Psuedo-handheld - Why I chose a FigRig at DVinfo.net

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Old November 27th, 2008, 12:31 PM   #1
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Psuedo-handheld - Why I chose a FigRig

By now, I am sure most people are familiar with the FigRig and it's DIY variants. So I won't waste a lot of time going over the particulars of the unit.

A lot of people are quick to dismiss the FigRig as it does not offer the type of stabilization that a Steadicam or similar stabilizers do. And while that is true, it brings some other things to the table.

In looking at recent movies and TV work, I found some interesting trends in the things I was enjoying watching. Hollywood has progressed from all locked off shots through much of the last century, to a mix of locked off shots in the 80s and 90s, to primarily stabilized, or moving camera work these days. The camera is hardly still any more. This tends to transition the audience from casual observers watching a performance on a screen, to more active participants in the action. The camera has become an integral part of the scene instead of just offering a seat at the show.

The true stabilizer allows us to float inside that dramatic space. It offers us a dreamy and surrealistic way to be involved in the action. In narrative, this is often exactly what is desired. But sometimes we'd like to connect the audience on a more visceral level. Especially when we are doing POV work. And it's here the handheld camera really begins to come into it's own. It's ability to remove the sheer layer of objectivity of the steadyicam, and move into the world of reality.

Most of my work is event work and corporate/training video. A lot of work locked off, or with simple pans and dollies. But lately, I've wanted to incorporate the ability to move the camera through space. The look of steadicam footage was a bit to smooth for me. As I wanted the audience to connect with the work in a more "reality-based" way. So the FigRig began to look good to me. The sheer flexibility and simple design appealed to me. The fact that I could do walk and talks, pan, tilt, dutch angle, crane, and other camera moves simply and easily also appealed to me. It was the right solution to get the "feel" I wanted.

So many positives, but what of the negatives? The primary negative in my view is that you most certainly cannot be discreet with the unit. It does tend to draw a lot of attention. This may not be much of a problem on a set, but in event work, it's certainly going to draw attention. Another negative is that is a handheld solution. When shooting my DVX, it's not really too bad. But long takes with the EX1 or heavier cameras REALLY give the arms a workout. Another drawback is that using the unit for low shots is a bit tricky. I've made it work ok thus far, and I need plenty of work, but it's not as smooth as low mode on a true stabilizing system.

So is it right for you? This is very subjective of course. But I was absolutely astounded at how smoothly I could go up and down stairs, do walking shots, do those 360 degree pans, and so forth. You get just enough shake and variance to add some "realism" and tension to the shot but not enough to put off an audience. For the price, I felt it was a bargain. I still feel that way.

I'll be using the unit on an upcoming training video, and I may put up some footage from that. I will also be doing some camera tests in weeks to come, and I'd like to post some of that as well.

Hopefully this bit of a review is hopeful to someone who might be on the fence about the unit.
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Old November 27th, 2008, 12:57 PM   #2
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Perhaps you can explain how you adjust focus, iris, audio, zoom, change white balance, change from hand held to tripod use and back easily, etc. with this behemoth in your hands?

As the wise man said - It's the indian not the arrow. Ever watch This Old House? The shooter is using a shoulder mount broadcast camera - no steadicam and he's still awesome AND he has full access to his controls.
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Old November 27th, 2008, 03:17 PM   #3
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For anyone who is interested I've just dug something out that I shot with my Fig Rig last year.
Please forgive the poor image quality. I don't understand why but Vimeo has squeezed it from 16:9 to 4:3 too. I normally upload HD and don't have this workflow sorted out.
Equipment used with the Fig Rig: Bebob Zoe lanc remote, Sanken CS3-e shotgun, Sennheiser G2 radio mic.
The password is
figrig
This is a password protected video on Vimeo
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Old November 27th, 2008, 08:18 PM   #4
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I'd make the changes the same way I would if I was using a Stadicam. I have watched this old house, though not in recent times. However, I am not a professional camera person. Nor do I have the type of camra that allows shoulder mounted operation, so this is a non-starter for me. If I was shooting with a Varicam or an F900, things might well be different for me.

When I am shooting these scenes, I am able to maintain enough depth of field to not have to re-focus. alternately, I use auto-focus. The scenes are lit in such a way as to keep me from having to operate the iris, audio is handled off-board, and why on earth would I change a white balance while rolling? As for changing to tripod, I have a quick release plate that allows the camera to come off. If I actually had the need, I'd simply add the same bottom plate to one of my tripods. But this is not a need for me. When I want to rest the unit, I simply slide it over the arm of a C-Stand. Works quite well for me.

Again, this solution will not work for everyone or for all scenarios. I don't need it to. But the drawbacks in nearly all the scenarios you mentioned are essentially the same for anyone operating a camera on a stabilizer. Yes, you can mount a remote focus and remote iris unit. And just like a steadicam op, you'd need crew to adjust it for you.

Varizoom has release a control for the EX1 to do remote focus (not sure about iris) but in my shoots, allowing these to happen automatically typically works fine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick L. Allen View Post
Perhaps you can explain how you adjust focus, iris, audio, zoom, change white balance, change from hand held to tripod use and back easily, etc. with this behemoth in your hands?

As the wise man said - It's the indian not the arrow. Ever watch This Old House? The shooter is using a shoulder mount broadcast camera - no steadicam and he's still awesome AND he has full access to his controls.
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Old November 28th, 2008, 03:45 AM   #5
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If you get paid to use the camera you are a professional cameraman.
Adjustments are easier with a Fig Rig than if using a Steadicam Merlin.
If you use a Merlin you can't plug in mics or a lanc into the camera.
Focus using push auto-focus via the lanc.
Use a (for instance) Manfrotto plate and you simply unclick from fig rig to tripod and vice versa.
I thought my footage would make this obvious but perhaps it needs spelling out.
Behemoth - Something which has the qualities of great power and might, and monstrous proportions (I had to look this up).
Rick - have you ever seen or used a Fig Rig?
ps I'm not knocking the Merlin. I've got one as well and use it regularly. Hourses for courses, depending on what you are shooting.
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Last edited by Richard Gooderick; November 28th, 2008 at 11:08 AM. Reason: clarification re merlin
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Old November 28th, 2008, 04:15 AM   #6
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I use a DIY figrig with My FX1 and love it! I have a lanc remote on the rig and can zoom/focus with that.

I produce training vids for education related themes and often find myself working with staff and students I have never met, trying to film a scenario or example of professional practise etc in usually what is a very short time due to timetables, someone else organising venue/time etc.

I do get paid for my work so if we use that as a definition of a professional cameraman, then thats what I am....though I am still very much a learner with a capital L, and have found the fig rig style stabilizer to be fairly easy on my back, and both easy and fun to use.

I have had some plans for a DIY steadicam for a while and must get around to making it one day when I have enough time. I still think though that I will continue to use the fig rig style steadier though for the reasons I have mentioned above.

Cheers

Jamie
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Old November 28th, 2008, 03:29 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie Roberts View Post
I use a DIY figrig with My FX1 and love it! I have a lanc remote on the rig and can zoom/focus with that.

Cheers

Jamie
Got a pic of your setup?
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Old November 28th, 2008, 04:15 PM   #8
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Perrone, How much does the entire thing weigh with your EX-1? Do you mount your mic and lights to it?

I hadn't been paying attention to this product until I saw this post and went to the manufacturer's website. Very clever! I have to say it doesn't look as bad (in the promotional video) as some say, when you consider it's taking the place of a tripod or something that you would have to strap on and wear.

Can you swap plate systems if you already have, for example, plates for a Sachtler head or are you stuck witht the Manfrotto plate system?
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Old November 28th, 2008, 04:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Kerner View Post
Perrone, How much does the entire thing weigh with your EX-1? Do you mount your mic and lights to it?
I don't know. I haven't weighed it. I don't put lights on my camera. I use the mic mounted on the camera sometimes, but when shooting dual system, I don't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Kerner View Post
I hadn't been paying attention to this product until I saw this post and went to the manufacturer's website. Very clever! I have to say it doesn't look as bad (in the promotional video) as some say, when you consider it's taking the place of a tripod or something that you would have to strap on and wear.
It's not bad at all. And I guess I don't have the self-image issues some other shooters might. I use the tools that allow me to get my job done. I'll leave the styling for the people on the other side of the camera.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Kerner View Post
Can you swap plate systems if you already have, for example, plates for a Sachtler head or are you stuck witht the Manfrotto plate system?
Yes, you can use any plate system you want. None comes installed, and the unit used to ship without any. Now it ships with the nce Manfrotto plate.
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Old November 28th, 2008, 05:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles King View Post
Got a pic of your setup?
Flickr: sendsouth's Photostream

Ive added some tennis racket grip onto the rig since these pix were taken and have permanently glued a wingnut onto the end of the allthread to screw it in and out with and have added another wingnut to tighten the camera to the rig.

Cheers

Jamie
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Old January 30th, 2009, 01:53 PM   #11
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I got one of the prototypes of the Fig-Rig when I lived in London over 7 years ago and have used it regularly since. (I also have a Pilot).

Only last night I used it with a Z7 when filming alpine skiing while skiing myself at the same time. (This is for a TV show that will be broadcasted at Norwegian national television)

It really is a great tool for this kind of filming. I get very smooth stable shots. Itīs maybe the best way to get good frontal footage of skiing, on the pists at leasts-

I use twin tip skiis and ski backwards holding the rig, I can easily pan left and right to catch the action as well.

Itīs also very easy to handle with gloves as opposed to the small camera it self.

I think these are great tools for certain situations
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