Cameras: News and Updates

HDSLR Camera Movement, POV, and Stabilization: Interview with Steven Moore

By Camille Haimet
posted May 28, 2013, 15:51

Steven Moore Shares Insights on CPM Products: CPM Cubed 3.0, Bulldog, and Noisy Cricket Combo with Follow Focus.

What's new at CPM?

Steven Moore: We have a dual purpose dolly/slider system that we just came out with, which uses standard EMT conduit (electric-mechanical tubing) as the track system. These EMT sections can be purchased at any home improvement store for around $13.00 apiece. The shuttle design is unique in that it has one set of centering wheels and a second set that ride on the surface of the second EMT rail. This results in zero bind during travel. Its dual purpose in that we include a second set of the upright wheels allowing tabletop use as well. Another product line would be our new professional line of shoulder rigs coming out next month, the AT-AT rigs. So named by one of our customers on our Facebook page as the rigs look like the all-terrain armored transports from a certain sci-fi movie.

What inspired the concept and design of your three rigs: the Cubed 3.0, Bulldog, and Noisy Cricket Combo with Follow Focus?

Steven Moore: Those rigs are three of about 30 different rig configurations that we have available. Each rig tends to solve a particular problem one might encounter when shooting video on DSLR cameras. The Cubed rig uses top and bottom plates; the camera is sandwiched between these plates through the use of standard 15mm rods. By changing the length of the rods you can change the height inside the cage. This allows the use of battery grip equipped cameras which tend to raise the lens center line above the standard 85mm. With the Cubed rigs you can also use follow focus units upside, hanging off the top plates rods when using a battery grip. Bulldog is a shoulder rig we designed that can be configured with the camera hanging under the rods or conventionally above the rods. The benefit of the low chassis under slung design is a lower center of gravity, less fatigue and a steady shot over long spans of time. The noisy cricket is an entry-level offset shoulder rig that allows for easy changes from shoulder to handheld to tripod with no re-configuration of the set-up. Offset design brings the camera back to center, so you can use the cameras LCD for monitoring shots--it’s more a run-and-gun configuration.

What advances in technology, or lack of technology, launched the development of these 3 rigs?

Steven Moore: The CPM Camera rig line is the proprietary product line produced by Chesapeake Plastics Manufacturing using engineering and tooling built by CPM Fastools. Both companies are owned by me and my business partner, Mark McGrath. Technology wise CPM Fastools is the winner of the SBA Small Business of the Year Award for Maryland. This award was given primarily because of its use of Direct to Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology to manufacture injection molds and tooling. The DMLS machine is a rapid prototype machine that produces 100% dense metal components, perfect for rapid tooling production. Through this advanced technology, CPM is able to produce a large volume of tooling in a short amount of time keeping costs very low. This low-unit cost we then pass along through lower rig costs. From design to plastic prototype, tooling and final production all aspects are done 100% in the USA, in Maryland and in our 10,000 sq ft manufacturing facility. 

Specifically what issues did you want to address and provide solutions for?

Steven Moore: Before there was CPM Camera rigs, there was just Steven shooting video on a DSLR camera. At that time I was a consumer and most shoulder rigs either equaled or exceeded the cost of the camera. To me no rig should cost more than the camera its supporting. For me the need for a lightweight system designed specifically for small body DSLR cameras was needed that would not cost a fortune. So I figured, why not build it? From our military molding history we had done considerable research on several composite materials which included a carbon fiber composite. It was this material that we finally selected for its excellent strength to weight ratio. Its primary use was for radio/electronic equipment trays that were installed in Navy aircraft. Utilization of this material allows us to provide a 100% lifetime warranty on all our gear. No questions asked.

What are some things you're doing for education and student filmmakers?

Steven Moore: We support several of the local school systems and their TV and video production departments. In addition we also sponsor the Baltimore 48 Hour Film Project and plan to support the DC 48 Hour Film Project this year. We also offer a 20% student/military discount as well.

A popular question is in regards to choosing between rigs, and comparing and contrasting solutions, advantages, and workflows. What are the key benefits and important features of each of these rigs? And does each rig have specific applications that, for example, have inspired their names - the Cubed 3.0, Bulldog, and Noisy Cricket Combo with Follow Focus?

Steven Moore: We have been told by our customers that there is no wrong way to assemble our rigs. The ability to configure them specifically to your style of shooting is almost limitless. All of our rigs offer two primary benefits: (1) protection in the form of a cage or external structure and (2) multiple accessory mounting locations. Anyone that captures video with a DSLR camera knows that the camera is only part of the equipment needed to provide a workable cinema system. External batteries, monitors and audio recorders require mounting solutions as well. The Cubed cages fit this need extremely well via user installed threaded mount location on the top and bottom plates. In addition to these custom threaded inserts, the side rods that separate the top and bottom plates are 60mm apart. This spacing complies with the lightweight cinema standard so any accessory can be mounted on either side of the rig.  For portable batter solutions we came up with a Tekkeon battery snap that allows easy rig mounting of the Tekkeon 3450 series power units. These snaps can easily be added to the top of the cubed cage or on a cheese plate and mounted directly to a set of rods on any of our shoulder rigs. This acts as the perfect functional counter balance. 

By the way, what kind of technical support or customer support do you offer?

Steven Moore: We know that purchasing a rig is a big expense. Sometimes it’s the second largest expense after the camera purchase. For this reason we want to make sure we answer everyone’s questions prior to that next step of investing in a rig of this nature. The one benefit of being both the designer and manufacturer means there is no extra step needed to get answers on a certain application. For this reason modifications or special orders are easy to perform. Lastly, all our gear comes with a lifetime warranty.

If you could share your insights or Three Best Practices for working with HDSLR camera rigs, what would they be? This could be in relation to technology, education, or techniques as it pertains to visual storytelling and capturing key shots for the most important thing in motion pictures: "the story"?

Steven Moore: Shoot, shoot, shoot. As a rig manufacturer, you might think I would say that the first thing a person needs is a firm platform to mount the camera and accessories too. But that would be wrong. Seat time is the best piece of ‘equipment’ to buy, and it tends to be cheap. Second to that would be order and method. Organization is a huge help. With our association with the 48 Hour Film Projects, I can honestly say those productions that had good organization tended to be the most professional looking product with the least amount of stress to the cast and crew. To answer your question from a rig manufacturer’s perspective I would say to make sure you invest in gear that can grow with you. There are two things I tend to invest in, lenses and my shoulder rigs. There is a real good chance that you will update your camera system within 2 years. Invest in good lenses and a rig that can grow with your future camera choices and you can’t go wrong.

If you could share your insights or three key points or ideas for "HDSLR Inspiration" what would they be?

Steven Moore: I would say first and foremost play to your strengths. When starting out I suggest going with the flow of ideas that readily come to you. Don’t experiment right on the first project. With any hobby you want to feel that you are accomplishing something. Getting finished results with the least number of problems tends to push you towards continuing and honing your skills. Save a collection of works you are drawn to. This could be YouTube videos you have marked as favorites, screen captures or pictures that appeal to you. Constantly reference back to and add material to this collection. Get those core skills established and then go out and add in those experimental elements at each level. Pulling out interesting things from your collection that you might have noted as “Hey I like how that looks, wonder how they did that and how I can create that in my next production”.

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