Green screen problem: "You spend more time lighting a screen that won't exist than lighting the people that do!" - Dariusz Wolski
Zacuto DSLR Baseplate
A little thought goes a long way
I have reviewed the Zacuto Z-Finder and love it's amazing abilities. That was my first Zacuto product I purchased. I have since purchased other Zacuto gear and I can't help but write more reviews. Why? They are well though out, built well and innovative.
Case in point: Zacuto DSLR Baseplate
Here's the tale:
I was setting up to do a shoot with my Nikon D7000. I had the lighting done, sound and mics set up and was adjusting my framing with my Zacuto Z-Finder on the D7000 mounted on my Vinten Vision Blue tripod. I stood back to take a look on my Ikan HDMI monitor when the D7000 literally fell off the tripod. O.M.G.
My first reaction was to try and catch it but the camera went right and I was stuck left of it between my tripod and a wall. Thanks to the video/camera gods the camera merely bounced off a light stand, a chair, and then did a triple sow cow with back flip and hit the ground on top of my tripod softcase and then rolled to the carpeted floor. Phew... no damage (other than a small nick on the bottom of my Nikon 18-105mm DX Lens). But this scared me just a little bit... okay... a lot!
So what mount was I using on my DSLR? I had recently purchased another Cavision mount (I figured that since I had one of their matte boxes, their mounts should work well, and I have an older one that works well with my HPX170 and matte box). The reason I purchased this other mount was that the D7000 didn't balance on the older mount at all.
I couldn't get the mount to sit flush to either of my tripods due to some of the other gear I was using, in particular with my follow focus. I could sacrifice the follow focus, but then focusing manually with a DSLR becomes much more difficult.
So because of this the tripod plate didn't quite connect very well, I think half a screw turn was all I could get on the tripod plate. What I needed to do was raise the camera enough so that I could attach whatever gear I needed to and be able to mount it effectively on my tripod. I had purchased some Cavision gear since my matte box was made by them and my thought process was that their stuff should work well together... and their pricing is quite good... Since the Cavision gear didn't seem to work, I went to the Zacuto website to see what their offerings were. Remember: you get what you pay for.
I was familiar with their baseplate setups that were complete, like their Filmmaker kit, but I wanted just a plate that could manage my situation and didn't want to drop the scratch it would take to get a full kit when I didn;t need to. And there it was: the Zacuto DSLR baseplate. Made for me and my situation. I really like how Zacuto puts thought and care into their products, they seem tough and robust, yet quite simple and easy to use. So I ordered one plus some long and short rails to complete the outfit.
I like that I can adjust the height of the camera. This allows me to line up perfectly with my matte box. Plus I can mount almost any other camera to my rig and then move it to line up with the matte box without worry.
I could also move the camera left or right, again for matte box positioning and also balance. When I first received my Z-Finder, the gorilla plate that came with it left my camera unbalanced and I found that difficult to work with (Zacuto makes an item that fits into the gorilla plate that comes with your Z-Finder to line this up better - I think they should just automatically include this with all of their Z-Finders). And I could pop the camera off quite quickly with their oddly named 'Quick Release'. Ok it's not odd, and it works very well. The only caveat I have with that is it's the same adjustment that moves the camera left and right so you may need to adjust that slightly when returning the camera to the plate. All these adjustments lock into place with allen screws.
One of the other challenges I had with my previous setup was getting both the follow focus, handgrips and matte box to play nicely on the same rail. The Zacuto DSLR Baseplate has two levels of rails which solved this problem as well. The unit comes with 15mm 3" rails and I ordered a pair of 15mm 2" rails as well, since this worked well with many of my lenses, and also ordered a pair of 15mm 10" rails to mount my matte box and my Cavision handgrips, which I chose to mount on the lower level. I moved the 3" rails to the rear as connected my shoulder mount to that. All good!
The rails screw in, which was new to me, but they also have an allen screw to ensure they don't come loose. There's also the ability to attach more rails and other gear.
It amazes me that other manufacturers don't put as much thought into their equipment as Zacuto seems to. I may have some Cavision gear for sale...