Sometimes the dreaded words on a phone call from a producer are “Run n Gun”. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with the style, but it usually means your job as DP becomes making order from chaos. It can be documentary, event coverage, or produced commercial “spontaneity”. The last thing you need is your equipment getting in the way. The K.I.S.S. principal comes into play, Keep It Simple Stupid. I have been over the years building up a perfect speed setup for my needs. It can be expanded to pretty much any camera in the medium to small size. Epic, Scarlet, C300, BlackMagic or F3/5, but i usually use the Epic and here is why.
You need to address three simple factors. Light control, Mobility and flexibility in imaging/delivery. Meaning, each component of the trifecta must encompass a broad range of uses.
Speed is a by product of light weight and small size. 90% of the time im using my RED epic with an Atomos Samurai Blade, with some light Canon zooms and a good quality tripod. I use a Cartoni Focus HD head, with Carbon Fiber Induro legs. Being able to move fast usually means no time for matte boxes or standard filters, so I go with variable ND from LightCraft. These are high quality variable ND with minimal green cast. I really like these filters, as most daylight situations require a rather wide range of ND. They provide 2-8stops of ND, and come in the two sizes most useful for Canon zooms, 77mm and 82mm. This helps me significantly, I believe in holding one Fstop and ISO throughout a production to keep the feel of the image the same. I can dial in the exposure in wild environments to precisely what i need, without touching the rest of the camera settings.
My Light Craft Variable ND in Action with a Black Magic Pocket Camera setup. Director Randy Scott Slavin taking a look at a frame.
The epic gives me the flexibility of framerates, small size, and while i’m recording to Prores for a quick delivery, the RAW is still there for high framerate shots, and double backup on the footage. I have 2x 230wHr Global Media Pro batteries and 2x 96wHr GMP batteries. The 230’s are more than enough to power the RED and Atomos Recorder for 4 hours alone. Between the four batteries, im getting almost 10-11 hours of constant runtime. So in essence I carry, 4 batteries, 4 lenses: Tokina 11-16, Canon 16-35 L, Canon 24-105 IS L and canon 70-200 IS L. They all fit neatly in a Tenba Roadie Backpack including the camera. (the Roadie is the most durable soft bag i’ve ever had, seriously its awesome). I am covered from 11-200mm, not counting the additional push of dropping to 3K on the epic to extend the 200mm even further to approximately the FOV of a 280mm. This is the essence of Run n’ Gun. Be ready for anything. That said, I am becoming a fan of the Black Magic Pocket Camera with the Metabones Speed booster. Its really quite good for small shoots. When using the Metabones Adapter, nearly S35 FOV, a 1/2 stop Light bonus, 13 stops dynamic range, and extraordinarily lightweight, almost to a fault. (You can see the setup I used for a corporate video above.)
The tripod is very important. The reason I went with the Induro CF series is that not only are they strong, light and good quality, but they are NOT expensive. Especially considering the materials used. From a business standpoint, building a lightweight setup is a black hole of cash flow. It means repurchasing a lot of stuff in a smaller package. A good used Cartoni head in decent shape is only about $250, and the Induro legs about $469. Consider its competition: The miller CF legs, are over $1000 for something similar ( though understandably has more features). Even the Manfrotto 504HD package, is about $717 from a very popular online retailer. The name of the game is getting something reliable that will get the job done, and keeping costs down. For me thats the Induro/Cartoni combo. All the weight savings and fluid head performance at half the price. It won’t go as tall as the Millers, but for 99% of my shooting its tall enough. My studio tripod is an O’connor Fluid head with Ronford Baker two stage medium duty legs and spreader. It weighs about 45lbs by itself with no camera. Not practical for running around, nor was it cheap, so a lighter configuration means getting most of the performance of the heavy duty stuff, while keeping the business account intact.
As you can see, a studio setup is not ideal for mobility.
There is no right or wrong. I’m sure there are some folks who think I’m crazy shooting a run n’ gun with this configuration, but I find it rides the line between quality and speed perfectly for my work. Hey, if I need to go faster, there is always the Black Magic Pocket Camera.
Thank you for reading,
until next time!
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Up next…. A review of the RED Dragon. ( as soon as it gets shipped back to me from RED) This one i’m excited about!