If you're into video work and want to make full use of your DSLR or mirrorless camera into a full-time filmmaking machine, there's no better way to expand its capabilities to the next level than rigging your equipment. At least, that's what I believe.
With some fallbacks to adding a little bit more weight to your camera, losing some accessibility when it's fully rigged, and to some extent - It might even just get in the way of actually producing the work. But for most of the time, the pros outweigh the cons for tailoring your needs on how you could utilise your camera to its fullest potential.
Rigs in general have exponentially changed the landscape of entry or prosumer cameras because of how much you can build on top of your current setup. While it could just look like this - basic, uninspiring, or amateur to say the least - there's something about showing up on set with a fully rigged camera that may change the perspective of your clients and also the confidence it gives you when operating your camera.
SmallRig has been one of the pioneers in making very affordable rigging equipment and accessories for years now and makes all kinds of products if you didn't know already, from cages tailored for almost every hybrid or video camera out there, to tripods, shoulder mounts, matte boxes, and most recently - lighting equipment as well.
We were keen to see how the lights would stand up against the likes of other brands but unfortunately they didn't have any review units available so maybe we could save that for another video when they do. So do subscribe if you wanna see when that video comes out.
They have however been kind enough to send us a few accessories that were available such as a cage for my Sony A7iii, a top handle, a very nice wooden Rosette Side Handle with Record Start/Stop Remote Trigger along with some dedicated cables, two Nato Rails and this Swivel and Tilt adjustable Monitor Mount with a cold shoe mount.
Adding all of these together will obviously change the weight of your camera, but sometimes that's not exactly a bad thing. Bigger cinema cameras can weigh up to 7 kilos and while it can feel tiresome carrying them around after a few hours, they do produce a more natural handheld look. Something that's very hard to achieve when your only point of contact is the grip on the camera, and most likely your lens if you're racking focus manually. Not to mention having to shift your grip every time you hit the record button, that could result in unwanted shaky footage for run-n-gun moments.
I took the chance to take this out on a shoot I did with a friend for a commercial campaign with requirements that it had to be vertically shot. While I'm not exactly a huge fan of vertical videos, I found the Side Handle with the remote trigger to be so useful and how comfortable it felt gripping onto, especially in this orientation. Although there were some annoyances given how the Rosette clamp got in the way of opening the memory card door, I'm just glad it's much faster and easier to remove thanks to the nato rails as compared to screw-on typed ones.
Also how I found the cable that allows the record start/stop function is just a tad bit too short which also adds some strain on the micro-USB port. My biggest nightmare would be damaging the ports on my camera so it would've been nice if it came with slightly longer cables just to avoid it breaking accidentally.
The top handle has clearly made me not want to throw my camera into a bag anymore just because of how convenient it is to carry the camera around as a full unit and not in partitions like I did before.
(I mean nobody comes into a battlefield with a gun disassembled if you get what I'm saying. So maybe it's time for me to get a Pelican box)
It also allows me to place my shotgun mic slightly further in front as it comes with 2 hot shoe mounts and is also very easily adjustable to your liking and a dedicated allen-key that can be tucked away magnetically.
Also not forgetting to mention SmallRig's universal monitor mount that has made it very easy to adjust tilt positions when changing shooting angles, to which I previously had to use a really wonky bracket that came with this FeelWorld monitor and could barely support the weight of the battery attached to the back.
Now I wanna make myself clear, it's not exactly a complete must to rig your camera up nor am I suggesting that it makes you any less of a filmmaker or videographer. But if you are currently having mixed feelings about whether or not you should upgrade your camera just because the latest model does 6K footage or shoots 4K120, then maybe you could consider what your current setup looks like and where it's lacking before blowing away potentially hundreds or thousands of dollars that could be invested in other sectors of filmmaking like how SmallRig has provide for average creatives like you and I in being more mindful about where our hard earned cash goes to.
Written by Fitri Aiyub