Shoulder Rigs

I’ve been trying out different shoulder rig configurations the last couple of months.

We’ve filmed 3 episodes of an item in a daily human interest show on national television with the Ikonoskop.

Why did we use the Ikonoskop for something that needs a very fast workflow? Well, the cameraman wanted to have some extra practice on the Ikonoskop because we’ll be working as a camera team on a short in Ireland in September and frankly because we love a challenge. I’ll write more about this challenge in a later post.

The network’s prerequisites were: only hand-held, no zooming. As this was filmed during a very busy rental season, I had to really puzzle to get all the gear together, so I tried different combinations.

The first rig I bought for the Ikonoskop was from Lanparte. I don’t own it anymore because I’ve sold it to a customer who bought a Panchromatic, used the rig and loved and wanted it straight away. 
Lanparte stuff has great build quality for a budget friendly price. I used it in combination with the ARRI MBP-1 Adapter Plate and the MBP-1 Baseplate, but you could use as well with the Vocas Adapter Plate on the original Lanparte baseplate.


This was my configuration:

  1. Double Handle Rig with Follow Focus DHR-01
  2. Top Handle TH-01
  3. C-Shape Support CA-01
  4. ARRI MBP-01 Ikonoskop Adapter Plate
  5. ARRI MBP-01 Base Plate 

In September at IBC I held the Vocas rig configuration for the dII, for the first time, and immediately loved it for its great balance. And I love the aesthetics of it as wel (I’m a sucker for anything that comes with brown leather handles).
It’s basically the “Vocas Handheld Kit Pro for midsize cameras” (Item code: 0255-3600) you want for the Ikonoskop with their custom Ikonoskop dII Adapter Plate. In my opinion a shoulder rig always needs a top handle (Topside Handgrip for 15mm rails - item code: 0350-0400). 

You don’t need the offset bracket for shoulder support that’s included in the kit, as the viewfinder sticks out on the left of the camera and not centrally on the back of the camera.

One thing I’ve learned though is that if you use a Vocas MB-430 Matte Box with this rig in a rail mounted set-up (i.s.o. clip-on) you’re better of with the Rail Support DSLR (Item code: 0350-300). You’ll need it to rise the plate high enough to get the lens perfectly centered in the Matte Box.

Vocas only has one type of follow focus. And I like it a lot, although some might find the knob too small and it is adviced not to use them on very big lenses.


 So my ideal configuration is this:

  1. Ikonoskop dII Adapter Plate
  2. Rail Support DSLR
  3. Shoulder support for 15mm rails
  4. Weight attachment plate
  5. Weight 1kg for shoulder support
  6. Handgrip kit, with two handgrips
  7. MFC-1 Follow Focus
  8. Drive Gear M0,8x46
  9. MB-430 Matte Box
  10. 15mm LW swing away bracket for MB-430
  11. Flexible adapter ring for MB-430
  12. Topside Handgrip for 15mm rails

I also tried an Edelkrone rig, but not my cup of tea and impossible to get a good balance with the Ikonoskop, because of that top handle that starts at the back. In the picture below you see me rigging the cam and looking quite unhappy with it ;-)


And last but definitely not least a new additon to our collection of rigs: Wooden Camera.

I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks, but am absolutely loving it. It’s the ideal rig solution for the lone shooter that travels light. Superb build quality, lightweight (so not for everyone) and very compact. So for the travelling cameraman this set-up is the best price/quality solution you’ll find.


My ideal combination:

  1. The Quick Kit for Ikonoskop: includes Quick Base (Ikonoskop), Top Plate Kit, NATO Handle Kit and the A-Box for Ikonoskop (XLR break-out box).
  2. The Cruiser: a shoulder rig. Of course I took the one with brown leather handles, but it’s also available with black leather and rubber handles.

The Top Plate gets a bit in the way of the top scroll wheel on the camera. For me personally this is not an issue, because I don’t use the top scroll wheel. But if it bothers you, just know that you don’t need the top plate to connect the NATO handle to the camera as you can do this directly.

It’s ideal to use in combination with a CineBags Backpack and I’m sure you can transform the Cruiser into a crossbow so you won’t get hungry on your next nature documentary.


Film Students

Last December somehow turned out to be Filmschool Month for me. 

Patrick Geeraerts, head of the editing department of RITS in Brussels, asked me to deliver a lecture on the Ikonoskop for some sixty 2nd year students (directors, screenwriters, multi-cam directors, …). I asked what the scope for this class would be and he replied: “Try to broaden their horizon!”

I don’t know if I succeeded in broadening their horizon but the lecture went somewhat like this: 1923 - Kodak - 16mm film -WWII - S16 - Eclair - Aaton - Ikonoskop SP-16 - Ikonoskop A-Cam dII. And of course on the matter of 16mm not only as an economic but also an esthetic choice. About workflow and more importantly about how filming is all about preparation and less about improvisation (some will find this debatable).

I also let Lennert De Taeye, film student at KASK in Ghent and by now experienced A-Cam dII operator, use a camera at his school for the purpose of shooting some acting exercices.

But I’ll let him speak for himself:


In December the ikonoskop was used to shoot several acting exercises of third year film students at KASK . The school provided a RED 0ne (first generation sensor), but I’m not very fond of the image this camera produces. Luckily Joachim was so kind to provide the Ikonoskop A-Cam dII! After using it last year on a project I started to like the organic feel of the images from the Ikonoskop.  


The first day I worked as a cinematographer. We shot everything,  except for one scene, on a dolly,  with the Vocas shoulder rig. This rig and the Ikonoskop work really well together, the counter weight on the Vocas rig is very effective to stabilize the camera movement.


The second day the Ikonoskop was equipped with a TVLogic monitor. The compact size  of the Ikonoskop was excellent for the type of shooting: very close on the ground scenes. 


The third day the Ikonoskop stayed on the camera tripod and rails. As director’s monitor we used a JVC monitor, the SDI-output gives a really nice image on the JVC we used.


Last day was another shoulder cam day, this time with a very compact rig (the Vocas was unfortunately not availble).


The data was transferred, and backups were made, on set with the express card reader to standard USB 3 drives (=fast!). 

The little camera did catch quite some attention. But everyone seem to like the image on the monitor. (Some even surprised that this little camera could produce such a great image).


We shot with a set of Zeiss Superspeeds. Timecode generated from the Aaton Cantar. Resolve 9 and audio autosync is great! Little disadvantage you need to resync timecode every time you change the battery.


Too handle the magenta issue I set the raw settings in Resolve 9 to BMD Film. Add contrast and saturation to bring back the image as shot. XML for round tripping between resolve 9 and FCP 7.

Looking forward to see the film’s projected in the school cinema!”


- Lennert De Taeye

Talking Heads with Canon 8-64 zoom, Vocas rig & Alphatron viewfinder

A couple of weeks ago we used the dII on a shoot that looked up front a bit a-typical for an 80MB/s kind of camera. Six interviews, somewhere between 15-30 minutes an interview, to be intercut.

Ideal opportunity to test out some new stuff:

  1. Canon 8-64mm S16 Zoom
  2. Vocas Rig
  3. Alphatron HD-SDI viewfinder
  4. Recording audio on-board of the dII

The Canon 8-64mm S16 Zoom is a marvelous lens, that has been used extensively for documentaries and independent feature films. It’s a very robust lens, very sharp,  widest aperture 2.4, but it’s quite big (as big and heavy as the camera). From widest to closest zoom, it loses a bit of its focus.

To use a zoom like that, hand-held, you need a decent rig. At the Ikonoskop booth at IBC, I was able to test several rigs and set-ups for the dII. My favourite, by far, is the one from Vocas. Very light, compact, sturdy and high-quality (the leather handles are sublime). And I especially like the MFC-1 Follow Focus. It’s so compact and the gear wheel being underneath the lens is actually very clever and makes it work with all kinds of lenses no matter what mount (before the MFC-1, I used a Lanparte Follow Focus, big and heavy, but impossible to use in combination with, for instance, Zeiss Distagons mkI with 80mm fronts and the IMS-PL mount - it was just too clunky).
In the picture the shoulder pad and weight were only used for balance. Normally the shoulder pad has to be mounted a lot closer to the camera.

The DP in the picture is rather tall. To go easy on his back and because peeping down the built-in viewfinder all day can get quite hard on your right eye (using your left eye on the dII viewfinder is impossible, or you’d have to chop off your right cheek bone or something), we decided on using the all new Alphatron HD-SDI viewfinder (EVF-035W-3G).
This is such a nice combination with the Ikonoskop. Nice resolution, with false colour and focus assist. Worked all day on a single Sony battery (you can use the same type as on the Ikonoskop). 

For the first time now, we recorded the audio on the Ikonoskop instead of a recorder like the Sound Devices 702T. Not a single issue there. The audio was stripped from the DNG’s using Ikonoskop’s Audio Tool and automatically synced with the footage in Resolve.

And yes. This job was conformed and graded with Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 9. What happened to CineForm and SpeedGrade you might ask. I’ll come back to this.