Problems Solved!

In my last post, I pointed out a few things that gave us issues on our first shoot day. There is the sound of the C500′s internal fan, the inability to see if the Codex is rolling while operating handheld, and the issue with the handgrip cable connector. Thankfully, we have AbelCine on our side. I went in and spoke with rental’s Technical Supervisor, David Knappenberger, and explained to him the issues we were having. We discussed a few options and he got to work. A few days later, I came back to find he had built working prototypes!

The fan noise was the biggest to tackle. As important as it is to solve the problem, we can’t add any additional weight or bulk to the camera. Initially, we had discussed things like mounting a small fan on a Noga arm and hanging it out over the existing fan ports. But this obviously wouldn’t work, since the solution needs to be streamlined into the body design so as to not cause more harm than good. We had talked about various ways to power the fan unit, either with a 9V battery, or somehow tapping in to the existing power cables of the camera. David did not want to alter the camera body in any way, so he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) drill into the side of the camera to find spots to mount and power a new fan unit. Here’s what he came up with.

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Prototype of the external fan system, designed by David Nappenberger.

This fan unit is ingenious! Canon C500s come with a plate that threads into the side of the camera to protect the 3G-SDI ports and the fan. Unfortunately, the camera will not operate with this cover on. David realized it was not the plate itself that tells the camera it is attached, but rather two small sensors under the 3G-SDI ports. So David designed a plate that would not cover the sensors, but would allow him to mount two small, quiet fans, while allowing him to attach the entire piece to the camera. One fan pushed air in, and the other drew hot air out. This created great circulation, but without the noise of the existing fan. The hope was that these fans would be able to keep the camera cool enough that the internal fan would never engage. To power the fans, David built a connector that would interface directly with the Switronix Anton Bauer power tap cable we were currently using. I am thrilled by the results, and can’t wait to bring it along on our next shoot and show it off to our sound mixer!

Now on to our next dilemma, the Codex record indicator. We needed a way to see if the Codex is recording or not again without physically altering the device. The Codex doesn’t have a connector that would carry this information, so building a cable was out of the question. Once again, David’s ingenuity was great.

Fiber optic cable connected to the Codex recorder.

Fiber optic cable connected to the Codex recorder.

Close up of the fiber optic cable carrying the LED indicator.

Close up of the fiber optic cable carrying the LED indicator.

Using a thin piece of fiber optic cable, David attached one side to the LED record indicator on the side of the Codex using Dual-Lock velcro and a small tie-down. Other other end, he attached the cable to a little clip that could mount in a variety of places near the monitor unit. The fiber optic cable carries the red tally light without being over-bearing in the operator’s face. The light will remain red when rolling and flash red when the mag has rolled out. Sometimes, its the simplest solutions that work the best!

Lastly, there is the cable connector for Zacuto’s Grip Relocator. As wonderful as it to be able to mount the grip on a set of rods, the placement of the plug on the camera and the huge protruding cable couldn’t be more in way. When working fast in a handheld configuration, you cannot have anything sticking out of the body that will get caught and break. When we brought back the broken cable from the shoot, I explained to Abel how it had happened and what they thought they could do. Since the wiring is complicated and Zacuto hasn’t released schematics on its design, Abel’s service department wasn’t able to make alterations. But when they sent the cable back to Zacuto for repair, it came back with a right angle connector! Now I can more strategically run the cable close to the body and secure it with tape so it doesn’t fall out or get broken off.

Despite running into these problems on our first shoot, I am thankful AbelCine was willing to work with us on a solution. Now we all feel more confident with our setup and are ready to take it out into the field.

Quoting Tom Hurwitz, ASC:

Matt Porwoll, our first AC, and the great technicians at AbelCine put together an excellent piece of gear that moves quickly through all the hand-held positions, has a great viewing system and pops easily onto one of various heads for more set-up camera work. Part of what makes it work is the availability of all of the great Canon still lenses, zooms and primes. They are light weight enough, and as we tested, of extraordinary optical quality. We can go where we need to go and shoot the way we need to shoot.

This camera rig, combined with the huge data-handling capacity of the system that Matthew Schroeder, our DIT, has worked out with Codex and Light Iron, makes shooting a long (no, a very very long) 4K project, in the wild, possible.

Here is the camera built up with its new components ready to go (except for the grip connector, that was still on its way back from Zacuto when the photo was taken).

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6 Comments

  • Matt Porwoll | Cinematography » Canon C300 MKII Review: Part 1 / October 26, 2015 at 2:59 am

    […] Unlike the spinning fans of the C500, the vents seem to be considerably quieter than the C500 (see Problems Solved! blog post). The fan speeds can now be adjusted in the menu. With Automatic selected, you can […]

    Reply
  • Chris / January 5, 2017 at 5:38 am

    Do you know specifically what was needed to power the fan off the P-Tap? I’m looking to do a DYI version for my C500. Thanks!

    Reply
    • mattporwoll / January 5, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Hi Chris, the fans weren’t actually powered off of the P-Tap, but rather off the DC plug of the camera. AbelCine made a custom power cable for the C500 that split the end of the pre-wired Gold Mount battery plate. One side of the split had the DC plug for the camera re-attached, and the other side powered the fan module. I’m not an electrician, so that’s the very basic idea. Be sure to follow all electrical and safety protocols before attempting this yourself. If it’s helpful, AbelCine also sells this modification. Not only will the wiring be done for you, but they designed a custom plate for mounting the fans to the camera body. It’s similar to the photos I posted, but more refined. Hope that helps!

      Reply
      • Chris / January 6, 2017 at 12:04 am

        Ah, thanks for the reply Matt, super helpful. It’s times like this that I wish I was more of a handyman, ha. I think I”m going to toy around with making a single fan unit running off a 9V battery first and see how that goes, thanks!

        Reply
  • Graham / August 27, 2017 at 3:48 am

    Hey Matt, thanks for posting this. Do you have David Knappenberger’s contact info? I’m hoping he could help me out or point me in the right direction. Thanks!

    Reply
    • mattporwoll / August 30, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      Hey,

      Your best bet is to reach out to AbelCine’s service department for any specific needs.

      Reply

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