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Zacuto Gets Creative with Their New Blackmagic Cinema Camera Rigs

08.19.12 @ 11:30AM Tags : , , , , ,

Zacuto has been getting quite a bit of coverage lately thanks to their controversial (or not, depends on who you ask) Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout 2012. That particular shootout saw relatively inexpensive cameras go up against the best in the business in both a creative and empirical test. Besides being a rental house, Zacuto also makes a ton of rigs and support gear for cameras, and they’ve come up with some interesting designs for the much-anticipated Blackmagic Cinema Camera (which is hopefully less than two weeks away). Check out the video below featuring Steve Weiss and Jens Bogehegn.

First, here is what Steve had to say about designing for this camera:

DSLR’s and BMC ergonomics are very similar. You essentially have a camera that has to be held in front of your face to see the video. Using our knowledge and years of experience designing DSLR rigs helped us immensely when we got our hands on the much anticipated BMC camera. After much testing and consulting with other users, we were able to come out with several Blackmagic Camera Rigs and accessories that will satisfy any shooting style.

A possible battery solution they propose at the beginning of the video — using multiple Cinema Camera bodies and switching them out when the internal battery dies — is rather intriguing. Since the camera is so cheap, there are productions that could potentially shoot an entire day just switching out camera bodies as the internal batteries discharge. Not all of us will be able to do that, so some sort of external battery is probably going to be necessary like they show in the video. The most compact setup, the Blackmagic Ultralite Rig, certainly has an interesting design with the rails mounted on top of the camera rather than below. While I have seen this before, it’s interesting to see it on a camera as small as the BMCC.

If you’re still on the fence about the camera, we are still waiting to hear exactly when we might be receiving ours, but there will be plenty of footage to come since I have my own personal camera coming at some point in the future.

Link: Zacuto Blackmagic Cinema Camera Rigs

Disclosure: Zacuto is a NoFilmSchool advertiser.


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Description image 38 COMMENTS

  • Way over priced IMHO

  • James Neuendorf on 08.19.12 @ 12:37PM

    All the accessory makers kind of drive me crazy, they charge as much as the camera for what is essentially an erector set… Doesnt seem fair how much they can profit off these cameras that they had no hand in making. My 2 cents

  • Wrango Davenlo on 08.19.12 @ 12:57PM

    This company called shape has a better rig. Probably cheaper than anything overpriced Zacuto makes.

  • I’m a Zacuto fan and like their EVF and Z-finder for the 5D3. I like how they are using the top mount points (which get rid of most of the need for a cage) here. But I also don’t see any of these as being a big win. I think people should wait until they actually have a BMCC in their hands before ordering anything because the return period may expire before you actually get to try anything in practice.

    The BMCC’s touchscreen and weight make it different than anything else and I’m not sure concepts for DSLR apply so much. Shoulder rigs for it might involve both shoulders rather than one with an emphasis on balance and stable one-handed operation so you can focus and operate the screen and have it centered and distribute the load. The battery isn’t going to be enough counterbalance. I don’t see EVF solutions as desirable, nor do I see a focus puller chasing around a shoulder rig as feasible, nor do I see two people neither of which are looking at the touchscreen as workable. What works with this camera is going to be its own thing and I suggest waiting and playing with it before wasting a bunch of money rigging it out.

    I did like the suggestion of buying a second BMCC as backup…it’s cheap enough. But they don’t mention that you can happily charge the internal battery while shooting (something my RX100 sadly doesn’t allow) which means as long as you have an external battery you should be good to go powerwise. You will need an external battery solution for this camera regardless.

    (Oh and please, don’t mount a stereo pair of mics vertically as seen in the video. Only the people born with an ear on their chin and another ear on their forehead will get good stereo from that.)

  • john jeffreys on 08.19.12 @ 4:03PM

    Zacuto sucks their shit is way overpriced and its not even that good. Honestly, when it comes to rigging, either drop the cash for the hardcore arri/o’connor stuff or just get trusmt, the chinese ebay store. they used to manufacture for letus (another overpriced american brand) and then broke off and made their own equipment. They have matte boxes, support, shoulder rigs, follow focuses, everything, and all of it is reasonably priced and exceptionally well made.

    • Trustmt sells a shoulder rig for $460. I don’t consider that reasonable. Not without a follow focus and matte box.

  • Funny, this video really puts me off the camera.

    • I had the exact same reaction. I guess we just have to wait for John Brawley to post some more footage to get us excited again.

    • It didn’t put me off the camera but it certainly gave me the sense that they aren’t a fan of it.

    • I have to wonder if part of their negativity comes from them trying to sell their equipment.
      I mean they have to downplay the useful-ness of this camera out of box, if they want people to feel it’s needed to buy their equipment.

      Most of their “uncomfortable” moves ( “the screen will be so close to your face!”) are over dramatic and negative.

      Besides, I highly doubt they have a working model, and who cares what the camera looks like if it produces beautiful results.

    • I believe they deliberately set a less-than-positive tone because they have a large amount invested in high-dollar gear for low-dollar DSLRs, and DON’T want DSLR shooters walking away from that format leaving them holding inventory. The “accessory” market is a beast to exploit; you have to move fast, be innovative, invest in ideas and marketing as a technological whim becomes an industry trend… and just as you start peaking with it, somebody like BMD comes along and reinvents the football you’re trying to run with.

      Frankly, I didn’t see anything “innovative” at all. Companies like CPM have been building rigs with handles at the top and sides for years. It’s the handy mounting points on the top of the BMC that is innovative, not the fact that someone thought to bolt their stuff there.

      An issue I DON’T see here is what a rig will look like with actual cables installed. You know, mic cables and monitor cables and battery cables all sticking out the left side where a shooters face often is when the cam is on a rig. Who cares if they bolted their gunstock shoulder piece to it or hold it with two hands? All I see is Zacuto trying to be first out the door with a commercial that says “all our old stuff can be new just like your BMC camera.”

  • if you read the comment s on the vimeo page, it seems a lot of viewers picked up a less than positive or neutral vibe on the cam, having said that, no one knows yet what the cam is truly capable of. and I hope to learn from all of you out there once you get them.

    There are a load more rigs out there for this cam, you can check out john brawley’s site, as he seems to be doing a good job in subliminal marketing, and they do look very neat solutions, only observation i have is the way the battery pack is positioned, it seems to limit access to the touch screen, and once the screen shader is added it gets more complex, but hey let us know when you get yours

  • Johnny Unitas on 08.19.12 @ 11:01PM

    Zacuto has missed the mark with the BMCC crowd. A lot of the people buying the BMCC are very low-budget indie filmmakers that have legacy EF glass – the pricing of these BMCC rigs are way off for the intended crowd – I highly doubt BMCC users are going to buy rigs that cost nearly as much as their cameras…

  • Hopefully the rig is cheaper than the camera.

  • There’s good info here, they have a sense of what the challenges are with this specific camera. Both Steve and Jens are working filmmakers with 30 years experience, they understand ergonomics, and the ‘real world’ of operating cameras. They understand the importance of having reliable, easy to use support gear.

    Zacuto products are made to be modular, the components can be configured to work with most cameras.
    Zacuto products have a lifetime guarantee, you will likely get a new camera in 2-3 years, you will have your support kit forever which can be configured for your new camera.
    Zacuto product support is dependable.

    Anyone who operates a camera for a living knows a stripped thread or a loose rod can cause undue stress and compromise footage. Working with Zacuto and comparative professional gear you eliminate these issues. This is worth a lot of money, this is your craft at stake.

    I have nothing to do with Zacuto. I’ve tried other kit, I’ve machined stuff myself. These are the conclusions I’ve come too.

    • Of course you are not related to Zacuto…. you just happen to promote their life time warranty and excellent products…

      • My work is out there, just click on my name, I have over 40 projects on my Vimeo page which is linked to my website. One would think if I had a relationship with Zacuto or any manufacturer there would be ads etc like you see on many of these sites. Nothing wrong with ads either, the authors of this site plus the others where you get your information for free have to make a living somehow just like Zacuto has to keep their business profitable.

        Go ahead and be cynical. I was just sharing my experience and the very real frustrations of having cheap equipment fail in the field, if you were a working shooter you would understand and appreciate what I was talking about.

    • john jeffreys on 08.20.12 @ 11:00PM


  • I want to chime in on the pricing thing, too. As a DIYer, fabricating a lot of my camera support hardware for years, I’m aware of the expense of machine work but, typically, volume should equate to lower pricing. No?

    Accessories for photography have always been more expensive… a knob for a light stand is about 3 to 4 times more expensive in a camera store than it is in a hardware store but, this mentality seems to have hit a new high in the video accessories game.

    Maybe I’m missing something (I, usually, am) but, it appears to me that these companies are charging almost on a custom order basis. I think Redrock Micro was doing this for a while… you ordered your item of choice and, in a few weeks or a month, you got it by mail or UPS… about the time it would take to build it from scratch.

    Granted, they have a little R&D that needs to be recouped and, not that I think everybody has the same resources but, I’m pretty sure I could have a rig built (to my own custom specs even) for near the same $ as their off-the-shelf price.

    Where is the volume pricing? Obviously, they’re not required but, in the interest of transparency, I would love to hear Zacuto and the other accessory makers publish a statement as to why they charge what they do for their products. Maybe we would all feel a little better about what it costs us to deck out our cameras. Or, not.

    • One thing that keeps Zacuto pricing high is they are a known and reliable entity in a business that typically gets it’s funding from producer/investors, and gear lists aren’t the high-dollar items of the list by any stretch of the imagination.

      The other thing is they are American-made in Chicago. Everyone talks about wanting good-paying American jobs not to go to other countries, but when they stay here people yell “it costs too much.” Well, it costs a lot to live in Chicago, and the competition for quality employees is high. They also have to meet government regulations on manufacturing safety and waste disposal, and have to budget in healthcare and other worker benefits, especially with the new decrees coming down the pike. Wouldn’t surprise me if they’re a Union shop, either. Now if it were my shop, I’d move it to South Carolina or Kansas, or somewhere you can manufacture at a reasonable price, but then you wouldn’t get drop-bys of industry luminaries like Bloom and Den Lenny and Shane Hurlbut. Sometimes you gotta be where the people you need to see can find you.

  • Zacuto makes a good EVF and the Z-Finder is really needed for the Canons. But besides that, their stuff is way overpriced. People like Gini and Truss make stuff that might not be as good, but it’s pretty close and costs about 1/5th as much. Heck, I even pieced together some parts from E-Bay and make a very solid rig that works very well for about 1/6 of what Zacuto would charge for it.

    For cameras and Glass, I am willing to spend top dollar because it involves lots of complex electronics and optics. A rig is essentially a lego set and on a much more primitive level than Cameras and lenses, and people in China can knock it off pretty damn well. There’s really is minimal difference between Gini and Zacuto, certainly not enough to warrant 5x the price.

  • A top rigged set of rods with a basic two position handle for $400? GTFO. That’s obscene.

    Sure, Zacuto stuff is well made. Sure it’s backed up by filmmakers. Sure it’s still cheaper than ARRI. However, they didn’t invent the goddamn NATO rail, so zero R&D spent there beyond tapping holes in the right places. And a basic handle and a couple of short rods shouldn’t cost that much.

    If you don’t want to go the eBay route (and you probably shouldn’t, that gear is shitty if you’re acutally using it day in and day out) just get yourselves some fine american made equipment from Brian Berkey. I’m 100% sure the guy will make BMCC parts and hey if something breaks or doesn’t work out right the dude will personally email you, or call you from his cellphone, and work that shit out. It’s not the cheapest, but when it comes down to it if you want to argue points on quality and use in the film industry, his equipment has both covered in spades, minus all the flash and awful fucking Z names.

    Also, seriously, 2008 called and wants their “giant rigs with the camera way out in front of your body” back. Put the camera on a baseplate, stick a simple velcro shoulder pad on it, put it on your shoulder, attach EVF, and go.

    Jesus and while I’m here, what’s with all the bellyaching about the battery? The last time I saw a “we make the best margin off these enormous rigs” Zacuto rig that didn’t feature an Anton Bauer or VLock battery was never. I’m a big fan of those two guys for their frank nature but damn, seriously, this just seemed like “let’s rag on this so we can make our parts reeeeeally seem necessary.”

    • Daniel Mimura on 09.12.12 @ 4:44AM

      I second everything about

      They’re the Lego set for film gear. Things I can’t make myself or have the time to build, I get from them. And they ship pretty damned fast too.

      I disagree about the batteries…the Zacuto guys are right on about that. You need an A/B or v-mount if you plan on all day shoots (as opposed to a skate session or an interview or a concert…etc…)…and that’s only half of it…you need the ballast anyway if you don’t want the “giant rigs with the camera way out in front of your body”.

      I use brass weights then I need ballast, but I much prefer usable weight whenever possible.

    • Daniel Mimura on 09.12.12 @ 4:45AM

      I second everything about

      They’re the Lego set for film gear. Things I can’t make myself or have the time to build, I get from them. And they ship pretty damned fast too.

      I disagree about the batteries…the Zacuto guys are right on about that. You need an A/B or v-mount if you plan on all day shoots (as opposed to a skate session or an interview or a concert…etc…)…and that’s only half of it…you need the ballast anyway if you don’t want the “giant rigs with the camera way out in front of your body”.

      I use brass weights when I need ballast, but I much prefer usable weight whenever possible—having v-mounts allow me to run monitors, mini-flos, a BFD…etc…

  • It is still amazing to me how some companies can charge 150 bucks for a single, small metal rod – that is neither made of gold nor platinum, but aluminum!