In the past decade, the video-enabled DSLR revolutionized the production industry, especially indie filmmaking. As you already know, the DSLR allowed low- or no-budget shooters the ability to create cinematic shallow depth of field with camera systems costing a fraction of the amount of film or high-end digital camera systems. But with the recent introduction of large-sensor, digital, motion-picture cameras such as the RED Scarlet-X, Sony F3 and Canon C300, many people were predicting the demise of DSLRs for professional motion-picture production.
But hold on. This year, Canon and Nikon released new DSLRs with new features and updates that filmmakers have long been asking for. Nikon’s full-frame D800 offers a gigantic 36.3-megapixel image sensor, as well as Clean HDMI, which enables you to record higher-quality ProRes files. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is the long-awaited update to the landmark 5D Mark II and includes better sound capabilities, a two-stop improvement and the elimination of line skipping, which significantly reduces artifacting and moiré.
But even with these new improvements, it’s important to remember that DSLRs neither operate nor perform like video cameras, and many of the same workarounds still exist. To combat this, a number of camera accessory manufacturers have released new accessories that will help turn your DSLR into a professional motion-picture camera. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you’ll be able to capture professional-quality images.
One of the great advantages in working with DSLRs is that they enable you to shoot in locations you normally wouldn’t be able to with a professional motion-picture camera. But because of the camera’s small form factor, as well as its autofocus lenses, it really helps to have a camera rig to be able to attach professional camera accessories (monitors, recorders, follow-focus devices, etc.). A well-designed camera rig also helps with balance and shake reduction for handheld shooting.
Redrock Micro (www.redrockmicro.com) was instrumental in helping to kick-start the DSLR revolution with its professional yet affordable camera accessories. The ultraCage | blue DSLR is their latest DSLR rig and follows in the footsteps of the ultraCage | blue C300, which was selected by Canon as the exclusive provider of rigs and accessories for the promotion of the C300. Like almost all of Redrock Micro’s gear, you’re free to configure the ultraCage with numerous accessories in order to shoot motion pictures on a professional level. I recently tested my 5D Mark III with the system, and I liked how the camera locked snugly inside the cage by attaching it with both the 1/4-20" screw at the base of the camera, as well as the shoe-mount on top of the camera. (Although, if you have large hands, you may encounter problems making adjustments on the 5D Mark III’s lockable mode dial.)
The ultraCage by itself is very lightweight as a standalone rig, and since it’s a modular system, you’re able to add rails to attach Redrock’s new microFollowFocus | Blue, which contains new features such as hard stops and a new illuminated 3D marking disk. With lens gears, focus marks and hard stops, focus pullers are much better equipped to work manually with autofocus DSLR lenses, which aren’t designed for manual focus due to their short focus throw and narrow lens barrel.
For handheld work, I tested out the ultraCage DSLR Event Handheld, which is a compact rig that allows you to shoot on the fly while adding stability. The rig has two adjustable handles and a chest-pad support to reduce the amount of shake. For low-angle shooting, the Event shooter also has a convenient top handle, which can also be used to carry the system. Another cool feature that Redrock has added to the rig is the wireLock, which is an accessory that helps protect your camera’s mini HDMI port and converts the connection to a full-sized HDMI. (Mini HDMI connectors tend to break off easily when bumped.)