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Camera Configurations: Your Best Ally

Speed and production value are intertwined. Production budgets are shrinking and companies are asking for more from cinematographers and crews that ever. One way to meet that need is by increasing your speed without sacrificing quality. Specifically, when using Canon 5D Mark II camera for a project, a little preproduction planning with designing specific camera configurations for your project can save hours of conversion time throughout the shoot. The biggest benefit is that you and your crew have a system in place that is organized and ready to rock regardless of location changes, weather and whatever else may be thrown your way.

Man Cam on a Head

Man Cam on a Head

Here are a few ideas that have worked well for the elite team:

1.  Break down your project into all of the possible different modes that you might be shooting and plan to have at least one camera configuration for each mode.

2.  Get as many cameras as you can! They are cheap to rent and constantly changing configurations costs you valuable time when shooting. It can even make you look disorganized and unprepared because a director may be ready to roll and you are floundering getting a camera into whatever mode you need.

3.  Have at least one camera body assigned to each mode for shooting. For example, on the untitled Navy Seal project that I am currently shooting we have 13 5D bodies in all different configurations. Many have at least 2 in a particular mode for a multiple camera shoot.

The elite team and I had so much fun naming the different configurations that we decided to hold a contest for the best name. Mikey Svitak will be the judge, so please comment with your best idea for a name and we will announce it on our October 20, 2009 blog.

There will be a grand prize that goes to the winner, so let your creative juices flow and have fun with it! Here are a few of the names we came up with to get you started:

1.   man cam mode

2.  action cam mode

3.  helmet cam mode

4.  stripper mode

5.  steadicam junior mode

6.  studio handheld mode

7.  crash cam mode

Good luck! I can’t wait to hear your ideas and share those on the blog along with the winner.

Author: Shane

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31 Comments

  1. Lovin’ the blog.

    How ’bout:
    Jam Cam Mode
    Crotch Cam Mode
    Bouncy Cam Mode
    WhamBamThankYaMa’am Cam Mode

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  2. Marshall, Crotch cam is kick ass, Jam cam is bangin also. I will post some pictures of my configurations with the name next to them. All the best

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  3. I’m a big fan of “Jam Cam” and “Crash Cam.” I’m laughing just thinking of the conversation: “alright, this steadicam angle’s not working for me. Yo Fred, where’s the Crotch Cam?!”

    How about
    “Spy cam” for when the config ends up looking like a sniper rifle

    “Bam cam” for crazy action (synonym of crash cam)

    “FPS mode” standing for First-Person Shooter like in video games. For when you’ve got it strapped and fit on to someone’s chest or shoulder to get that POV-shakey feel. Also “POV mode.” You’ve got some of that going at 1:42 in the SEAL tlr. If you don’t mind the chuckles, you can call it “strap-on mode.”

    Much love from Beijing,
    Van

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  4. Scram Cam mode (for paparazzi)
    Flak Cam mode (for shooting explosions)
    Bug Out Cam mode (f8 and be there)
    FlimFlam Cam mode (for shooting things to be altered in pshop later)
    PanoCam
    Cam a la mode (for shooting desserts)
    Cambulance mode(for shooting bright red blood and gore)

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  5. Van Yang, great names, I love “Bam Cam”, and “FPS mode,” soon to be released is a trailer of this Navy SEAL movie I have been working on and the FPS mode is off the chain. We are going to judge all the names of the configurations and post the winner on Monday. Good luck

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  6. Andrew Webb, love “FilmFlam Cam mode, everything is fix it in post. Flak Cam mode, I used that a lot on this Navy SEAL movie, we specifically went to these live fire ranges so that we could fire mini-guns and 50 Caliber machine guns to blow up the bad guys truck and cut them in two. It was crazy, I had a Kevlar Vest, Helmet, all the works. We will judge the names and announce the winner on Monday. Good luck

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  7. Hurlbut Visuals Elite Team Marc Margulies checking in on the names of all the different set ups and configurations we have. My favorite is one we have had about 8 different evolutions of. It makes a very good hand held look. Its simple, we call it “The Studio Hand Held” its long but very nicely balanced. We were using it two nights ago on the C130 (Large Navy Plane) inter shoots. We also had a set up on the 30? Techno crane. Some great challenges to over come there like turning on and off the camera? I know how we did it, but any ideas out there how you all would turn the 7D on and off from the crane? We also need to make a name up for the crane set up?

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    • Moviejake444, you are very welcome, thank you for blogging

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  8. hello Shane, I read on your website (and also heard from Roberto de Angelis) that you managed to remotely start and stop a 5DII with a preston. How was this done, and would it be adaptable to other systems? (cmotion to name one?) I would be glad to hear more details about this, as I could definitely use it.
    thanks in advance

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    • didier Frateur, What we did was get a Preston II system with 2 channels. One motor was for focus, the other motor we mounted in the back of the 5D. We used some bailing wire, took the screws out of the wheel on the motor just a little bit so that we could wrap the wire around it. Then we wrapped that wire around a short pencil with an eraser at the end. We took this motor and plugged it into the zoom port on the MDR. So now when you slide the zoom fader up it will move the motor and push the SET button on the back of the 5D. When you want to cut you slide the fader up again. There you have it.

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  9. Hi Shane,

    I am wondering who makes the blueish/purple grips I see you using in a lot of your camera rigs? They seem quite versatile in all the ways you can set the camera up with them.

    Thanks for all the info you’re providing. I’m a fellow Emerson student. I couldn’t make it to your presentation, but I have since found your website and plan on getting a Canon 7d in the near future.

    Thanks!

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    • Morgan, those grips are made by Red Rock Micro. They have been amazing in the field. I am sorry you were not able to make it to the presentation. You are very welcome and I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

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  10. Entertaining blog. My co-workers and I were just discussing this the other night. Also your webpage looks good on my old laptop. Now thats uncommon. Nice work.

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    • Ping Nine, thank you so much. My web Designer’s name Is Ryan Strong Fritz at rfritz@rynotechnologies.com and he is absolutely incredible. I owe how this site looks and feels to my amazing wife, writer and co-collaborator along with Ryan’s amazing Elite team.

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  11. hello Shane,
    I figured already something out like that, but it ‘s not really workable with our way of shooting. I was hoping that you had found through one of the ports. Nevertheless, thanks a lot for your info. I might come back to you if encounter something else. I did also sent the question of the remote start/stop to the Martin Waitz of cmotion, who would investigate this as soon as he gets a technical data sheet of the camera. If he comes up with a solution, I will let you know.
    thanks,
    didier

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    • didier Frateur, View factor in LA has figured out how to turn the camera on and off with one of the ports. You can contact them for info. Curt von Badinski at
      curt@viewfactor.net.

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  12. I recently came up with “Safari Mode” – When operating a stripped down version of the camera on a cinesaddle or sandbag placed on the ground. It really looks the part when using a long lens and in thick grass like I was!

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    • Justin Cerato, I like that. Check out the picture in my blog Small Size, Big Value, we call that Camo Stripper.

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  13. Hi, just discovered your blog but I have to say that it looks sweet. I fully agree with you. Have a great day, keep up the great work and I’ll definitely come back.I just got in to the Battlefield Bad Company 2 PC Beta for free, check out this youtube video for instructions on how you can do it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeEGe5fIAXo

    Post a Reply
    • Desmond Holen, I am very happy to have you and glad that you enjoyed the blog. All the best! I will check out the Battlefield Bad Company.

      Post a Reply
  14. That preston start/stop method is ingenious!
    I just want to say thanks for doing this blog and putting all this information out there. This has become my first stop when I’m soaking up more 5D info. Not to take anything away from some of the other blogs out there, but for me there is a real difference in the usefulness of information from a still photographer who realizes “hey! I can shoot video now!” and a filmmaker who is embracing a new piece of equipment and dealing with the resulting challenges and sharing the solutions.
    So, thank you Shane and the Elite Team!

    Post a Reply
    • Coby, you are very welcome and I hope that you keep coming back. Make sure you sign up for the newsletter. Major insider trading info. in there.

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  15. Hello Shane, I actually worked with you years ago on a commercial you shot for Nu Pictures/Pittard Sullivan I was running around with a Bolex at the time shooting “2nd unit ” for the production Co. Anyway, great blog you have here and I’m just getting on board the DSLR thing. Shot a short last week and am happy with the results. Will be shooting more promo’s with it this week! I am curious about the Panavision mount you have. Is this a custom set up? Are there PL to Canon mounts? Any problems with Vignetting? Or issues with hitting the shutter? Thanks for the info!
    TC

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    • Tom Camarda, Hi it is so great to hear from you. The Panavision mount was something that I designed along with the engineers at Panavision/Hollywood, which does nothing to the camera, you just click that baby on and all the focus marks line up perfectly. The vignetting on the PL mounts: on the 5D the vignette is up to a 40mm. On the PV mount it is up to a 35mm because of the flange depth, which is equal to a 24mm. On the 7D there is not any vignette because of the smaller sensor. You are welcome

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  16. Hi Shane and Elite Team!
    I´m on Argentina and trying to develop a good handheld solution, as good as your HV baseplate and handgrips, but, Mike Svitak said me your rigs are just rent at present.
    Are you planning to sell it?, if not, can you say me which is best rig solution to handheld operation, with monitor and mattebox at sides¿?
    tks a lot!

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  17. Hey Shane – love your stuff and thanks for all the great ideas you come up with to help start-ups like me get into shooting with DSLRs. I borrowed your man-cam idea and built a Frankenrig out of a HotRod hand-held mated with a Zacuto Zwing-away, RR mount and FF. Since I do a lot of shooting in confined spaces, your idea works like a charm.

    Cheers!

    Post a Reply
    • Eric, I am so glad to hear that the rig works for you. You are very welcome and thank you for your support. Episdoe II “Vietnam” is next. Stay tuned

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  18. Shane,

    Just a silly question. Sandisk extreme or extreme pro? I have 16 gig extreme pro, but i see you use the extreme 60mb/s. Is it just price difference or is there any difference or does it matter? Thanks.

    Post a Reply

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