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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

••◊ custom rails and DSLR mounting

After many failed attempts at focusing using the Canon EF lens focus ring I broke down and bought a follow focus (FF) unit from David Aldrich at D-Focus. You know, even at such a low price it seems to work pretty well. I'm taking it into the field tomorrow to give the FF unit a try before a shoot I have scheduled next month.

In order to use a FF unit you really need rails and a way to mount your camera to them. So it was back to the machine shop, armed with engineering paper and a digital ruler. Believe it or not, the whole rail setup cost about $16 to build; mostly because I had to buy a $10 roll of cork and five 1/4-20 plastic knobs at extortionist prices. Otherwise, the materials were laying around the shop in scrap bins.

The rails were custom lathed out of 5/8" aluminum rod stock. Yes, I drilled them out for weight. The base plate is custom designed to fit on a Manfrotto tripod mount, alignment pin and all. The other part is the actual camera mount/riser with the cork padding. The two slots you see on the rise allow side to side adjustment of the rise top plate. All measurements are industry standard; 15mm rails, 60mm separation between rails, 85mm from rail center to lens center.

Even more important is that the rail system breaks down into something small enough to fit into my backpack for travel. I can't say the same for the Zacuto, Red Rock Micro, or Arri semi-equivalents. Of course I'd like to own those product. They're beautiful works of machinery - however cost prohibitive for my level of production.

Here's a picture with the 5D mounted on the rail system with the lens gear installed. Yes, I know, thrilling (not). However, this is just a first step in a multi-step process. Now I can buy industry standard camera accessories and they all fit (yeah!). A field monitor seems like the logical next step, but I might have to break down and buy one (boo) instead of making one.

Next up? A shoulder rig for handheld work. Time to pull out more green engineering notepad paper. Shane Hurlbut - See what you started?


Ben Cain said...

Super Impressed. Your first customer is waiting for you right here!

RonR said...

Your second customer is lined up here!

Goes.2.Eleven said...

Wish I owned a shop, but I'm doing this on borrowed equipment and spare time. I thought about posting design plans, but I'm too busy making the follow on pieces for a hand-held rig (ala Shane Hurlbut's "man cam").

Goes.2.Eleven said...

Thanks for the encouragement though.

The Wheather Sealed Boy said...

third customer is lined up here!

steven said...

Everything you show is great but what we really need we are some how-to's, otherwise it's just a bit frustrating. You put so much effort into things and then don't pass on the most important information. Remember we're not as smart as you at these things so please show us how to do it ourselves.

Goes.2.Eleven said...

Well...I had access to a machine shop with many 100's of thousands of dollars of tools and the advice of a real machinist. Frankly, I winged it for a lot of the design because I only planned on making one of these and I kinda knew what I wanted in my head. I just wrote notes on an engineering pad along with the calculations to program the CAM computer. So sorry there aren't plans available. What you should know is that the rails are 15mm in diameter, spaced 60mm apart, and it's 85mm from the center of the rods to the center of the lens. That's just the industry standard. I bought the knobs from home depot and pressed them on to standard allen bolts. Everything else is open to interpretation based on which tripod head you own and what all you want to mount on the rails, or plate.

Anonymous said...

Hey Goes2 - when you say you pressed the knobs onto some allen bolts, did you have a corrent size hole already or did you drill them out - if so, how much of a tight fit were they to do the job without splitting and did you heat tehm up first? What sort of knobs were they (ie what purpose were they marketed for)?
With the hindsight, is there anything about them that you would change?
Thanks for the inspiration - they look very nice, very simple - a great design.

Goes.2.Eleven said...

I bought the knobs at Home Depot in the specialty drawers. They keep the knobs in stock. The plastic knobs are designed to accept a 1/4-20 cylindrical allen head bolt. All you really have to do is put the bolt and the knob in a vice and press the two together. Couldn't be easier.

Anonymous said...

could you post the schematics? i mean, to know the real separation between the 2 15mm holes, i know is 6mm, bot from where to where? the beginning, the center or bewteen the two holes?

Goes.2.Eleven said...

The separation is actually 60mm center to center. I don't have schematics since I just wrote down to the plans on a piece of paper and have lost the sheet of paper in the last year and a half. My advice...just go to JAG35.com and buy a cheap set of rails.

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