Monday, November 14, 2011

Downunder DIY Fig Rig

Joe's down-under DIY Fig Rig!

Why did he do it?

Some background information first.

During the last six years or so I have been on a monster of a project that really has no end. That is to get every bit of personal video and every photograph I have ever shot (as well as video already "pre"-edited from my nightclub VJ days), digitized and available on DVD. Thus far the project has seen me editing over a hundred and fifty hours of video footage and creating roughly 90 DVDs, numerous YouTube videos all of this work includes sound, musical backgrounds, titles, transition and the occasional goofy special effect. The footage comes from a variety of activities from mundane cat video to tropical vacations as well as the seemingly endless round of birthdays, anniversaries, parties, picnics at the beach, Christmas, funerals and weddings. 

At this juncture, I feel I have at the very least developed the editing skills to do far more ambitious things. However as I have looked at all those hours of footage despite my best and oft clownish efforts also to a degree limited by whatever technology was available (that I could afford at the time, VHS, Hi 8mm, mini DV SD) a good deal of it has... an amateur-ish look (duh) especially when it was taken with a hand held camera. So, from here on out  I want to make my video look less... shaky-then maybe sound better, which I think would be a pretty good start. Over the last few years me and my wife (who also handles the camera a lot) have been very conscious of creating a more narrative flow to our personal documentary complete with establishing shots, didactic information and self-conducted interviews.

I have some confidence now as well as some ambition and want to make a short film in the near future, you know, one with a story, an actual narrative with a point and a conclusion. While I am writing my screen play, working on the story-board for a couple of projects I wanted to address the more technical side of my camera work and production skills. But, before I shell out for some more gear like a really good camera, a dedicated external microphone, a nice dim-able LED light, or an on board monitor, what can I do or make on my own? First things first, (well more like cheapest thing first) I really feel I need something to give me some stability for the hand held shots and hopefully something that would also accommodate the extras I want to add to my production gear.

My Internet research provided me some great web-sites that gave me heaps of information to start. Probably one of my most favourite sites of late has been  it is here where I learned of the "Fig Rig" invented by the director Mike Figgus. Cheesy Cam's most popular video is the DIY Fig Rig after watching it I was all like yeah, I can do that! The video and the ensuing stream of comments, modifications and pictures from everybody else who has done it sure helped as well. Now you have to keep in mind this was made in the USA so if you do not live there then you do not probably have a "Home Depot" store nearby. Thus the parts they use are not quite the same as what might be available in say... France, or in my case, Australia. We don't know WTF Home Depot is here (I am an American, so I do). Anyway, with that in mind, if I wanted to DIY my version of the fig rig, I was ON MY OWN. So for me Aussie Mates, yes, it can be done here as well. I got everything I needed to do my own DIY down-under "Fig Rig" right on the Sunshine Coast where I live. I got a lot of the hardware at Bunnings, a few more bits at North Coast Plumbing and the bicycle grips at K-Mart. 

Here are some of the costs:

Bike handles-2 pair-$10.00 K-Mart
hardware from Bunnings and local plumbing supply store $23.87

Total cost (drumroll) $33.87

But wait...

flat black spray paint (the good shit!)  $9.30
new hacksaw blade  $4.59
drill bit  $7.64

so I had to add another $21.53

I also had a dozen Large washers from a previous DIY household repair, a black cap left over from a curtain rod and I unscrewed the ball mount from my   $29.00 mono pod to use until I replace it with a Manfrotto 323 RC2 Quick Release plate (BHPhoto). I figure I got away pretty cheap as the least expensive decent one I found to purchase on-line was the ALZO DSLR rig

Okay I had to do some work, I hack-sawed the steel shelf strut, threaded rods and black pvc pipe, drilled holes with my Foredom flexible shaft outfitted with a drill and my Makita drill as well. It took me 20 minutes of measuring and thinking how to get the shelf bracket/strut to center up with the length I wanted at around 16 inches... had to bounce back and forth between the metric system and the old school measurements both of which are used here depending on the trade... confusing but not a deal-breaker. Took me say, five hours of work as I had to do all that cutting, so less than a day with the pre-preparation and clean up. Here are the pictures! I will put up some video comparisons with and without my rig when I get the chance. Hope this helps somebody else out. Thanks to all the other folks that have posted their versions as it really helped me to do mine!

I moved the handle down on the left to show the black pvc pipe.

Coming soon, some video!

Monday, October 31, 2011

I thought I might try my hand at producing an "Un-boxing" video after watching some others on YouTube. Some of them were pretty bad with zero to minimal production value. Others were fantastic and well made. So I decided to do my own thing with the equipment I have, which is not all that great but each time I create something I learn a little more, stretch my meager skill set.
And now for some background! My wife needed a new laptop after our HP Pavillion 9000 series laptop suffered it's final meltdown due to the faulty NVIDIA graphics chip on the mobo. This problem is well documented and HP virtually ignored my three phone calls and e-mails back and forth and basically wants nothing to do with the problem nor did they offer me any kind of compensation for selling me a faulty product. So I voted with my feet... I ordered a Dell XPS 15 through their on-line sales site. It all went really well. I am glad I did my research and due diligence as we now have a much better laptop. Well, we will see if it lasts the three and a half years we got out of the HP. The video is not about my cat Luka, he is just the..."talent" you know how they are, he cannot help but insert himself into any endeavor I undertake around the house. I guess it is his "enrichment" time. Coolski! Feel free to comment if you are so inclined. No trolls please... I try to play nice.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Just to give a little idea on the kinds of work I do for a lark!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eventually the stuff you have that you thought was so cool gets old. Like my Panasonic NV-GS400 3 CCD camera which still puts out great video but it is in SD format. Maybe time to up grade? I have began the laborious process of research into all things video camera related. Then I consider my still camera, the Nikon Coolpix 8800, also a great piece of gear but I bought it in...2005 and while the mega pixel size is no longer considered very big at 8mp the optics are good enough to show a nice picture on my 50' Fujitsu Plasma screen. The question has loomed, buy two new separate cameras one for HD video and another for the super great photos or try to find the perfect marriage of both still and video camera?
As my research has progressed I have vacillated between brands and various makes of video cameras still cameras, DSLRs with video etc. I have checked out imumerable blogs, reviews, fanboy websites and juggled items on wish-lists with Amazon and BHPhoto mostly as well as reading all the customer reviews on each item I considered. I also got LOTS of information on this subject from which has been an invaluable resource in my pursuit of the right stuff.

It seem there are a lot of folks using the Canon EOS 5D MKII BH Photo, and the Canon EOS 7D BH Photo and since I already own a Nikon I was interested in the Nikon D7000 of course BH Photo.  However, these cameras (in order to take decent HD video) all seem to require various kinds of shooting rigs that go from the DIY with parts from IKEA for under $25 Ultra cheap DIY all the way up to $3,000 or so from the likes of Zacuto BH Photo, RedRock Micro BH Photo and a host of others. Then there are the cheapo Chinese knock-offs at around $300 bucks they look similar but there have been some criticism of their quality (DUH) but for the price they can't be beat at Amazom. These types of rigs are just for mounting the DSLR type camera to give a decent and steady video with the bonus that you can trade lenses and get that sought after bokeh effect that says "hey, this is cinematography" and not home video. Once you have a "rig" then you have to mount a heap of shit on it including, eternal microphone, monitor, led light panel, maybe a separate audio recorder. Add a matte box to that to keep out the stray light and avoid those lens flares. Suddenly your rig looks like something from a Hollywood shoot! Try sneaking up on anybody with that... also the weight factor kicks in. I started looking into other ways to shoot by using a stedicam style set-up for those super groovy follow shots. I checked out some DIY versions as well as some of the professional made ones. I have wondered though how that would work if you tried mounting all of the other suff on some type of rig and tried running with that? I have checked out various articulating arms to attach the extra bits with and found a really good one after watching an arm review, so that part is settled. After a lot of...sifting I have definitely decided that the Rhode video microphone was the hands down winner, as it has been the choice for so many others. I also found a good deal on e-bay for a dim-able LED light panel that is the same as the professional brand IKAN, except it is less that half the price, see ebay led panel. Okay got that straightened out. Might as well add a monitor too so I found this review of the 7" Lilliput monitor, looks pretty good and again half the price of the other more "professional" brands see tonyzeh's review.

Then I saw tonyzeh's DIY shoulder rig! Quite snazzy and cheap as, I asked him a bunch of questions and instead of just answering them he made a four part series video showing the entire build! Wow, now I can make my own out of tent poles and automotive wire harnesses for a couple of hundred instead of a couple a large. see 

Next I will address the camera end of this but the meantime I have become VERY interested in the new and lighter Sony NEX 7 seems to tick all my boxes and I can take it off whatever rig I wind up using and can hand it off to my splendid wife who also likes to document nearly everything with both video and photography. The Sony NEX7 fits her major specification of a small, light camera that takes very high quality pictures both video and still. Though this camera has not really shipped yet to the public, except for reviewers who all seem to agree that this camera is the "ONE"... From the footage that I have seen on the net I am coming to this decision as well. Hmm, more to come about this.