Building the Ultimate Video Camera System – Part 2

This is the promised second and final part to my ultimate video camera system series. If you missed the first part, then I encourage you to read that first, here.

When setting out to build my camera rig, I had two goals in mind. First and foremost it needed to be “manageable” to use. It wouldn’t be very useful to me if it took half an hour to set it up, or wasn’t portable enough to take it anywhere I wanted to go. Second, the rig needed to be affordable to build.

Bulldog Rig

After hours of searching on the internet for rig ideas, I decided to loosely base what I wanted in my rig on the German made rig which is classified as a “bulldog” rig because it supports the camera lower than eye level of the operator. This is an excellent rig, but I don’t believe there is a US distributor for it, and even if there was, the rig was far too expensive for my budget (over $700). My next step then was to search Amazon for the bits and pieces to build my own version. . .

Professional Camera Rig Support C Shaped

After a bit of searching, I found this item “Professional Camera Rig Support C Shaped” that I could use as the foundation to build off. It looks almost the same as some of the parts in the German model, and it’s only $50. It even included a handle – something the German model didn’t have.

I added this to the cart and continued to shop. I next added a package of 15mm rods “16 Inch Black Aluminum Alloy 15mm Rods” for $22.59

I then added a shoulder pad that I would use as an abdomen pad instead of a shoulder pad. “Shoulder Pad for Video Camcorder Camera” for $37

Next I added the camera mounting baseplate that the camera would actually mount to “Camera Baseplate with 15mm Rod Clamp Rail block” for $40

At this point I had enough parts in the cart (along with what I already owned) to build the rig, and it was only going to cost me around $150 ! It was now time to add some niceties.

As it was, a separate battery would be needed to power the camera, another for the monitor, and another to power the microphone. There isn’t much I can do with the microphone because the mic has no option for an external power source, but there is a solution for the monitor and the camera to power each of them together from one power source. So I added a NP-F970 battery plate and dummy battery to fit my Nikon D800 “NP-F NP-F970 NP-F960 Battery Plate with EN-EL15 EN-EL15a Dummy Battery to Power Nikon D800 DSLR Camera” for $44. NP-F970 battery, which this battery plate is designed for, is a much larger capacity battery than the standard camera battery that the Nikon uses. This item alone however would only allow me to use an external battery to power the camera.

To power the monitor as well, I needed to add a “DC Barrel Plug Splitter 2.1mm x 5.5mm, 1 Male Plug to 2 Female Jack” for $8, and a “Male to Male 2.1mm x 5.5mm Plug DC Power Adapter Cable” for another $8, to run up to the monitor from the battery plate. And of course the battery plate and cables are of little use without a couple of “Li-ion NP-F970 Batteries” to use with it either. $33 for two.

It was now time for checkout. . . My total now was only about $243 dollars! Much more affordable than the German version of the rig, plus it included much more than what I would have received if I could have ordered the German version as well (handle, battery plate and dummy battery, power cables, and batteries!)

As I was reviewing the cart however I discovered something of a show stopper. Actually, it was more of a show delayer. The first item in my cart, the “Professional Camera Rig Support C Shaped” had what I would call shipping issues – in that it potentially wouldn’t be delivered until mid January, even though the order date would be in November. Like I said, more of a show delayer instead of a show stopper, but before I reluctantly completed the checkout, I decided to do more Amazon searching again before pulling the trigger – and I’m glad I did.

It didn’t take too long and I found this gem, the “Double C Shape Shoulder Support Camera Cage With Top Handle For DSLR Rig Rail System” which is basically identical to the original item I picked. As a matter of fact, the unit I received looked exactly like the original – except this item had a second C shaped support arm – and it was only $5 more that the other item! Plus there wasn’t an issue with the shipping either, so I replaced the original item with this one, and then completed the checkout.

A few days later the items arrived, and I built my custom camera rig and added the bits and pieces that I already owned – such as the external microphone and monitor. I also added an eye-bolt to the back of the second C shaped support arm and attached an old camera strap that had on hand. The camera strap, along with the abdomen pad, allows me to keep my hands free to do other things while recording – such as focusing and operating the zoom.

There was also a hidden bonus with that second C shaped support arm that I hadn’t really planned on as well; First, is that it gave me a location further back from the front of the rig to mount the battery plate – helping to keep the rig from being “front heavy”, and Second, because of this support arms location in relation to the cable ports on the camera, it provides decent protection from accidentally banging into the cables and dislodging them from the camera, or even ripping the ports out of the camera itself.

Below is a short video of the rig showing how it looks, and explaining how it works. One other thing to note is total price. Everything you see, excluding the camera, but including the rig, microphone, monitor cost me only $373 add another $20 for minor odds and ends (camera strap, eye-bolt, quick detach mounts and clamps, etc. . .) and the cost would still be under $400

Everything considered, I’m very happy with this rig and happy with it works. I’ve shot a few videos with it now – all hand held, no tripod or mono-pod used, and the results were quite satisfactory for me.

I hope you enjoyed this series! Thanks for reading!