“DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are small, light, and can get into spaces traditional cinema and ENG cameras just can’t. However, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are not meant to work on a film set all day long—it just isn’t in their ergonomics. This is especially true if you are planning on handholding a camera all day, or working with accessories such as follow focus units, zoom motors, or external monitors….”
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.
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?
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.
Camera cage and accessories maker Seercam is about to release its extension kit for the company’s Cube GH5 camera cage and has kindly shared a set of photographs of the kit in situ on the cage and as part of a big Cube GH5-based rig. To all those moviemakers asking which accessories makers are building cages that can be safely stacked high with monitors, recorders, microphones, handles and more, Seercam’s Extension Kit for Cube GH5 is the answer to your prayers.
The extension kit contains a rod holder to accomodate rods of various lengths for mounting extra gear and even a camera left side handle.
The folks at Seercam tell me that they are currently working on their own custom external battery pack, similar to the one depicted in some of these product shots. Unlike Motion9’s CubePower battery pack that “could not be sold overseas”, the new Seercam battery pack will be designed and manufactured to enable it to be sold overseas. More details will be forthcoming as development proceeds.
This is great news for those of us shooting long takes or through long days with the GH5, which apparently eats up battery power faster than its younger sibling, the GH4. Although I am partial to camera-mounted battery grips like Panasonic’s DMW-BGGH5, Seercam’s custom battery solution looks like a smarter and more versatile alternative.