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Smart New Camera Cage for GH4 and GH3 - the TrueGrip!

    Based on cages initially built by hand, this next generation cage will be CNC'd and even more feature-rich than the previous generations, as well as incredibly light weight and well-balanced!

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    While the design is nearly complete, I am still open to ideas and suggestions people here might have. We addressed many of the issues often experienced with other cages on the market and added a few extra features never before seen such as a relocatable grip option!

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  • 22 Replies sorted by
  • Really like the grip! Any chance of a second, smaller, baseplate with the contacts, for use in other rigs with the relocatable grip?

  • @sam_rides_a_mtb

    Look around about Kickstarter stories and marketing, it can help.

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev True, I've been reading a few things and I am preparing some more details. Some good interest on the GH4 group on facebook. Though some curiousity about the relocatable grip, so will put out an update with some details about that soon - showing how I made the prototypes - its nothing too complex really. To be honest, I cannot believe no other manufacturer has attempted to do this.

    I am also in the process of measuring other cameras, so that I all I need to do is swap to another baseplate (one without the electronics cutout) and perhaps a sliding 1/4" camera screw and multiple tapped holes (placement options) for the M4 hugger screws allowing various cameras (ie NX1, A7s II...) to have full anti-twist. Then I can easily offer different length shoe mount locks or even make an adjustable threaded one to secure the camera at the top. A lot of cameras already come close to fitting perfectly! - just a few adjustments in my design, may allow a whole bunch of cameras to soon work. I will hopefully know soon.

  • @Gamer_s Yes, I am working on a universal baseplate and should have an update about the very soon, though it will not have the electronics, it will still allow an arm to be attached.

    What other features or options would people like to see? Cannot promise we can incorporate all ideas, though subtle changes or ideas that may help make this more desirable are welcome to be shared here.


  • @sam_rides_a_mtb looks very promising. What features would the grip offer?

    Also, I remember Jim Candreva from my days as an AC in NYC 20 years ago, when he was just starting the machining business. Good AC too. Glad to see he is doing well and he is your machinist.

  • @CFreak Thanks and yes Jim is quite legendary! Proud to be working with him.

    The grip ( I am guessing you mean the relocatable grip option) allows control over record start and stop, aperture (on native and active adapters such as speedboosters) shutter speed, white balance, ISO, EC, and push auto AF (half press shutter release) plus it houses a second battery. I should have a video up very soon demonstrating this used with a shoulder mount. It is in fact very promising!!! Must remind people the GH4 has a pretty good VF, though could always being used with a monitor or external VF.

  • Updated the pricing for the different kits. For us to take this to full scale production, we need to raise $35,000 - selling approx 90 or so kits. Machining just a few of these would cost thousands per kit, as custom fixtures (to hold each piece during machining) are built for each piece (which ensures much better precision than basic clamps), though when you get close to making 100 or more, then then you can cover your basic costs of production. alt text

  • Just wrote a little blurb and posted to nofilmschool, as a friend suggested, titled:

    Quick little background info - I have been using the GH series by Panasonic since the very first GH1 that I purchased in 2009. My footage since then has been used for programs on Discovery, Animal Planet, New York Times, Netflix, and more as well as shared on news sites all around the world.

    Just before that, I had sold my Panasonic 3CCD standard definition camcorder just before that after acquiring access to HD gear, though held off on purchasing a new camcorder-style camera, as there was the announcement by Red of their $3k Scarlet that was supposed to be just around the corner. That never came to fruition, so I continued to see what might come after that. Nikon released the D90 - the first DSLR to shoot HD, albeit a poor 720p, then Canon with the 5DII and Panasonic with the mirrorless GH1. All of these cameras had some inherent flaws when it came to shooting video, though when you looked at their functionality and image quality as a whole, there's a good argument to say the GH1 took the lead. Sure it maybe didn't have the build feel of the others, though it was super easy to hack to super high bitrates 75+ Mb/s at true 1080p thanks to Vitaliy Kiselev of Personal-View for providing the means. A pretty decent little camera that actually held up better than expected in pretty rigorous conditions, though still early in the technology.

    Now the GH4 and GH3 with the weather-sealed magnesium bodies, modern codec implementation, and huge feature set, have really evolved into a pro form and build, though still in the small SLR-sized form factor. While some may see the small size of this camera as a negative as it necessitates the need of a rig, I see that as a positive in many ways. I travel a lot. And I like to travel as light as I can. Though often, I have to pack a lot of gear for a lot of different scenarios. So anything I can do to minimize what I have to carry, I see as a huge plus.

    When I am out shooting, sometimes I need multiple channels of audio and external monitoring, so the rig, of course is necessary. But other times, I am going out on foot to get some b-roll from a lookout, or need to be very discreet. I can easily un-rig my camera, attach a camera strap, and have a super-light, touristy-looking camera that can still shoot 4k at 100Mb/s and allow any lens to be attached and run all day on just a couple batteries. Then when I need more options, transform the camera with the rig into any configuration I need.

    After using various camera cages already on the market (Varavon, Swedish Chameleon, Walimax, Honu, MovCam, and some no-name ebay makes), I found each had some really nice features, though all left me wanting a bit more. The Varavon, while my favorite of the above, still has some flaws which necessitate workarounds, and often left me going back to cages I made by hand from aluminum for the GH1 & GH2 that I retrofitted to work with the GH3 and GH4.

    Without getting into too much details, the big issues I encountered with all cages I could get my hands on were:

    • poor ergonomics / tactility - metal between the hand and your camera / too many sharp edges in the way / difficulty reaching buttons
    • lack of mounting points that can be used simultaneously. Many cages advertise all these mounting options, though the moment you add one accessory, you’ve nearly used up your mounting options, or blocked access to other mounting points.
    • very left-heavy - When the Swedish Chameleon half cage (soon later the the Skier too) came out, I was super excited that there was a mass-produced cage that allowed access to the camera’s native grip. While the design looks great (and even demonstrated the usefulness of some extra space above the camera), it very quickly becomes quite left-heavy. In fact, as most cages so tightly wrap the camera, they leave you no option, but to mount everything to the left of your right hand. There are some universal full cages that can be configured to allow access to the grip yet still give you mounting points on the outside of your hand (Chrosziel, Arri, and various knockoffs and cheap junk), though these tend to be so large and heavy, they are not really intended for handheld use without a shoulder rig and counter weight of some sort.
    • poor cable locking or lack of - I was stoked when I saw the images of the Varavon hanging by the HDMI cable - and thought, finally a way to feel confident using external monitors in high paced scenarios. That was not really the case, as the jack itself is still unprotected, left prone to bumps that can loosen, damage it, or disconnect. Other designs that actually lock the jack itself, either are quite effective, though so large, you risk hitting your LCD screen into (if you can even open your LCD with it installed) or are simply just not that sturdy (think D-cage).
    • funky top handles that are too big for the cage, yet offer little to no mounting, single mounting point on the cage usually, and sometimes sketchy attachment that's not overly secure.
    • single-camera design. Most cages will only work with exactly one camera model and offer little to no way to upgrade it to work with other makes of cameras.
    • lack of standardization. With each new cage/rig that comes out, there are always new ways of doing things. Unfortunately most cage accessories will never work with other rigs.

    Wanting a better cage for my GH4 and GH3, I decided to start designing a new cage, though this time, not to be made by hand, but rather by CNC milling and 3D CAD. I still started with paper drawings initially and took inspiration from the cages I initially milled myself as well as started doing research.

    I watched and read many reviews on cages/rigs from Clinton Harn, Emm from CheesyCam, Matt Allard and Dan Chung over at Newsshooter, Caleb Pike, and Cinema5D among many others, who all do a very thorough job in critiquing the latest options and have provided some incredible insight as to what makes a good cage. In addition to reviewing their reviews, I have researched all possible camera cages I could come across - not just for the GH4, but for all cameras out there - and created a database highlighting each make and their features.

    You will see some aspects of my design take inspiration from others out there, though each component is quite unique and original - while at the same time very compatible with other-brand rig components. This is possible due to using stand 9mm center-to-center spacing for all of the ¼” x 20 components and a modular design. Anti-twist is integrated into the design of each component as well, eliminating having to try to over-tighten everything to keep it from moving.

    Perhaps it’s not as obvious until you are holding it, though by being able to mount accessories on the outside of your right hand actually makes holding the camera for long periods of time significantly easier. It’s putting the center of gravity closer to inline with your right hand as opposed to several inches to the left of it. What this does is relieve the left hand from having to help bear the weight of the camera, which in effect results in smoother focus pulls and zooms.

    Even with larger pieces of equipment attached such as 4k 10-bit recorders, this cage remains very well balanced. Imagine you have a 7” monitor and then you place a pistol grip handle underneath it - that would feel rather well balanced, as opposed to holding the monitor by one side. With the TrueGrip, you are allowed access to the camera’s grip, so your right hand can be more closely below the center of gravity, rather than way off to the side of it.

    A rig is like good sound in a film, you shouldn't notice it. It should simply be there to do it's thing and do it so well, that it's simply a part (or an extension of) of the greater whole - and in the rig’s case - an extension of the camera. That is some of the philosophy behind the design of the TrueGrip that I have launched on Kickstarter. It may not be for everyone, though for those of us that need the options it offers, then it’s there as a tool for us - that is, if we reach our goal in Kickstarter!

    I'm open to criticism and feedback from members here about this cage, and would really appreciate it. Obviously without holding something and testing it, it's hard to judge it, though I wouldn't have even attempted to launch this, if I didn't 100% believe in the value of this cage. It has served me quite well and can be setup exactly how you need in so many different scenarios.

    Are people interested, though put off by the price? Some feedback on FB has been that it's too large, though it's barely larger than the Varavon - really just space above the camera to allow access to the controls, and just enough room for any size right hand to comfortably hold the native grip. Also, the cage conforms with industry standards - the holes are 9mm center-to-center, the accessories (receiver and shotgun mount) have anti-twist pins that work with the 9mm CTC standard, so will work on other brand rigs, and the rosettes on the relocatable grip kit are ARRI standard.

    I may do a little special deal for anyone that backs the KS and mentions they found out about it here in PV if anyone is actually interested.



    also, props to @Vitaliy_Kiselev for allowing me to post info about this here :)

  • I repeat myself, but that grip relocation thingy is genius! Please please please consider selling just the grip and cable separate from the arm. Still would need another kind of baseplate i guess, and removal of the triangular thingy...

  • So I have made some slight modifications to the baseplate such that the wiring for the relocatable grip exits just behind the battery compartment. What this allows me to do is make a second alternative baseplate without the extension piece that goes in front of the right hand - so it would simply be about a 1.5"x3" x 9mm thick piece that mounts under the GH4 or GH3 (still with integrated anti-twist and 1/4" & 3/8" tripod holes inline with the optical axis) with a cable coming out going to the relocatable grip interface for attaching the battery grip.

    This grip interface will have a standard Arri rosette with M6 center thread. It will be able to be used with any existing arms or my sliding rosette arms and does not require the entire cage - just this small plate under the camera.

    Is there interest if I go through with this and if so, what kind of prices are people willing to pay? Zacuto's relocatable grip for the C300/C500 runs about $450. It will be 6000 series aluminum (not the 5000 series that a lot of cheap cages and rigs are made from where the threads are quite weak) and will be anodized black. I obviously will try to get the price as low as I can, though myself and the machinist I am working with refuse to cut corners and compromise on quality. He makes camera equipment for Hollywood-budget productions that are high quality components that are meant to withstand frequent use day after day on film sets. That is the quality that we will implement in producing these.

    I have spent the last 18 months learning CAD and am at the point that I can draw up a baseplate in a couple of hours. Then I send the drawings to the machinist who reviews the design, provides feedback, then we revise, 3D print prototypes, test, and revise some more before ultimately going to CNC'd aluminum. My 3D printer has a 20 micron resolution, which gives me precision that's within a few hundredths of a millimeter. As we speak I am printing this new baseplate design and will soldier up the wire harness for it in the next few days. I have a manufacturer here in the US that can make the wire harness for me, so long as we have a demand of at least 100 units.

    As always, any feedback would be appreciated :)

  • Quick work! props to you man! I would be very interested for sure. Will this be on your kickstarter, a separate kickstarter, or just independently?

  • Thanks @Gamer_s! It will probably be on Kickstarter, as that lets me get a better sense of demand before I make dozens of them. Received some interest on other sites (facebook, kickstarter), so will post some images soon to see what others think.

    Seems like the main criticism of my cage is that it's too large. Though it's only about 3/4" taller and 1" wider than the Varavon, yet nearly identical in weight. Perhaps it's just the photos, because everyone that has used it has loved the design and have commented how compact it actually is when they see it in person, with the main positive feedback being how well balanced it is. Perhaps I should put up a testimonial video showing others reactions to it. Will have it with me at the Photo+ tradeshow in NYC in less than 2 weeks if anyone is going.

    For the stand alone relocatable grip option, how much would people be willing to pay for this?

  • It looks good and well thought out, but, I am always put off by price (and sometimes get less than what my cheap ass bargained for :-0 )

  • The early bird kickstarter for the grip+arm is 450. So I think grip+simplified baseplate should come in at a lower pricepoint.

  • @Gamer_s and @CFreak - after I finish these standalone relocatable grip designs, I will be sending them off to the machinist for feedback and approx pricing. I am hoping we can get this out there for around $250. Does that sound reasonable? My plan at the moment is to launch a separate Kickstarter just for the relocatable grip, but before I do, I would like to get as much input and feedback as possible. I'm putting in long hours in my workshop, drawing (CAD) and 3D printing prototypes. Made great progress yesterday and hope to share the results soon! The standalone relocatable grip will be backwards compatible with the True Grip, for those that need to attach multiple accessories to their camera.

  • Sounds very resonable to me. I would not hesitate to get it at that price point! Looking forward to some more detailed info and upcoming kickstarter. Keep up the good work! @sam_rides_a_mtb

  • I brought some of the prototypes to the Photo+ show here in NYC this past weekend and received a lot of positive feedback. I also had several companies approach me and ask about production of the cage.

    So where I am currently at, is considering launching a new Kickstarter with a significantly lower price point (around $200 - $250) by going with an alternate machinist/manufacturer. I still want to have this made in the USA for QC as well as other reasons and may have found a means of accomplishing this. Before I launch the new Kickstarter, I want to get as much feedback as possible beforehand.

    I talked with the guys at the Atomos booth and they really liked the cage and how balanced it can be even with a 7" monitor/recorder. I currently have some rough sketches for a swiveling yoke for the Shogun and Ninja Assassin that allows very secure mounting, while still being lightweight and offering various positioning angles.

    Also, in regards to the relocatable grip, I had mine working great this weekend, until I broke one of the wires connecting it (I used too small of a wire gauge) so will repair this in the coming days. The new design can be used with the True Grip cage or without and will be part of the new Kickstarter.

    As a reminder, the final design will be anodized black with my edge rounding than you see in the silver prototype. Additionally, I have reduced the the overall a size by a few millimeters front to back and top to bottom in the latest iteration. Feedback at the tradeshow from those that had seen the Kickstarter, was that it is a lot more compact in person than they thought it would be, as well as much lighter.

  • Sounds good! Eagerly awaiting the new kickstarter. Mostly interested in the relocatable grip to use in a shoulder-rig, but might get the cage as well depending on price and size.

  • Hey @sam_rides_a_mtb ! any news on the grip? Do you still intend on producing it?

    take care.

  • Ditto... @sam_rides_a_mtb I'm interested in the grip relocator...

  • Just your cage for the GH2 still available?

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