“Sam here. I’ve been waiting to write this article for a very long time, and it signals the beginning of something… and that is the beginning of complexity finally getting out of the way of high end filmmaking and truly making it accessible to everyone. We’re talking turning high end filmmaking into a teachable, repeatable process….
… There is a new world of content that is emerging and the paradigm shift from an ivory tower post production mentality where everything is complicated and no one knows how to communicate with each other is shifting to a model where anyone can make something that looks amazing if they take the time to become good at their craft. All you need is the right workflow, some affordable tools, a basic understand of storytelling and filmmaking fundamentals, and a willingness to learn….”
I laboured under the ivory tower postproduction mentality mentioned in the quote above as well as the cap-in-hand production finance paradigm that has ruled documentary moviemaking for what seems like an eternity and I can think of no systems in the creative sphere that can be as punitive and as brutal to storytellers.
I have experienced the worst of the system with the lowest of low points being the time when then Australian Prime Minister John Howard personally demanded my human rights documentary movie project that was about to be commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Commission under its New Directors scheme be cancelled resulting in being blacklisted as a moviemaker.
I sincerely hope Australian expatriate Sam Mestman is correct about a coming major paradigm shift in the nature of independent documentary moviemaking, and I look forward to the rest of his four-part series of articles about the methods used by LA high school students and their advisers and assistants in the Apple Short Film Project.
Although the Apple Short Film Project was based around using RED Raven raw cinema cameras equipped with EF-mount Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art lenses, I hope that the workflow used in these short documentary projects will be adaptable to using more affordable cameras such as Panasonic’s Lumix DC-GH5 and GH5S hybrid Micro Four Thirds and media storage systems other than LumaForge’s reportedly excellent Jellyfish Tower.
I will post links to each article in the series as they appear.
“Short documentary films have the power to reveal a unique story, inspire with insights and even motivate change in the brief duration. How easy or difficult it is to make one? In this post, we will discuss the steps involved in making a short social documentary film….”
Since I wrote this article near the beginning of 2017, a number of camera cages for the Panasonic Lumix GH5 have appeared on the market and I have been able to take a look online at many of them. In the case of one GH5 cage, Seercam’s Cube GH5, I have been kindly sent one and have had the opportunity of taking a closer look than websites permit.
I admit to a degree of well-informed bias. I have a Seercam cage for my GH4 and it has served me and my GH4 well, amply living up to Seercam’s mission of providing the best protection possible. If it were not for that cage, my GH4 might be in pieces due to an accident that occurred shortly after I bought it. The cage took the impact and my GH4 was saved.
Seercam, by the way, is the new international trading brand name for the South Korean camera accessories company Motion9 and so my GH4 cage was branded as a Motion9 product.
If those accessories were still in production, I would snap them up in a second as they solve the single biggest problem I had with the GH4 cage back then, the need to rapidly remove and reattach the CubeMix GH4/3’s three handles when working fast on location.
Quick release accessories, whether attached via dovetail rails, NATO rails or Arri rosettes, are clearly the way to go for speed and efficiency and permit safely carrying your caged camera about in a backpack or shoulder bag then quickly removing it and snapping on handles and other quick release accessories ready for work.
None of my current shoulder bags or backpacks are dedicated video camera bags permitting carriage of fully assembled video rigs, but Peak Design’s 30-litre Everyday Backpack with its flexible internal space has proven to be a good solution for carrying cage-mounted cameras and other oddly-shaped and sized video equipment.
Sometimes though, transporting a fully assembled video rig is beyond the capabilities of even the best and biggest bag. Nick Driftwood’s GH5 rig for anamorphic moviemaking above, also depicted further down this page, is a case in point.
Anamorphic lenses aside, big rigs like Mr Diftwood’s are not uncommon when shooting full-length documentaries, the main purpose for which I bought my GH4 then added Motion9’s CubeMix GH4/3 cage followed by a Panasonic DMW-BGGH3 battery grip for stability and added power in handheld video and stills photography.
Communications with the Seercam team reveal they are working on further GH5 solutions including an international-standard external battery pack, a special longer rod for the Extension Kit for Cube GH5, left and right side handles and an updated quick release rod riser.
With the March 2017 release of Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 Super 16/Micro Four Thirds looming, my attention turns to the many and various accessories needed to make the most of this revolutionary camera. One essential accessory for filmmakers seriously considering the GH5 is a cage, and at least two cage-makers are known to be working on designs at the moment.
I am most familiar with two brands of cage makers – SmallRig and Seercam, formerly Motion9, links below. I currently own one cage made by each and would definitely consider purchasing from both again.
The folks at SmallRig design their new products via a crowdsourcing process, as it were, seeking input and new ideas from users. Seercam is interested in hearing from potential users and I have, accordingly, sent them the photograph of Nick Driftwood’s GH5 anamorphic rig below.
More images of SmallRig’s GH5 cage currently in development
The Seercam folks tell me that they are waiting to test one of the three GH5s currently available in South Korea and will finish their design at the beginning of March. They will be showing it and other products off at NAB in April.
Nick Driftwood’s GH5 rig for anamorphic moviemaking
At the very least a cage must offer protection for the camera within and prevent twisting and damage when accessories are mounted on it.
I am not fond of mounting large or heavy microphones or recorders on hotshoes – I would much prefer to attach them via coldshoes on a cage. If something untoward happens to the coldshoe then it can be replaced. Not so a hotshoe.
I am becoming enamoured of battery grips especially when shooting battery-sucking 10-bit 4:2:2 4K or DCI. I prefer attaching recorders beneath the camera and attaching mics to them via coiled XLR cables.
At present I don’t use a rig like the one in Mr Driftwood’s photograph, but I may well need a rig like that minus the anamorphic lens when shooting a feature-length documentary.
The rest of the time my typical rig will be stripped right down for MOS (without sound) handheld video, or with a recorder beneath camera-plus-battery-grip and a microphone on top of the cage. Plus variations.
If a cage and its accessories can be made to accommodate all the typical scenarios one encounters in the course of a typical working career in stills and video – I often use cages for both applications – then I will be very happy indeed.