Friday, June 19, 2015

DSLR Insider on Mad Max Fury Road

Getting Furious with DSLRs and Mad Max

How they really used DSLRs and Redrock Rigs on Mad Mad: Fury Road

In summer of 2012 Redrock was contacted by a South African production company who wanted to outfit some 5D MK IIs for a feature film. They mentioned Mad Max.

(Original Mad Max Road Warrior starring Mel Gibson)
Mad Max, as in "Mel Gibson Mad Max"? We knew the original franchise well, some of our favorite movies! But it had been twenty vie years since Beyond Thunderdome, and even longer since the original Road Warrior. TWENTY FIVE years, that's a quarter century!

16 Years in the Making 

Was this a fan film, a documentary, or possibly an homage? Turns out, they were serious about rebooting the franchise, and we were all treated to the awesome thrill ride that came to be Mad Max Fury Road. (It also turns out this movie was in planning stages as early as 1999. But that is another story)

The Furious (Re)Birth of Mad Max

Fast forward to 2015, as behind the scenes clips and videos started to leak online, we started to get some insights into how DSLRs were incorporated into high end feature film production, including the Redrock gear used to rig them (check out the Fury Rig details at the end of this post).

In context of the movie, the action itself was in many ways the real star of the film, and you might consider the plethora of deadly cars the ‘lead actors’. Shooting this kind of unrelenting action required constant and varied close up action scenes.

DSLRs Deliver the Action, Literally

Looking at the types of shots they needed to achieve, close up and pov action was a big part of the thrill ride. DSLRs are often dismissed as legitimate filmmaking tools, but in the right circumstances and in the right hands, they can really serve a story at any production level. (Other major feature films that have used DSLRs include The Avengers and Iron Man among others)

Insights on How DSLRs Were Outfitted, Rigged, and (ab)Used

Studying the behind-the-scenes pictures and videos of the DSLR operators, and applying a little production and rigging knowledge, here’s what we can surmise. Keep in mind production started some years ago, approximately 2012, so things have certainly changed since then, and the crew would almost certainly have made different choices if shot today.

  1. There were at least four DSLR rigs. Three Canon 5D MKIIs used by the stunt/action team, and a Nikon D800 used by George Miller. While there is some debate (4) as to how the Nikon DSLR was used during production, based on the above still from the bts video it appears Mr. Miller is using it as a director’s viewfinder. You can also see him using the Nikon DSLR with wireless video to an iPad (likely a Teradek Cube ) – probably to give direction to the operator on how he wants that shot framed. Great use of DSLR and wireless iPad video.  

  2. In addition to the DSLRs the Olympus OM-D and Blackmagic cinema camera were also mentioned in passing on the IMDB page (5). For purposes of this article, we will only focus on the DSLRs that were for on-screen production shooting, namely the Canon 5D MKII.
  3. For the rigging, we definitely see action cam style - the DSLR camera ops were well prepared to strap in to cars, on towers, pretty much anywhere they wanted a great action insert or angle of view that would otherwise be impractical or too time consuming to setup with an A or B camera (ARRI Alexa with those huge Panavision primo zooms). Rigs from Redrock Micro were exclusively used with the canon 5D MKII to fit this style, each slightly customized to each operator’s liking.

  4. On these rigs, there are no evidence of external recorders, the camera rigs were small and compact, and clearly not tethered, so likely recording to internal CF cards. Back then (waaaay back, like 2012) external recorders weren’t as prevalent, so it would have been interesting to see if they would use them if the movie were shot today. Our guess is due to the intensely physical aspects of the shot, plus a better 5D MKIII available, they probably would have stuck with internal recording.
  5. For operator monitoring, use of camera-top displays (looks like two different types of monitors, Marshall and smallHD. Elsewhere it appears SmallHD was big on the set). Monitors were powered with Canon LP-E6 or Sony camcorder style, depending on the monitor. In some cases there were HDMI video goggles used. Look like an off-brand, similar to Zeiss Cinemizers.

  6. The Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L II USM seems to be a favored lens (you can see the tell-tale flower petal lens shade)

  7. Also appears to be prevalent use of screw-in style polarizer, ND, or (most likely) vari-ND filters. Shooting in mid-day sun in the desert would have made ND filtration a necessity.
  8. An interesting addition on one of the camera lenses is what appears to be a gobo-style lens filter that would have footage looking like it was shot POV style through a cage or grate. Very cool and interesting idea, great way to get visual impact with a low cost practical (note the use of video goggles again on this shot).

  9.  Rigs were personalized by each operator, but you see certain things in common. Minimal setup, Two handgrips positioned front and back, maximize stability. Some use the body brace against the chest or rotating 90 degrees and placed on top of forearm as an alternate support.

  10. The rigs were designed to be super lightweight, focus heavily on grip placement and customizability, and included the microBrace bodypad for added stability. The microBrace was also used as a forearm stabilizer when rotated 90 degrees and placed on top of arm.
  11. Why the Canon EOS 5D Mark II? “A number of Canon 5Ds were used as crash cams during the action sequences – as “semi-disposable stunt cameras”. The DSLR was chosen as a proven work-horse crash-cam even though it was released way back in 2008. The 5Ds provide extra cut-away point of view angles during action sequences – the cutaways are so short you don’t notice the changes in image quality.” (3.)
We’re hoping to get additional details from the production crew, so stay tuned!
Other articles and sources mentioned or quoted:

UPDATE: since the release of the movie and huge number of questions we’ve received, Redrock has announced availability of the Fury Rig, the rig inspired by Mad Max Fury Road and the rigs used, and now updated for use with DSLRs, Canon EOS Cinema cameras, and Blackmagic Cinema Cameras.

You can find more details and configure your rig here: 

handheld cinema camera rig

UPDATE 2: there is a great and not well known "making of mad max: fury road" presentation at the ACS with John Seale and David Burr. Highlights on the DSLR side of things (details on the DSLRs starting around 26:30). 

  • They originally started with Olympus bodies (due to the in-body stabilizer), but they had a tendency to shut down on impact,overheat, and when they broke they lost the footage as well
  • they switched to Canon 5D MKIIs as a result, 10 total. 
  • in addition to the operators, they tucked the DSLRs in to various places like exhaust grills and others
  • confirmed 16-35mm EF lens was the lens of choice!
Watch the whole thing, it's a great presentation of the whole film and brilliant commentary on the production and camerawork.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Don't Let Power Problems Sabotage Your microRemote

When used properly the microRemote and LiPo batteries operate beautifully together, and together deliver the lightest, most compact solution available for focus control on gimbal rigs. However, if incorrect cabling or wiring is used, it may damage the microRemote and render it inoperable. Keep in mind any damage to the microRemote caused by improperly used cables, improperly wired third party cables, or inappropriate power sources is not covered under the microRemote warranty.  

Redrock wants our customers to have a great experience with our products and when used with third party gear. Here are some tips on how to avoid these potential issues (click here for a printable PDF version).

Figure 1. Correct voltage

1. Use Correct Voltage

The microRemote can accept power from 12-18VDC. To avoid damage to your system, the Basestation is to be operated from 12-18VDC ONLY. If you are using LiPo batteries typically only a four cell LiPo battery falls within this range.

Figure 2. Cable standards
2. Use The Correct Cable Standard

Use only US-standard 2-pin power cables. There are unfortunately two standards for 2-pin Lemo-style power connectors: The US standard which dictates Pin 1 (one) as power, and pin 2 (two) as ground. This is the standard the microRemote uses. There is a second “Arri standard” which has the pin assignments reversed, so pin 2 has power. Do not use any cable designated Arri standard with the microRemote. 2-pin power cables that are known to use Arri standard include cables for powering Teradek and certain Paralinx products. If your cable does not have a key for reference, or if you have any question on the cable wiring, please consult your cable provider.

Figure 3. Check cable wiring
3. Make Sure Cable and Power are Wired Correctly

We've received reports of some cables being wired backwards, or some batteries that are wired backwards. Unless the cables and pins are clearly labeled and correctly built, the only way to accurately determine pin assignment is by testing the cable and battery using a multi-meter. For additional information on LiPo battery handling, visit

Figure 4. Check it before you wreck it

4. When In Doubt, Do NOT Use a Questionable Power Source

Instead, test the cable and/or battery using a multi-meter to confirm correct pin assignment and voltage levels. DO NOT plug in the microRemote Basestation until you are confident of the correct power and polarity.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

From First Gear to Festival Premiere: Looking Back on Production, Taking ODD BRODSKY the Film Festival Route & Why Cindy Baer Keeps Going Back for More

The feature film ODD BRODSKY began as a passion project for director Cindy Baer and cinematographer Matthew Irving Now, after a seven-year journey including developing, shooting, editing, visual effects, sound and music, the film is ready to make its world premiere at the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival on October 4th and October 5th—and this has Baer ecstatic. 

“My husband Matt and I came up with the idea for ODD BRODSKY in 2006 when my first feature was playing at a film festival in Massachusetts. I shopped the script around but found it impossible to raise a real budget in this horrible economy. I was about to give up after a few years trying. That's when industry friends starting coming together to make it happen!” said Baer. “We prepped for about 2 months, and then shot at the end of 2011. We’ve been working hard to complete it and are so excited to see it on the big screen.”

Audrey (Tegan Ashton Cohan) and Camera One (Matthew Kevin Anderson)

Why Continue the Festival Route?

ODD BRODSKY is Baer’s latest film and her second full-length feature to be accepted into a film festival (her debut feature Purgatory House screened at 25 festivals and her short film Morbid Curiosity screened at 28 festivals) so taking the film festival route was always on her mind. But why continue the festival route? According to Baer, for exposure and validation. “More and more films than ever before are being made and more films than ever are going the festival route.  This makes the competition greater than it’s ever been as the larger star-studded films compete against tiny movies for highly coveted screening slots” explained Baer. 

“Getting into a good festival can help to garner press and reviews, and for the smaller films that don't have big stars, it can help validate the movie to an audience and to distributors. Smaller festivals are great too. The opportunity to bring your movie to a community and present it on the big screen before a live audience and do a Q&A is wonderful.  And if the audience likes your movie, they'll tell others about it.  In this day and age it's all about getting people to know your project," said Baer. "Nobody is going to watch it if they don’t know about it.”

Baer and husband Matt Irving Hard at Work
Delivering Quality Shots with a Tiny Budget

Being a micro budget project, Baer found herself wearing different hats in every department, and despite having limited resources she and her producing partner Thomai Hatsios were able to pull off traditional production values not found at the low-budget level. “Everything is lit, and the camera work is smooth and lyrical as opposed to handheld and frenetic. We're extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish in the 20 day shoot-- our feature spans multiple time periods (1971, 1980 and present day), has over 30 locations, rain, smoke, kids, animals and even a musical number! Over 50 actors had speaking roles, and the majority were women, which is not common.  There's also dozens of complex “real world” visual effects which help to fully create the world of the movie. And no story about Hollywood would be complete without a glimpse of the Hollywood sign, which we were grateful to have licensed.”

Tegan Ashton Cohan as Audrey and Jim Hanks as the actor who plays God (in pink)

Choosing the Right Gear

Budget also dictated Baer and Irving's choice in format and support gear; however, they found that choosing vendors that fit the budget was a no-brainer, and ultimately decided to go with Canon DSLRs and Redrock Micro rigs to shoot the film. 

“Canon DSLRs deliver by far the best image for the price, and the Redrock Micro rigs are the best I've found in terms of build-quality and flexibility. Even when we did go handheld, the Redrock Micro rigs allowed us to make it as smooth as possible, to deliver the more "classical" studio film look” recalled Irving. 

“We used the DSLR Field Cinema Bundle and added the microFollowFocus and microMatteBox Deluxe. Once fully built, the shoulder rig/follow focus/matte box combination--together with the Canon 5D Mark II--became our "studio camera" for the show.  We would keep it built in this configuration whether we were on sticks, dolly, or handheld.  The thread on the bottom of the shoulder rig was a genius addition from Redrock Micro, which allowed for this flexibility," described Irving. "We were able to go from sticks to handheld in no time at all; we merely had to release the plate from our Sachtler tripod and we were good to go.”

On Set with Redrock Gear 

Baer and Irving enjoyed the modularity of each piece of Redrock gear they used on the shoot, adapting the gear to their own specific needs and making it work quickly and easily. “The Canon 5D Mark II is an amazing camera, but it can experience some warping and rolling (commonly called the "jelly roll" effect) if certain vibrations are present during the shooting. The Redrock shoulder rig eliminated this problem by adding just the right amount of bulk and weight, while providing a more sturdy contact point with the body. In my experience, a handheld shot literally goes from "unusable" to nearly Steadicam-smooth when you use the Redrock Micro rig.”

Preparing for the Next Scene

Irving credits the gear in helping to achieve a smooth and lyrical feel in the shots and had such a great experience would use them again in future projects. “I would use the rigs again in a heartbeat. In fact, I consider the shoulder rigs (together with follow focus and matte box) to absolutely integral tools whenever I'm shooting with Canon DSLRs.”

Director Cindy Baer

Film Festival Tips

The film festival circuit can seem daunting and impossible, but Baer recommends it for small indie films hoping for the opportunity to find new audiences. “Besides being fun, you get to visit places you may not otherwise go, discover great movies that you may never have a chance to see again, meet amazing people, and make friendships that last a lifetime. My tips about festivals would be to create a strategy and do your homework. Most festivals will not play you if you've screened at another festival in their city, because it will be harder to get people to attend. It’s important to submit your movie to a festival that it would actually be a good match for.”

For more on ODD BRODSKY, Cindy Baer and Matthew Irving, check out:

ODD BRODSKY website:

Cindy Baer website:
Matthew Irving website:

Contemplating the film festival route? Check out these tips for filmmakers from Sarasota Film Festival director Tom Hall. 

For more on the Redrock Field Cinema Bundle, microFollowFocus and microMattebox Deluxe, visit  

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Do you have tips for submitting films into film festivals? Share them below!