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  • Chadwin Smith

Building a Camera Rig? Start Here.

I'm gonna show you how to build out a great camera rig with all the different parts and pieces that you need. And we'll look at a few different options. So you can select what's best for you and your own setup. And we'll also look at some things that you should definitely avoid. Alright, let's get into it. A question I get asked all the time is, can I build out this Sony camera or this Canon camera? Or whatever it is? And the answer is yes, as long as you use a cage, you can definitely build out just about any mirrorless or DSLR camera.


Choosing a Camera Cage

So of course, that's where we're going to start with a good cage https://geni.us/XT4cage And we're building out the Fujifilm XT-4 https://geni.us/FujiXT4. But like I just said, you can really do this with any camera, the same principles will apply. Nearly all the parts I'm using today are from small rig. But you can of course use ones from Tilta or any other company that you want.


Building the Baseplate

Once you have your camera cage on, you need to add a base plate and this is where your first decision really comes in. For your setup, there are really two ways that you can do this one, you can take your quick release plate like this Manfrotto one, and put it directly on the bottom of your camera so that you can easily slide it off of all of the rigging that you build out and easily throw it onto something like a gimbal. The other way is that you directly attach your 15 millimeter rod support https://geni.us/baseplate to the bottom of your camera, and then put the quick release plate on the bottom of that. The problem with doing it this way is you can't quickly remove the 15 millimeter rods and all the accessories attached to it quickly from the camera. So these are two 15 millimeter rod base plates, this one attaching directly to your camera with no quick release. And this one having a quick release https://geni.us/Camvate so you can take just the camera off and leave the 15 millimeter rods, all the accessories attached still. So it's really up to you. The nice thing about this one is the fact that you can move those 15 millimeter rods up and down with this little adjustment. So if you need to get your matte box to just the right height to line up with your lens, you might want something like this.


For this build out I'm doing more of a handheld rig or something you'd use on a tripod. So I'm not too worried about quickly taking it off to put onto a gimbal. So we're going to use this 15 millimeter rod adapter. And I'm going to attach it to the bottom here with two screws. And that's one main key thing about any rig build out is always have two points of contact if you can, so that way you avoid anything spinning off or becoming loose. Now I'm going to add a quick release plate to the bottom of this again with two screws to avoid any rotation.


Choosing a Top Handle

Now let's add a top handle to this. And there's so many different great options out there. But I'm going to show you some of my favorites. So the first one is a top handle with a NATO rail mount https://geni.us/NatoArri so that way I can quickly take it on and off of the rig without any tools required. The next one is this little small compact one that does bolt on. So it's super sturdy, but of course it takes a little bit more time because it bolts on. And then we have the cheapest one from small rig that also bolts on with two 1/4 20 threads. And this is definitely their most budget friendly option https://geni.us/topHandle. But it gives you the least amount of options because there are no threads here in the front for adding a monitor mount. Whereas on these other two ones, it has ARRI locating pins, so you can easily add a monitor mount and you don't have to worry about it spinning loose.


For the build out today I'm going to use the NATO rail top handle because it's so quick to take on and off. But unfortunately, this cage doesn't have any native rail built into the top like some of my other cages. So I'm going to add a little piece of NATO rail to the top here https://geni.us/natorail.


Mounting Your Monitor

Now let's get a monitor mounted onto this top handle. And the piece that I'm going to use here is this small rig monitor mount with ARRI locating pins https://geni.us/ARRImount, like I mentioned earlier, so that it can't spin off. So I'll put that right here in the front. Now a huge mistake that I see a ton of guys do is they use these magic arms of all different sizes and companies and things like that to mount their monitors. And it's just really terrible because they always end up spinning off. So let's say that I just mounted this here on the side. First of all, it's way too big and clunky and you're just going to end up hitting this and once you do, it's going to start to unravel and that little 1/4 20 thread is just going to become loose and you're going to keep on having to tighten that down.


Whatever you do, do not use magic arms anywhere on your rig. There's always a better way to mount something than a magic arm. And if you don't believe me, send me a message and I will find a better way for you to mount whatever accessory it is that you're trying to mount with a magic arm. So now let's get that monitor mounted in a much more sturdy and compact way.


And you can see it has a nice low center of gravity. The monitor https://geni.us/TheNinjaV isn't sitting up all awkward and high and it's of course nice and dead center behind the handle and right in front of your face. So you can get your framing and make sure you have a good true horizon. And of course, you can tilt it and leave it wherever you want. And it's not going to move or fall because it's nice and sturdy.


Mounting Your V-Mount Battery

The next thing I want to add is our V-mount battery solution. And I want to show you a few different options. So this is one from FOTGA that attaches directly to your 15 millimeter rods https://geni.us/BatteryMount. And then it gives you a few different ports here on the side. So you can plug in different things into USB or 12 volt, eight volt here on the side. Now this is the first one that I bought. And I have since upgraded to this one from Tilta https://geni.us/TiltaVmount, which is a lot thinner and lighter, and I like it a lot more because the mount is even more flexible than this one, and it also gives you an additional D tap port.


Now if you don't want to use these larger base plates, you can use something much more compact, like this V mount plate from small rig. Now the only thing about this one is it doesn't have any hinges or way to attach to 15 millimeter rods. So you really have to screw it into place, like into these screws in the back of this camera rig. Like it screw it right there. But then of course it blocks the monitor. So instead, I'm using this new one from small rig that goes directly into your 15 millimeter rods https://geni.us/batteryHinge. And then I've attached the V mount plate here on the back using just two 1/4 20 threads https://geni.us/miniVlock. And it's really small and compact, as you can tell. So I'm going to get that slid into the back here. And the nice thing about it is it is on a hinge so you can get the battery positioned wherever you want.


Selecting a V-Mount Battery

Now let's get a V-mount battery on here. And of course, there are all different options. This one from D&O https://geni.us/vmount is really affordable, but obviously it's much larger than a more compact small battery like this one from YINCHEM https://geni.us/pocketBattery and they basically have the same amount of watt hours at 99 and 95. If you have a lot of accessories to power, you can get something like this D-Tap splitter https://geni.us/Splitter, and then you'll have four more open ports to power everything up with but I'm not going to use it for this rig build today.


Manual Cinema Lenses and Pulling Focus

I'm using cinema lenses https://geni.us/tokina, and the focus is fully manual. So I want to add a follow focus to my setup, you can use a fully manual follow focus or a wireless follow focus, I've opted to use a wireless follow focus system https://amzn.to/2ONOZFd because it gives me more versatility when I'm using a shoulder rig or a first AC. So in order to add this rod to my setup, I'm actually going to pull this back out here. And then I've already put a little 15 millimeter rod thread adapter into it. And then I'm just going to screw this piece right onto it and then put it back in.


Now let's get the follow focus added on. Now to control the motor, you can use the focus wheel that actually comes with it and just mount it here on the side. But what I like to use is this Tilta focus handle https://geni.us/tiltaGrip, that gives you a nice place to grip and also makes it really easy to pull focus with just one finger with this little wheel here in the front. So in order to get this attach, it's an ARRI rosette which I don't have on my cage. So I'm using this little adapter that goes from ARRI rosette to NATO rail mount https://geni.us/RosetteClamp. So there's actually NATO rail here already on the side of my camera cage. And if you don't have that, you can add a little piece of NATO rail, like I showed you earlier for this top handle. Then we attach the micro USB cable that comes with it. And to power the focus grip, it just uses a standard Sony NPF battery.


It's beautiful. That makes me so happy.


Selecting the Right Variable ND Filters

Next we need to add a variable ND filter. And of course there are all different options. But you could use something like this Tiffin variable ND filter https://geni.us/Tiffen, and just screw on to the front here. It's cheap, lightweight and nice and compact. But what I like to use is the polar pro base camp https://geni.us/BaseCampVND because, of course, it's a matte box and it has a variable ND filter in there. And of course you can swap out the filters for different variable ND strengths or ones with mist built into them like I'm using here. And this matte box uses a clamp on method, so I can just clamp it right onto the front of this lens using a 95 millimeter clamp adapter. And I don't actually have to mount it onto 15 millimeter rods, which is nice because then I don't even have to add that second 15 millimeter rod here on the other side.


And man look at this rig it is looking so good. It's pretty nice and compact, and there's no extras on there that you don't need. But we're not done yet. There's still a couple more things we need to add.


Now we need to get the V-mount battery connected to the camera to supply power. So what I'm using here is just a USB to USB C cable and plugging it into the USB port here on the bottom of my battery and then into the side of the camera. Now of course the way that you power up your camera is going to vary from camera model to camera model. So you may use something like a dummy battery, and then plug it into the d-tap port on the side of your v-mount base plate. You just have to look that up and find out exactly how much power your camera needs so you don't end up frying it.


Now You've Built Your First Camera Rig!

So this is really everything you need for a good solid setup without any extras. And you can see always do this test. This shake test to make sure nothing's wobbling or falling off or coming loose. You definitely want everything to be really solid and nothing to spin loose and it definitely is. Of course you can add other accessories to this setup like a wireless transmitter lavalier microphone, shotgun microphone, whatever it is that you need, as long as you can find an open cold shoe mount or some 1/4 20 threads, you can definitely add a lot more things to this setup.


Alright guys, if you want to see more videos like this, hit subscribe right now because I have a ton more videos coming out and shooting editing, lighting, gear reviews, everything like that and you don't want to miss it. All right, I'll see you in the next video.


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