Pimp My DSLR Camera Rig – Sports Shooter

This is a recent article with links on my current DSLR rig written for SportsShooter.com.

Earlier this year I was assigned to the video beat at our paper. Every photographer on our staff has to go through a 3-month video rotation to get familiarized with shooting and editing video. Being completely new to video, I was eased in to it with simple editing of studio shows that feature our own reporters to give me some practice with Final Cut. After a couple of weeks I was let out on to the streets. I practiced by shooting some Twins post-game interviews and then moved onto short feature stories. I have so much more to learn, but am excited by all of the possibilities made capable by a DSLR.

Choosing an economical and functional video kit was important. Many of my colleagues have been shooting video for a while, so I was able to pick their brains to find setup that would work best for me. Since I did not have an unlimited budget I had to make some compromises in gear selection, which meant holding off on items such as adjustable LED lights and a Lectrosonics Wireless mic.

For a camera/accessory housing I started off using a Kirk Action Grip, but felt I needed something with a top handle to better accommodate low angle shooting. I tried and liked the Watkins “Cube Media Cage”. It has a handle that can be top mounted and plenty of holes for expansion of accessories. I use a BeachTek DXA-SLR and a Sennheiser K ME 66 mic for sound capture. I like to use a coiled mic cord in case I have to pull it off to get a closer to a subject. I picked up a generic mic shock mount on eBay for $25. The nice thing about it is you can quickly pop the mic on and off. Many of the shock mounts on the market require you disconnect the cord and slide the mic out to get it off the mount. This can very tedious and slow especially in a news situation. I do not have a wireless system yet, but many of my coworkers are happy with the Sony UWP-V6 Wireless.

A Zacuto Z-Finder or equivalent finder is a mandatory accessory. It makes focusing much easier than trying to only use the back screen of the camera. I also use an Aputure Gigtube - Digital Screen Remote Viewfinder. It is small but helpful to compose and focus the camera, especially when shooting from low angles. I picked up two Flashpoint LED lights. Although the Flashpoints do not offer any diming, they are an inexpensive way to get a little fill light when a situation calls for it. At $35 each they are not a bad item to have in your kit. When hand holding I use a Zacuto – Rapid Fire for shoulder support, although I feel an over the shoulder rig would be much more stable.

In an effort to standardize my video and still setups I swapped the Quick Release plate that came standard on the Zacuto for an Arca Swiss style plate. I have a variety of Kirk, RRS, and Wimberley Arca Swiss QR plates for my cameras and lenses and use a Kirk Ball head. At this point I am not doing much tilting or panning on my tripod so I the Kirk ball head works fine for holding the camera. I also use a Kirk Bubble level to keep things strait.

DSLR Gear List:

Camera: Canon 5d MKII or 1d MK IV

XLR Adapter: BeachTek DXA-SLR

Mic: Sennheiser K ME 66 – w/ K-Tek coiled Cable

Mic Shock Mount: Cine Mic Suspension

Focus Lupe: Zacuto Z-Finder

Camera Support: Mark Watkins - The Cube Media Cage

Shoulder Support: Zacuto – Rapid Fire

Lighting: (2) Flashpoint LED Lights

Monitor: Aputure Gigtube, Digital Screen Remote Viewfinder

Quick Release Plate: Wimberley P-5 (Arca Swiss Style)

Level: Kirk Bubble Level

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