Building a Cinema Camera Gimbal on a Budget

Big cinema cameras generally require big gimbals and big budgets. Not everyone has a need or desire to own a super pricey rig, but there are obvious advantages to having access to something of your own when working on your own. You also likely want something that is simple and easy to set up.

Filmmaker Tom Antos pieced together his cinema camera gimbal rig using a bunch of easily found components to create something suitable for larger cinema cameras. His setup features a Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro, though it could easily work with RED, ARRI, or any other similarly-sized rig with ease.

At the heart of the kit is the Zhiyun-Tech CRANE 3S gimbal (and not the PRO version). This is a fairly simple and affordable gimbal with a good load capacity of up to 14.3 lb.

However, adding a heavy cinema camera isn’t going to be a fun experience with the way this gimbal is designed. It’ll be putting a lot of strain on your arms. That’s why he built everything up around it.

Antos also made sure that he could build it up in much the same way he would if he was not using the gimbal, so the camera doesn’t require a complete teardown and rebuilt just to move from one rig to the other. This includes extended battery power, a matte box, cinema lens, and more.

For making the setup a little more manageable Antos mounts the CRANE 3S to a MAGIC RING from DigitalFoto, which adds more comfortable ways to grip and maneuver the camera. Then, adding the EasyRig Vest completes the rig and moves the weight of all this to your body instead of your arms to make it a lot easier to hold for longer periods of time.

One thing Antos brings up is that while he didn’t get the PRO version of the gimbal with a bunch of accessories, he was considering the larger battery pack. In the end he felt that the gimbal performed very well with the normal batteries and that switching out during a down period was totally fine for his needs.

On top of ring is a monitor, this is actually a fairly lightweight and inexpensive option so just go with what you like and he has a standard clamp and arm to hold it up. The other device mounted to the ring is a V-mount battery to power everything.

It uses a special V-mount battery holder made by DigitalFoto. Finally, he has a CAME-TV Wireless Follow Focus with the controller mounted to the outside of the ring for easy control.

It’s a tube, so you can find any number of ways to attach things that you need.

Finally, the last piece is the baseplate for attaching the gimbal. The latest version, which Antos shows off here, features a couple pins to prevent the gimbal from rotating when mounted. And then it has a nice quick release function to make it nice and easy to attach.

In total this kit adds up to about 30 lb, which is heavy. This is still a serious rig but it seems to be down to just the core components plus a few nice-to-have accessories.

You might want to cut down a bit yourself depending on what you can do but just be aware that it may not be an all-day rig if you aren’t trained up to handle it.

To help with this problem he uses the EasyRig mentioned earlier. This has a couple dampening systems on the top and on the back with adjustments for the string to account for different weights.

Also it’ll help with height. Wearing it moves the weight off your arms to your hips so it’ll make longer shoots possible.

You’ll want to make sure everything is adjusted properly as improper fitting will cause issues and can cause harm. Make sure the weight is sitting right and things are tightened up and loosened where they need to be.

Antos pointed out his initial attempt had the weight on his shoulders instead and was very difficult to maintain. The nice thing about this is that it will fold down and fit in a carrying case for when you are done.

As a word of warning you might want to avoid running with this setup until you get very comfortable with it. Antos took a fall and the ring actually protected the camera. Just be careful.

If you are looking to build up a bigger camera rig this might be a good option for getting started with a gimbal for it.

[source: Tom Antos]

Order Links:

  • Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 Cinema Camera (B&H, Amazon)
  • Zhiyun-Tech CRANE 3S Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer (B&H, Amazon)
  • DigitalFoto MAGIC RING I Handheld Gimbal Ring (B&H, Amazon)
  • DigitalFoto Easyrig Hook Vest (B&H)
  • CAME-TV Astral Wireless Follow Focus System (B&H)
  • DigitalFoto V-Mount Battery Holder with Clamp (B&H)

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