My Shoulder Rigs Were All Wrong, Until Now! (Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6k Shoulder Rig)
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
I've been building out my shoulder rigs wrong for a couple years now. So I think it's finally time that I fix my mistakes. To show you exactly what I'm talking about, I have a really stripped down version of a shoulder rig here. So once I get this up, you can see that I've got the camera pretty much right in the center of the rig.
And the main problem here is that everything ends up becoming really front heavy, and naturally, the rig just wants to fall forward right off my shoulder, there's no weight being applied to it. Now you could add counterweights to the back, which is what a lot of guys do. But then your rig becomes unnecessarily heavy. The camera is not resting right on top of my shoulder, which is really where it should be to get the most steady shots and have the most even balance. So I'm not putting all that stress and strain on my arms.
Using A VCT Shoulder Pad
Now most of the gear that I've used over the years doesn't allow you to get the camera right over the shoulder pad, where it should really be to get the best balance and the most steady shots. So the real solution to this is a VCT shoulder pad https://geni.us/VCT14. And this one is from small rig. But there are many other companies that make something similar. A part like this is very popular in the cinematography world, and especially in the broadcasting world, because those guys always have their cameras up on their shoulders, and then they want to be able to quickly throw them onto a tripod. So I'm going to show you how to set up a full shoulder rig using a VCT plate that of course allows you to use it on your shoulder or take it off and throw it on a tripod https://geni.us/BenroS8 or slider https://geni.us/SYRP5 really quickly.
So let's get this amateur shoulder rig out of the way. So we can build out a full shoulder rig with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6k https://geni.us/Pocket6k.
Adding a V-Mount Battery To Your Shoulder Rig
So first, I'm going to throw on the base plate that comes with the shoulder pad on the camera. So already, you can tell that the camera is pretty well centered on top of the shoulder pad, but it's still front heavy with the lens on there. So let's add a V mount battery https://geni.us/vmount to the back that will act as a counterweight. What I have here is a little 15 millimeter rod hinge from SmallRig https://geni.us/batteryHinge . And then on the back I have a V Mount Adapter screwed into it. And if you're wondering what any of these parts are, or where you can get them just check out the links in the description below. So let's slide this right into the back of the shoulder pad here. And then tighten it down. Now let's throw a V-mount battery on here and I'm using this one from D&O that's just a little bit bigger and heavier. So it works better as a counterweight.
Fully Adjustable Dual ARRI Rosette Grips
Now let's get the grips https://geni.us/RubberGrips on the front of the rig. And what's cool about this shoulder pad is it actually comes with ARRI rosettes installed on either side. So you can put the grips onto those instead of mounting them onto 15 millimeter rods if you don't want to do that. So what I have here are two small rig arms that have ARRI rosettes on either side and they are fully extendable https://geni.us/rosetteGrip. Now what I like about these is they have a full metal build and they actually do feel pretty solid.
But I did actually have a problem with one of mine and that was with this knob. This is kind of a weak point for these, I think and this is actually a replacement one that's why it's red. What happened to me is that this little knob actually broke on the inside and it would just spin indefinitely. And I couldn't loosen it so I could change, you know the position of the arm itself or even get it off the rig. So actually, I had to take a drill to it and just completely drill the screw out and tear this little knob off and I'm hoping that the replacement works a lot better.
Something I love about ARRI rosettes is that they're very universal. So you can use any grips that you want on the end of these arms here. So what I picked up are these two little SmallRig rubber grips, and they feel really comfortable and they're much more solid than a lot of the other grips that I bought, but I actually only need one of them. So I'm just going to be mounting the right one here.
Tilta Nucleus Nano Focus Handle for Pulling Focus on a Shoulder Rig
And then on the left hand side, I'm going to use the Tilta Nucleus Nano focus handle https://geni.us/tiltaGrip and I've actually shown this on the channel before in another shoulder rig build and I absolutely love it.
That's much more comfortable for me so that I can just rest my arms like this. They're not up all super high like you were seeing me with the other more amateur rig, they're actually much more in a relaxed state. And I can just hold the rig right on top of my shoulder. So already you can see just how much better balance this is.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras are Very Wide
Now the only thing I don't like about this is actually the Pocket 6k itself because it's just such a wide camera. So when you have it on a shoulder rig, it actually kind of butts up against your head and all the cables come out towards your face, which is definitely annoying. But if you're doing this shoulder rig with pretty much any other camera including like the Sony FS5 https://geni.us/FS5ii, the Sony alphas, any of those cameras are much slimmer, so you won't have that problem.
Adding a Monitor to Your Shoulder Rig
Now as you can see the monitor SmallHD Focus https://geni.us/smallHD sits back pretty far and it's behind my head and obviously my line of sight. So I can't see my monitor and what I'm actually filming. So I'm actually going to get a monitor mounted now. So I can of course, see everything that I'm doing. And I'm actually going to mount the monitor off of my top handle and this is just a SmallRig, NATO mount top handle https://geni.us/NatoArri. And I'm actually going to mount it with the top handle facing towards the lens to give me a little bit more length to get this monitor out in front of my face. Next, I'm going to add another piece of NATO rail https://geni.us/natorail to the side of this top handle that I'm going to need in a second. Okay, with that in place, I can add this EVF or monitor mount from SmallRig that uses NATO rail to the top handle here https://geni.us/NATOmonitor. And actually, what I'm going to do is hang the monitor beneath this, instead of putting it on top where you normally would, because then you're just like craning your neck up, and that's really gonna hurt after a while.
Alright, now I have the camera and monitor turned on and I'm gonna show you exactly where the monitor falls, and it falls nice directly in front of my face, so I can see exactly what I'm shooting and it's lined up nicely. So I'm not looking to up or down, and it's just right there directly in front of me.
Using A Follow Focus Motor on Your Shoulder Rig
Now let's get the follow focus https://geni.us/tiltaGrip added to the front here. And there are actually two 15 millimeter rod clamps here in the front. So if you want to add full size 15 millimeter rods here, you could and then you can mount your matte box to the end of it or add any other accessories that you need to. But I'm actually just going to go with one single four inch 15 millimeter rod adapter here. Okay, now we need to run power from the focus handled to the motor itself. So I'm just using this micro USB to micro USB cable.
The Polar Pro Basecamp Is the Perfect Matte box
Now we're going to add a matte box to the front of the lens here. And what I'm using is the Polar Pro Basecamp https://geni.us/BaseCampVND, which is my all time favorite matte box that I've ever used. Their filter system is incredible. What I have in here is a 2-5 variable ND filter, and it has mist built right into it. So it helps kind of soften up my image a little bit and bloom the highlights. I love that. And like I said it is variable ND so I can just spin the knob on the top here, and it will darken. So I'm going to clamp this to the front here. And depending on the length of your lens, if it's really short, it might end up hitting up against this monitor. If it's a little bit longer, you're not going to have any issues. Alright, there we go. Now it's looking much more professional with the matte box on there.
A Few Final Steps to Get the Rig all Set Up
But there's still a few more things that we need to add, we still need to plug in power from the V-mount to the camera. So I just have a little D-Tap cable with the lemo pin connection. So let's get that plugged in. And we still need to get the focus motor calibrated for this lens. So you could do that really quickly by holding down CAL or calibrate on the back of the focus grip for a few seconds. Right now it's begun the auto calibration and honestly this is just so nice, because I can keep my hands firmly on the grips and still pull focus on the lens with just my pointer finger right here. So that means I can have a really nice steady stance.
And then I'm actually not doing a lot of work here with my arms to keep the rig up because the grips are positioned in a nice spot. And the rig is much more balanced over the top of my shoulder.
Using a Shoulder Rig with a Tripod or Slider
And now of course I got to show you how this huge shoulder rig can mount on top of a tripod or tripod head on a slider. And that is using this VCT 14 receiver plates. And what I have mounted on the bottom of it is just a standard Manfrotto quick release plate. So let's go ahead and grab it. So here's my slider with a tripod head on top. And I'm gonna put the VCT 14 receiver plate right on top of this https://geni.us/BenroS8.
Alright, now that the arms are rotated up out of the way, we can easily get this clicked into place. There we go. It's on a tripod head little slider and so you can get right back to work doing your full camera movements without breaking down your shoulder rig at all. And then when you're ready to pull it off of the tripod or slider, you can of course pull on the quick release here and that will release it from the plates. And then you can drop those arms back into place and start doing your shoulder rig moves again.
Alright, so you can see just how easy that is to take it on and off of a tripod or slider with that quick release plate because the mounts are on the far ends of the shoulder pad here and here is where it actually clicks into place and then it leaves a nice opening for your shoulder to rest it on. And yes, of course there's so many other things that could add to their setup like a shotgun microphone, wireless lavaliers, a wireless transmitter, but for the sake of this video, I don't feel the need to add them.
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Watch the full length tutorial here: