Rigging Options for the C100 Mark II

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PREFACE

I know there are a lot of people who buy into a new camera system and immediately drop a ton of cash rigging it up. I get it. A fully rigged camera looks cool and at the same token, all the tools we mount to our rig are there to serve a useful purpose. The mattebox, the follow focus, an EVF, and an additional viewfinder, all useful, handy tools for the job. Not every job requires them, but they are nice to have.

I've also said this before in several of my posts - client perception is real. Show up with a tricked out rig and people think you are Scorcese. Of course, that's because most of our clients don't have a clue what all that stuff is (and they also don't understand the difference between a director and cinematographer). They just assume the bigger the camera, the more gear we have, the better we are at our jobs. None of that is true, of course.

I personally believe in building up a rig piece by piece, mostly because with the rate that technology is changing, in many cases it doesn't make sense to go out and buy a shit ton of gear, especially if that gear is tailored to a specific camera system. The C100 Mark II (and the whole Canon cinema line in general) is a great example.

RIGGING OPTIONS

So what are the essentials of a solid rig?

Well besides the camera and the lenses you'll be using, the next most basic item is a tripod. As many of my fellow filmmakers have moved from DSLR shooting to cinema shooting, we've found a need for tripods that can support heavier camera rigs.

I would certainly consider a good baseplate and rods the next most important purchase.

A follow focus system may certainly be next on your list.

Your camera may have internal ND, in which case, a matte box is most likely not a necessity.

If you have bought into a Blackmagic camera, you'll probably need an IR filter since those cameras have issues with IR pollution.

You may be interested in an EVF for your camera, an external recorder, or an external monitor.

If your mounting those accessories you may need a half cage or full cage and or a mounting arm.

If your camera wasn't designed with professional audio in mind you may need to rig an external audio recorder.

Some cameras must be powered by a V-Mount or Gold-Mount battery.

Depending on your shooting style you may want a shoulder rig for your camera.

Holy shit. This is going to get expensive and fast.

BUYING UNIVERSAL VS CAMERA SPECIFIC

Obviously, many of these items on this list are universal or close to universal, meaning they can be used with any camera. A follow focus is a follow focus. It doesn't matter what type of camera you have, as long as you have rods you can use your follow focus. Items that are universal to any system like a matte box and a follow focus are generally good investments and also one place where you don't want to be cheap. If you take good care of these items they could last you for a significant amount of time, possibly through several camera systems.

But a lot of the other items on this list are not necessarily universal. I'm going to break down my research for rigging my C100 Mark II with the idea that although I love using my C100 Mark II and will certainly continue to shoot with it for corporate and documentary films, I'm also interested in buying a camera for my narrative and music video work and at some point will need to future proof with a camera that isn't restricted to shooting HD as it's highest resolution.

RIGGING THE C100 MARK II

BASEPLATE

So if I want to use my matte box and follow focus and possibly have more mounting points for items like monitors, a rosette handle, batteries, etc - I need to purchase a good baseplate or possibly a baseplate/cage combo. Here are some options:

The SmallRig camera video cage is made specifically for the Canon C100 and Mark II. It's a low cost half cage and baseplate with plenty of mounting points. Possible cons include having to buy an extra hot shoe adapter and rail in order to mount your C100's top handle. In addition, a user review complains that this baseplate sets the rods at a position that may make using your matte box at the optical center of your lens impossible and unlike other baseplates, the height cannot be adjusted to correct this problem.

You can buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/SmallRig%C2%AE-Camera-Video-Canon-1703/dp/B01DOWRFMG

The next option, also made specifically for the Canon Cinema line of cameras is the RedRockMicro UltraCage. This cage completely surrounds your C100 Mark II and has a bevy of mounting points. It can accept 15mm or 19mm rails and with an additional shoe mount you can attach your camera's top handle. This cage is on the more expensive side listed at $550 and will only work with a C100/C300 Mark II. Unless I plan on upgrading to a C300 Mark II this is not a future-proof purchase.

You can buy it here: https://shop.redrockmicro.com/product/ultracage-cinema-eos-mkii/#product-info

Next we will move on to Zacuto who people either seem to really hate or really love and I can see why as the products they make are typically good but very pricey.

They've recently released their VCT Pro Baseplate which boasts it can be used with any camera including Red, Arri, Sony, Canon, Blackmagic and DSLR's. Unlike the first two options I looked at, this baseplate has a shoulder pad built in and it's been designed to achieve a perfect balance for shoulder mounted work. (I typically don't do any shoulder mounted work myself, preferring a tripod, monopod, gimbal, or slider)

This is an expensive piece of kit at $650 and it gets further expensive if you want to mount it to a tripod as you'll need an additional VCT tripod plate that costs about $270. 

The pro is that if you take care of this piece of gear it should technically last you forever unless cameras of the future become very funky looking.

You can buy it here: http://store.zacuto.com/vct-pro-baseplate/ and don't forget the tripod plate

Our last choice will be another popular and expensive manufacturer, Wooden Camera and their Unified Baseplate which can be used with Canon Cinema cameras as well as the FS7. Not quite universal but this company is known for making great camera accessories.

Buy it here: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1248730-REG/wooden_camera_wc_222100_unified_baseplate_sony_fs7.html

In addition to these four choices there are a bevy of universal baseplates made by other companies like Tilta, Lanparte, O'Connor, Ikan, Cavision, Shape and others. Time to do some research.

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

So why would you need an EVF when the Canon C100 Mark II already has one? Well you can't use this camera in a shoulder-mounted position and use the EVF because of it's placement on the back of the camera. It's a great tool for use when on a tripod and in a sunny or bright situation where you can't see the flip out monitor well, but not much else.

If you plan on doing shoulder mount work with this camera and many others you'll want an EVF and there are plenty of options, most of which come in the flavor of a loupe magnifier attachment.

We'll first look at an EVF that falls the optical magnifier category. You attach these to your LCD screen for a magnified view. The Zacuto Z-Finder is a very popular choice. Of course when using a viewfinder like this you are still limited by the position of the LCD screen on your camera which you may find is too far back or too close to the camera.

To have a complete control you would want to purchase something like a Zacuto Gratical HD or Gratical Eye for a better resolution and perfect placement for wherever you want your EVF (provided you have mounting points available for it). These are very expensive, but again, the idea is that they are universal and can be used with whatever camera you own, are renting, or will own. 

EXTERNAL MONITOR OR EXTERNAL RECORDER

The last piece of kit i'm going to look at is external recording or monitoring options for the C100 Mark II. If you purchase an external recorder, you will probably also be able to use that recorder as a monitor. Most recorders have some very nice built-in features including focus peaking, histograms and waveforms, possibly false color, and maybe the ability to load a LUT. That's all handy stuff. You may just consider purchasing an external monitor, in which case, you won't be able to record a clean signal out, but you should definitely have a host of tools at your disposal as well as what is hopefully a very bright screen.

On paper, the internal codec of the Mark II seems weak. You have a choice of shooting AVCHD or MP4, both of which have low bitrates. The Mark II does 4:2:0 at 8-bit internally with a maximum res of 1920x1080. 

I personally use a Atomos Ninja Blade which connects to my Mark II via HDMI. I get a clean signal to record (and I have a bunch of ProRes flavors available to me) as well as waveform, peaking, false color, and some other tools. This second recording goes to an SSD inside the Ninja Blade and makes me feel comfortable knowing that I now have a backup of whatever I am shooting. If I'm working on a project that needs a quick turnaround I simply edit the footage straight from camera. The files sizes are smaller and easier to work with. If I'm working on a bigger project that needs some color work, I'll use my ProRes footage from the Ninja Blade.

Here are some other reasonable options and most of these can be used with a wide variety of other cameras.

The SmallHD 702 is a pretty popular monitor (not a recorder). It boasts a super bright screen which is great for shooting outdoors on a sunny day. You can also use custom LUTS, connect via SDI or HDMI and this thing runs on very affordable batteries.

 

The Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ is a beefy monitor/recorder with multiple inputs as well as multiple recording options including ProRes 4444, 422, and the capture of uncompressed raw footage at 10 and 12 bit. For a camera like the C100 Mark II, this recorder is easily overkill, but of course, if you are looking to future proof your equipment, this is compatible with tons of cameras and probably the next one you buy.

 

CONCLUSION

The C100 Mark II is a pretty cool camera and it has some conveniences that save you money. It records to cheap SD cards and the batteries last forever. I can easily get 6 to 8 hours on one battery so buying expensive V-Mount or Gold Mount batteries are not an issue. 

My personal current setup includes the Zacuto VCT Pro Baseplate which I featured in the baseplate section. I attach my baseplate to a VCT Tripod Plate which I use with either my Sachtler Ace or Benro BV10. On my rails I mount my RedRock Micro micro matte box (which is fucking enormous btw). I have an old Jag35 follow focus but I'm saving up for a Bright Tangerine Revolvr Atom Cine Kit. I've attached a Varavon Magic Arm to the top handle which holds my Atomos Ninja Blade and I've also attached a Vello cold shoe extension which holds my Sennheiser receiver.

So how do you rig your C100 Mark II. Share in the comments below.

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