“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….”
Just as I was wondering if we would ever see the likes again of movie director Mike Figgis’ innovative, legendary Fig Rig, welcome news arrives of the Fig Rig’s redesign for more contemporary video camcorders and hybrid cameras courtesy of The Guardian newspaper’s culture webchat with the creator of the Fig Rig himself, Mr Mike Figgis.
Here is the relevant extract from the webchat:
artmod asks: Do you still use your Fig Rig?
Mike Figgis, 19 June 2017 1:17pm: Good question. I use it all the time. And have spent the last two months redesigning and updating it, based on using a 15-mm bar system, combining it with bits of equipment acquired cheaply from the internet. And it has been a revelation.
I’m using it with a Canon C300 and the new Nikon D5, adding follow focus and a 7-inch monitor and it is working beautifully.
I’m talking to Manfrotto about relaunching it and if not them, would love to find a small British company and stay local.
Great news indeed and I hope that Mr Figgis finds a good new manufacturing and marketing partner for Fig Rig version 3 – Manfrotto made and marketed Fig Rig in its first and second, Sympla, versions – or hashes out a great deal with Manfrotto ensuring that Fig Rig 3 will be affordably priced, well distributed and better marketed than its predecessors.
Although I have not had the pleasure of seeing and trying out a Fig Rig, and one was not available for purchase when I was searching, the short movie above showing Mr Figgis using a Fig Rig version 1 reveals its uniqueness as a camera-supporting solution, one based on the human body and natural human movement in a way foreign to better-known movie camera stabilization solutions such as shoulder-mounts, gimbals, Steadicam and the like.
Mr Figgis shared that he has been using Canon’s Cinema EOS C300 camcorder and Nikon’s D5 DSLR lately and so has based his Fig Rig redesign around them.
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.
Seercam has released its Cube GH5 cage for the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 camera and it is impressive, a major leap forward from the company’s GH4 predecessor camera cages the CubeMix GH4/3 and CubeMix GH4/3 Pro that were released under the Motion9 brand. Cage designs tend to fall into either of two fundamental types, minimalist or full wraparound, and Seercam’s design is uniquely not only almost fully wraparound but also protective. I’m impressed.
I have been reading online about cages by other makers and it appears the vast majority have chosen the minimalist route with lightweight designs that are, in essence, perforated aluminium straps wrapping around the GH5’s widest dimension.
Seercam, just as it did under its former Motion9 moniker, has followed the path of maximum protection and maximum support, with two cold shoes built into the body of the cage and plenty of threaded mounting holes all over for extra cold-shoes, Arri rosettes, NATO Rails or dovetail rails for any number of accessories as needed.
Seercam’s Cube GH5 cage with two other cages for comparison
I photographed the Cube GH5 along with a Motion9 CubeMix GH4/3 cage and a minimalist-style SmallRig cage made for the Panasonic Lumix GX8. Please refer to the captions for further information.
Why a First Look?
This article is subtitled “First Look” due to the fact that I am waiting for delivery of a GH5 review loaner but did not want to delay sharing my observations and experience of Seercam’s Cube GH5 cage.
I have used and loved the cage’s predecessor for the GH4, the original CubeMix GH4/3, for several years now and it has proven itself time and again in the field, on tripods and most importantly in the hand with or without all sorts accessories attached. I expect the same of Seercam’s Cube GH5.
From the many design advances the Seercam team has built into their GH5 cage, it looks like the experience of using it with a GH5 will be even better. In the absence of an actual GH5, the best I can do right now is share photographs of the Seercam Cube GH5 cage along with Motion9’s CubeMix GH4/3 and a minimalist cage for one of the GH5’s sister cameras, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8.
I have avoided showing the base of the cage as I don’t have the rod riser made to go with it and some questions about how cage and dedicated riser fit together remain for the time being.
Coming soon, a handle raiser/rod holder extension kit
Work-in-progress shots of an extension kit currently being designed by Seercam for their Cube GH5 cage.
The folks at Seercam are working on an extension kit for the Cube GH5 cage to raise the handle up for the GH5’s XLR audio unit and attach a long 15mm rod for mounting side handles, monitors or accessory arms. I hope to receive one in due course.
Micro Four Thirds rumours website 4/3 Rumors, sister site of Fujifilm rumours website Fuji Rumors, has uncovered an interview by Japanese digital camera site D.C Watch with the designers of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens about further such professional quality M.Zuiko Pro lenses to come. The interview is a good read even in its machine-translated English version.
The interview’s most promising revelation is that Olympus has been actively listening to customers and so the prime lens side of the M-Zuiko Pro series will soon be gaining a second f/1.2 maximum aperture lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro.
The 4/3 Rumors folks previously reported that Olympus had already designed two more fast f/1.2 primes, one of them being the 17mm. I wonder what the other is?
I am an unrepentant former Leica M-System rangefinder lens user from my magazine, newspaper and corporate photography days and became accustomed to the idea of mechanically superb, optically extraordinary, near-indestructible, colour-matched prime lens sets.
Although I did not manage to build a Leica lens lineup as well-populated as the one illustrated below, I came close and happily relied on them for many years. Each focal length was just right for the tasks for which I bought it and each earned its place in my lens kit again and again.
Three Well-Spaced Lens Lineups
The current Olympus M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lens range from 8mm through to 300mm focal lengths.
My personal benchmark for well-spaced colour-matched sets of professional-quality primes, Leica’s Summicron-M f/2 lenses with the 21mm Summilux-M thrown in at the wide end.
The current Veydra Mini Prime cinema lens lineup, from 12mm through to 85mm all at a maximum aperture of T2.2.
Contemporary videography and stills photography make more demands of lenses than stills photography as I practiced it during the analog era ever did. Now that we are in the midst of the 4K era and Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 is introducing us to 6K video through its video-based 6K Photo functionality, optics must be sharper, better corrected and more highly resolved.
I am now a zoom lens convert thanks to the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro and its f/2.8 sister zooms in the 7-14mm and 40-150mm focal lengths but they have their limitations when shooting in available darkness.
That essential three-zoom lens kit needs to be supplemented with matching high speed prime lenses when light is in limited supply and when bokeh and subject against background separation is an essential storytelling element.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro fills the gap in the middle of the focal length range and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro, with that focal length being my most relied-on of all time, will be a welcome second.
I would love to see several other M.Zuiko Pro primes make their appearance soon and the obvious focal lengths would be 10.5mm, 14mm and 42.5mm. The latter would clearly benefit from an f/1.2 maximum aperture though it would not be absolutely crucial for the wider two.
I know that Olympus makes some excellent prime lenses in its Premium lens range, but the M.Zuiko Pro lenses are a leap above as professional instruments able to endure some of the most challenging conditions in which documentary photographs and movies are made.
I have non-M.Zuiko Pro lenses for less challenging work, but my Leica days raised the bar high and the M.Zuiko Pro zooms and prime lenses approach that high standard.
One of the most underestimated, sadly rarely heard of, Super 35 4K camcorders out there is the JVC GY-LS300 by JVCKENWOOD USA Corporation’s JVC Professional Video division. I have never had the pleasure of trying out the GY-LS300 or even seeing one from a distance, so must rely on the professional insights of documentary cinematographer Rick Young who has expressed nothing but praise for the camera.
The JVC GY-LS300 has intrigued me from the moment I first read about it, at a time when I was wondering whether I should stick with hybrid stills/video cameras or look into the emerging world of 4K camcorders.
With an independent self-funded photographer and moviemaker budget, and the need to adequately cater for both creative fields, I opted for hybrid cameras but sometimes wonder if I have made the right decision on the video side of things.
Should I have bitten the bullet on the JVC GY-LS300 4K camcorder and made do with a smaller selection of cameras and lenses for stills photography? Given the ongoing problems we have in this country with our lousy online upload speeds, some of the worst in the world, I made the best choice available at the time and opted to start off Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success by focussing more on documentary photography than short documentary movies.
If things had been different for Australian Internet access I would gladly have chosen to focus more on video than stills and I most likely would have selected the JVC GY-LS300 as my prime video camera with M43 hybrids as my B and C cameras. If full-length documentary features enter the picture sometime soon, then I may well do exactly that.
JVC GY-LS300 4K camcorder with Atomos Ninja Inferno monitor/recorder
JVC GY-LS300 4K camcorder in Zacuto Recoil rig
JVC GY-LS300 4K camcorder with Veydra Mini Prime Micro Four Thirds geared cinema lenses
Variable Scan Mapping for native angle of view with a wide range of lenses including M43, Super 16 and Super 35.
Lens mount adapters for EF and PL lenses.
Built-in 3-position ND filters – 1/4, 1/16 and 1/64.
HD-SDI (3G) and HDMI outputs with 4K only via HDMI, feeding and triggering external recorders.
DCI Cinema 4K 24p and DCI Cinema 2K 24p recording.
Full HD 4:2:2 recording at 50Mbps.
JVC-Log aka J-Log for 800% dynamic range.
120fps HD slow motion recording.
2-channel XLR phantom-powered audio inputs and included shotgun microphone.
Hot-swappable dual SDVH/SDXC card slots for dual, backup or continuous recording.
Handle unit for XLR input and microphone.
The one widely-reported downside to the JVC GY-LS300? Its viewfinder. Given current electronic viewfinder technology, JVC could easily add a far better EVF to the JVC GY-LS300 and really knock one out of the park.
I was impressed with the footage I was given when I built my LUT for it. J-Log is log done right, because it uses the full 8-bit space to assign values, meaning very little banding compared to truncated log profiles such as 8-bit V-Log for Panasonic and S-Log3 on the Sony cameras in particular.
For what felt like the longest time, Fujifilm staff members acknowledged privately then publicly that the company needed to do better on video, first with the groundbreaking Fujifilm Finepix X100 – which I use for shooting documentary stills to this very day – then through the X-E1, X-Pro1 and X-T1 and their smaller, more affordable companion cameras.
Fujifilm’s current flagship cameras, the X-Pro2 and X-T2 are the ones where they have finally begun to get it right for video, but there is some way to go yet, as indicated by Paul Leeming’s letter to Fujifilm citing the GH4 and GH5 as exemplars.
Panasonic was the first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (ILC) maker to start to get it right so far as video goes, with Panasonic’s Lumix GH4 cementing that company’s position as masters of the Super 16/Micro Four Thirds sensored, eminently portable, day-long usable ergonomically-advanced documentary video and stills camera.
The GH4 and now GH5 have not been adopted only by documentary moviemakers. Paul Leeming shoots feature films with his GH4 and now his similarly-rigged GH5 camera after moving away from the RED Super 35 cameras he owned and rented out for some years.
Veydra’s Mini Prime lenses filled a yawning gap in matched set lens options for Super 16 moviemakers relying on the GH4 and now GH5, and, with Duclos Lenses’ announcement of their X-Mount adapter, a subset of Veydra’s lenses is poised to do the same for Fujifilm’s X-T2 and rumoured “ultimate APS-C camera” for stills and video.
Fujifilm’s X-Mount lenses have been eyed-off by video professionals familiar with their Fujinon broadcast and movie production zoom lenses, for some time and for good reason, as Matthew Duclos shares in his post about the X-Mount adapter:
Any Fujifilm fan (including myself) knows that Fujinon makes some amazing lenses for their X line of cameras. They’re fast, lightweight, sharp, and relatively affordable. I firmly believe lens quality and selection is what sets Fujifilm apart from the rest of the mirrorless pack. But for motion picture work, the current lineup of Fuji X lenses simply isn’t going to produce good results. Will they get the job done? Sure… They’ll be good enough.
There is a difference between the needs of higher-end motion picture cinematographers and other moviemakers for whom stills lenses can be good enough for shooting video. Fujifilm seems to have recognized that with their recently released Fujinon MK 18-55mm T2.9 and MK 50-135mm T2.9 zoom lenses but there is no sign they will be coming up with videocentric prime lenses any time soon.
Veydra Mini Prime lenses for Super 16/Micro Four Thirds and Super 35/APS-C
Veydra 12mm mini prime lens with metric scale, for Super16/Micro Four Thirds only.
Veydra 16mm mini prime lens with metric scale, for Super 16/Micro Four Thirds only.
Veydra 19mm mini prime lens with metric scale, for Super 16/Micro Four Thirds and Super 35/APS-C.
Veydra 25mm mini prime lens with metric scale, for Super 16/Micro Four Thirds and Super 35/APS-C.
Veydra 35mm mini prime lens with metric scale, for Super 16/Micro Four Thirds and Super 35/APS-C.
Veydra 50mm T2.2 Mini Prime
Veydra 85mm mini prime lens with metric scale, for Super 16/Micro Four Thirds and Super 35/APS-C.
That is where five out of seven of Veydra’s Mini Primes come in. All seven of them provide a well-spaced set of focal lengths from 12mm through to 85mm, in 35mm equivalent terms from 24mm to 170mm for Super 16 cameras. The Veydra subset suitable for Super 35 cameras like the X-T2 and its successors covers 19mm through to the 85mm focal lengths.
Veydra primes for Super 16/Micro Four Thirds cameras
12mm – 24mm, in 35mm equivalence
16mm – 32mm, in 35mm equivalence
19mm – 38mm, in 35mm equivalence
25mm – 50mm, in 35mm equivalence
35mm – 70mm, in 35mm equivalence
50mm – 100mm, in 35mm equivalence
85mm – 170mm, in 35mm equivalence
The Veydra team was working on a wider lens than 12mm but had to abandon the idea as it would have been prohibitively expensive and oversized. Pity, as a 21mm equivalent or wider makes for excellent scene-setting and interiors shots.
Veydra primes for Super 35/APS-C cameras
19mm – 28.5mm, in 35mm equivalence
25mm – 37.5mm, in 35mm equivalence
35mm – 52.5mm, in 35mm equivalence
50mm – 75mm, in 35mm equivalence
85mm – 127.5mm, in 35mm equivalence
The 12mm and 16mm lenses vignette on Super 35 cameras. Wider focal lengths than 19mm would come in handy, so may have to be sought from amongst Fujifilm’s prime lenses such as the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R or XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR with their clutch manual focus option.