Building the Ultimate Doc Camera Setup

Documentary rigs can be quite difficult to get right. They require the same basics as every other setup, such as good image quality and intuitive controls, but also need some added flexibility and portability. It’s a very tough balance that you need to hit and when you are out shooting you can’t afford to miss a shot.

Filmmaker Mark Bone has what he thinks is his ultimate doc camera setup and is going to walk through all the pieces needed. He also points out what he thinks you need to look out for if you are building a documentary camera rig: good audio, good dynamic range, and familiarity.

Where to start… well, the camera always is a good place. Mark went with the Sony FX6 for his rig. He points out that the camera selection doesn’t matter. Whatever you use is good and you should go out and start shooting with it.

Image Credit: Sony

Going back to his point about good audio, he points out that a major selling point of the FX6 is the ability to record four tracks of audio. This is helpful because he throws a Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Mic up on top for general recording and tacks on a Sennheiser AVX System for using wireless lavaliers.

There is also the Sony Multi Interface Shoe which holds the UWP-D21 receiver for another wireless lavalier. And there is still the internal audio recording just in case.

Image Credit: Sony

This is a Sony camera so lens choice may vary for you, but he went with the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8. It’s a good all-around lens pick with a fast aperture that’ll work in most situations.

He also threw on the PolarPro Peter McKinnon Mist Edition II Variable ND Filter for when situations are exceptionally bright. This seems a little odd since the FX6 has a built-in ND filter system but it adds that Mist effect for a slightly more cinematic look.

Image Credit: SmallHD

Monitoring is aftermarket and he upgraded to a bigger 7” size with the SmallHD Cine 7. Some people may prefer smaller, but the larger screen does give you an even more reliable preview of the image.

For rigging up the camera and getting a bigger and better power solution he opted for the Wooden Camera Cheese Plate and V-Mount Adapter.

Going for V-mount batteries offers some advantages even with the larger size. The batteries do last a very long time and will even power the monitor and other accessories.

Image Credit: Wooden Camera

That is about it for the camera, now it is time to find out what else is in his bag.

The bag itself is a Lowepro Pro Roller X200 AW—a bag which isn’t readily available anymore, unfortunately. It is a smallish roller bag. In it you’ll find his only other lens option, a Helios 44-2 58mm lens.

There are some earbuds for monitoring audio. A GoPro HERO9 made the cut. The original Sony monitor is used as a backup. The rest is all the accessories, like batteries, memory cards, tape, and miscellaneous pieces. There is also a drone for this shoot in the checked luggage.

What do you think about this documentary rig?

[source: Mark Bone]

Order Links:

  • Sony FX6 Cinema Camera (B&H)
  • Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Microphone (B&H, Amazon)
  • Sennheiser AVX Wireless Lavalier Microphone System (B&H, Amazon)
  • Sony UWP-D21 Wireless Lavalier Microphone System (B&H, Amazon)
  • Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens for Sony E (B&H, Amazon)
  • PolarPro 82mm Peter McKinnon Mist Edition II Variable ND Filter (B&H, Amazon)
  • SmallHD Cine 7 On-Camera Monitor (B&H, Amazon)
  • Wooden Camera Top Plate for Sony FX6 (B&H, Amazon)
  • Wooden Camera Battery Slide Pro (V-Mount) for Sony FX6 (B&H, Amazon)
  • GoPro HERO9 Black (B&H, Amazon)

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