With the Unique Manfrotto Fig Rig Long Dead, What Will Replace It? – UPDATE

NOTE: Since writing this article, I came across a comment from Mike Figgis about the Fig Rig Mark III that I have written about in this article:


The technology world is littered with unique, brilliant inventions that solved a common set of problems perfectly but that were badly marketed, poorly distributed, set at the wrong price point, or failed to find a manufacturer in the first place.

One such product failed by the system was the Fig Rig, invented by movie director Mike Figgis and manufactured in two versions with accessories by Manfrotto.

I wish I had been able to buy a Fig Rig when they were available for too brief a time.

With the Fig Rig now dead, is there anything that can take its place?

The Manfrotto Sympla version of the Fig Rig, adding bells, whistles, expense and the opposite of simple?

I suspect the answer is no, and the video industry is all the poorer for it. Although one could try the plastic pipe DIY option, there are alternatives to the Fig Rig, similar rigs in smaller circular or semi-circular shapes, but neither of the makers of HaloRig nor the Steadywheel have the financial might or global distribution partners of a holding company like Manfrotto’s owner, the Vitec Group plc.

Vitec’s press relations people have not responded to enquiries about the Fig Rig’s fate so we can only speculate and lament the truncated life of a product that had a purity of intention and design, loads of potential, needed to be downsized and updated for modern hybrid cameras, and deserved a marketing effort it that apparently failed to receive.

Manfrotto’s now discontinued Fig Rig video steadying device

The only images of the Fig Rig that I could find on the Web and in a PDF document are low resolution so I have tried to enlarge them a little here.

Mike Figgis made a short video showing off the Fig Rig in action during a walk through the streets of London. The director did his own camerawork.

What I love about the Fig Rig is that it is body-centred, gestural, in the way that my stills cameras are when I am in the middle of the action making documentary photographs and, in order to get the exact framing I want of people near and far, left and right of frame, bend my knees, lean and swivel. I want the same range of movements when shooting documentary video.

Shoulder rigs don’t do it for me though they certainly have their uses, likewise steadicams, stabilizers, gimbals and all their many and various variations.

Of all the images in the gallery above, for me the key is the one at left on the second line down, showing how the Fig Rig allows an operator to pitch, roll and yaw the camera in the same way that an aeroplane does.

And what happened to Manfrotto’s other great white hope, the Lino Apparel Collection?

The Manfrotto Lino Pro range of photographers’ clothing for women and men appears to have suffered the same fate as the Fig Rig. Again, I did not have the pleasure of seeing any of the items in a camera store so have no idea of their design and manufacturing quality and fit but judging by two videos and the tiny photographs below, they look like a brilliant solution to a common problem.

It seems that the Lino Pro range was initially made for only men but a women’s line was added later, according to Manfrotto’s press release at PR Newswire.

I gave up being fashionable long ago; in fact I never have been given photography and moviemaking have played such a large role in my life from teenagerdom onwards. I have pursued style and functionality though, and that has not easy here at any time.

Finding functional, stylish clothing has become less difficult lately with the arrival of UniQlo in Australia, enabling me to wear a basic black layered core all year round by relying on the company’s Airism and Heattech undergarment ranges.

Now all I need is a set of functional, stylish overgarments I can pop on when going out or shooting in my home studio, and that support the special needs of photographers and moviemakers. Manfrotto’s Lino Apparel Collection would have been the bee’s knees had they not been killed off almost as soon as they were born, or so it seems.

Links:

Image Credits:

Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris.

Cages for the Panasonic Lumix GH5: At Least Two Being Designed Right Now – ARTICLE UPDATED

Prescript, as it were

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. 

Seercam's Cube form-fitting GH5 camera cage with one-touch quick-release Classic Plus top handle, finger support handle and quick-release rod riser.
Seercam’s Cube form-fitting GH5 camera cage with one-touch quick-release Classic Plus top handle, finger support handle (not shown) and quick-release rod riser.

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.

Motion9 GH4 cage at left, Seercam GH5 cage at front and SmallRig GX8 cage at rear right.
My current cage collection: Motion9 GH4 cage at left, Seercam GH5 cage at front and SmallRig GX8 cage at rear right.

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.

After buying my GH4 cage, named the CubeMix GH4/3 due to it fitting the GH4 and GH3, Motion9 improved its design with the addition of a quick-release top handle and a quick-release cable clamp under the new product name, CubeMix GH4/3 Pro.

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.

UK Lumix Luminary Nick Driftwood's anamorphic moviemaking rig. Panasonic's Lumix GH5 is suitable for tripod-mounted big rig moviemaking as well as mobile handheld video cinematography.
UK Lumix Luminary Nick Driftwood’s anamorphic moviemaking rig. Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 is suitable for tripod-mounted big rig moviemaking as well as mobile handheld video cinematography.

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.

Seercam's Cube GH5 camera cage, Extension Kit for GH5, rod riser and Classic Plus Handle can accommodate some hefty camera rigs if need be. Alternatively, their Cube GH5 cage is lightweight yet protective enough for stripped-down rigs consisting of camera and lens only.
Seercam’s Cube GH5 camera cage, Extension Kit for GH5, rod riser and Classic Plus Handle can accommodate some hefty camera rigs if need be. Alternatively, their Cube GH5 cage is lightweight yet protective enough for stripped-down rigs consisting of camera and lens only.

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.

Links


The original article

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. 

Camera accessories maker SmallRig is currently working on this lightweight cage for the Panasonic Lumix GH5 and is inviting input from interested parties. I have a SmallRig cage for my Panasonic Lumix GX8 and recommend it. Seercam, formerly Motion9, is also working on a cage for the GH5.

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

UK Panasonic Lumix brand ambassador Nick Driftwood’s anamorphic GH5 rig featuring the GH5, battery grip, XLR1 audio adapter, Atomos Shogun Inferno monitor/recorder for 4K 5pp/60p 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes, SLR Magic 35mm x2 anamorphic lens, Lanparte matte box, Røde NTG2 microphone phantom-powered from the XLR1 hotshoe. “We need to see a special GH5 cage design for the XLR1 from hardware companies,” Mr Driftwood says. That XLR1-savvy design should allow placing the unit anywhere off-hotshoe via a custom cable.

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.

Links

Image Credits

Header image concept and production by Carmel D. Morris. Apologies to ELP.

Photograph of Nick Driftwood’s Panasonic Lumix GH5 rig courtesy of Nick Driftwood.

Tech Notes

Hero image of SmallRig cage for the Panasonic Lumix GH5 processed in Alien Skin Exposure X2 using a cyanotype preset.

Help support ‘Untitled’

Clicking on these affiliate links helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.

Camera, Kits, Battery Grip and V-Log L

  • Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera (Body Only)B&H
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 8-18mm Lens KitB&H
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 12-35mm Lens Kit – B&H
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 12-60mm LensB&H
  • Panasonic DMW-BGGH5 Battery Grip – B&H
  • Panasonic V-Log L Function Activation Code for DMC-GH4, DC-GH5, and DMC-FZ2500B&H

SDXC V90 cards

  • Angelbird 64GB AV Pro UHS-II V90 SDXC Memory CardB&H
  • Angelbird 128GB AV Pro UHS-II V90 SDXC Memory CardB&H
  • Panasonic 128GB UHS-II V90 SDXC Memory CardB&H

L-Plates

  • Really Right Stuff L-Plate Set for Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Camera Body  – B&H

Camera Cages

  • Movcam Cage for Panasonic GH5B&H
  • Movcam Cage Kit for Panasonic GH5B&H
  • Seercam GH5 CageB&H
  • Seercam Cage for GH5 with Classic HandleB&H
  • Seercam Extension Kit for CUBE GH5 CageB&H

Cam Tech: First Look, SmallRig Cage for Panasonic GX8 1844

I love using custom camera cages when making movies with small, mirrorless Super 16/Micro Four Thirds or Super 35mm/APS-C hybrid cameras. One such cage saved my only camera at the time and thus saved my career, not so long ago. 

The recent arrival of a custom cage for my Panasonic Lumix GX8 camera means I feel a whole lot safer toting it around in public while shooting video.

And, it got me thinking about the current state of the art of cages and rigging for any camera, whether my GX8, my GH4 or Fujifilm’s X-T2, which has so much currently unfulfilled potential as a movie camera and which could be the best affordable Super 35 video camera if Fujifilm adds some crucial features to its firmware.