During the past nine months I’ve been filming a travel reality series called Sweet Retreats that appears on the Live Well Network. The show is filmed with the Canon C300 and 60D. It’s been a great opportunity to film the show not only because I get to travel, but also because I get to use all of my own gear.
Starting off I used a small shoulder rig: the Jag35 Version 1 Full Shoulder Rig. I bought this rig when it became available in 2010. I used it for almost every shoot. It was great for stabilization, tracking shots, small film shoots; you name it. It got the job done. It also happened to be one of the most inexpensive shoulder rigs on the market at the time.
Sweet Retreats began filming in October 2012. At the time, I had already pre-ordered the Blackmagic Cinema Camera from Blackmagic Design. Having a T2i and 60D, I wanted to own a different kind of camera that isn’t a dslr. I wanted something that would give me Raw capabilities, 10 bit and 12 bit recording and the thirteen stops of dynamic range. It wasn’t until early January of 2013, however, that I finally got my BMCC. During the pre-order waiting period I did a lot of research so that I was clear about what I needed to make this camera fully functional. I needed an external battery, a SDI-HDMI converter, an EVF, a regular HDMI to HDMI (no mini) cable, and some XLR inputs to really get the camera moving. However, when placing the camera on the Jag35 quick release plate the camera sat too high to use a follow focus. Among some smaller issues, it was time to begin researching new shoulder rigs. I needed something that supports my 60D, BMCC and other larger cameras. I do not mean to disparage the Jag35. Since the inception of the Full Shoulder Rig v1, the company has made great strides updating and improving its already excellent gear.
Nevertheless, I needed greater flexibility, longer-lasting comfort, and more customization options. Soon after the BMCC announcement, Zaucto announced its new Blackmagic Cinema Camera support line. Among the list of camera-support products is the Blackmagic Stinger, a shoulder rig that has all the right pieces: adjustable front handles, mini-baseplate, a very comfortable shoulder pad, cheese plate (or Zwiss plate) and rods that have male/female threads. This is something the Jag35 rods lack. Having the male/female threaded rods enables me to mount, extend and configure my rig to my specifications.
The long days and the number of episodes that I’ve been shooting for Sweet Retreats, made it difficult for me to remain comfortable using my Jag35 rig. Having an offset rig, the DP6-SDI behind the camera or sometimes off to the side, and the Canon 24-70mm L2 capturing the subjects, the 4lbs counter weight couldn’t support the front heaviness of the rig. I just wasn’t comfortable. So I decided to upgrade my rig to something that would give me options and support both cameras as well as others. I bought the Zacuto Blackmagic Stinger.
The Blackmagic Stinger is made up of:
Mini-baseplate w/12” rods
Shoulder pad w/7” rods
4.5” m/f rods
Z-grips v3 short
Horizontal Zwiss plate
BMCC Top handle.
I’ve reviewed Zacuto gear before, so I knew the type of high quality materials that I was getting with this rig. It is a little more expensive than some other rigs, but you’re not only paying for the quality, but also for the fact that you won’t need to buy another shoulder rig for a very, very long time.
When the Blackmagic Stinger is rigged out with the Canon 60D, it’s a lot lighter than when it’s rigged out with the BMCC. I’m powering the 60D with the Switronix PB70. I attached the battery brick to my Zwiss plate giving me great counter balance. Rigged off the front is the Zacuto Zonitor holding the EVF Flip. It’s absolutely worth the price! You can jam your face into your EVF and the Zonitor arm doesn’t move. I highly recommend it.
Filming Sweet Retreats with the Stinger I’m much more comfortable than I was when using the Jag35 rig. I’m not fighting the front handles on the Stinger and retightening them like I was with my Jag35 handles. When you lock the front handles on the Stinger, they lock! The shoulder pad does exactly what it needs to do: remain comfortable. The Mini-baseplate is great because it adds a little more weight to the rig, but not so much weight that I’m fatigued at the end of the day.
Finally, what I love about the Zwiss plate are the options. You have four mounting points: two on the top and two on the bottom. Or, if you want to shoot in studio mode, you just attach the plate horizontally to your rods and you’re all set! There are also a lot of other little holes for attachments. It’s all about flexibility, functionality, comfort, and options with the Blackmagic Stinger.
When I’m using the BMCC, the Stinger becomes a little heavier. Again, starting with the Switronix PB70 on the back acting as my counter balance, I’ve also added the Blackmagic Design SDI-HMDI battery converter to the side of my Zwiss plate via the Zacuto wireless plate. If you’re really in a pinch because you’re doing a lot of run and gun filmmaking, the BMCC Top Handle has a few 1/4-20” mounting points for you to mount a shotgun mic to your rig. Running audio to the BMCC? No problem! I attached the Wooden Camera A-Box to the front of the Stinger and now I have two XLR inputs to record solid audio. At this point, I’m walking around with a beast of a camera, a rig that supports everything, and I’m as comfortable as I can be. It gives me exactly what I wanted.
So for those 10 to 12 hour days, the Zacuto Blackmagic Stinger does its job. It’s a solid, steady shoulder rig that you can conform to your liking. It’s also most likely the last shoulder rig you’ll need to buy for a very long time.
Thanks for reading.
Also, was not expecting to see this for at least a couple more weeks. What a great surprise! @AmericanCine #ASC #hardcover #cinematography #10thedition
Effin’ finally! Both my Intel & SanDisk SSD mount to my MBPro Retina instantly. I downloaded 7.22gbs within 20 seconds via Thunderbolt! I can comfortably say that my #BMCC media is pretty much ready to hit the road! I’m so freaking stoked right now!