My brother Ryan, a singer/songwriter in Hong Kong, needed a music video to promote his new album. We were all squeezing this in between other projects so we set up a one day shoot in Hong Kong. I wanted to make a run and gun style music video with a Sony FS5 rig and anamorphic lenses so I could just have fun with lights and sparks. I had just purchased the Sony FS5 after falling in love with it last year. To complement the FS5 I met with a local company, SLR Magic, who make anamorphic lenses and then partnered with Zacuto to try out their new Sony FS5 Recoil Rig and Gratical HD. It kind of all just clicked together.
As always, there were some challenges along the way! We didn't have much budget and there were several storyboard changes up against our tight deadline. We decided to strip down the video and keep it simple. Having the Sony FS5 rig - Zacuto's Next Generation Recoil system - saved a lot of time in terms of adjustment and moving between shoulder mounted and tripod work. I could move quickly with the gear and adjust to changes on the fly. The actual Zacuto Recoil set up practically stayed the same throughout the shoot.
I did hire a small crew to help get some of the lights set up and we used a second camera to help get some extra coverage. It's always good to have a spare unless you know yourself exactly what you want. In hectic situations like this, always racing for time, it's good to get that extra coverage.
Perks of the Sony FS5 Rig
Having a viewfinder or a monitor always helps. You'll miss details using stock viewfinders built into cameras. Either the screens are too small or you'll think your image is fine until you look at it in post. I was super happy to try out the Gratical HD, and I was ultimately really impressed. There's like a million options in the EVF! There’s even one to desqueeze that anamorphic look so what you see is what you're shooting, otherwise it would look stretched out.
The extended grip re-locator is a great addition as well and helps keep the camera on your shoulders with a comfortable grip. Then there's the Z-Drive and Tornado follow focus grip which is great to help focus your shots instead of wrapping your hands directly around the lens. They aren't necessarily needed with every lens but they definitely help.
One of the things I loved about the Zacuto Recoil Sony FS5 rig was that I could take pieces off and add other parts when I needed to. Think of the rig as tool to help you make your day a little easier. A padded shoulder rig meant no sore shoulders. I easily held the camera for long periods of time.
Take Your Time
One thing to note…be sure you balance the camera, lens, and accessories before your shoot begins. Take your time adjusting the rods, tightening the knobs, and getting the balance right for you. It's really important that the camera doesn't get too front heavy.
Think of your body like a tripod and balance the camera on your shoulders so it doesn't fall to the front or to the back. Also keep your arms closer to your body. Unless your goal is the arm workout, don’t keep your arms too far forward - trust me! Keep the whole system pretty compact to your body to avoid your arms going limp by the end of the day. Give yourself a little prep time and then on the day of the shoot you'll be good to go.
The whole overall experience shooting video, working with my brother, and using the Sony FS5 rig was a blast. I kept the schedule on time and had full control over creativity and ideas since I was only dealing with my brother! It's great working on big projects, but sometimes doing these small reminds us to keep the vibe special and fun.
Watch the video!
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