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Benjamin Holland

Developing product to simplify rig - "umbilical" or "snake"

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Hi all,

 

After putting one together for my own use, I'm toying with the idea of developing a product that I have found to be very useful for some situations on set. It is a small box that mounts on the back of the camera and connects to various inputs/outputs of the camera/evf. It then has a jack for a simple, relatively thin and light umbilical cord that goes to a bag (I use a small sound bag) that contains teradek, timecode, camera hop, battery, etc. This bag can be worn on the back of the operator, held by the ac, etc. The cord can be easily connected/disconnected with one hand. It's as easy as plugging in a microphone cord. Advantages of this approach to rigging include:

 

1. Reduced time building/tearing down camera on set. The bag of accessories can be easily pre-built and, much like sound kits, can really stay wired up permanently if someone owns all of it.

2. Time, money, and back pain savings due to lighter, simpler, and smaller camera rig. Sliders, jibs, etc. can all be smaller, less expensive, easier to transport, etc. Multiple cord lengths are possible for different scenarios. The camera can also be more easily rigged in difficult to reach places while allowing access "on the ground" to many of the things that might require adjustment. Very light-weight shoulder setups become possible. My own go-to kit for small jobs is an Fs5 with a Fujinon MK 18-55. Without all of the accessories, it is a feather that I can carry on the shoulder all day without discomfort. Also, the camera without all of the accessories can much more easily be thrown into a bag for mid-day transportation.

3. Easy camera switching for shoots that contain alternate camera options, or even just multiples of the same camera for fast switching from one rigging scenario to another. Rather than building two entire rigs, or switching every accessory over one by one and rewiring, you simply disconnect the umbilical from one rig and plug it into the other. Done.

4. Instant transition from rigged to un-rigged camera setups. You don't have to choose between the ultra light weight of, say, a naked fs5 or c200, and the capabilities of a fully rigged system. One plug can make the transition. So If the operator needs to run grab a quick shot in a car alone, say, they can pull the plug, grab the newly tiny camera, and go.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you in advance!

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Certainly sounds interesting. Beats making up 2m cables for everything and strapping them together.

Is the umbilical relatively light and flexible?

What outputs can be put on the end?

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We made something like this for quick disconnects some while ago. It was designed for ENG situations and had the two XLRs, hirose power and headphone monitoring down a single cable, via a multipin lemo.

 

Worked quite well.

 

P

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Certainly sounds interesting. Beats making up 2m cables for everything and strapping them together.

Is the umbilical relatively light and flexible?

What outputs can be put on the end?

The latest prototype's cable is relatively light, but only moderately flexible. I'm working on finding more options for multi-conductor cables with the right contents and higher flexibility. The most difficult part, in terms of capacitance, is SDI, so it's a matter of finding the right multi-conductor cable that has proper 75 ohm, low capacitance coax lines.

 

Currently, I have power, one channel of audio (I never use more than one channel camera hop, so I don't see the need for more; please correct me if wrong.), and 3 sdi lines. Of course any of these can be used for Timecode, Genlock, etc., like any other 75 ohm coax cable.

 

My dad, who is an audio engineer, suggested I make my own "multi-conductor cable" using the ol' braided sheathing and adhesive lined shrink tube method. For a short run that is a possibility, and would allow more flexibility with the precise types of cables included in the "cable."

 

What would be your dream list of available connections?

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We made something like this for quick disconnects some while ago. It was designed for ENG situations and had the two XLRs, hirose power and headphone monitoring down a single cable, via a multipin lemo.

 

Worked quite well.

 

P

Interesting. I was wondering if I would run into anyone who had made something like this.

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I now have a newer prototype that has at least given me the ability to have something functional to play with and assess the value of in practice. For this prototype I have used all bnc connectors to keep it cheap and simple, except for the power, which uses xlr4 and dtap. For audio I am just running unbalanced over bnc. To be very clear, any really useful version of this would of course have balanced audio and xlrs. This is just for me to play with.

I think this should give you all an idea of the form factor, and what it would be like to use.

I would welcome any additional feedback that this inspires.

As I'm sure is obvious, the box with the rail mount goes on the back of the camera, while the other one slides into a small sound bag, which contains all the camera accessories and battery.

Pictures here: http://hollandmedia.film/camera-snake-system

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