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Zacuto

Enforcer Review

Enforcer Review by Beatriz Wallace
I teach Multimedia Storytelling at Duquesne University and the University of Missouri. In my classes we focus on making cinematic video, or documercials. We don’t use voiceover, we practice cinematic awareness, and as I’ve said before, stories are boss in my class.

Why Do I Need to Stabilize My Shot?

Brian Storm says, “Photography is like hunting and video is like fishing.”  In my experience, the hardest thing for students to work through is the feeling that they need to rush everything. It’s difficult to make beautiful shots seamlessly and you can’t eagerly shoot everything you like. In film, you have to compose, set up your shot and then let the action happen with a stabilized camera. This can be frustrating for students when they look back on their work and it’s really shaky or they weren’t smooth enough in their transitions.

In video you always need to steady your shot. Handheld video is not an option if you want to distinguish yourself from amateurs. Universities are often unequipped to help students with gear that stabilizes their shots. You can’t make professional portfolio level work without one of the following items: a monopod, a tripod or a DSLR rig.

I recommend that students take initiative and learn about what they need to keep their shots steady. In my experience with my peers at the University of Missouri graduate school, the most successful videographers are the ones that pro-actively researched what they needed to do to make the best shots. Don’t wait for your teacher to tell you what equipment you will need for your project. Research your story. Watch other videos that you like. Find out what they used to build your own kit.

Students often tell me that they like that “shaky” quality in movies. I do too! My favorite film is The Beasts of the Southern Wild. They did not hand hold their camera. You can’t achieve a professional “shaky” quality without the right rigs.

Beatriz reviews the Zacuto Enforcer

What I Did

I like making documentaries about people and exciting places. Most of my students do too. My favorite projects are often the most cinematically challenging!

I made a documercial about a field trip to a farm with 6th graders at the Pittsburgh Environmental Charter School. On a freezing cold November morning a graduate student and I went with them to pick beets on a farm. Our hands were shaking so hard, and the ground was especially uneven and muddy so a monopod or tripod were not options that day. I used the Zacuto Enforcer and Z-finder to steady my shots that morning.

In the video below, you’ll find side by side comparisons of the Enforcer / Z-finder combination next to no Enforcer / no Z-finder.

The second project I worked on recently is a documentary about a community. My graduate assistant and I documented a Christmas parade. I used a monopod for that project and she used handheld. I love monopods because I like to set up my shot and let the action unfold. Some people like the option for the DSLR rig because they don’t have to sit still and can follow the action. With practice with a DSLR rig like the Enforcer you can achieve a cinematic quality that captures action. You’ll also see side-by-side footage of monopod versus handheld. I didn’t use both the Manfrotto monopod and the Zacuto Enforcer on the same shoot because I didn’t have the dual-purpose mount that allows you to switch back and forth, but I know there is one that I plan to use in the future. It’s called a Gorilla Tripod Dock. I decided to use the monopod that night because I wanted to focus on landscape shots more than action. A good set-up might be one camera on a monopod and one camera on an Enforcer. I suggest that both cameras use the Z-finder. Don’t wait until you shoot your dream project and find that everything was a hair soft to figure out a way to get crisp, clear focus on your camera.

Set-Up

It took less than 20 minutes to set the Zacuto Enforcer rig up and learn how it worked the night before. The kit comes with all the tools you’ll need (which is awesome because I don’t even think I own a screwdriver…). I don’t know how I shot without a Viewfinder before, and this was my first time. I can’t tell if I like the screen mount or the Z-finder more. If you’re just starting out in video, the screen mount allows you to watch what you’re shooting on a larger screen attached to your camera and the Z-finder is what you press your eye against to eliminate outside light so that you can focus and view your shots clearly and with magnification.

I’m not going to show you how to set it up or work the Enforcer because there are plenty of videos about that on the Zacuto Vimeo Channel. I’m going to show you a few examples of why you NEED to stabilize your shots in video. I lived in the Show-Me state long enough to know that the best way to prove to a student that they need to stabilize their shots is to show them the difference between steady shots and shaky shots. There is no shortcut to stabilizing your video. You have to buy something. No one’s hands are steady enough to produce professional hand held video. If you are passionate about video, and want to make it work, you need to develop a portfolio that says to future employers: I take my work seriously and I stabilize my shots!

Most importantly, never judge your work in a negative light. It takes a lot of work, time and money to build a DSLR kit that will meet your expectations. Learn what you want to do, and then be patient with yourself as you build a toolbox for making great videos. This is a constructive critique, and a way to illustrate the difference between handheld and supported.

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About the Author


Beatriz Wallace is currently a Visiting Professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her friends do cool stuff like take pictures of pets that need adopting at animal shelters, make movies with famous people and tell stories that matter. She worked at Cellar Stories Bookstore and Time Magazine after she graduated from Amherst College with a degree in writing and photography. She has a Master’s Degree in Photojournalism from the University of Missouri. She’s from New Orleans and she’s kind of scrappy. She might be a juicer, a yoga teacher or a software developer next. And she’s okay with that. To see her work, visit www.beatrizwallace.com, follow her on Twitter @bigmuddyheart or friend her on Facebook (Beatriz Wallace).

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