The design of a still camera is aimed primarily at freezing and tracking quickly moving subjects, while video shots require long takes and very smooth movements. Adding accessories like camera rigs, tripods and other cinematic tools, like sliders or cranes, will make your system far more capable when attempting professional shots and cuts. Camera rigs and video cages give your camera numerous mounting points for accessories like viewfinders, monitors and follow-focus units while also converting your DSLR into a much more comfortable imaging device for handholding. They’re available in a number of different stabilization setups like single grips, top handles, gunstocks, shoulder supports and handheld cages. Many of these kits are also modular for adding or removing articulating joints and extras, as needed, or for making your own custom rig to suit the needs of your shot or your project.
There are also a number of specialty tools like dollies, sliders, cranes, jibs and precisely balanced stabilization systems. Expensive, but incredibly precise stabilization systems are available from Steadicam, Glidecam and VariZoom when you’re looking to capture smooth panning or tracking shots like those seen in a film. Motorized sliders with programmable motion-control pan-and-tilt heads are also available for high-quality time-lapse movements. A few of the most popular camera rig and dolly makers include Cinevate, iDC Photo Video, ikan, K-Tek, Letus, Manfrotto, Redrock Micro, SHAPE and Zacuto. Sliders, cranes and jibs give DSLRs and other systems control of overhead and motion shots. There are a number of different models available from DitoGear, Matthews, Kessler, Libec and Varavon.
Just as with still photography, tripods give you stability for shots, but for video work they become even more important because they’ll allow you to plant the camera for longer takes and give panning and tracking shots without the shudder and judder caused by handholding the camera. Fluid heads with panning bars are a great assistant on a shoot, as well, and they’re available with popular monopod and tripod systems like the four-section Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 Fluid Video Monopod and Head. The 561BHDV-1 includes a pan bar handle for light-touch control over panning and tilting, as well as three miniature legs at the base for camera swiveling abilities and better stability. Estimated Street Price: $299.
Davis & Sanford’s Magnum XG13 Grounder three-section tripod includes a three-way fluid FX13 pan-and-tilt head with on-off counterbalance control, providing a bit of tension to achieve more accurate camera movements. There’s a maximum height of six feet and a maximum load capacity of 15 pounds with a Quick-lift two-section center post for rapid adjustments and low-angle shooting. Estimated Street Price: $189.
Capable of supporting up to 13 pounds, Sachtler’s professional Ace L fluid head includes seven steps of counterbalance and an extra-long sliding plate for quickly finding the best camera balance, even if the DSLR has accessories attached. Synchronized Actuated Drag (SA drag) has three vertical and three horizontal grades of drag for precision in panning and tilting at a range of +90 degrees to -75 degrees. The Ace L is available with two different carbon-fiber tripod systems: the System Ace L TT 75/2 CF telescopic three-segment tripod covering 17 to 73 inches and the System Ace L MS CF tripod with a 31- to 67-inch range, as well as mid-level spreader and rubber feet for use on uneven terrain. Estimated Street Price: $1,299 (System Ace L TT 75/2 CF tripod); $999 (System Ace L MS CF tripod).
ONE BAG TO CARRY IT ALL
While camera bags for photography and camera bags for video cameras are similar in purpose, video bags must accommodate peripheral filmmaking gear, too. Video also consumes a lot of memory card space, so a laptop for unloading files is an important must-have item, as well. Kata offers a number of bag styles, whether shooting video or stills and even audio. Capable of holding a large camcorder with matte box and accessories, the large Pro-Light FlyBy-77 rolling case is designed for mobility with dual wheels and a retractable handle. The FlyBy-77 offers a bright yellow Aeriform interior to quickly locate gear and extras in low light with enough room for a 17-inch laptop, two to four DSLRs and up to 10 lenses. A smaller FlyBy-75 case includes enough space for a 15-inch laptop, two DSLRs and six to eight lenses. Estimated Street Price: $299 (Pro-Light FlyBy-77); $249 (Pro-Light FlyBy-75).