Craft: Building a 3D Rig

From time to time I will post a video I have made in this column.

This one is very popular with more than 144 000 views to date !



In the video below Philippe Bordelais assembles the Freestyle Rig that he invented, to shoot Steadicam in Stereoscopic 3D. Key ingredients include 2 Sony EX3 cameras, and a Transvideo 3DView monitor that Philippe uses to align the cameras.

watch on YouTube


Sweden, France, Germany

I recently went to Gothenburg Studios in Sweden to attend a Stereo 3D workshop led by Geoff Boyle, BSC, known to many as the founder of the CML mailing list, but also an experienced Stereo 3D cinematographer. Lessons from this very practical workshop will be the subject of a future column.

We shot with several different rigs in Gothenburg, and I had the opportunity to shoot a scene handheld with a Freestyle Rig, which was invented by French Steadicamer Philippe Bordelais, who developed it from prototype to finished product in collaboration with P+S Technik in Munich. I was impressed by the carbon fiber rig's strength, steadiness and lightness.



In Paris, Philippe was kind enough to let me film him putting together the Freestyle Rig. I shot the video because moving images were the best medium to show the process of building a camera system, and I must add that I learned a lot about the configuration as I was editing. Sometimes a video really is worth a thousand words.

But this video isn't just about a 3D Rig, it's also about craft. Part of the craft of filmmaking involves "building", and rebuilding, the camera system that you will shoot with, sometimes several times a day. This is a process that requires a mix of knowledge, experience and dexterity. In this case, there is a particular blend of mechanics, optics and electronics.



When I used to teach students how to thread 35mm Panavision cameras, I would tell them that the knowledge they needed was not in their head, but in their fingers. I would also often suggest that they slow down.

After a while, the knowledge of your filmmaking tools does go into your fingers, and you're not thinking about what you're doing anymore. And that for me is the other, less obvious, subject of my video: watching an experienced crew member assemble his tool. It's about focus, rhythm and precision.

Building a camera system is a good image of filmmaking. It is a routine that is usually part of the craft of the camera assistant. Repetition is a key to much of filmmaking, and, as with different takes of the same scene, the routine helps you to hone your craft.


Japanese carpenters

A long time ago, I helped my friends Ricky Leacock and Rachel Strickland film a 16mm documentary about Japanese carpenters who were invited to build an authentic wooden house, using traditional tools, inside the Children's Museum in Boston.

I occasionally recorded synch sound for my friends, using an analog Nagra and Sennheiser 415 mike. I was impressed by the relationship of the carpenters to their tools. I loved watching them unpack their tool box and set out their saws, hammers, nails. Focus, rhythm, precision.

After a few days, I caught myself unpacking our filmmaking equipment with similar gestures. I then realized that some of the knowledge of the Japanese carpenters was coming into my fingers.

Part of the magic of a good film crew is that craft is contagious.


Thanks to Philippe Bordelais, Jacques Delacoux, Anna Piffl and Andrew Steele for their help in making the video.

I have gathered more info about Philippe Bordelais and the P+S Technik Freestyle Rig here



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