Check Out This Dope DIY All-Manual Filmmaking Rig

If you’ve read anything I’ve written for 4K Shooters before, you know that I just love brazen, DIY, unconventional filmmaking methods. Sometimes we call little tricks like these ‘hacks’ but that word doesn’t do any amount of justice to the creativity and ingenuity of the operators who develop them.

I’ve written about Brandon Li and the impressive new way he uses his tripod before, and I’m delighted that he is back at it again with a new setup that expands on his technique and delivers some absolutely fantastic results. Check out how this dude shoots. I promise you it will change how you think about filmmaking equipment.

Depending on how long you’ve been in the game, you probably have a lot of little parts and pieces in your kit.  Sometimes you just need a clip, cable, or mount for a specific job and then things start to pile up. 

If you think like Brandon Li (especially if you’re looking to pass time during the Covid lockdown), you see a potential to make something new.

I’ve compared Brandon to MacGyver before, and I can think of no better analogy when I look at this ‘Weird manual DIY Rig’.

The Rig

Brandon doesn’t use a tripod like the rest of us; for him, it isn’t a tool that helps you sit still, it’s a tool that helps you maintain balance. Aiming the camera up and holding the tripod out, Brandon has found the best possible solution to counterbalance the weight and create gimbal-like shots on the go.

He can toss it up on his shoulders and use the points of contact to simulate an ENG-style rig’s moments, hold it out from his body to capture Steadicam-like shots, but prior to some new additions the thing that was missing from the mix was the ability to shoot in low-mode with ease.

Brandon prefers his rigs to be simple and lightweight. He shoots on a Sony a7III using a compact TTArtisan 35mm lens, simple focus shifter, rubber lens hood, and a Hoya Variable ND. So when he wanted to get stable shots that were low to the ground, he didn’t want to add an external monitor and cables to the mix.  

To fix that problem, Brandon utilized an INKEE Benbox Video Transmitter, which is a very affordable, low-profile wireless video transmitter that is app supported, to the hot shoe of his camera. 

An inexpensive athletic mobile phone arm strap keeps his iPhone put so Brandon can monitor the video feed and be free to move the camera wherever he wants.

To recap, here are all of Brandon’s components:

It might look a little weird, and not be as effective as a potato and some rusty wires to crack open a safe for MacGyver, but the results that Brandon captures are awe-inspiring.  

We often think of a big-budget look as something that requires lots of money, but the look we’re all after was crafted by people with big ideas.  Repurposing, adapting, tweaking, and adjusting are all a part of filmmaking.  If we only use the tools in front of us as they were intended to be used we cease to be artists and resign ourselves to nothing more than painting by numbers.

There is nothing weird about Brandon’s manual rig, it’s magical.

[source: Brandon Li]

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