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?