Equipment Reviews

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I'm sure everyone is aware of 3-Axis Gimbal Video Camera Stabilizers surfacing on the Internet. Some people think this is going to be the future of hand held stabilization in cinema. There are literally dozens of versions available today, and here's one of the inexpensive versions that was sent over to me - the CAME 5000.

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This article is truly my first impressions on the CAME 5000 product, so keep in mind I am by no means an expert in this area. If you are just now looking into these types of stabilizers, hopefully this review should appeal to many of you who are also not experts. First let's take a look at a demo video about the CAME 5000 Stabilizer from the company.

Notice that with fast movements the camera stays pretty level, but with slower movements the camera will 'follow' the direction of Pan/Tilt. This area of operation does require a bit of practice steering the camera in different directions. Now lets take a look at what I was able to achieve with my first tests in this 15 minute video overview (below).

No matter how expensive other systems are, my impressions are that these gimbals are not as simple as they have been advertised to be. Like any other tool it can yield great results or look totally amateurish. It still boils down to skill and experience. Practice and and patience to perfectly balance your camera. Swapping out to another lens on this type of system will take several minutes to re-balance.

Ok, so from the examples I shot as a first time user, I think the unit seems to work pretty well with a Panasonic GH3 camera. The footage has not been stabilized in post, and it seemed to stay pretty level as I rolled the handles around. They state this CAME 5000 model can easily support larger Canon 5D (or similar) DSLR Camera Bodies.

Can this particular system perform even better than my examples? Considering my inexperience and lack of patience to perfectly balance my camera, I think there is definitely plenty of room for improved footage. How much better, I can't really say. Only time will tell as I continue to practice more and hopefully work with many other 3-Axis Gimbals. I'll be revisiting this again shortly as I think I figured out how to better balance my camera...

Further info on the CAME 5000 3-Axis Gimbal can be found at CAME-TV.com
CAME 6000 Stabilizer 3 Axis Gimbal CAME 6000 Stabilizer Gimbal
find-price-button CAME 5000 3-Axis Brushless Motor Gimbal Stabilizer

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Here's a video overview of Aputure's latest VS-3 7" IPS LCD HDMI Monitor. You'll notice we have this hooked up to the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera [#BMPCC], and we've confirmed that it can display the 10bit uncompressed 4:2:2 output.

One main concern for affordable monitors is always color accuracy. This is a highly subjective subject, but Aputure claims the colors on these monitors are pre-calibrated before shipping out from the factory.

I'm not saying it's going to look as good as a SmallHD AC7, but keep in mind the Aputure VS-3 is a sub $400 dollar display that offers many advanced overlays the AC7 does not - (audio meters, etc.). The monitor offers an HDMI pass through so you can still send the signal to another monitor or wireless video transmitter.

Aputure V-screen VS-3 HDMI Display Monitor BMPCC
find-price-button Aputure VS-3 V-Screen 7" IPS LCD HDMI Monitor

VS-3 Product Introduction
Aputure's V-Screen VS-3 is an ultra-thin 7” IPS monitor featuring a crystal clear WSVGA display, wide viewing angle, low power consumption, multiple aspect ratios, and includes essential functions such as Volume Bar, PEAK, False Color Display, Zebra Marking, Brightness Histogram, etc. It supports multiple signal inputs, including HDMI/YPbPr/AV (Audio/L/R). It also has a universal mount, double power supply, and sunhood to help you to shoot anywhere.

Aputure BMPCC LCD 7 Inch Display
find-price-button Aputure VS-3 V-Screen 7" IPS LCD HDMI Monitor

Main Features

  • IPS panel
  • Anti-reflection multi coating
  • Supports up to 1080p input
  • PEAK focus assist
  • Highlight focus assist
  • Zebra marking-70IRE or 100IRE
  • Histogram for precise exposure control
  • False color to check exposure
  • Includes Audio Bar & 3-color level displays
  • Pre-calibrated color
  • HDMI loops-through
  • No image deformation or black in 5D Mark II scan mode
  • Firmware updates via USB
  • 7 languages
  • Includes sun hood
  • Additional Information, availability, and pricing for the Aputure V-Screen VS-3 7" IPS LCD HDMI Monitor can be found via eBay (click here).

    Aputure VS-3 LCD Screen BMPCC 7 inch 10bitAputure VS-3 LCD Monitor
    find-price-button Aputure VS-3 V-Screen 7" IPS LCD HDMI Monitor

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    The reason why these Seiki 4K Displays are so cheap is that they are just stripped down to bare bones. You won't find a tuner, or a set of quality speakers. There's no fancy aluminum housing with a coated glass screen. You won't find a Smart WiFi interface with Netflix, YouTube, or Hulu. It's simply a display, but for the price - a damn good display!

    While i'm not quite ready to start editing 4K videos, or watch 4K content, the MacBook Pro Retina (I have the old version) is able to utilize the full 4K resolution of 3840 x 2160. I'm currently running an external Thunderbolt Display as my main monitor, but as I was looking for a second display, I decided to try this 39" 4K model. The colors are amazing, fonts are sharp, and images look great. I would not advise this to be a primary monitor for creative graphics use, but definitely a worthy addition as a secondary display.

    Seiki 4K 60hz Display Monitor Macbook Pro Retina Mac Pro DesktopSeiki 4K TV HDMI Video Monitor Display Macbook
    find-price-button Seiki 39" 4K HDMI Television 3840 x 2160 Display Monitor

    My system can only support a 30hz refresh rate at full 4K, but considering this is my secondary display for static content it's not a big deal. Seiki also offers a 50" inch 4K Television (found here), but would be just too big as a monitor.

    Now when the 39" version of this 4K TV hit retailers it was announced for $699. Over on eBay it's still listed for $580 (seen here). That's an amazing price for a 4K television today, but right now they are on sale for just $480! (found here).

    [Update: 01.16.2014 it's currently listed at just $404]

    Seiki 4K HDMI Monitor Macbook Pro Review Sample
    find-price-button Seiki 39" 4K HDMI Television 3840 x 2160 Display Monitor

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    Dynamic camera movements can really increase the value of your production, but also requires more man power (and budget). The ideas within this article are based on setting up a second camera on a Video Slider without having a second Camera Operator (completely unattended). This 'B' camera angle offers dynamic movements so that you can cut away to the footage when needed. This is an excellent idea and a few companies are already on the ball with new products (coming soon).

    First up is the Kessler Parallax system that offers a mechanical Parallax panning motion to your video head as it tracks left and right. Neat trick, but to get this fully automated you'll have to tie in to the Kessler Oracle system, which not only adds additional cost in the end, but extra equipment to assemble during production. More info at http://www.kessleru.com/2013/09/update-kessler-parallax/

    Next we have the RedRock Micro One Man Crew. This motorized slider offers a curved (Parabolic) track to keep your subject in focus as it moves left to right (and back again). Completely silent with options to set a limit on range, and control speeds. The best part is that it is an all in one solution that's quick to set up and quick to store away. Starting at $1500 dollars (seen here), it carries a decent price tag, but it will save you from hiring an extra person to man a sliding camera. After finishing this article, you may come to realize the price to be very reasonable. More info at http://store.redrockmicro.com/OneManCrew

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    find-price-button Buy- RedRock Micro One Man Crew Motorized Parabolic Slider

    Now i've been asked several times if this was something that could be built at home (a.k.a DIY). Here i'm going to introduce a very basic concept on how i've managed to accomplish the same 'ping-pong' / 'back-forth' effect on a cheap DIY motorized slider kit (seen here) with an additional $10 dollars worth of switches, wiring, and a relay, and absolutely no programming. It's basically a simple and dumb electro-mechanical system.

    Unmanned, unattended, looping, automated, it all sounds pretty good. Yet you can see how this basic system fails to provide many of the 'Smart' features of the more expensive products coming to market. On the flip-side, one advantage is that with this basic circuit one can expand this idea outside of just a typical slider. (Yes i'm already working on those ideas).

    DIY-Motorized-Slider-Cheesycam-Ping-Pong-Back-Forth-Automated
    First Test - Building the Circuit Automated Looping Motorized Slider

    Here's a schematic of my layout. You'll notice how each side of the motor has both negative and positive from the battery, but only one set is active from the DPDT.
    Cheesycam-Schematic-Ping-Pong-Motorized-Slider
    Click for Larger Version

    How It Works:
    Two 3 Pin NO+NC Momentary Micro Switches (as found here) at each end reverse the polarity of the motor each time they are triggered.

    DIY Slider micro switch 3 pin NO NC
    Example of 3 pin NC/NO Momentary Micro Switch

    A 12V DPDT Relay (as found here) is either 'Always ON' until the slider reaches the opposite switch which drops power to the relay.

    12V DPDT Relay DIY Slider Motion Control
    Example of 12V DPDT Relay with Socket Base

    In one direction, the relay is technically 'STUCK ON' by way of a tricky little feedback loop in the circuit. To turn the entire slider on or off, i'm just using the switch from the battery. In this example, i'm not using a speed controller, but one can easily be added.

    [Update] If you have trouble following the schematic, I have another article with an easier way to create this setup. Others have successfully got their own sliders working. Check out the other article (found here).

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    Getting started with V-Mount batteries is not a cheap investment. Even the cheapest V-Mount Battery + Charger Kit can easily run you well over $300+ Dollars. If you're looking to power up camera gear with a V-Mount battery, here's a closer look at a more affordable option using this adapter that can accept two common Sony L Series (NP-F) type batteries.

    The V-mount adapter runs two 7.4V batteries in series to output between 13V-16V, and also has a d-tap connector if you plan to run a cable to power up optional accessories. The v-mount battery plate can be found via ebay (seen here).

    Sony L Series V Mount Battery LED Light AdapterV-Mount Sony Battery NP-F L Series Cheesycam
    Examples V-Mount Battery Adapter Sony L Series NPF LED Light K4000
    find-price-button V-Mount Battery Adapter for Sony L Series NP-F Batteries

    In order to use these adapters properly and to get the best results, you should be using two exact batteries. Although you can find many aftermarket Sony L Series batteries for cheap, they will often come in different sizes, capacities, and ratings. I suggest buying them in pairs and labeling them together. Check out some of the Sony L Series Batteries via Amazon (found here).

    l series sony v-mount battery adapterSony Rig Battery Adapter V-Lock Vmountv-mount vlock sony npf l series adapter
    find-price-button Sony L Series NP-F550, NP-F750, NP-F960, NP-F570, NP-F770, NP-F970

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    From what i'm hearing there are many people out there using this portable video slider. In this video, i'm sharing a little tip on how i've personalized the Cinevate Duzi Carbon Video Slider by adding rubber o-rings.

    The Cinevate Duzi slider is near silent as it cruises along the carbon rails, but as it reaches the end, the wheels touch the end blocks. By adding simple rubber o-rings, i'm able to get it right to the ends without making a sound. The o-rings also allow me to send end points along the slider if I need to ensure I stop at a certain point to get an object in sharp focus. Random yes, but hopefully it's helpful to the many Duzi slider owners out there.

    Cinevate Duzi Cheesycam Review
    find-price-button Cinevate Duzi Portable Video Camera Slider

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    Here's an overview of the Aputure V-Converter Extra Scope product that takes an HDMI input and outputs a variety of overlays to any HDMI monitor, display, or television.

    When the Aputure V-Converter product was first announced, the specs listed it would take a 1080p input, but only output a 720p signal. A recent firmware upgrade now allows the unit to output to full 1080p. I'm sure all the new products shipped will have this update, but if you need to download it, check the Aputure website (here).

    The V-Converter can be powered from a Built-in lithium battery, but it's not a product I think fits the run-gun type shooter. With a $340+ price tag, mobile shooters may want to just look into a portable LCD monitor with these features already built in.
    Aputure V-Converter Extra Scope CheesycamCheesycam Review Extra Scope V-Converter Aputure
    find-price-button Aputure V-Converter HDMI Extra Scope Pro Overlays

    In my opinion, the V-Converter is a product that will mainly appeal to those who will be working on set, in a studio type environment, or on location that requires a large stationary monitor. It will be helpful in any setting in which you need to look across the room, check exposure, see if audio levels are peaking, and what's currently in focus. It may be a product that compliments video shooters who have a workflow streaming Wireless HDMI Video (like with these Radian Pro Kits).

    Aputure V-Converter Extra Scope Review Cheesycam

    Considering how cheap large LCD HD televisions are these days, this little product can add-on big features normally only found on very very expensive studio monitors. You can find more info about the Aputure V-Converter HDMI Extra Scope (here).

    Aputure V-Converter-HDMIprice v-converter aputure scope hdmi overlay pro monitor focus peaking exposure
    find-price-button Aputure V-Converter HDMI Extra Scope Pro Overlays

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    As amazing as this little camera is, it's annoying that the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera requires extra juice just to make it run for more than 40 minutes. I tried the Switronix Pocketbase (seen here) which works, but I personally grew tired of the form factor, and how it blocks access to the SD Card (battery door) so I decided to DIY my own adapter.

    The BMPC DC input uses a 12V power source, so i've decided to use a 12V battery plate that i've just added the proper 2.5mm OD x 0.7mm ID barrel adapter tip to. It's hardly DIY since all you have to do is cut off the tip and replace it with the proper sized DC Plug.

    These battery plates will take a certain battery and step the voltage up to 12V. I've even tested the guts against a Sony 7.4V battery, and it works great, but decided to go back to the original battery plate because of it's slim profile. If you dig hard enough you can find many of these battery plates online dedicated for common Canon LP-E6, or Sony L Series / NP-F Type batteries.

    You can see how handy it is to have a cage for mounting accessories on the BMPCC. I could either keep the battery off to the side, or relocate it to the rails with a clamp. There are many great cages on the market, but in the video i'm using the Shape Cage for the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera.

    Shape Cage BlackMagic Pocket Camera Shape Cage BMPC Shape Cage BlackMagic Pocket Camera Rig
    find-price-button Shape Cage for BlackMagic Pocket Camera + Top Handle + 15mm Rail Base

    If you stuck with the Canon BP battery plate + Canon BP battery + DC Plug, I would say this entire DIY project will run $50 dollars or less and take you less than 5 minutes (yes that total cost even includes the battery). It's much cheaper than other off the shelf products in retail stores right now to power the BMPCC, and I find it to be a clean and simple solution.

    Here's the 12V step up Battery Plate i'm using which takes the Canon BP batteries typically used in the older GL2 camcorders. Eventually i'll track down a cheap Canon LP-E6 battery plate or Sony L Series plate and use these guts to step it up to 12V. Here's my current parts list below if you want to tackle this for yourself.

    Canon Battery BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera
    find-price-button 7V step up 12V Battery Plate for Canon BP Battery12V BP Plate

    Canon GL2 BP battery for BMPC BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera
    find-price-button Canon BP Series Batteries for GL2

    If you're looking to DIY your own power cable for the Pocket Cinema Camera, the specs for the power plug from BlackMagic Design are 2.5mm OD x 0.7mm ID which you can find on eBay. To keep things small (unlike my current adapter), I suggest going for the right angle tips (found here).

    DIY blackmagic 12V power battery 2.5mm 0.7mm right angle dc male plug cheesycam
    find-price-button 2.5mm OD X 0.7mm ID Male DC Plug

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    If you're working (or planning to work) with the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera #BMPC you may quickly realize the LCD screen can be very difficult to work with outdoors. Other cameras may not be as bad, but can still use a little help blocking out ambient light.

    One quick down and dirty way to block glare is to simply attach one of these inexpensive folding LCD Sunhoods. The design was originally used for flip out LCD screens on your Panasonic GH3, Canon 60D, T4i, C100, etc. The sunhood attaches via two simple straps stretch over your LCD (or BMPC camera body). It's not a perfect solution, but it's better than nothing. Starting at around $10 dollars, these sunhoods are available from 3"-4.5", and if you're specifically looking to use one with the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema, you will need the 3.5" size (found here).

    BlackMagic Pocket Cinema BMPC Sunhood Shade LCD View Finder
    find-price-button 3" / 3.5" / 4" / 4.5" LCD Sunhood

    Your basic sunhood will assist with directional glare, but won't completely block out all incoming light. It also will not serve as a second point of contact for added stability - what LCD ViewFinders are popular for. There are literally dozens of great LCD Viewfinder products on the market, many that you've already seen through this blog so I won't go too much into detail here. If you have a specific camera in question, just leave me a comment.

    Now while a few companies like Zacuto and Kamerar have announced LCD View Finder loupes that attach to the back of the BMPC, they are not available just yet.

    Magview copy 2
    Kamerar MagView LCD View Finder

    Another option available now are EVFs (electronic view finders). The benefits to working with an EVF outside of blocking bright light, is that screen can be relocated to a more ergonomic position on a Shoulder Rig, or can articulate to offer better shooting angles when mounted on a Cage system for example. Depending on the EVF, many can also offer additional overlays such as Focus Peaking, False Color, Zebras, and other waveforms to help you with focusing and judging exposure.

    Some of the more popular EVFs that range from $600.00-$1000.00 on the market are the Zacuto EVF, SmallHD DP4, and Cineroid EVF (available in different models).

    Zacuto EVF
    Zacuto EVF
    SmallHD DP4 EVF
    SmallHD DP4 EVF
    Cineroid EVF
    Cineroid EVF

    If you're looking for uber budget, you've probably heard about the most affordable Seetec (a.k.a Feelworld) 3.5" HDMI EVF starting at just $250 (found here). Now before you decide to dive in to this unit, there's a few things you need to know. This lower end EVF CANNOT DISPLAY THE SIGNAL from a BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera #BMPC due to it's uncompressed 10bit 4:2:2 HDMI output.

    The more affordable EVF systems are typically just HDMI, so this same information will apply to the larger BlackMagic Cinema Camera #BMCC. If you purchase an SDI to HDMI converter, you can use many of the more affordable HDMI EVFs, but not the Seetec version. In fact one person complained about how a cheap SDI to HDMI converter did not work with the BlackMagic Cinema Camera, but didn't realize it was really his monitor that didn't work. He didn't rule out the monitor because it worked with other cameras. In summary the SDI to HDMI converter was working properly, but the HDMI monitor they chose did not work with the feed.

    Hopefully this bit of information will save you guys the pain of making a purchase only to find out it doesn't work. If you want an EVF for the BMPC, you'll need to at least look at the other high end displays. As far as a cheaper EVF for other cameras, YouTube member Shawn Barner provides a nice 26 minute detailed run through of this Seetec product.

    For other mirror-less and DSLR cameras like the Canon, Nikon, Panasonic GH3, Sony, etc, the Seetec can really help if you're on a budget. Over the last year, several people have been using this EVF successfully. While not quite at the level of the more professional EVF systems, this EVF is still a great start for those who need a small lightweight portable screen to shade from the bright glaring sun, and to relocate a video feed to a more ergonomic placement on a shoulder rig. Available via eBay around $250 US (click here).

    Affordable Cheap EVF LCD View Finder CheesycamEVF LCD View FinderLCD EVF View Finder HDMI
    find-price-button 3.5" Seetec HDMI EVF Electronic View Finder

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