The ridiculousness of this will only make sense in conjunction with the previous post.
We were talking about the addiction of rabbit holes.
I then proceeded to pull my hair out over how to house the Pocket Camera (whoops, I meant Bmpcc) in preparation for shooting. You have to house these things. They're too fragile to use on a shoot without a protective outer covering, called a cage. Here's what a cage looks like.
Which cage to get?
I feel like this should be one of the simpler steps of the filmmaking process. We're taking about a hunk of metal here, and one with no moving parts at that. Why then are there a few dozen options, and why do most of them cost hundreds of dollars?
It's like learning a language. The more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to learn. It's positively bottomless, the options here. No Bmpcc cage ideally addresses all the issues you'd like it to address, and things remain convoluted even if your budget is bottomless.
Here's how they've figured out how to make protecting a camera complicated. I'd oscillate from brand to brand, review to review, squinting at spec sheets, price breakdowns, forum discussions and reviews debating the following:
Does the cage cover the camera completely. Should it cover the camera completely? Seems like a good idea to me. But here's the highly reputed Wooden Camera, with its highly reputed Bmpcc cage, and it covers the only left half the Bmpcc camera. Hm. I was thinking about grad school, family, and the meaning of life, and now I'm thinking about how one hunk of metal can protect another hunk of metal from hypothetical drop impacts that may never happen. Not sure how I feel about this….
It's easy to make an argument that a camera cage should cover the whole camera. But what about lightweight versatility? And, really, how many times have you dropped your expensive camera on its left bottom side? Probably none. I sat there, chomping on raw lettuce at 1 A.M., calculating the odds. Trying to remember how many times I've dropped the left corner on something. How many times I've seen someone bang the left half of their camera. Does that happen? Do people do that? Or has Wooden Camera secretly discovered that people only damage the right halves of their cameras? Where are these guys coming from?
Then there's the importance of an HDMI cable clamp. I know you love hearing about cable clamps. The Bmpcc's main video cable port is famously weak, and it stands to reason that strengthening that cable connection with a protective clamp would make sense. I sure thought so. But was I willing to pay thirty percent of the entire cage's retail price for a clamp??
There I go again, munching on stale toast at 2 A.M. (somehow this rabbit hole isn't complete without terribly timed and, even better– nutritionally questionable– food), trying to calculate the odds of ruining my HDMI port without a clamp. The different companies have proprietary clamp attachments. Of course they do. We wouldn't want this to actually be straightforward, let alone easy.
And what to make of clamping the fragile 12-volt power cable as well? Sounds like a good idea to me, but when was the last time you paid $35 plus shipping and handling for a piece of metal smaller than a nickel? Some of these cages don't even have clamps. How necessary are they? Then your brain gears really start whirring. Couldn't one of my welder friends throw something like this together in a few hours?
Gradually, a pattern starts to appear. You'll recognize it, whether you've shopped for lamps, clamps, cars or refrigerators. It's all the same. Capitalism, a terrific idea, is nearing the end of its useful life, and the seams grin at us with a warped sense of humor:
Each competing item available is missing one crucial component. The Smallrig 1665 is ridiculously affordable but has no cable clamps. Great. The Wooden Camera has a power clamp but its HDMI clamp is no longer available, and the replacement they offer for it doesn't make up for the fact that the Wooden is only half a cage. Terrific. The SmallRig 1476 half-cage surpasses the Wooden Cage because- voila- it has both cable clamps, but wouldn't you know it, it's made of three parts, one of which is prohibitively hard to find online and no longer supported by the company. The Tilta ES-T13 has clamps, but so does the MovCam Body Cage and it's $150 less… but why? Why do the Varavon Armor Pocket and CamTree Hunt Mod Cage look exactly the same? Which one's the Indian knockoff that costs a fraction of the price of the other, and is it worth the risk?
You start second guessing yourself.
We haven't even started talking about how the cage you eventually choose is then mounted on a rig.
Rigs are made of several components that add up to an enlarged camera base, upon which other items can be attached– follow focus dials, microphones, loupes, monitors and more. Here we go again. Do you buy a cage that comes prepackaged with all the rig elements, spending a fortune while absolving you of the need to buy each item separately? Or do you search high and low for the best materials, the best price, the right fit....
Or do you simply sigh philosophically, remembering that life is tolerable only with a sense of humor, and rewatch this video of my favorite CWG so far as he rips into the "CamTree Hunt Mod Cage Rig" (someone on their product naming committee was definitely hungover), as his New Zealand accent softly, gently decimates what has to be one of the worst knockoffs in tech history, and chuckle at how passionately– dare I say lovingly– he hates everything about the product?
Sometimes, this is what filmmaking looks like.
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