It’s been a long time since I’ve last posted here, especially a written one. Majority of my recent posts have been photos, so if you’re looking for more writings, please believe me, they’re coming. Having said all of that, I’m going to keep this short. Back in August my wife, Bethany and I had the opportunity to film with the new Schneider Cine Xenar III’s (which are simply amazing. More on them later) on our new short, The Tea Kettle. Having been filming Sweet Retreats, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to dedicate time to the editing of the film (this really bothers me), but seeing how we have a little break for the holidays, I’ve been able to complete a backwards color correction/transcoding of our film via DaVinci Resolve. So far I feel really proud of this film. The B&W color grade I really like! I think I might add a Film Covert filter to the color portions of the film just to give it that extra punch, but overall I’m very happy.
Finally, after a few months I can actually get to the real heart of the project, the EDIT! Keep checking in here as I’ll add some more stills once the edit begins and my progress, along with a detailed making of the film and the usage of the Cine Xenar III’s. And let me say this about the Xenar III’s, if you have an extra $48,000 laying around and are in search of a serious set of primes, your money is best spent on these babies. Simply put, they’re breathtaking.
Zacuto's Blackmagic Stinger: My Experience and Review
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.
In reference to: My new lens and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera’s best friend.
@tarkoxvxsky It's working out quite well (knock on wood). I shot with it a few weeks ago for a professional gig and it went really well. The image is amazing to me. Very sharp. As for the SSD issue, yup, all of that has been resolved. I bought the SanDisk 240gb ssd and it has work great! Taking it out along with the 24-70 tomorrow morning for a morning shoot. Shooting all Raw tomorrow. I'm very excited.
Nine months ago I pre-ordered, along with many other people, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Last Friday it finally came! Before I received my camera I was proactive in ordering the proper accessories to use it once I got it, i.e., a new bnc cable, a SSD, a Voyager Q to read the SSD, a thunderbolt cable, and a new MacBook Pro Retina (also just needed it). The Switronix PB70-BMCC brick wasn’t available at the time of my spending, but it’s still something that I need to buy.
Finally having some time last night to sit down with the camera I wanted to do a couple tests mainly for the purposes of seeing what I could do with a Raw 2.5K image in DaVinci Resolve. My setup was simple: no studio lights, just practical house lights. I wanted to see how far I could push the image before I started seeing noise. Then the next day I would go out to do more tests, even including some lighting setups. However, last night I hit a few snags…
Starting off, I would place my OWC SSD into the camera. The status bar at the bottom of the 5” touch screen didn’t recognize the SSD. I removed it from the camera and pushed it back in a little harder this time. The camera finally recognized the SSD. A little alarmed by this, I turned off the camera just to see if it would recognize that it had a SSD in there once it turned back on. The answer…it didn’t. Another pull and push, and the camera recognized the SSD. This didn’t set well with me.
I shot a couple clips and watched them in playback. Each clip seemed to play perfectly. It wasn’t until the third clip that I shot started having some issues. While playing back, the image started to lag/stutter and then froze (but the audio was still playing). I hit stop and tried to view the clip again and the same results occurred. I moved on to film some other things hoping this issue might clear up. Nope. As I played back some newer clips the lagging and freezing happened again. However, this time the image went black and pressing play or stop didn’t work. I had to simply remove the SSD and power down the camera.
At this point I became a little panic-stricken. I placed the SSD back in to the camera and powered it back up, but at this point the camera wouldn’t recognize the SSD at all no matter how many times I pulled and pushed.
I placed the SSD into my New Technology Voyager Q reader to see if I could review my footage. Unfortunately it wouldn’t mount. I tried using different connections, Firewire 800, USB 3.0, but I got nothing. I think it’s safe to say that I have a bunk SSD. So getting started, this wasn’t the experience I was hoping for.
Another issue that arose was one that I’ve been following on the blogsphere: the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Canon EF mount won’t reach infinity focus on the BMCC. When I heard this I thought my lens was fine. I’ve never had a bad image when using this lens on my 60D or T2i. I’ve always been able to reach infinity focus. So when I began my first test, I threw the Tokina on the BMCC. I started off at 16mm. My subject (me in a chair), was a little less, but very close to, 7 feet from the camera. When I looked at playback I was sharp and in focus. My second shot was at 11mm. I readjusted the focus but this time noticed that where I would be sitting was in fact out of focus. At 11mm and infinity focus, my background was blurry. This shouldn’t have been the case. Given the distance from the subject to the camera, the ISO, and the amount of light in the room, I technically should have been in focus. I have used this lens for a little more than two, close to three years now and have never had this issue. Once my new SSD arrives, I’ll be able to take the camera outside for some more tests and hopefully see with a greater DoP that the Tokina will be able to reach infinity at 11mm. Who knows.
So far my filming experience with the BMCC hasn’t been the best. From a technical side, I like the menu. It’s simple and easy to navigate. I’m worried about the camera not recognizing the SSD. Again, I think that might have been the actual SSD, but we’ll see. The image from the camera itself is a very beautiful one. I’m happy in that regard. The build is solid and slightly heavy which I love. But none of that matters unless I can record something. I wish I had more exciting news to share instead of the issues that I’m having. Hopefully tomorrow or Thursday I’ll have better news to report. That’s it for now.