My K.I.S.S (Keep it Super Simple) Rig

In my post, 16mm Filmmaking is “Alive n’ Kickin”, I mentioned a personal project to create a digital Super16 camera rig that harkens back to the “good ol’ days”.

I wanted to document the process and share it with you all!


The “Spark”

I not sure exactly when it happened but I just remember pulling the camera out of the case, grabbing all the peripherals, and slowly bolting them together when it hit me – after years of “franken-rigs”, I was done!

Here I was wasting time rigging gear together instead on spending it in what really matters, what I truly enjoy…creating images! I said to myself, “there has to be another way!” The question is, how?


The “Inspiration”

In retrospect, this dilemma was a necessary evil. The industry was at a transition point. The DSLR Era democratized filmmaking and opened the way for normal folk to affordably make beautiful images. But, in doing so, it also introduced the Lego/Erector Set approach to building cameras.

“Yes, there is a camera in there some where!”

However, that’s the funny thing about history, “it often repeats itself.” All those accessories only served to build a camera form-factor that had already existed for decades.

16mm Film Camera (left); ARRI AMIRA (right). 

So why not just build cameras like this in the first place? Well, for one, it’s expensive.  Typically, cameras like that are designed for the higher-end productions and include “professional” grade goodies that maybe over-kill for smaller projects. Second, it cancels out the benefits of a more compact form-factor.

Is there a way to reconcile the affordability and modularity of DSLR/mirror-less type cameras with the time tested form-factor and simplicity of larger platforms while balancing the benefits of each?

I was sure that I was not the only one to experience such an issue and after some “Google-ing”, my notion was verified!

One of the first concepts that caught my eye are from the artists, I say artists because their creations are nothing short of works of art, at ErgoCine.com. They have managed to create a platform that unifies all of the auxiliary gear needed to make these smaller cameras function as a true motion picture camera.

ErgoCine Lion R2+

However, as beautiful as their craftsmanship, I still couldn’t help feel a little cluttered. So, I asked, “Could it be streamlined even more?”

The answer came when I stumbled upon BlackBettyCameras.com. Here was something that looked complete and cohesive. The design is based off the SI-2k camera connected to an Apple Mac Mini Computer, which has elegantly been concealed into the over-all design.

BlackBetty Concept (left); finished product (right). 

Now the challenge was to come up with a plan that combined these elements together into one design.


The “Plan” 

Designed around the BlackMagic Micro Cinema Camera. As mentioned in my post, I am a fan of the Super16 format. The BMMCC is a native Super16 digital camera that is compact and records internally (eliminating need for a bulk external recorder) into industry standard formats (records RAW or ProRes HD).

“What?! Wait, it’s not 4K?!” No, it’s not. And you know what that’s all good, “I capture images, I don’t count pixels.”

I don’t have the camera yet (I’m using my old GH2 as a placeholder for the build), but I am very impressed by the images I’ve seen. Below is a sample:

K.I.S.S (Keep it Super Simple) Goal is to reduce clutter and make it as simple to operate as possible (thus the name of my rig)!

Maintain modularity. While being ergonomic, I did not want to loose out on the flexible form-factor of smaller cameras. I wanted something that could be broken down into smaller modules as necessary.

Use “off the shelf parts” for modularity and cost. This is a personal project being funded out of my own pocket, so as much as possible I want to use what I already have or at least what I can acquire reasonably.

With a plan in place, the goal is to design a documentary-style camera that is ergonomic and modular but streamlined and simple at the same time. In the next part of this series, I share the next phase of the build, “My K.I.S.S Rig Phase 1: Design.”

Post No.06

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