Building a Cinematic Video Rig – with Smallrig

Throughout my entire career as a freelance photographer I’d only taken still photos for my clients. However I’d recently challenged myself to learn videography and found it to be far more rewarding then I first imagined.

Nowadays photographers are no longer limiting themselves to just taking still photographs; especially with the high quality video capabilities and stabilization that their DSLR & mirrorless cameras have to offer. In the past few years, we saw gimbal technology in UAV’s infiltrate so rapidly into the mainstream camera market that it not only influenced the production of iconic new gimbals such as the DJI Ronin S and the Zhiyun Crane series, it also sprouted new accessories such as camera rigs and cages which allowed photographers to modify their cameras for multifunctional use.

I’d spent the last year or so researching how I could modify my Canon EOS R into a couple of video rig platforms that would suit ‘my own’ cinematic style of videography. On completion of this project, I was so pleased with my end products that I thought to share my insights here of how I constructed these.

At first I was a little overwhelmed by the variety of cages, handles and fittings that were available in the current market. It was only until I fumbled upon a brand called SmallRig that I was able to begin transforming my EOS R from a mirrorless still camera into a powerfully versatile camera rig that could shoot cinematic video.

I decided to stick with SmallRig accessories as they weren’t just high quality and versatile, but their website offered me a one-shop-stop to find all the bits and pieces I needed without having to mix and match.

My Choices of Stabilization – Monopod, Tripod and Gimbal

One of the first and most important decisions you need to make is what stabilization (video rigs) you intend on building. Although I sometimes use my EOS R handheld, I still couldn’t achieve the cinematic smooth panning and stability offered by my Manfrotto monopod, tripod and my DJI Ronin S gimbal. Hence when I’m shooting video, I find that I can resort to one or all three of these set ups depending on the footage I want to capture.

The choice of purchasing a DJI Ronin S gimbal was also a no-brainer; having owned a number of DJI drones and DJI Osmo gimbals – I’ve had hands on experience on just how smooth and efficient their gimbal technology really is.

Base plate

My decisions to use a Manfrotto monopod, tripod as well as a DJI Ronin S gimbal was not only because of the stability they provide, they all use a Manfrotto style base plate which allows me to conveniently move the camera from one rig to another. Refer picture below:

                                                                                   Base plate

Camera Cage

I’d chosen this particular SmallRig Cage for the EOS R knowing it would become a pivotal component that would allow me to connect the camera to a video monitor, microphone as well as other accessories.

The SmallRig cage doesn’t twist; and it also doesn’t get in the way of my EOS R’s SD card slot as well as its battery and cable connections. This means I can conveniently attach my video monitor and microphone to the EOS R without any limitations whatsoever. SmallRig not only designed this cage to be of a non-twist type, but they did it in a crafty and thoughtful manner which even maintained the camera’s sleek aesthetics. Refer picture below:

                                                                         Camera cage

Handheld Accessories

To compliment my style of handheld videography and to add much more stability to the EOS R’s in-camera stabilization, I decided to use two Smalllrig side handles and a complimenting multifunctioning top handle.

Wooden Side Handles

The most striking and obvious feature of the Smallrig handles are their ergonomically designed timber handles. They not only feel and look stunning, but they are able to be quickly removed and have a cold shoe top which allows me to place my external video monitor and microphone if needed. They’ve also carefully been designed so that they do not interfere with the EOS R’s cable connections. Refer picture below:

                                                                     Wooden side handles

Wooden Top Handle

The top handle not only serves its purpose as a handle to carry when I’m lugging around the EOS R, but it also contains a NATO quick release clamp which gives me the option of using it as a side handle as well. The wooden underside has been ergonomically designed to be comfortable and there are no sharp metal parts digging into your hands. Refer picture below:

                                                                   Wooden top handle

Quick Release NATO Rails

I’ve attached two of these rails on my camera cage; one on top for the top handle and the other on the left for the left side handle. The NATO quick release mechanism offers me so much convenience in detaching and attaching these handles onto the cage that it’s now become my preferred mechanism for attaching most accessories. The rail also comes with two spring-loaded pins on each end that prevents attachments from accidentally sliding off. Refer picture below:

                                                              Quick release NATO rails

Monitor Cage

My video monitor was caged with this SmallRig SmallHD Focus Series 5” Monitor Cage that is anti-twist and has a solid metal finish which protects it from accidental knocks and falls. The detachable sun hood which can be easily slipped on and off when shooting in bright daylight is an extremely useful addition. The set up also allows me to swiftly manoeuvre the monitor over to the DJI Ronin S when needed. Refer picture below:

                                                                Monitor cage

Monitor Mount

After trialling several different varieties of these, the SmallRig Swivel Monitor Mount with cold shoe is by far my favourite choice not only because it swivels 360 degrees and tilts 140 degrees; but it’s easy to tighten and loosen with only my fingers when I need to mount it onto my DJI Ronin S. Refer picture below:

                                                                  Monitor mount

Handgrip for DJI Ronin S

I found the Smallrig Handgrip to be one of the most ergonomic, versatile and stylish handgrips available in the market. It’s especially convenient when flipping the DJI Ronin S into an underslung mode to get those low down shots which look really cool. I occasionally use its cold shoe to mount my video monitor as well.

Having used a number of gimbals over the years I found the Ronin S to be my personal favourite; therefore if you’re thinking of purchasing one yourself, I strongly recommend this handgrip as a must-have accessory. Refer picture below:

                                                            Handgrip for DJI Ronin S

Universal Side Handle for Ronin S

Manoeuvring the DJI Ronin S had become a lot easier after I started using this product a year ago. The wooden handle enabled me to distribute the weight to both arms rather than just the one. The extended handle and it’s cold shoe gives me the options of mounting either my SmallHD Focus Monitor, an LED light panel or microphone to the Ronin S. Refer picture below:

                                                                   Side handle for Ronin S

Note: Every SmallRig product I used has been listed below and is available at: www.smallrig.com

For Canon EOS R:

SmallRig Cage for Canon EOS R 2251

SmallRig Wooden Universal Side Handle 2093

SmallRig Wooden NATO Side Handle 2187

SmallRig Mini Quick Release NATO Rail (48mm) 2172

SmallRig Rotating Nato Handle HTN2362

For DJI Ronin S – Gimbal:

SmallRig Handgrip for DJI Ronin S/Zhiyun Crane 2/Moza Air 2 BSS2340

SmallRig Universal Wooden Side Handle for DJI Ronin-S/Ronin-SC/Zhiyun Crane Series Gimbal BSS2222

SmallRig Quick Release Plate (Manfrotto Style) 1767

For SmallHD Focus – Video Monitor:

SmallRig Monitor Cage with Sunhood for SmallHD Focus Series 5”monitor 2249

SmallRig Swivel and Tilt Monitor Mount with Cold Shoe BSE2346