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  • Writer's pictureChadwin Smith

Turning my Sony a7s into a CINEMA Camera!

Hey filmmakers, today we're going to take this little Sony a7s and see if we can build it out into a full Cinema Camera.

Since you're watching this video, there's a good chance that you're also shooting on a mirrorless or DSLR camera, there are a whole bunch of advantages to shooting on a small camera like this. And just to name a few of them, it's easy to go handheld, it's easy to throw it on a gimbal. And travel with it. There are of course, a whole bunch of limitations to it. So a lot of times I like to completely build this out if I can into a nice cinema rig that is powered by one battery and very ergonomic and it looks much more professional on set and does a great job of getting me beautiful footage. So let's get started and see what kind of rig we can build this camera into Leave a comment below right now guessing how much it's going to cost to fully rig out this camera with the camera included. And then at the end, you can see if you were close to guessing how much this thing is to fully rig out.

The first thing that any good camera build needs is a nice solid cage So I'm going to throw this one on it from Smallrig right now. Now let's get a quick release plate on there so that I can easily slide this on and off of my rig. And I'm using two bolts with this so that it doesn't rotate or spin off. The base that I'm using is from Camvate And I really like it because this allows me to adjust that up and down. Now I've already put a quick release plate on the bottom. This is a standard Manfrotto one so that I can slide it right onto a tripod.

We can grab our 15 millimeter rods and get them in there. Now I'm using the 15mm rods from Smallrig and I'm using the 16 inch ones because I needed something longer for my full rig.

So I'm using all Canon glass with my cameras, and I bought all Canon lenses intentionally because they're the most universal and work on the absolute most cameras so if I ever switched bodies, I'll be able to take them with me. Next, it allows me to use my favorite adapter of all times, which is the Vizilex Variable ND filter adapter, which is fantastic because if you use a DSLR camera, you know that there are no ND's built in like you get on the Sony FS5, FS7 and so on. So basically this adapter allows me to have ND with any lens that is Canon EF mount no matter what on my camera and I absolutely love that.

Now let's put the Rokinon 50mm lens on there. These are all the Cine DS lenses, which I love because the gears are all matched up and the front millimeter thread size is basically the same on all of them.

The next part we need to get on here is the follow focus. So I'm using the Tilta Nucleus Nano and I absolutely love this thing. Total beast. I've made an entire video about it already. So go check that one out. I put the motor on the right side so that I can put the hand wheel on to the left side where it can actually pull my focus. Now I'm using this 15 millimeter rod adapter to actually mount it right onto the 15 mil. And it just slides right into place. And I lock it down.

Alright what rig would be complete without a top handle so let's get that on there next and I'm using this one from Smallrig and it is a bolt on one. Now before I get this bolted on. I do want to show you this little Smallrig part that I've also put on there and that is for the monitor mount.

Now I love it on the front here because it allows me to get the monitor dead center and keeps the center of gravity nice and low instead of mounting it all up high and on top. super solid. You can throw this thing around there's right now there's no shake on this ring at all. Nothing. It's super freaking solid. I love that. If you can't throw your rig around like this, and you're scared to do it. Your rig is not solid enough yet. I'm using the atom most ninja v as my monitor and recorder because I want to be able to film in full 4k with the a7s, which I can do with this recorder and it's ProRes 420 so I can get the absolute most data out of it with this.

I'm using one of the shortest and thinnest HDMI cables I could find it is full size to micro and it's only about a foot and a half long because I don't want a bunch of cables coiled up everywhere if I can avoid it. I have a HDMI lock on the side here because the micro HDMI connector is probably the worst connector ever

Now we also have to throw the little SSD onto the recorder It's 500GB. I love it because it fits in perfectly. And it doesn't stick up the side or anything like that, like the other ones do with the caddy and everything.

The next thing we're going to put on this rig is the matte box. Now there's a lot of controversy for whatever reason in the filmmaking world over matte boxes. A lot of people say matte boxes are just for looks and it just to make your rig look cooler and make you feel professional on set. Yeah, oh, that's true. But it also has a lot of other fantastic uses as well, which are pretty obvious. And if you haven't figured that out, I like to keep the top flag on there. Now this one is from Fotga, and it's called the DP 503 And it is super solid, mostly made of metal and some plastic. I've been a big fan of this, it's also has the matte box swing away style, which I love for swapping out lenses. Now something that I like to do when I'm using a matte box is put this little donut in between the lens and the matte box. Now I do that for a few reasons. One, because this gap looks dumb. I just I hate that gap. When you're looking at the camera, it looks hilarious, doesn't look very professional. And the real main reason though, is to prevent lens flares from coming in and hitting from the sides.

So I think this rig is coming along pretty nicely so far. What do you guys think leave a thumbs up if you like the way it's looking so far. So let's get the power supply set up now and I'm using this V mount Lock Plate from Fotga and it is also called the DP 500iii So now that we have this mounted, let's get all the cables plugged into it.

The first thing is the dummy battery for the a7s and coming out the other side of this is a normal little barrel that I can plug right into the side of this. I'm going to put the dummy battery right into the bottom of the camera. Pop the battery out we don't need that. These things last like 30 minutes. This is a basic D tap and it is going to go into the battery and then it comes out to a D tap splitter which gives me four more ports. So I can power everything else on my rig from just one detail. And what I've done is put a piece of velcro on the back of this and then put another piece of sticky Velcro on the back of the V mount plate. So, now I have those four D taps readily available to me.

Alright, now let's throw a V mount battery on there. This is a 95 watt hour v-mount battery from D&O slides right into place. And then I'm going to plug in the D-tap on the side of it here.

The next thing we need to get power to is the ninja V, which is absolutely the most power hungry device ever. So this is the battery eliminator that comes with the Atomos Ninja V and I'm using this D tap cable that I found on Amazon I can't even remember the name of it but I'll leave links in the description to all this stuff so that you can find anything if you're interested in using it on your own little rig.

Now we need to get power to the follow focus motor. So I got this D tap cable to micro USB and we're going to get that all plugged in.

The next thing that we need is the wireless transmitter. So a lot of times I'm shooting on set with a wireless transmitter so that the director can see what I'm doing and the client can see what I'm doing. Or if I want to use a wireless follow focus and have a focus puller do something for me. They can get that signal. So I put this quarter 20 mount on there using the cold shoe and then I'm going to put the Hollyland Cosmos 600 on there

I'm actually going to use the D tap to lemo cable that came with it to power it up. Now I'm going to get the HDMI cable plugged in to go from the Atomos Ninja V and it is a full size HDMI into another full size port on the Cosmo 600. So now one of the last things we need to do is get everything actually powered on and make sure that it's all been plugged in properly.

What I love about this is that everything is now running off of this V-mount battery and this thing will last for quite a few hours powering all of these devices. So, instead of swapping out every single teeny, tiny little battery in the middle of something, and you're like trying to get the shot, you could just charge one massive battery. And at last you for many hours, can I still get to the screen on the back of my a7s? I know a lot of you will be asking that. And the answer is yes, I can definitely still see it. It's hard for the camera to see. But looking down on it. Yes, I can see all my settings here.

Let's take a look at the follow focus works so smooth, nothing shaking, nothing's wiggling, no movement, it's extremely solid. I can lift this, move it around, go completely handheld with this thing, run with it. And I really trust holding this entire rig from the grip. If you do a camera build out, and you can't lift it from the top handle, and you're scared that things are going to wiggle or move. You haven't done it right, it's not rigid enough. Something that I forgot to mention is that this little setup with the monitor on the front here is one of my favorite things ever. And it makes it like a little red because the monitor goes right in front of the top handle. And then I can tilt the monitor wherever I want. And it's gonna stay there. So if I'm having super low to the ground, and I want this flat, I can still see my image. Now the a7s does not have internal image stabilization built into it. There's none of that on the sensor lenses don't have OSS either. But, guess what? Never been a problem for me and I'll tell you why. This rig is so freakin big and solid that it completely gets rid of all those little micro jitters. Now one thing that I would like to add to this rig is a little side handle. I've been looking at the wooden Smallrig one and I think that would be nice to include to have another spot to grip and the top handle when I'm going fully handheld.

Did you get the cost of this rig fully rigged out? Correct? Were you even close or were you totally off? If you want to learn how to light and shoot better videos. Hit subscribe right now. I have a ton more videos coming out and shooting editing everything like that. Alright, I'll see you in the next video.

Watch the full rig breakdown video here:

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