Have you wondered why the movie camera rig looks so sexy and intimidating? Luckily, CVP has released a video that explains it all. Read below how the main components such as camera, monitors, lenses, controllers, rods, metadata devices, rangefinder, matte box, timecode/genlock, motion captures, drums, etc. come together in a perfectly coordinated orchestra so that the movie camera can play ideally on a movie set.
When you look at a well-built professional camera rig that is used by high-end production, you see a lot of stuff on it, which might seem like overkill. However, each component has a certain role which is crucial for the operation of the camera. PVC has put together an educational video that explains it all pretty well. We simplified it even more and wrote out key points so that junior (and even senior) filmmakers can understand the logic behind each component.
At the heart of every platform is the camera. Generally, the first component installed is the base plate. The base plate should be matched to the specific camera use – shoulder, Steadicam, studio, etc. The base plate, as the title suggests, is the base for attaching other components, such as the lens mount and accessories. Then you can consider assembling cages that allow you to extend mounting points, handles, etc.
The viewfinder and monitor are crucial because they allow you to see the image you are creating. Although it is not necessary to implement both, you should use at least one. The monitor should be sufficient for studio work, however, when shooting outdoors, the viewfinder might be the ideal option. Next, you need to think carefully about how best to mount the EVF to the camera. There are specific mechanical solutions that allow the camera angle to be changed while the operator’s eye is in a fixed position. Ideally, the EVF will be used by the operator and the monitor by the camera assistant. For this, you will have to choose the right monitor arms, in order to secure the monitor according to the specific demand.
Wireless distribution devices located on the camera are used for focus, director’s view and video village. They are basically video transmitters that can transmit video streams directly from the camera to external monitors without latency. Zero lag capability is essential for focus shooters who need to focus accurately and in real time while shooting. Moreover, these devices are also used for camera-cloud applications.
In most cases, high end productions use cinema lenses which are fully manual lenses. Therefore, dedicated devices are connected to control the lens efficiently and accurately. Control of these lenses can be done mechanically (focus tracking) or electronically by dedicated mechanical motors called FIZ (Focus, Iris, Zoom) systems which are usually attached to the rods under the lens. Also, you would want to get your lens metadata using protocols like cooke/i. This metadata (T-Stop, Calibration, and Focus Distance) can be vital to the SFX workflow. For lenses that don’t have this protocol built-in, there are other solutions like third-party devices that also need to be tethered to the rig.
Many have asked about this strange device located above the lens. This is called a range finder, and it is used to measure the subject’s distance in real time. The distance is then displayed on a dedicated system, also located on the camera platform in a convenient location for focus shooters to read the data easily.
Matte boxes are used for basically two main purposes, which control the light entering the lens, and the second adds filtration (ND filters for example). A professional matte box should be versatile, so filters and adapters can be added and removed easily and quickly during expensive production.
Effective power management is crucial, not just for the camera itself, but for powering all of the components and devices described above. Batteries located on the camera are called “on-board batteries”. There are three mounting systems: V-Lock, Gold-mount and B-mount, a new mounting method invented by ARRI that could become a new standard. In addition, there are devices that allow you to connect more than one battery and change them without turning off the camera. Basically, you wouldn’t want to turn off the camera during production, because powering a cinema camera can take a while, compared to mirrorless or DSLR cameras. To recap, explore the slide below that shows the components we wrote about:
For more information, watch the excellent CVP video below: