphone. Design-wise it would have been nice if Ikan had included some 1/4-20 threads on the grip both on the sides and below for mounting accessories.
Filmic Pro for iOS
Cinema FV-5 for Android
After unboxing the Fly-X3, I immediately paired it with both my Apple iPhone 6 and LG G3 smartphone. In order to move in and out of different lighting situations, I wanted to have more control over the manual settings. So I did some research on the web and discovered the two best mobile video apps for each platform – the $7.99 Filmic Pro for iOS and the $2.49 Cinema FV-5 for Android devices. While both apps theoretically do the same thing, the iOS Filmic Pro is able to record in 60p for slow motion in addition to manual control of the shutter angle. Unfortunately for the Android Cinema FV-5, the camera drivers on Android phones do not provide developers access to shutter control.
Depending on your phone, the Ikan Fly-X3 can have either very sharp and quick moves or more natural, fluid moves. As you can see in the video above, the iPhone 6 moves at a slower, more steady pace due to the aluminum Ztylus case that helped add some weight to the Fly-X3. The LG G3 is a very lightweight phone so the moves feel a little more abrupt and sudden. With a metal case to help add weight to the Fly-X3, the LG G3 should fly more fluidly. A heavier and larger phone like the Samsung Note 4 would probably require the counter balance.
Shooting outdoors on an Android phone without shutter control created a staccato-like effect. To solve this I made a DIY ND filter by taking a pair of plastic sunglasses, popping out the lens and gaffing it to the front of the G3 lens. While it isn’t pretty, this helped to bring down the shutter angle and create better exposure.
While shooting on a smartphone gimbal can feel a little weird, it’s much easier to get smooth, candid tracking shots in public places as it attracts very little attention. Most people think its just a holder for a smartphone. And because of it’s size, you can come up with some really inventive one take shots where you can fly it through small spaces and do hand offs. If you have any questions about the Ikan Fly-X3 Plus 3-Axis smartphone gimbal, hit me in the comments below.