Putting Together a DSLR Video Kit – And Why

I was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago and stopped by Zacuto. Zacuto is a business that has made outfitting DSLR cameras for video a specialty. They have cleverly engineered an assortment of their 3rd party add-ons that take these cameras to a higher level. They have also provided solutions to overcome some of these cameras shortcomings. Depending on the genre you are working in, documentary work, corporate, indie films or photojournalism will ultimately determine which way you’ll need to “trick” these cameras out.

I was looking for products that were designed to help with camera stability, focus aids and audio when using the Canon 5D or 7D which I will soon be purchasing. My motivation for buying these cameras wasn’t because I was moving to video for the first time, because I’ve been shooting video for 11 years and already have a high-end HD camera – the Sony EX-1.   The main reason that I will be buying these hybrid cameras is that I am undertaking a global project where I will be shooting both still images and video where I will literally be traveling around the world for a three month period and I can only bring what I can carry on my back. So taking two camera systems was out of the question.

I tested quite a few items at Zacuto but finally settled on the following solutions. For my audio needs I will use my existing Sennheiser shot gun mic and lav/transmitter/receiver kit. But I decided to capture my audio independently using the Samson H4 Zoom digital audio recorder and will sync it later in post. I also opted for the EZ-Finder that is an eyepiece that snaps on over the monitor. This not only makes it easier to focus in the sunlight, but provides a point of stabilization as well. Speaking of stabilization, I have also opted for the DSLR Sharp Shooter rig that comes with a shoulder mount, Zgrip Z-mount and mini baseplate with quick release adaptor. I supplemented that rig with a FLEX-DSLR remote trigger and a 3.4 lb. counterbalance weight.

I’m glad that I personally visited Zacuto and tried out the rig – fitted to me. It felt right and fit with the way I am accustomed to shooting. A hybrid solution that bridges the still photo and video worlds. I’ll need a lighter weight tripod and am hoping to keep my Manfrotto fluid head. I’ll need to purchase a backup MacBook Pro and portable hard drives because my workflow will be tapeless and therefore redundant.

That’s going to be a lot of gear on my back. Guess I’ll be packing light when it comes to my personal needs.

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7 Replies to “Putting Together a DSLR Video Kit – And Why”

  1. Hi Gail,

    I recommend taking along a backup mount (and adhesive) and eyecup for the Z-finder. They are light but indispensable if they break or get lost. I lost my eyecup recently on a shoot and it made the last three days very tough. Since you’ll be moving it will be hard for a replacement to catch up to you.

    Thanks for info on blog!

  2. Gail, I had a question about power. When you went on this trip, how did you handle power? I’m headed to Africa on the 19th, and i’m wondering about charging my gear? Did you get a stepdown transformer or something?

    1. Hey Chris,

      I carried a zip strip surge protector that was good for 220 volts and converted to my 110 appliances. So when I had electricity, I was able to gang everything up at once because many times there was only one wall socket available. I wish I had a tiny generator when I was without electricity but I didn’t have the space or the budget.

      1. Can you point me to one? I’ve seen alot of “convertors” around, but i’m afraid of frying my gear because of buying the wrong thing.

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