Filmmaking With Still Cameras

The small size and excellent imaging quality of a still camera makes it an affordable and ideal choice for working with video, but there are several disadvantages to using a still shooter over a camcorder. Filmmakers attach a variety of accessories to professional filmmaking cameras like monitors, EVFs, mic systems, follow-focus units, matte boxes and external recorders for working with uncompressed video files and audio, for example.

Dedicated camcorder bodies have enough space in the design to house and power many of these extra accessories internally. Still cameras, by comparison, lack the mounting possibilities for this equipment, as well as the internal power. The body of a still camera is also built to track moving subjects quickly, which makes them difficult to hold steadily during the longer takes required by video.

LITEPANELS CROMA FLIGHT KIT: Video takes require a constant light source for illumination, one of the many reasons why soft-light LED lighting panels are becoming so popular with professionals.



A support system or rig will address these concerns, and they often double as stabilization systems that can help make still cameras much more ergonomic to hold during long video takes, as well. There are a number of different form factors in which these support systems can be found. Simple handheld rigs like the Vello ActionPan (Estimated Street Price: $19) or the SteadyAim Stabilizer Kits (Estimated Street Price: $24) add a point of stabilization and more control of camera movements through straps, braces, handles or grips. Monopods like the Benro A48FBS6 Video Monopod Kit with Head (Estimated Street Price: $249) are a much more level way to gain these advantages alongside a video head. Monopods are faster to set up than a tripod, and the small footprint will allow you to work from tighter areas, as well. Manfrotto’s Fluid Monopod with 500 Series Head (Estimated Street Price: $279) has a fluid head and foot cartridge for steady and controlled tracking and panning.

The K-Tek Norbert Sport Basic cage (Estimated Street Price: $249), on the other hand, is a very basic rig, with nine cold-shoe sockets and multiple 1⁄4″-20 and 3⁄8″-16 threaded holes for attaching numerous accessories like microphones, on-camera LED lights and external audio or video recorders. The ikan Elements Basic Fly Kit (Estimated Street Price: $67) provides a lightweight handle system for simple camera support, but it can also be upgraded to attach video monitors or lighting and more advanced options like follow-focus units that will give still lenses precision focusing and repeatable movements during a take. For the best of all worlds, the complete ikan Elements Master Kit (Estimated Street Price: $449) can be converted into four different configurations alongside custom designs.

Shoulder-mount systems are also available for run-and-gun camera operators like “ENG” news gatherers or documentarists who need to be able to move quickly with heavier systems supported comfortably on the shoulder and a viewfinder at eye-level. Redrock Micro offers the reliable ultraCage Black products (List Price: Begins at $595), which house cameras in a 360º cage for protection and accessory attachment, as well as a number of versatile DSLR 2.0 Shoulder Mount and Handheld Rigs (List Price: Begins at $470). Manfrotto‘s recently updated SYMPLA 2.0 line has swivel-joint handles in two configurations. The more advanced Universal Mount and the more economical Lightweight Shoulder Mounted Rig both offer compatibility with additional options and features like padded shoulder mount, counterweight adjustment and rod support for other peripherals and camera remotes. List Price: $1,028 (SYMPLA Universal Mount); $778 (Lightweight Shoulder Mounted Rig). The Zacuto DSLR Recoil Rig is a very precise system with a unique Tornado Grip that makes the compatible Zacuto Z-Drive follow-focus unit much more comfortable to use over other systems. List Price: Begins at $1,695 (DSLR Recoil).

BEACHTEK DXA-CONNECT: Microphones, external recorders and audio or XLR adapters will allow you to achieve the same kind of high-quality audio as professionals.

The Glidecam and Steadicam lines of stabilization systems offer sophisticated counterbalance gimbals for floating shots and incredibly smooth panning and camera movements. Steadicam makes the Merlin 2 for still cameras (List Price: $399); Glidecam’s XR and HD series (Estimated Street Price: Begins at $179) are designed for low-weight systems like still cameras and smaller camcorders. ProAm USA’s Autopilot is a very affordable camera stabilizer solution that supports cameras up to six pounds (List Price: $189).

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