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Old February 2nd, 2010, 11:35 PM   #1
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I finally found "THE" DSLR rig for me!

Like many of you the onset of DSLR video has been very exciting to me. I purchased my first body (5DmkII) last Christmas and itís been a quite a long road in regards to adjusting to the learning curve and post-production workflow required when working with these cameras. Additionally I found one of the largest particular challenges relating to the overall size/form-factor in addition to a lack of image stabilization; something Iíve apparently taken somewhat for granted on my traditional HDV videocameras.

In other words, while these cameras are capable of capturing amazing imagery- acquiring that footage without excessive camera shake is impossible. Of course you could use a tripod and achieve rock-solid stability but would lose the kinetic & organic feel good handheld footage can provide.

It wasnít long before companies started responding with gear to address this form-factor weakness. I invested in a full fledged rig- complete with shoulder mount, rails, handles, and follow focus. At the time I thought I found a perfect fix for the difficulties related to handheld shooting. While this rig did improve handheld stability quite a bit it introduced yet more difficulties. First of all the rig was comfortable walking around the studio and shooting for short periods but the first time I took it on a shoot I realized it wasnít comfortable after prolonged shooting. One of the reasons for this was the overall balance of the rig- it was very front heavy with put undue strain on my forearms. I tried to patch this issue by investing in counterweights which pushed the weight of the rig well over what a traditional HDV camera weighs- negating any form-factor advantage the smaller DSLR body had over larger/heavier traditional video cameras.

Additionally while shooting I often have to make adjustments to white balance, shutter, and f-stop. All of these things were difficult because the rig was designed to operate while handling both grips. It was awkward to let go of one grip and reach around with the other hand to try and make adjustments then back down to the handle again. In short it was an ergonomic nightmare.

I then decided to try using a monopod. It would effectively give me tripod-like stability but with increased mobility. It took only one shoot to realize the limitations of this method as well. While the monopod offered more mobility over a traditional tripod but still lacked the flexibility of handheld shooting. Often times I like to do mild lateral movements- something that is impossible tethered to the ground essentially by a straight pole, any lateral movements are actually arcs. While I felt this method offered advantages over handheld shooting, similar to the full rig it also introduced unique challenges as well.

Recently Cinevate released a new rig called the UNO. After seeing photos of it I was immediately interested. I looked to be exactly what I was looking for- something that would supplement handheld shooting with the camera but do so in such a way to not exponentially increase the size and weight of the rig. All the while providing rock solid stability while hand-held shooting. However, from my experiences in the past I was somewhat skeptical but not so much so to not give it a shot, and now I must say- Iím glad I did!


After taking the UNO along on two consecutive shoots I feel very confident about my initial impression of the rig. Iím very excited about it and truly feel IíVE FINALLY FOUND IT! This is exactly what I was looking for since I purchased my first 5D over a year ago.



Itís design is very simple yet very flexible. Itís the only rig that I know of that uses a single rod, which further decreases it's foot print. In addition to the rod it has 4 attachments, rear body brace, link for camera mount, link for tripod mount, and handle. However in the photos it's configured a bit different.



Because the camera plate is supported by only one link it's unsupported on the other end. It's not bad if you really wrench down on the screw however I found even fully tightened it had the potential to move if pressure was applied. I didn't like that so I ordered a second link so it would be supported by both ends. This increased the camera plate assembly ten-fold and IMHO should be shipped this way. However I can see that causing possible fitment problems if you wanted to fit a Durus follow focus on the UNO which would work perfectly by the way because the Durus is specifically designed to work with a single rod.

Other notable changes to the rig in these pics is the removal of the center link which allows a tripod plate connection. I removed it simply for personal preference and simplicity considering I probably won't be mounting the entire UNO to a tripod. I just wanted to note that it was possibly very simply with the included hardware.





Speaking of follow focus- Cinevate just released another new product that mounts on to their existing FF gears- the Durus Focus Lever. I can't tell you how EXCITED I am about this product. It seems very simple in it's design but it's amazing how much of a difference it makes. IMHO, I think this should be sold as a package deal with the UNO. Using them together is simply awesome!



First of all in ingeniously designed. Like I mentioned it utilized existing focus gears by simply replacing one of the spokes that mounts it to your lens. It built very solid, out of powder-coated aluminum and solid brass. The lever can be turned counter-clockwise to losen and allow a free swivel adjustment to the angle that you need then a simple clock-wise twist to lock it in place. Again- a brilliant design!

Essentially it allows you to focus with your right hand, the same hand you are controlling the shutter, iris, wb, and ISO. In short it allows access to all of your cameras manual controls with a single hand! This works particularly good with the UNO due to it's design. It's not meant to be a rig the camera sits on and/or is mounted to but rather and extension of the camera. In it's stock (one handle) form it's meant to be griped, naturally, with the right hand and braced with the left, with the additional point of contact being the body brace. Creating a very solid 3-point contact with the body.



As soon as I picked up the UNO and adjusted it to my liking it felt completely natural and comfortable. The ONLY instance I can see introducing shake would be to release one of your hands to operate the focus ring. The tension of the focus ring can cause unwanted movement similar to handheld shooting. This is precisely why I feel this UNO/Durus Focus Lever combo is perfect. It allows me to firmly grip the camera in it's natural location giving me access to all the manual controls- plus and easy reach for the index finger for focusing. Avoiding the requirement to reposition the hands to do so.



Another aspect that really makes this rig work is it's flexibility. You literally can loosen up the grip handle and the body brace, pick up the camera and position it to your exact ergonomic perfection. Then it's a simple twist of the racheting fasteners and it's locked in position.

This rig has addressed my needs for a handheld rig for the 5D/7D cameras like no other solution thus far. I really feel Cinevate nailed this one as I've never been so excited about a DSLR "rig" thus far.

There creativity and ingenuity shines with this product. Additionally their open-minds and willingness to produce new products based on our input has never been more evident. I was literally standing next to Dennis at the NJPVA event when the Durus Focus Lever's inception was sparked. Patrick brought one of the event attendees to Dennis to show him his legacy focus ring mounted device which in a few weeks time became a new product in the Cinevate catalog. I always hear Denis mention in his videos to contact them if you have ideas for new gear and "if it makes sense, they'll build it". It was truly awesome to witness this first-hand. Thus why I truly feel Cinevate is an asset to our industry. Thank you for the UNO and the Durus Focus lever- in regards to DSLR support I can honestly say I FINALLY FOUND IT! Thank you!
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 12:15 AM   #2
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Can you explain a little more how the follow focus works. Is it a case of pulling the lever towards you or pushing it away to pull focus? Or is there some other axis of movement that I'm missing? Can you get "macro" to infinity with the 24-70 lens in the photo without having to reset the rig in some way? Sorry if these seem like stupid questions, I'm just trying to get my head around the way this thing works.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 12:23 AM   #3
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Not stupid at all. The focus lever once twisted and locked will not pivot, it turns with the same motion the lens turns. I can get macro to infinity within a single finger reach (without resetting). You have to load it up so-to-speak, in other words turn the focus clockwise until it hits it's normal stop- as you know Canon lenses allow you to continually free spin the focus past a stop. Use this range to set one end. As for me I turn it's already turning past infinity and push it as far as my finger can reach, then I can turn it back in the other direction and I know the stop on the one end is no further than my finger can reach. If this makes sense- let me know. It's kind of hard to describe in text.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 12:31 AM   #4
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Great review! Congrats on finding your solution.

One thing I notice is that you aren't using a loupe. Personally, I use reading glasses, so a loupe is a must. It's not practical to put glasses on and off, and without them, I can't see any details closer than half a meter from my face.

I built my own rig, and made it for the right shoulder and eye, but you make a great case about single handed operation. I should try flipping it around for "leftie" operation. The single hand control makes sense. It's probably not too hard to reach over the loupe to hit the Live View and Menu buttons.

I'm a bit confused about the Durus lever. It seems that the gear ring is redundant. It also seems that the old hose clamp and bolt solution would give the same control, though not the same aesthetics.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 12:44 AM   #5
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Yeah thankfully my eyesight is bad only at a distance. Though far-sightedness will hit me eventually. I'm not as comfortable shooting w/ a loupe, however in some situations it's required (outdoors in bright direct sunlight on the LCD).

Regarding the Durus Focus Lever- it's not a complex concept, it just ads a lever to the focus ring to allow you to focus without reaching with another hand. I'm sure the method you mentioned would work however this design is made to easily swivel the angle of the lever to almost any degree you need and twist to lock in place. I personally like the lever to be as close to the body as possible, coming quite close to contact with the top and bottom right corners of the camera.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 01:13 AM   #6
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Have you tried the UNO with a loupe? Does it work well?

On my homemade rig, I found that I needed to have quite a large side offset from the shoulder bar to the camera in order to get the loupe in front of the eye. It looks like the UNO offset is fairly small. Is the shoulder support more of a chest support on the UNO? That would make sense as it keeps things small and better balanced.

One similarity on my latest iteration is that I moved the main supporting handle close to the camera, so it's comfortable with one hand operation. My other handle actually rests on the forearm of my focusing hand and is not really necessary.

Also, I agree that trying to balance the rig with a weight behind the back is a goose chase. The rig gets large and hard to transport.

In the meantime, I'm building myself a steadi-rig. No, it's not small or simple, but there's nothing like a well-done steadi-shot.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 01:23 AM   #7
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The "gun-stock" portion that comes in contact with your body can be used on your shoulder or, as I use it, against my chest. You can loosen the kip fasteners and move it to more of an offset or if you really need it offset you can loosen the connection where it attaches to the rod and rotate it.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 02:16 AM   #8
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Thanks for the photos Glenn, been considering this one but I changed my mind.

I have found that nothing beats having 2 hands on the DSLR, operating the way it should be. I do it with a z finder and the zacuto rapid fire to increase the contact points to 4. I think it is a more natural solution. I have the zacuto tactical as well but somehow the rapid seems to be easier. I now have a problem to start the recording quickly with the tactical as I have one hand on the grip/handle. However the tactical allows for longer duration of sustained stability. Zacuto folks have come out with a new remote trigger to solve this but that is like creating one solution to a self created problem...

The uno definately looks interesting but it has the same problem as the tactical to me. Glenn is able to rack focus with his right hand while i prefer to do it with my left. It can be done but i have to start recording with my right thumb b4 i can grip the handle I think..

my conclusion is, to have 2 gun stocks on a rod that is parallel to your body. With the z finder/lcd evf and 2 hands, that is a 5 point contact.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 02:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glen Elliott View Post
If this makes sense- let me know. It's kind of hard to describe in text.
Yes. It would be good to see it in action. How do you find it in terms of precision? Have you tried other focusing systems that you can compare it to?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
It also seems that the old hose clamp and bolt solution would give the same control, though not the same aesthetics.
Ok this makes sense. We are talking about a fancier and adjustable version of this type of improvised solution right?

Last edited by Ben Denham; February 3rd, 2010 at 02:58 AM. Reason: adding
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 03:34 AM   #10
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Glen,

Surely the focus lever would only work the way you describe with selected lenses that have a short focus travel? Manual focus lenses normally have far great travel than AF ones so I assume you couldn't use them one handed the same way.

Lever looks like a cool gadget all the same, I've been using something similar for a while now.

The single rail design is nothing new though. It's the way I've had my Redrock rigged for a while now. In fact the Uno looks very similar in concept to my modified Redrock rig.

Dan
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 08:06 AM   #11
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Thanks for the photos Glenn, been considering this one but I changed my mind.

I have found that nothing beats having 2 hands on the DSLR, operating the way it should be. I do it with a z finder and the zacuto rapid fire to increase the contact points to 4. I think it is a more natural solution. I have the zacuto tactical as well but somehow the rapid seems to be easier. I now have a problem to start the recording quickly with the tactical as I have one hand on the grip/handle. However the tactical allows for longer duration of sustained stability. Zacuto folks have come out with a new remote trigger to solve this but that is like creating one solution to a self created problem...

The uno definately looks interesting but it has the same problem as the tactical to me. Glenn is able to rack focus with his right hand while i prefer to do it with my left. It can be done but i have to start recording with my right thumb b4 i can grip the handle I think..

my conclusion is, to have 2 gun stocks on a rod that is parallel to your body. With the z finder/lcd evf and 2 hands, that is a 5 point contact.
That's the issue I had with "hands-off" rigs. Not only start and stop but the simple operation of shutter, ISO, and f-stop. I shoot in uncontrolled environments most of the time and I need to have access to the controls even during shooting. Releasing a grip to reach up and change settings each time lacks any sort of ergonomics.

I see how an even more simplified rig can work as well however I think I would need some sort of VF to add a point of contact to add the stability I need and currently I'm not accustomed to shooting with my face crammed into a VF. I learned how to shoot on DV and HDV cams with flip out LCDs so keeping the camera away from my face and using a direct view on the LCD is preferable to me.

However If I do decide to try the two-hands on approach like your other rig I can adjust this rig to do that by simply removing the front handle.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 08:10 AM   #12
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Yes. It would be good to see it in action. How do you find it in terms of precision? Have you tried other focusing systems that you can compare it to?



Ok this makes sense. We are talking about a fancier and adjustable version of this type of improvised solution right?
Good question. I wouldn't say it has the precision of a dedicated FF w/ gears. However I find I only use FF when it's absolutely required- ie for marking two points (trucking in and out from a subject). Otherwise it adds bulk, weight, and complexity to my simple rig. What I really like about it IS it's simplicity- and how it feels like an extension of the camera rather than a contraption the camera is mounted on.

That's not to say you couldn't easily attach a FF to this rig if you wanted to- however in this case you are limited to Cinevate's Durus FF due to it's utilization of a single rail mount. Not a bad unit to be "limited" to though- I'm very impressed with the build quality of the Durus vs my previous RedRock FF.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 08:13 AM   #13
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Glen,

Surely the focus lever would only work the way you describe with selected lenses that have a short focus travel? Manual focus lenses normally have far great travel than AF ones so I assume you couldn't use them one handed the same way.

Lever looks like a cool gadget all the same, I've been using something similar for a while now.

The single rail design is nothing new though. It's the way I've had my Redrock rigged for a while now. In fact the Uno looks very similar in concept to my modified Redrock rig.

Dan
To be honest I wouldn't know as I only use modern Canon EF lenses. However that is a good point, if the focus travel is more than say 180 degrees then it wouldn't be as useful of a tool. However for my use: Canon 24-70 2.8L, 50 1.2, 85 1.2, 16-35 2.8, 135 2, and 70-200 2.8IS it's works excellently.

Regarding the single rail design- it's new to me as I've never seen any other company produce a product utilizing this design. That's not to say users with ingenuity haven't thought of it already. ;)
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 09:03 AM   #14
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Sean Seah nailed it for me I think. I shoot with the Z-Finder and the Rapid Fire. The Rapid Fire's extra point of contact really helps with vertical stabilization. Adding a second gunstock is a great idea - I think it would be more comfortable, requiring less pressure on a single point on your chest.

No matter what you shoot with, you need one hand for focusing, the other hand to operate the other camera functions. I use the battery grip which gives you more real estate to grip, increases the camera height and the extra weight helps in stability.

I am going to buy another gunstock and make a Rapid Fire mkII.
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 09:18 AM   #15
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Hey that is a great answer Glenn. I fully agree that a simpler rig is really the way to go. You have gone thru the expensive rig till now so its prob quite an improvement for u.

Jay, I just experimented with the concept of a dual gunstock with my Z-tactical and it rocks. Only problem is the whole thing becomes front heavy. Would be cool to develop some kinda lightweight gunstock x 2 hooked on a 15" rod in a U shape.

Anyway, show us some photos if it rocks for ya. Maybe zacuto will come up with a new model after us!
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